Monday, April 22, 2013


We recently hopped across the Baltic Sea to visit Talinn, the capital of Estonia (Estland in Afrikaans and Swedish). Talinn, although it also has a very modern and busy side, it still retains the original walled-in medieval town. This medieval old town was declared a world heritage site. Talinn was not bombed during the second world war and therefore much of the old town is untouched and the original medieval city wall is still mostly complete (something that is actually very rare in Europe). So this was indeed a very nice trip into the past.
We started off by taking the ferry from Stockholm (on which now seems to become my annual birthday boat trip, see previous post on the Helsinki trip). The ferry boat to Estland is a bit smaller than the one to Helsinki, but it was still a very nice experience. In Talinn we stayed in a hotel within the old town, which was an excellent choice. It is an old renovated merchant house in the heart of the old town, a short walk from the central plain. We spend quite a lot of time browsing the small shops, visiting historical sites, wall bastions, museums, churches, and of course restaurants. We visited two very nice restaurants in the old town that had a complete medieval enactment, with medieval decor; medieval attired staff and medieval food. This was really fun, and it felt if though you were swept back a few hundred years into a cozy jolly tavern. The old town was an exceptional experience and we had great fun, however, for a change of scenery to a more rural setting, we went on a short tram ride to the outskirts of the (modern) city to visit the open air museum. Much like Skansen in Stockholm (see previous post), this open-air museum also houses historical relocated houses from various rural areas in Estland. The winter was still in full swing outside of the hustle and bustle of the city and the various historical farms, schools and mills were fairytale pretty. We really enjoyed the trip to these two interesting locations in Estland where time seem to have stood still.  A visit to both these places is highly recommended!
Below are some pictures of the highlights. 

Baltic ferry to Estland

Settling-in in our cabin

Not quite spring yet - plowing through ice fields

Approaching Talinn through the ice fields

Main gate to the old town

Exploring all the small streets

View from the top of the old city wall

Viru Gates facing modern Talinn

Typical old town cobble stone street

In the first of the nice medieval restaurants (Olde Hansa)

Honey beer at Olde Hansa

Proper medieval food at Olde Hansa (Sausages of Bear, Wild Boar and Elk, sauerkraut, root vegetables, caramelized onion and forest berries)

Winter not quite over just outside of the city walls

Two the many wall-towers guarding the city that still remain today (Wikipedia - walls of Talinn)

Climbing to the top of Toompea (Upper Town) with the Russian Orthodox Cathedral built during the days of the Russian Empire

View of the old town and the bay area from Toompea hill

City wall and tower from outside

Climbing up in one of the towers (Epping Tower)

Trying out some (very heavy) armor in Epping Tower tower armory

Ronnie managing to put on even more of the heavy armor 

Having a beer and nice food in the second Medieval restaurant (Estlander)

On top of the Fat Margaret Tower which also house the Maritime Museum

The effect of having to pose for too many photos

Gluttoning-out at a chocolatiere

Archery in a truly Medieval setting

Pikk Hermann aka Lange Hermann aka Tall Hermann with the Estonian flag on top- Tower of the Toompea Castle situated next to the Estonian Parliament building. The flag displayed on Pikk Herman is a symbol of the government in force. The flag is raised every morning while the national anthem is playing. A museum features the recordings of the momentous event when the Estonian flag replaced the Russian flag on Pikk Hermann

Estonian open air museum - Farm cottage

Winter still in full swing here

Sleigh ride

Enjoying the nice rural settings

Back on the ferry on our way home

A nice final dinner on the ferry

Sunset over the Baltic sea

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Life after a long long winter

Yes ... we're still here. Still alive after a very long winter -we have just been lazy to write a blog. However, this winter was quite serious, in fact it still snowed yesterday! Things are looking up however, the daily temperatures are climbing as the sun is fighting the cold back into the arctic. I never actually realized how big an influence the latitudinal position of the sun has. I mean I knew it from reading it in books etc. But here you can actually FEEL it. In the winter it feels as if the sun makes no difference at all in the temperature, night and day -- very cold -- doesn't matter. In terms of lighting up winter days -- well it does a little bit better than temperature-- but also a very half-baked performance :)  But come spring, you really start to see how the sun fights back the cold. The night temperatures still drop, the snow still try to pour down, the daily shade temperatures are still in the minus but where the sun shines - things heat up and melt. So slowly the ice on the roads and bike-paths disappear, the snow and ice on the lawns and fields stay a bit longer and is still visible now in the shade patches. The gravel and ice mounds next to the roads stay the longest. (Gravel are strewn on the roads and bike-paths in the winter to make them less slippery). This winter was quite long and icy so quite a lot of gravel accumulated on the roads and next to the roads as ice/gravel mounds (because the gravel get scraped off with the snow when the snow plows clear the paths from snow). Come spring - big sweeper trucks sweep the gravel up to use again next year. Luckily, these sweeps began last week since it got quite difficult to cycle through the gravel. This is a sure sign of spring coming, also the first flowers started to break through and nearly all the ice on the river is melted now. Another sure sign - it's getting harder and harder to find an open spot in the bicycle stand. But we are happy things are heating up and look forward to the coming spring (I don't think we can really say it started here yet).

Next blog - hopefully this week - will be about our recent trip to Estonia, and our visit to the wonderful medieval town at the other side of the Baltic.