Last weekend, I traveled all the way to Tallinn, Estonia to see one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe. For those of you who don’t know (and I’m guessing most of you have probably not brushed up on your Estonian geography), Estonia is a small country in Northern Europe that is sandwiched between Finland and Russia. It has a huge variety of influences, including German, Swedish, Dutch and Russian, but it also has a distinct culture and language of its own.
As I took the bus from the airport to the city center, I began to panic a little bit. The outskirts of Tallinn are fairly run-down, to say the least, as most of this part of the city consists of old Soviet-era apartment buildings of grey granite alongside dour factories. That said, once I arrived in the historic city center (called Old Town), my hopes picked up a bit. Old Town is the old medieval center of the city, and it is characterized by windy, cobblestone streets, castles and towers, Russian cathedrals and brightly colored, red-tiled roofs. After checking into my hostel, I went out for a stroll in the snowy neighborhoods.
I spent most of my time wandering around town, looking at historic monuments and visiting museums. Whenever I got tired, I stopped off at a café for a cup of strong coffee or a tall glass of beer. One of my favorite cafes was actually at the top of one of the old medieval towers, so I had a great view of the city while I relaxed and read. I tried to avoid eating out, but each day I allowed myself to get at least one nice meal: the first night I had a salmon alfredo pasta, and the following afternoon I had a beef and vegetable ciabatta with spicy salsa. At night, I generally went to a bar to relax and drink beer or hot, spiced wine.
All in all, Tallin was a truly amazing experience, as I have rarely seen so much history that is so well-preserved. Also, traveling on my own was a wonderful experience, since wandering around a foreign country by oneself is a major confidence booster. That said, I was happy to return to Galway and prepare for my next trip: Belfast and Derry