Friday, April 29, 2016

Estonia Spring Break 2016: Day Four ... the old and the new; the beach and the beer.

(As is my custom when posting trip summaries, I'm backdating them to the actual day of occurrence. Previously: Day Three)


We were reminded that Tallinn is situated well to the north. During our stay in late April, the sun was up at 4:00 a.m. and stayed in the sky until well past 9 p.m. Advance weather forecasts were wet, leading us to pack for the upper 40s F. as a daytime high, with plenty of rain.

But apart from Thursday, when it was overcast, all of our days in Tallinn were sunny, with temperatures twice approaching 60 F. The one time it rained was at night. It's nice to catch a (weather) break every now and then.

Following Thursday's 12-mile hike, it was decided to invest in a public transportation pass, good for five days of unlimited travel on trams and buses for 10 Euros per person (circa $11.50). At the R Kiosk, payment information was loaded onto a debit card, to be scanned when stepping onto the ride.

As a side note, residents of Tallinn ride for free. There also is nationwide WiFi.

Our first destination was the beach in the Pirita district, to the east of center. For the sake of sightseeing, we remained on bus 34A as it looped through this more sparsely populated area, where there are many single family dwellings and vacation houses. There also is a yachting complex built by the Soviets for the 1980 Olympics (more on this later), as well as a huge "forest cemetery" dating from the 1930s, with as many trees as grave markers.

When the bus headed back in the direction of the city, we debarked at Pirita Beach.

The Rotermann Quarter is tucked into a nook adjacent to Tallinn's Old Town, cruise ship docks and glass 'n' steel commercial district. It's an old factory building and salt storage warehouse that has been converted into a museum, apartments, offices and a small inner square, with the expected food, drink and shopping amenities. Think of it as a place where Tallinn's youthful "Euro Class" can go to escape the tourists, who seldom venture past the Old Town's walls.

It was time for lunch, to be introduced with an old Soviet Bloc anecdote.

In Warsaw after WWII, the Soviets fraternally "gifted" the Poles with a tremendously ugly Stalinist skyscraper called the Palace of Culture. In the years that followed, the local joke held that the best view of Warsaw was from the Palace of Culture, precisely because it was the only view of Warsaw that didn't include the Palace of Culture.

However, I honestly find Tallinn's modern buildings to be architecturally stimulating, and not at all unappealing. The overall vibe in downtown is one of movement, and whatever one's taste in decor, it's there somewhere.

The tall building in this Google street view is the Radisson Hotel, and at the very top of it is Lounge 24. We dined there, on the 24th floor.

The nibbles and drinks were both good and reasonably priced, and the view simply without compare in Tallinn.

Have I mentioned my latent fear of heights? I managed to keep it at bay.

Lunch was followed by a stroll through the older neighborhood just to the south of Hotell St. Barbara, with a serendipitous discovery of the American embassy and yet another thrift store. Early evening snacks and beers came at the excellent specialty beer cellar called Põrgu, in the Old Town in the shadow of Toompea.

Diana had pear cider and a plate of delicious pork ribs. I chose salted herring salad, including beets, potatoes and capers. accompanied by Õllenaut Suitsu (Smoked) Porter. A bit later, a bottle of Põhjala Pime Öö (Dark Night) functioned as dessert, and it was one of the better Imperial Stouts I've experienced lately.

A final note: When the elevator at your hotel offers direct access to a suitably appointed Bavarian-style eatery in the building's basement, nightcaps are obligatory. It may have been Estonia, and Estonia's craft beer scene may be ascendant, but with crisp, fresh Paulaner (Helles, Oktoberfest, Hefeweizen and Salvator) on tap, the Baieri Kelder makes it hard to say no. 

Next: Saturday (Day Five), featuring a panoply of old Soviet things and a glimpse of the NBA playoffs. 

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