Tallinn


I have now stayed in Tallinn for 5 nights, stayed in two separate hostels, met lots of interesting people and have been for 4 runs of 10k or more. Time has passed quicky and I wish I could stay longer but I have to be at work in a few days.

The first two nights I stayed in the Euphoria hostel, which I breifly described in the previous post - it has a drum kit, organ, piano, several guitars, microphones and amplifiers. I spent the days playing piano (either on my own or jamming), programming (for good or for worse) and running, I was going to extend in this hostel for 4 for days, but by the time I asked they were fully booked and I was referred to another hostel and was allowed to leave my bike in the atic of the hostel.

View View from the fortified old town

“Hey, I made a reservation” “When?” “10 minutes ago, or maybe 30” “No you didn’t, we’re fully booked mate”

I had booked only a single night, not two, and the night I booked was for tomorrow. The American at the reception was none the less helpful and funny. Most hostels were fully booked due to a football match and he helped me find another hostel and cancel the night I did book.

The other Hostel was called the “Imaginary” hostel and was on the other side of Tallinn, one of the reasons I choose the “United Hostel” was because it was so close and it wouldn’t be much effort to move all of my bags, as opposed to leaving some stuff behind. The new hostel was at least a kilometer and as I was hauling several of my bags across the old town I regretted not just packing bringing my bike from Euphoria.

View2 Another view from the old town

As it happened it would have been no problem to store my bike in the new hostel. It seemed to be a new place, and despite there being capacity for maybe 60 people, there was a large amount of unused space. The first room you walked into was huge, and had only a small table and chair in one corner, the rest of the room was being used as bicycle storage for the guests (and there were several touring cycles), but it would have been easy to convert it into a bar (perhaps this was the idea). The upstairs was similarly spacious and afforded lots of places to sociaise with the other guests.

On the first night I fell into a conversation with a French man and a woman from the Netherlands, we started talking about cycling, and the French guy by degrees started talking about his life, he was 55 (as I found out later) and talked about his skiing, cycling, belief (he was a “believer”) and life. He had some good stories, and we left to get a drink, I went to pick up my things and when I came back they were sitting round a girl and her laptop and watching the tour-de-france. This was Louize, a 27 year old German student of fine art who had a passion for glass sculpture, climbing and unicycling (even offroad unicycling). we went out of the old town and had a drink but didn’t stay out long or drink much as all were quite sensible and it was already getting late.

Looking Looking onto the modern sky scrapers

The second day I went for a run to the lake in the south, it was meant to be a 21k run, but I was disappointed when approaching the lake that it was fenced off, and you couldn’t even see it behind the trees. It was a large lake (or at least it was around 15km around) but I was able to run along the fence, which eventually gave way to some tracks and trails, and it still seemed possible to run all around it, but as I went further the trail become more overgrown and there were mosquitoes and then more mosquitoes and when I stopped for a few seconds they would swarm all over me. I decided to turn back, but still managed to run around 17km.

That night I joined some of the guests on the sofa, including a retired American who had travelled the entire length of Russia, he was an architect, he was talking to a Mexican, Jorge, who was sitting next to an Argentinian Augustin, and then Luize was sitting on the left. She suggested us going down to the beach and sitting on this “temple thing” nobody seemed to know exactly what it was, and I didn’t know it existed. Louize, Augistin and I left, and within 10 minutes we were approaching a somewhat neglected large concrete construction of some kind.

It had to rows of steps going up on either side of a central block, much like a temple, as we came up over the last steps we saw a large number of people sitting at the top and on the mirror image of the stairs going down on the other side there was a helicopter pan in front of us in front of and between the steps. I was told informally that it was built as some kind of defensive structure by the soviets against Finland. It seemed like it had been left to rot by independent Estonia, and the concrete was falling away and unmaintained, with rusty steel being revealed from the missing concrete. It was sunset and we sat and talked.

Recommended Sunset from the soviet defenses

Police were walking up and down and passively telling people drinking alcohol that doing so in the open was illegal and moving on, if somebody asked “what should I do with it?” the police would response “hide it!”.

Augustin was from Argentina and was backpacking / hitchhiking to Australia, he and Louize exchanged hitchhiking stories, the both seemed to have had extensive experience, unlike me (I’ve never hitchhiked).

Afterwards we went back to the hostel before Augustin suggested going out for a drink, so we left and found the “Stinky” bar - which was a small bar in the old town which featured a square bar backed with rows of drinks and a large stereo-typical bar tender. We sat and drank a few beers, before walking back to the hostel, just before the hostel there was a cellar-bar that Augustin had pointed out on the way up (and in which he met the Mexican guy getting drunk at three in the morning the previous night). It seemed convenient so we went inside, ducking under the low door and stairs into a the bar where again we met the Mexican and there was jazz music playing and there was a good atmosphere and we stayed and had more drinks. I was quite sozzled having already drunk two or three beers before we even left.

