After welcoming Josh last night to our gang of 15 as our better-late-than-never monsooner with late night drinks and showing off our shooting range videos, we headed out this morning to explore the local markets north of Tallinn’s Old Town.
This is a large area right by the train station. While nobody here speaks a lick of English, they sell extremely cheap food and coffee for less than 1 euro for an entire meal.
Amazing food for under 1 euro
We found amazing Estonian coffee for 50 cents and their version of “Char Siu Baos” — fried doughnuts filled with pork and beef for 60 cents each, one of which can easily fill you up for breakfast.
Their desserts, while pretty, are much less inspired:
Afterwards we did a last minute stroll through the western part of Old Town from the Train Station:
At 4pm the group reconvened at Red Emperor Hostel and took extremely cheap Uber taxis (3-4 euros for a 10-10min ride) to the Tallinn Coach Station to catch the 5pm LuxExpress Bus to Riga (4.5 hours). While boarding, 2 of us realized they had left their passports back in Tallinn so they had to move their reservations to the 6:30pm bus. No biggie.
Waiting for our bus
After 2 hours on the road, we parked at a rest stop where I then experienced the first ever instance of a bus driver chasing passengers down telling them not to take a bathroom break. He literally told us: “5 minutes, 5 minutes only!”
And true to his word he got back in his seat and started driving away 5 minutes on the dot, leaving 1 person behind (even with his luggage still on the bus!). Although other Good Samaritan passengers walked up to protest the newly self-proclaimed bus Nazi, he refused to budge and continued to drive onwards towards Riga…his fascist grip on our bus unshaken.
Another hour passed by before our driver randomly pulled to the side of the road for what seemed to be a cigarette break. Around 6 minutes later that very same passenger who was left behind got on the bus, cursing the driver under his breath. Since that passenger rushed to the back and didn’t want to talk to anyone, we never got to know how he was able to catch up to us so quickly.
On brighter note, the wifi on this LuxExpress bus is the fastest wifi I have ever used; it operates just as well as a hi-speed landline cable connection, even with all of us connected to it.
Because of roadwork, we arrived 30 minutes later than scheduled at 10pm. From the bus station we hiked about 10 minutes around a park to get to our hostels, Seagulls Garrett and Old Town, which are adjacent to each other.
After checking into our hostel, the group headed out for late night munchies at Russian “dumpling” bar Pelmeni XL. You can get an entire meal for less than 4 euros.
This meal cost 2 euros
We then wandered around Old Town a bit:
And then it was shots at Skyline Bar at the top of the Radisson Blu, the tallest building in Riga.
After a busted visit to the Olympic Casino (only one blackjack table, which was completely full)at the very same Radisson Blu, we headed to a local hookah bar/club for drinks…
…where I then passed out and ensuing open mutiny was committed by my monsooners.
Well played. I’m gonna miss you guys.
- At time of posting in Riga, Latvia, it was 20 °C -
Humidity: 40% | Wind Speed: 9km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear
One of the most epic 24 hours so far. Starting from where we left off, landing in Tallinn after 10 days in Scandinavia, we headed out for dinner around Old Town after freshening up at the hostel.
We settled at Deja Vu, an outdoor hookah lounge/cafe/restaurant with the most misogynistic of menus.
Calling it an easy night, we hung out at our hostel’s bar for karaoke night:
Photo Credit: David Zhou
The next morning we got on the free 2 hour walking tour that started at 12pm in front of the tourist information center in old town.
Started at the symbol of Estonian Independence, hated by most Estonians:
A church of Atheism, as 80+% of Estonians are not religious:
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral:
Photos are not allowed inside:
Secret walkways through old town:
Tallinn from the lookout:
The main hub of Old Town, Raekoja plats:
After the 2 hour walking tour, a few in our group went to eat legit Russian food at Troika…
Alice's, Duncan's and Joyce's first attempt at bear meat
…while the rest of us scarfed down gyros and headed to Taktikalise Laskmise, the local gun range northwest of Tallinn, about 10 min away by cab.
Unlike shooting ranges in the USA, in Estonia they let you do “funner” (aka “irresponsible”) things such as near-automatic firing-from-the-hip with an AK-47, pump action shotguns, double pistols John Woo-style, taking out headshots with a silencer pistol a-la-James Bond, sidewinding with a golden Desert Eagle, and sniping with a bolt-action rifle.
Costs are 40 euros for basic, 75 euros for premium.
3 videos first:
After about an hour at the shooting range, we then rejoined the rest of the group at Patarei Vangla, or the Soviet Prison for a tour.
Originally a fortress, it eventually became a Soviet-style gulag/prison that then went into the hands of the Nazis during WW2 before returning to Soviet control. It’s now a museum/public space for parties, street art, and poetry slams.
The bedroom for “more useful” prisoners that had certain trade skills to part-time as staff members for the prison:
Then there was the holding area, fitting over 40 prisoners in a room meant for 10:
We then wandered the confined outdoor area where prisoners were allowed 1 hour of the 24 hours in the day to breathe some fresh air:
Then it got worse as we visited the maximum security wing of the prison:
Then it was solitary confinement:
And finally, death row: ending up at the very room where they “took prisoners to the shower only to never come back.” AKA where they executed their criminals “with 2 shots to the back of the head”:
Of course, the obligatory group photo:
Around the corner from the prison is a beach facing the Gulf Of Finland where you can grab a drink and fall asleep to the sound of the waves.
Afterwards we regrouped at atmospheric Olde Hansa, famous for not only great food but also playing up the atmosphere of medieval Estonia with wait staff dressing up and performing to time of old Estonia, even going as far as saying “Wifi? What’s that? We haven’t discovered that” and “We don’t take American Express as we haven’t discovered America yet”:
"Divine Leg Of Pork"
During dinner, Joyce picked up her little brother from the airport, Joshua, to join our group all the way to Vilnius.
Our group is now 15 strong, and we look forward to welcoming a new monsooner! Better late than never.
- At time of posting in Tallinn, Estonia, it was 18 °C -
Humidity: 84% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: mostly sunny
The group woke up to a late Mexican buffet brunch (13 euros) at Shanghai Cowboy.
Before we knew it, 1pm had arrived and it was time to send off our 10 monsooners to the airport.
Watch them whip. Watch them nene.
Photo Credit: Kelvin Sage | At the airport safe and sound
Broken hearted, but not defeated, a few of us then went to check out the Sibelius monument, located in a park northwest of Helsinki. Designed by Finnish artist Eila Hiltunen, it features 600 steel pipes in a wave-like pattern to symbolize the music of Sibelius.
Afterwards the 14 remaining regrouped at Hotel Kamp at 4:30pm to board the 6pm Linda Line Express ferry to Tallinn (90 minutes) departing from the southern Makasiiterminali terminal.
We began boarding at 5:35pm.
And promptly at 6pm, our ship departed Helsinki, Finland, and Scandinavia itself for good.
The ride was a good 90 minutes and we arrived around 7:30pm, with a 20 minute walk to our hostel, Red Emperor.
Baltic States, get ready.
Tallinn before us
- At time of posting in Tallinn, Estonia, it was 18 °C -
Humidity: 64% | Wind Speed: 23km/hr | Cloud Cover: Mostly Sunny