Day 34 – across the Baltic to beautiful Tallinn, then a trip to the Russian border

Helsinki – Tallinn – Narva – Tallinn

I’ve not written much about the practical (boring!) side of these trips but on Trip 2, which was longer than Trip 1, I carried way too much weight around with me. Part of this was extra clothes for the longer trip, but also because I’d discovered that I could after all take two laptops abroad with me (I’d been previously told not) and that on the flip side, living without both my own and my main client’s laptop for a fortnight had been an absolute pain.

Before setting off on Trip 3, I therefore stripped out things that had turned out to be unnecessary (and not the second laptop!) I’d decided that I could get by with just my boots, especially as a significant part of this trip was further north. Getting up to discover that a sole was falling off was not ideal, especially on a Sunday morning. I should have realised there was a problem sooner, not least because I’d noticed that they let had a bit of water/snow in when I was out chasing the Northern Lights a couple of nights ago. It turned out that the stitching on my – not cheap – Sketchers boots is just for show and the sole is glued on. Or at least it was.

I remembered the 24 hour supermarket from the night before and – walking very steadily to make sure I wasn’t about to completely lose the sole – headed there after checking out. They had no glue (or shoes!) Nothing else was open, it was still only just after 8am. I decided that a leisurely sightseeing wander around Helsinki was not a clever idea, so headed towards the ferry, with a plan to shop in Tallinn instead.

Early morning Helsinki was incredibly quiet, but I like the feel of the place. I will come back and do it properly some time.

I ended up booking onto a 10:30am ferry, which was ideal in the circumstances. The harbour area was just getting going with a food festival due to start a little later. Just my luck!

I went on deck to watch the departure. Helsinki is surrounded by lots of small islands, some of them tiny and unoccupied or with just a single building on them. We passed very close to the Fortress of Suomenlinna, which is a World Heritage Site.

The crossing is around 2 hours and was very calm. I was intrigued by the small lighthouses dotted around. We passed maybe 3 or 4 of them. I guess that a lot of this area is extremely shallow.

It felt like no time at all and we were in Tallinn. I’d spotted a shopping centre right next to the harbour so headed straight there and bought myself some new shoes. There was a Sketchers, but I decided to pass! I’ve kept the boots as they are quite comfortable but will be lugging them around in my backpack for the rest of the week, before seeing if they can be fixed.

It was really warm in Tallinn. After dropping my bags I spent the afternoon wandering around in a t-shirt. The old town is gorgeous. There were quite a few tourists around, and for the first time in a week or so I heard lots of English voices.

One of the ideas in my head for this part of the trip had been a deviation to the most easterly point in Estonia, which is also the border with Russia. I looked at the timetables and would have an hour or so there before having to head back.

Narva station is just a couple of hundred metres short of the viaduct over the river of the same name. The station has a customs area for trains going in or out of the Russia, though with less security than I would have expected – they simply enter the station through a different door.

I first went for a quick look at the viaduct. There is what looks like x-ray equipment at the start of the bridge. I suspect that freight is still using this crossing but I don’t think that passenger trains are, at least non showed on the timetable.

On the far side, the town of Ivangorod has a rather super castle, as does Narva. I walked along the riverside. It’s quite a tourist attraction, there is somewhere to get drinks or snacks, and to sit. Lots of people were fishing and I saw dog walkers on both sides of the river.

After a short video call with my sister, which got mysteriously cut off (OK not really, I just lost the signal for a moment in the valley) I climbed the steps next to the border crossing. The crossing had trucks, cars and pedestrians heading both ways.

I walked back to the station, and arrived back in Tallinn as it was going dark. I do love cities at night and it was clear that this one was going to be beautiful. I’d not climbed the steps to the highest part of the town in the afternoon, so I did it now (I counted 140 steps, if you were wondering.)

I ended up in an area where there were several quite dramatic/creepy statues, near to the city walls.

After that I walked down towards the main square where I had dinner in an Estonian restaurant – it was jsut about warm enough to sit outside. I can recommend both the food (which I can’t remember the name of but recall that it had potatoes, sausage, aubergine, cream and rosemary) and the local beer.

This is a really lovely town. One of my favourites so far.

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  1. Brian Holt

    I used Sticksall on my boot sole

    • Thanks Brian, I was going to ask when I got home, but you’ve done the job for me 🙂

  2. Celia Lyon

    I love sculptures and statues, so quite a few to add to my next travels

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