In the morning I said goodbye to Louize and then to Augustin, Louize lives not far from Berlin (2 hours by car), so maybe I’d see her again, but probably not. It’s both the interesting and terrible thing about travelling in that you meet so many people who you will likely never see again in your life. She is going to the town of Haapsalu to make glass sculptures with a group for a week before returning to study in Germany.

More Sunset An hour later as above

The hostel itself seemed quite disorganized, the check-in procedure was very inefficient, and queues of people would be waiting on the stairs (sometimes complaining and carrying heavy baggage). Indeed when I arrived here the man mumbled something and asked me to wait for 2 minutes, and 15 minutes later I was still waiting and not knowing even if my reservation had been made, meanwhile people had skipped ahead of me. The bathrooms and toilets were, although new, not cleaned regularly during the day. The kitchen was invariably left in a mess every day as guests were not pressured to wash up after themselves, and the dishwasher was forbidden to guests. The beds were of the worst kind - iron framed bunk beds which transmit all movement from one bed to the other. Nonetheless socially it was very good.

There were lots of cyclists – and out of all the ones I talked to, I had done the least number of kilometers. I met a couple who had cycled on a Tandem from Slovenia to Kyrgyzstan for 5 months, they seemed to alternate stories depending on who they were talking to, telling me who beautiful Armenia was, and how the people were so open and kind, to somebody else telling me how they had a really bad time there as they got diarrhea from the water in the food that the people freely gave them. So I guess in sum they had a great adventure and they both looked quite weather beaten (the guy apparently hadn’t slept in 24 hours for whatever reason).

Another tourer from London had been travelling by bicycle for 11 months, cycling France, Spain, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and all with a surf board. As I walked back into the hostel once I was amazed to see a bicycle with a surf board mounted on one side of it, giving the handlebars just enough space to rotate and legs to pedal. He had travelled for 11 months on a surfing bicycle.

I went back to the Euphoria hostel, and was soon jamming again. Today my time has been mostly spent worrying about how I will get back to Berlin.

Initially I had thought to get a bus - the most simple if not quickest option. It would cost €70-100, but I needed to find out what the situation would be with my bicycle, I went to the office this morning and was told flatly “No you cannot take bicycle” “It says on your website that I can with permission” “Then you must ask for at main office in Riga, you want email?”

I phoned the main office directly afterwards and was again flatly told “no” before she explained that with written permission it was possible, but it would take three working days. This wasn’t really acceptable for me, as it could be denied and I would be missing more days of work.

Jamming Jamming

So then there were flights, and the ferry. The flights were also not as expensive, and it seemed possible that AirBaltic would take my bike without it even being packaged (air out of the tyres, pedals off, seat down, etc), this was probably the best option (even if I had to change planes at Riga), but I hate flying so … the ferry was not as expensive as I had first thought had thought, and getting the ferry was always the original plan.

I booked the ferry, for 17:00 the next day (tomorrow) and thought that this gave me ample time to cross the Baltic Sea to Helsinki in another ferry. There was a crossing at 12:00 which got in at 14:30. But apparently the check-in closes two hours before 17:00, giving me only 30 minutes to get off the ferry and find the new ferry, which may or may not be an easy thing, and there is also the chance (I don’t know) that the ferry could be delayed, so it was tight.

The only alternative was the 06:00 or 08:00 sailing. The 08:00 gets in at 10:30 and would mean I would need to be at the port at around 07:00 or before, and leave the hostel at around 06:30, getting out of bed around 06:00, which is fine, but if I somehow miss the ferry, it could mean throwing the €250 I spent on the non-refundable ticket to Germany down the drain.

Then the next problem was that the ferry will arrive in Germany at around 21:30

  • giving me no chance to check in to a campsite, the nearest hostels are in Lubeck (>10km away), and check-in closes at 11. I didn’t want to spent €100 or more on a hotel for a few hours before getting up in the morning to get a train.

I thought about what to do, and did actually find a hostel in the northern direction closer to the ferry port, but when I called them up on the telephone they were fully booked. I considered cycling to Rostock by night, but wrote it off as I would arrive at 03:00 or 04:00 in the morning and wouldn’t be able to find a place to stay … but then it occurred to me that the trains might be running.

I could cycle to Rostock at night directly from the ferry port, arriving around 3 or 4am and the first train to Berlin (with changes) is at around 4am. This would be a nice way to finish the tour. Now all I need to do is get up on time and hope that everything runs smoothly.