Saturday 22nd, Sunday 23rd July – Tallinn, Estonia
As the Helsinki Zoo car park fills up very quickly we opted to leave around 9.30 am so that we would not get parked in. Car parks are quite narrow here with not a lot of room to manoeuvre if cars are parked opposite. We headed straight to the Eckero Cruise terminal. The MS Finnlandia was not set to sail until 3.15 pm however check in was requested for 2 hours earlier. Quite relaxing sitting at the terminal watching other ships loading in the comfort of our 5 star accommodation and soon it was our turn to join the line.
All the car ferry/ships are massive and set up like other cruise ships with shops, casinos in every spare corner and a multitude of choices of places to eat and drink. Even had on board entertainment though the trip was just over two hours. We sat on the top deck in the sun overlooking the sea and took advantage of the wifi to do some more work on our blog. A perfect sunny day with little or no wind so was just wonderful.
Docked around 5.30pm and soon were settled into our overnight camp at the Port of Tallinn – just around the corner. The location, though a mixed parking area only, was perfectly situated right beside the heart of the city – only a 5-10 minute walk to Central and Old Town.
Passengers for the cruise ships came and went and the area was alive. We headed off on foot to do some preliminary exploring and found a magic spot in the Rotermann Quarter to have dinner. Situated next to Old Town it is an old factory complex turned into a commercial centre with avant-garde architecture. The little stone walkways threading through narrow alleys with restaurants on either side. Fairy lights across the cobblestone alleys would be spectacular (if we had night but it is still light right up to midnight).
We returned to Ziggy at around 8.30 pm really tired after hours of walking and decided to move Ziggy to another position to get better internet reception. We had not even had time to turn the engine off when we were approached by a lady (another Aussie) who had seen the Aussie flag on Ziggy. After a few minutes Allison and hubby Alan invited us to have a wine with them in their motorhome a few doors up. We sat and talked and talked and talked until after 1 am (we had no idea it was that late). They have been travelling in Europe for 7 years and have no immediate plans for returning home any time soon. They were not leaving for Finland until Monday so we made plans to meet again Sunday afternoon for a few more wines and dinner somewhere in Old Town.
We toured for nearly 5 months before seeing any Aussies in a motorhome and then we saw 2 couples in 2 days – Phil and Mads in Helsinki who have been touring Europe for 5 years and now Allison and Alan who have been touring Europe for seven years – made us feel like newbies.
Bright and early, we set off for Old Town – a real Jewel. Twisting cobblestone lanes and iron street lamps. Gothic spires and medieval markets. This enclosed neighbourhood of colourful, gabled houses, half hidden courtyards and grandiose churches is Tallinn’s greatest attraction.
It took us literally hours to walk up and down the narrow courtyards and through the multitude of shops and museums and churches, at times stopping to listen to the lone guitarist or three piece orchestra. The restaurants in market square packed with tourists who sat people watching as vendors in traditional and medieval costumes sold their wares from the markets. Ŵe were just one of those tourists who did exactly the same. The area is massive and covers several blocks – by far the largest we have seen so far. So many beautiful old buildings.
We left Old Town and passed through some beautiful flower markets. The perfumes and colours were astonishing. We walked through parks and gardens and street after street of restaurants and finally back to the Port for a well deserved rest before our reciprocal with Allison and Alan which no doubt would linger longer again.
We started at our house at around 5pm and after about 3 bottles of wine and some excellent conversation and much laughter, headed back to Old Town for dinner. Found a great little restaurant (so many to choose from) and finally got kicked out when the restaurant closed.
Monday 24th July – Lahemaa National Park, Estonia (Oandu Village)
Waved our goodbyes with the promise to keep in touch with Allison and Alan – they headed to Finland on the ferry we came across on and we continued our journey to eastern Estonia.
The supermarket at the port housed one of the biggest bottle shops we have seen anywhere and judging by the prices, we were back to the land of plenty at not much cost. The supermarket (while only small) displayed some interesting varieties of Estonian foods and prices were back to what we would call better than home (but not as good as Poland).
