Monday, July 08, 2013

Estonian Surprise

Estonia was a most pleasant surprise in our journey across the Baltic from Stockholm to St Petersburg. We did not plan to be there. When we made the on-line booking for our tickets on Princess Anatasia, we had no idea that the ship would make a stop in Tallinn, Estonia. We thought she was just a ferry ship taking us directly to St Petersburg. But we were more than happy to make this stop.

In reality, Princess Anatasia is more than a ferry ship. Besides ferrying passengers and cars, it is also a cruise ship, doing round circuits from St Petersburg to Helsinki, Stockholm, Tallinn and back to St Petersburg. We were on the Stockholm-Tallinn-St Petersburg leg.

The Princess Anatasia is a Russian ship owned by the St Peter Line. She is not as big and luxurious as the Louis Olympia. She has the basic facilities like restaurants, bars, cinemas and even a small casino. And we were accommodated in small windowless cabins that had everything we needed. They were really quite comfortable. We spent 2 nights on this ship en-route to St Petersburg.

There was no swimming pool to laze and relax. The open decks had very basic and uncomfortable seats. I guess the Baltic is just too cold for open deck activities.

Princess Anatasia arrived at Tallinn the morning after our departure from Stockholm. Estonia is one of the 3 Baltic states (the other 2 being Latvia and Lithuania) in the old Soviet Union. Tallinn is the capital city of Estonia. Like all the former Soviet states, these 3 Baltic countries are now independent.

After the normal immigration formalities, we walked out of the harbour building. A hop-on-hop-off bus was outside, just about to depart. If you have limited time, these tourist buses are very good means to see and have a feel of the city.

We found Tallinn to be quiet and slow moving. We did not see many people in the streets. There was hardly any traffic. The pace was absolutely right.

The scene from the bus was that of a pretty and very well kept city. It was remarkably clean and the buildings were immaculate. There were lots of greens.

We saw this beautiful cathedral and we decided to disembark from the bus to explore.

Opposite the cathedral was this majestic government building. I had no idea what it was.

Behind the cathedral was a beautiful park.

We walked to the park and soon came to an old wall structure. I believe this was the old city wall.

This silo-like tower was part of the wall.

Inside the wall structure was an enclosed compound. It was a relaxing and charming place.

We continued our walk through the lush green park...

... and soon we were walking down to a big town square.

There was a monument at the square. I wondered what the monument was dedicated to.

The cathedral in the square was an graceful and imposing centre-piece.

From the square, we explored the quiet streets...

... marvelling at its many beautiful buildings.

We finally found the Old Town.

Like the one in Stockholm, this is the old part of the city that had been transformed into a tourist haven. But unlike in Stockholm, this was a much lively and ebullient place.

There were lots of restaurants and shops. And it was the ideal place for us to take a break for a late lunch.

The restaurant we picked was this Talukorts Restaurant and Bar.

First, a refreshing cold Estonian beer.

Then some fresh salads. See how beautiful it looked...

This was garlic bread, Estonian style. They were like toasts. They came with a dip and were delicious.

These were the normal bread.

The fried chicken wings were not much different from those we have in Malaysia. They were served with the same dip. Very nice.

Finally, this nice pork chop with potato, onion and vegetable.The meat was tender and the whole combination turned out to be delicious.

It was a very leisurely and enjoyable meal. The atmosphere was perfect. We were totally relaxed. What a fabulous way to spend an Estonian afternoon.

We lingered on. But finally we had to head back to the ship. The harbour was a short 15 minutes walk from the Old Town. We had a most fulfilling day. Estonia was indeed a delightful surprise. If not for this cross Baltic passage, I don't think I would ever come to this beautiful country.

Shortly after we returned to our ship, she weighed anchor and set sail. That evening was uneventful. We had an early night. The ship sailed all night while we slept. Next morning when we woke up, we were in St Petersburg.

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