Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn was the perfect respite from the opulence and grandeur of St. Petersburg.   We boarded a bus early in the morning for Viking’s included walking tour of the old town. Our ship wasn’t scheduled to depart until 9 PM that evening, so my thinking was that the tour would give us an overview and we would return later to visit the sights that most interested us.   At least that was the initial plan.

I don’t know whether it was the dreary weather, or the lingering effects of sensory overload from St. Petersburg, but after the tour concluded, WE concluded that the afternoon would be best spent partaking in some of the delights aboard our lovely ship.  Still, we have a few photos to share:

Notice the umbrellas in the foreground. It rained off and on during the tour.
Notice the umbrellas in the foreground. It rained off and on during the tour.
View of the medieval "lower town" from a lookout in the "upper town".
View of the medieval “lower town” from a lookout in the “upper town”.

Cars and buses are not allowed inside Tallinn’s old town, so we followed the city wall down the hill to the town square,

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main square
main square

where we found an abundance of shops, cafes, and a medieval pharmacy, which is still in operation today.

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We didn’t need to replenish our supply of wood louse infusions, earthworms in oil, or dried deer penises, so we left the pharmacy empty handed.

The Estonians seem to like three dimensional advertising.  Here are just a few examples.

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I loved the fire breathing dragon with the crown on his head, and the maiden advertising the “super sale”?  She had lots of similarly attired companions scattered throughout the square.

That evening, we had dinner at one of Viking’s specialty restaurants, The Chef’s Table.  This is a five course fixed menu, with wine pairings.  That evening we enjoyed the “Asian Panorama” menu.  The fixed menus change every three days, and we sampled three of them!

We started with chilled king crab made with coconut foam and curry, followed by lobster and chicken shu mai, which was a soft dumpling.  Now ordinarily, I am not a fan of either of those seafood items, but these were delicious.

Next up was a lemongrass and red chili granita with lychee foam (there was a whole lot of foaming in this restaurant), followed by the main course–Peking duck with a mandarin pancake.  Dessert was an Asian trilogy of chocolate banana spring roll, green tea cheesecake and yuzu creme brulee.

Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph the food–I was way too busy eating, drinking and talking, but if I had, you would have seen that the portions weren’t huge.  At the end of the meal we were satisfied, not stuffed!

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Our happy traveling companions, at the end of our dinner, after lots of wine!

Helsinki 

Usually my blog functions as a substitute for postcards.  It is a way to stay connected with family and friends–a way for them to share in the wonder and excitement of travel without enduring the long plane rides, jet lag, and other miscellaneous discomforts of life on the road.

For this cruise, however, the free wifi was not robust enough to allow photo uploads.  Being a very visual person, I saw no point in posting without photos.  So, now that I’m   home, I’m playing catch up.  These postcards were way delayed!  But maybe my posts will be helpful to anyone that is considering the Viking Homelands cruise, or might be touring any of the Baltic ports we visited.

Now about Helsinki…

Helsinki was the perfect respite between the two sensory overload ports of Stockholm and St. Petersburg.  We took the included Viking tour, which was a morning bus trip with three stops.  And that was enough for us.

First stop was the Sibelius monument, which consists of 600 welded stainless steel tubes,

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The individual pipes really are quite spectacular

and a bust of the composer.

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Is it just me, or  does it look like he’s been beheaded and impaled?

The guide told us that Sibelius’s bust had seven wrinkles–one for each of his symphonies.  I wasn’t able to verify, but I’m not so sure I like that way of displaying accomplishments.  If that were the universal yardstick,  I’m either way behind  with achievements or way ahead with wrinkles.

Our guide told us that when Sibelius died in 1957, at the age of 91, the US Embassy was the only one to have a moment of silence in his honor.  Nicely done, USA.

Next up, the Rock Church, which is not its real name, but its real name is long, hard to spell, and not as descriptive.  So here’s the story:  two brothers got the bright idea to hollow out an enormous hunk of granite, turning it into, of all things, a church.  Lo and behold, their idea was the competition winner.   After four years of applications, permits and paperwork, plus one year of construction, the church was completed.  And here you have it.

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Our final stop was at Senate Square, where Russian Tsar Alexander ll stands, with the Finnish constitution in his hand and a bird atop his head (Just so you know, the bird is not a permanent part of the statue).   He was quite beloved in Finland, much more so than in Russia, where he was assassinated after freeing the slaves, providing an example of  common ground between Russia and the USA.
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Behind him is the Lutheran Church, which we opted not to visit.  Did you see all those steps?   Instead, we stopped inside the tourist information center, where we discovered this promotional brochure from a Finnish company.

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The Bonk Brochure
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One of many hilarious pages

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I was completely taken in by this brochure, and thought that
  1. the company was realand  2.  that it had an amazing sense of humor.
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Being a curious soul and having access to the internet, I decided to check this company out and discovered that it is actually fictional — the work of Finnish painter and sculptor Alvar Gullichsen.   I wish I’d known that when we were in Helsinki.  I would have explored that yellow building in the background, rather than posing for a color coordinated photo.