We looked for the nearest Lidl to stock up after Scandinavia but it appears from the web there are none as yet in Estonia but they have plans to open some soon – what a disappointment.
Tallinn itself is very modern but once out of town, the Soviet influences took over quickly. Lots of old grey buildings in many cases dilapidated and unit complexes three to five storeys high, rectangular with small windows and no balconies, spread out over whole blocks took over the landscape. Just outside of Tallinn we were pulled up (along with every other car on a two lane highway) and breathalysed. Zero was the result and the policeman wished us a happy journey. There would have been at least 30-40 police and cars used for this operation.
We travelled through the countryside with only very small towns with little or no town centres. Only a short journey today and the first of many after the massive miles we travelled in Scandinavia.
What a joy this campsite was. Perched among the forest trees, enough room for about 10 motorhomes and a patch of grass beyond the fence that would comfortably take 20-30 tents. Provided were huts with benches and tables alongside BBQ pits and large community fire places – and believe it or not – they had a hut, brim full of timber for anyone to use. Had planned to do a walking trail this afternoon, but instead, claimed the best spot and set about getting the fireplace stocked with timber and kindling ready for what we classify as “our ultimate evening” of good food cooked on the fire, a blazing fire under the stars (though there were none) and our iPod playing our favourite music and of course a beverage or two.
Strangely, the area filled with campers coming in cars and even on bicycles with tents who had the same idea as we did. It was lovely to see families coming together and enjoying this great place. Reminded us so much of when we did this with our kids. We were the only motorhome again.
Tuesday 26th July – Ida-virumaa, Estonia (Valaste Kula)
We had such a wonderful afternoon and evening the day before, but did not do what we had set out to do by coming to this national park – though got to say the distraction was just wonderful.
The Village is about 100 metres away and offers for viewing, traditional old buildings with exhibits spread around tranquil ponds. Being a national park it also provided details on the various walks around the park and the animals and plant life that thrive in these forests. We took our backpacks and water and headed off on the beaver trail in the hope of sighting some of these in their natural habitat at the edge of streams. Unfortunately, we had a group of tourists with dogs that were in front of us, so any chance of seeing any of these shy creatures was doomed. Not sure if they allow dogs in national parks here – but would not be surprised as man’s best friend seems to be allowed absolutely everywhere over here. The walk was just great despite the noisy group.
We have not found many spots to wild camp here so our next destination was more so to do some washing and to give the batteries a deep charge by connecting to power. Think we have only been connected to power at 2 or 3 places in over 4.5 months. Ziggy’s solar panels and batteries have been more than ample.
Again at Valasta Kula we are the only motorhome here though they can take 6. The camp is adjacent to a small restaurant and the lady here said that this northern part of Estonia is not popular and most people prefer the south. We are right on the Gulf of Finland with magnificent views over the ocean and right across the road from some waterfalls, though these were not very spectacular
Wednesday 27th July – Kallaste, Estonia (Hostel Lagoon)
Kallaste is a seaside village at beginning of Tartu County. Only very small with a population of no more than 100 or so people. Our campsite is on the lake front – Lake Peipsi and the only thing between us and Russia. There are a number of guests who were out all day in the sunshine and on the beach. Many looking a dark shade of crimson by day’s end. The manager here gave us a town map and some history and we set off for a long walk through town and then along the bluff and beach and then back to town to visit the local fisherman (recommended by the manager) who was a legend and master of cooking smoked fish.
We dropped in and he took us around the back and showed us how it was done. The fish did not look very appetising and not being a lover of fish, reluctantly bought a full smoked bream with his recommendation and a bottle of picked gherkins to have with it. His suggestion (he only spoke Russian so was a bit hard to understand 😳) was to have the fish with bread and gerkins. Think we were doomed from the beginning as yours truly is not a lover of fish and his truly does not like gherkins. Long story short, first mouthful was good until his truly nearly choked on a small bone and we discovered the big fish was full of very small bones. Canned the fish, ate the gherkins and the slice of bread already buttered and then waited an hour or so before having a chicken (with no bones) for dinner.