TALLINN is famed in Scottish football folklore. The Tartan Army (Scotland supporters) sang: “There’s only one team in Tallinn.” Factually correct as on 9 October 1996 a World Cup qualifying European Group 4 between the national teams of Estonia and Scotland was due to take place. The match was abandoned after three seconds because the Estonian team were absent from the Kadrioru Stadium due to a dispute over its floodlights.
Scotland expected to be awarded a walkover victory, but the world governing body, FIFA, ordered that the match be replayed on neutral territory. The replayed match, staged at the Stade Louis II in Monaco, ended in a goalless draw.
The Tartan Army left their mark on Tallinn as they boosted the local economy – particularly in sales of alcohol.
Walking around the impressive old town – only a 20 minute stroll from our cruise ship terminal – made a memorable impression on us.
You step back in time meandering along cobbled streets – wear sensible shoes – and browsing in shops selling local crafts. Some assistants even wear traditional dress, a nice touch.
Don’t worry about language. Most people we met spoke perfect English in shops, cafes and bars. Quite humbling.
What’s more, strolling around you feel at ease despite the presence of local police with guns. The ones we saw even had a smile on their faces.
We opted to walk as the sun was splitting the sky. Others climbed on board the regular hop-on, hop-off bus which called at the cruise terminal.
A few opted to hire bikes, again you can do this at the cruise terminal or in the city.
Signposting is excellent and the city centre map and available free is packed with relevant information.
One word of warning. Be early, particularly if you want to take pictures as even a short space of time can made a considerable difference. Tourists roll in from every country.
How to get about:
Tallinn Tourist Information Centre: Well worth a visit at Niguliste 2, 10146 Tallinn or drop them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org Public transport: Single bus tickets cost 2E from the driver but you can buy a QR ticket for 1E and save it on your smartphone. If you are using public transport more than three times a day then use the farecard – one day (24hr) 3E, three days 5E.
Tallinn Card: this provides free admission to over 40 museume and sights, unlimited public transport and various offers and it also allows a free sightseeing tour of your choice. An example is 24hr: 25E (adult) and 14E (child up to 17).
Hop-on, hop-off bus: The price is 20E (children 7-17 10E) for 24hrs.
Rent a bike: Tallinn has over 250km of cycle paths and a number of companies hire including City Bike who have over 180 to pick from including seven-gear city bikes, 24-gear bikes, trekking bikes and tandems plus road bikes. Costs vary but one to three hours with City Bikes is 7E and six hours 12E. Waypoint Tallinn quote 2.5E an hour or 12E a day www.citybike.ee www.waypointtravels.eu
Events: There are special events throughout the year including music walks, jazz at Christmas, a guitar festival a design festival and even a cafe week with special meals and “good prices.”
Children: Lotte discovers Estonia is a publication available in the information centre designed for kids. A good itea and a well-produced brochure.
Arsenal Walk: we didn’t do this but they describe this as a fun walk from the port to take in “exciting and little discovered sights by the seashore”. The distance is 3km and it takes around 45 minutes.
Day trips: one which caught our eye – we didn’t have time to go – was the visit to Prangli Island, the closest to the capital, which has maintained its native culture since the 13th century. This is, says the leaflet, one for those “who like authentic places and untouched culture”. Cost is 79E for adults and 29E for children (6-12 years).
Seal watching: the seals habitat is near the Malusi Islands and they are reached by motor boat. Price 59E (19E for children 7-12) www.tallinndaytrip.com.
Cafe culture: you can indulge yourself as there are many in and around the town. We popped into the Kohvik in the main square who claim to be the No 1 cafe in Tallinn. Service was slick, our waitress – a dance student with wonderful English – was full of information and the coffee was the best my wife had tasted in days. My Seven Samuri beverage which included gree tea, mango, papaya, vanilla, coconut and a whiff of chocolate was memorable. The apple pie with a sliver of cinnammon was wonderful and the interior had to be photographed, it was exceptional as was the tiny loo up three stairs with an unusual lock. Be warned.
Eating out: The options are huge but they also have a meat and wine Steakhouse in the heart of the Old Town www.meatwine.ee SPOT was created by three good friends and is rated as a good meeting place and a location for people who want good food, quality wines and a friendly service. Modern European dishes with elements of Estonian and Scandinavian dishes www.restoranspot.ee If you fancy Mexican then Cantina Carramba is available. It opnened in 1997.
Shopping: ER Boutique is a concept store in a historic shopping street and focuses on Baltic products. The selection claims to include current leaders in fashion from all over the world.
Rode Gift Shop: this is in the heart of the Old Town and claims to have the “perfect Estonian gilf”. It also has a summer terrace for refreshments.
Meistrite hoov (Masters’ courtyard): this is a cosy craftsmen’s court in the old town.
Alternative: The Epic Bar Crawl: this was not on our list but it is available Wednesday to Saturday as is rated in Trip Advisor. The leaflet says: “Meeting point: Red Emperor Bar: Old Town: 22.00 till you drop.” Price 14E and 10E on Wednesday.
Caravan park: Vanamoise is 6km from Tallinn and boasts a hiking trail plus various sports and a cycle track direct to the city.