This week, I had my first work trip in the new job. We have a customer in Tallinn Estonia, Eesti Energia that was having some issue with reporting, and it was thought I might be able to help the situation. I have only been in Tallinn for a couple of days, but this is a cool place.
My trip started with a stop-over in Sweden (another country, officially...) for a few hours on my way to Estonia. I was going to take the train into Stockholm, but thought better of it, with the short layover. Seemed like bad idea for me to miss a flight on my first trip. So I had to be content with touring the airport. Not much to say really. I'll be coming back for sure at some point anyway.
Estonia is in north-eastern Europe, with Russia to the east, Latvia to the south, and across a straight from Finland (north). As usual, I'll leave the references up to Wikipedia and Google. Tallinn is the capital of the country, and is one of the oldest cities I've been to, having been founded way back in the 1100's.
Tallinn is a very beautiful city; fairy-tale like in many ways with the historical, old town up on the hill. The city has retained many of the original walls and towers, and even a couple of the city gates going back to the 14th century.
As with all European cities, the churches are focal point of the architecture, and there are some stunning examples here. I arrived at about 4:00 pm on Monday afternoon, to gray, overcast skies and temperatu8res just above freezing. I was told I was fortunate, and that the usual temperatures are in the -20 degree range, for that time of year. I was OK with gray. By the time I got settled into my hotel, had changed and has able to get out to explore, the light had mostly faded, and evening was upon me. Sadly, that meant taking photographs was relegated to long exposure shots, at a high f-stop. They're generally not very good - grainy at f16, and a lot of motion blur.
I have to say, Tallinn is one city that I wished I had my good camera, and a tripod. There are some amazing opportunities for night photography in that city. Especially in the winter, if there was a lot of snow, or in the summer when the leaves are out. That city could be magical.
I must have wandered around for 2 or three hours. It's such a cool city - narrow, winding streets that change direction seemly at arbitrary times; tunnels through, or under buildings and between stores; a huge main square that must be amazing come festival times; winding staircases that climb up to the old town, in one case seemingly through a church (although you didn't end up inside it). It was a very cool evening. At one point, I managed to find this very cool pub - the Hell Hunt pub. It claims to be the oldest pub in Estonia, founded in 1653. They made their own beer, a really nice, dark beer. Very cool place with the most amazing wrought iron spiral staircase going down into the basement.
After dinner, I made my way back to the hotel, and crashed for the night. Estonia television was... interesting to say the least. An odd mix of US (in English, Estonian, and English with Estonian sub titles), Estonian, Russian and maybe Finish television shows; BBC broadcasting (news, Premiership football); ESPN classic (in Estonian) and bad music channels. No really, you have no idea. Hip hop, in Estonian with cheesy videos. It was too much. There were cartoons in English, Estonia basketball league and 4 o 5 Discovery Channel channels, translated to Estonian. A weird mix.
Tuesday I was in the customers office for most of the day. I had lunch in their cafeteria, and was again amazed by the differences between North American and European ways of doing things. This was a company-sponsored cafeteria, and they sell bottles of wine to have with lunch. That is just so right, in so many ways. And it was cheap! I escaped the office around 2:00 p.m.
One of the things that I really like about Tallinn is that it has still managed to retain its authentic feeling as a city. It still feels Eastern European, and the western influence is quite limited. No Starbucks, and I only saw one McDonald's the whole time I was there. I’m sure that will change over time, but for now it adds to the charm of the place.
After getting back to the hotel, I went for a short run. This gave me a chance to check out parts of the city I hadn't seen yet, and I ended up down at an old pier that is not in use any longer. On the way back, I ended up running through the old city again, and found out that running on cobblestone is not that easy. And I'm talking real cobblestone - not your run-of -the-mill interlocking brick nonsense. No, this was real, round, varying shaped stones set in the ground. Very cool to look at, very bad to run on. After my run, I wandered around the old town again for a while. I managed to take some pictures before the daylight ended. I'll try and post those later this week.