The one with the tourist times and GOLD Finland! #DAYS 7-9

#DAY 7

This morning was met with a lot of optimism, and plans crammed back to back for a day of Tallinn tourism. We were up and out and back to the Old Town bright and early to make the most of the time we had to walk around. First up was St. Olav's church; the tower here was told to us by locals as having once been the tallest building in Europe... this had been struck by lightening and patched up several times, but proved a challenging walk to the top for views around the hill of Toompea and out to sea. There was a definite mist and cloud hanging over the tower due to the time of morning, however the views around us were not marred. The experience was complete with the precarious pathway around the tower itself; two planks of wood strapped to the copper, and a thin mesh barrier!

We made it down from the tower with much crossing of paths on the stairs and close contact so as not to plummet down the steep staircase. Back out in the sunshine, we headed straight to the Kiek in de Kök tower. This Bastion tower is one of the remaining fortifications in Tallinn and literally translates as 'Peek in the Kitchen' the name, we learned, came from the times of houses being below the tower and the wide chimneys which awarded a direct view in to the kitchens from those in the top of the tower.

The tower told a tale of the harrowing history of Tallinn's past, with floors dedicated to the torture of prisoners, the occupation of Estonia and periods of war, and the plague. By the time we reached the top floor cafe, the bright sunshine streaming through the windows was a gentle relief to the intense history we had absorbed.  We headed straight down into the Bastion passages beneath the tower. Built by the Swedish, these passages provided a means for communication between the Kiek in de Kök tower, and another tower that was no longer in existence. Here, we learned further about the sadness and suffering that had prevailed for many years in Estonia and further comprehended their pride in peace and independence of today.

Emerging back above ground, we jumped on a bus to the coast and open air museum which was celebrating a bread festival to mark the start of autumn. The museum itself was a fantastic tribute to the traditional working farms of Estonia historically, with re-erected buildings and equipment placed from around the country to the location. The market was fantastic, with a huge variety of food and drink on offer and the several acres of space lead to a lot of fresh air and walking!

#DAY 8 

Another early morning, this time to jump on a different bus to the far side of the Old Town and the famous TV tower. We arrived in the open expanse of land to the tower itself dominating thep sky line. Walking up the front path to the entrance, we were struck by how deserted the car park and surrounding area was  The tourist season in Tallinn had ended at the end of August, and each day that passed meant we were met with more of an awareness of quite how small the native Estonian population is and certainly a big culture difference to that of the number of people in the UK.

Inside of the TV tower, the exciting space themed interior gave us a taste of what was to greet us on the top floor. The lift to the tower flew up, and the inside monitor told us that we were elevating at a pace of 3 metres per second. Feeling like we were about to emerge in space itself, the doors opened to the empty tower and breathtaking views of our surroundings. We practically had the tower to ourselves, other than a member of staff floating around, we were free to enjoy the surroundings selfishly and make the most of surprise portholes we spotted, embedded in the floor and offering a clear view of all 170 metres below us! Our mascot Olave was even brave enough to test out the views of the plummet, and we tried our hardest to squeeze into a photograph with the open view of the ground below us.

The tower was also featuring a Soviet fashion exhibition, the interactive side to this with dresses from the 50's-80's available to try on... Needless to say we jumped at the opportunity to sport the outfits and the obligatory photograph that came hand in hand.

We did step out to the roof of the tower itself; the gale force winds were certainly a literal force to contend with, and several minutes outside was enough to blow us back in - deciding not to do the sky walk harnessed to the side of the 314m tower.

After a brief trip around the botanical gardens next to the tower, we headed back to Old Tallinn to tackle the list of museums we'd planned to take a look around. The stark history of Tallinn was obviously apparent one more, and trips around the Occupation Museum, and KGB cells were both interesting and insightful to the years of Soviet and German rule the country was subjected to.  Our afternoon of immersion in history ended in a treat, a popular pancake house recommended to us by the walking tour guide we had met in our first week.  The warming atmosphere and sweet sugary smells hit us from the street, and we delighted in the huge pancakes we were served and a fantastic finish to a busy day. 

#DAY 9 

Day 9 was a very early start from how we had been living for the past week and a half... A 6am wake up call to get us up and out of the apartment and on our way to the Tallinn ferry port to head over to Finland! Due to the spacing in our diary between sessions and meetings with the EGL, we had decided to make the most of a break by country hopping across the water to a fellow Baltic nation.

As we approached the water front, the wind had picked up noticeably, and it was apparent that the clear still waters we had observed over the course of our trip thus far had developed to something far choppier.  We were taking the 'speed trip' option over, which came in the form of a small passenger ferry, bobbing up and down considerably on the water! The boat trip was good fun for most, feeling like a rollercoaster at sea for the most part.  We made it to Helsinki early enough in the morning to have a full day of sightseeing and lots of things to cram in. Helsinki was considerably chillier than Tallinn, and the drop in temperature meant we were also on the look out for woolly gear to keep ourselves warm. Our first observation from wandering around was the prices being rather steeper than what we had seen in Estonia - even more so than London! With the average cup of coffee and cake setting us back nearly 10 euros, it was a pretty price to pay, but we found a cosy and modern cafe to relax in after a morning of pounding the cobbles around the town centre to tick off the places on our list.

 The sun came out in the afternoon, as we continued our mission on foot, and we found Christmas - in the basement of the largest tourist shop we could find! Surrounded by reindeer, Lapland themes and artificial snow, it was hard to imagine that it was just September with the Nordic weather we were experiencing too. We headed over to the Finnish Scout society (known as Girl Scouts here) to take a look at the building.

Sadly there was no Guide shop apparent for us to raid!  At the end of the day, we traipsed back to the ferry exhausted and having covered over 11 kilometres on foot.  Amy W located a discarded Finnish Flag which we waved in solidarity to our fellow Baltic land as we bid farewell and hopped back onto the ferry.  


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