…are the BEST.
Do you want to know what happens sometimes?
Sometimes you’re on a wander through Tallinn on a sunny day, and you come across an abandoned, falling down old warehouse. And you walk past it at first. But 20 feet further on, you stop. And you say to yourself, “Why not? Do it!” And so you go back, and, checking to be sure no one is watching, you duck into the building.
And you feel kind of nervous the whole time you’re in there, and decide not to climb up a bit, even thought it is very tempting, because you are not entirely foolhardy.
And then you duck back out and continue on your wander.
And it is awesome.
That is what happens sometimes.
When I was in Tallinn, I went to about the most kitschy, touristy place I’ve been so far.
It’s a restaurant at the bottom of the old town hall in the main square. It advertises “worthy elk stew, full of flavor experience”, and its servers are women in middle ages costumes. It’s dark and lit by candlelight. The veilings are low and rough-hewn beams jut out. It’s got Estonian folks music playing. The mugs and bowls are rough ceramics. Classic tourist bait.
And I loved it! It totally charmed me.
It was in part because of the warmth, in part because of the prices (each food item only started at 1 euro!), but mostly because of the woman working behind the counter. She was so engaging and joke-y. (“the minimum you have to pay for your order is 6 euro, but 7 or 8 seems better to me… yeah, definitely 8 or 9. Maybe 10?” or “Did you bring your own spoon there in your backpack, or do I have to loan you one of our precious, deluxe spoons? Don’t you try to steal it!”) Maybe she was just putting on a show, but I don’t think so. I think she just loved joking with people, whether it was her coworkers or tourists. And my elk stew and cabbage pastry and foxberry juice were really good!
I just really liked that place a whole lot.
If you are ever in Tallinn (as I’m sure lots of you will be at some point in your life), go there! It’s in the main square “Raejoka Plats” (which I think just means “main square,” since it was called that in Tartu also), at the bottom of the big Town Hall.
See?? These were in the British Museum. Which is the fanciest loot-cave for robbers that I’ve ever seen…
(as are most museums, to be fair.)
Picnic-ing with Kirsty!
(you’re famous! again! some more!)
Guys, the cable-things on the Tower Bridge are BLUE. That is crazy to me. They are BLUE. All the time. I really didn’t expect that.
(Kirsty: “….Karen, that’s the strangest reaction to the Tower Bridge that I have ever heard.” )
(Kirsty [five minutes later]: “You know, it is really strange that it’s blue. Why would they do that? That makes no sense.”)
I know, you may be asking yourself, “Why would Karen need to do Science?” and the answer is: there are some questions which can only be answered through empirical testing.
one such question:
How thick/strong is the ice at the edge of this frozen pond by the Presidential Palace in Tallinn?
This is clearly a question that can only be answered through experimentation.
I am not a total idiot. I did not jump onto the ice or anything.
I just pushed on it with one of my feet, as I sat on the edge of the pond. That’s way different.
The answer to the question How strong is the ice? is Not very.
Can Karen react quickly enough to pull her foot up before it gets soaked in ice cold water?
Experimental testing indicates…
Two of the days that I’ve been here, I’ve gone to the Russian market, over out of the Old Town, past the train station. It’s hard for me to explain it in a way that will give you a sense of the place but here’s my try:
First, a picture, of one aisle of the many-aisle market:
It is like if every garage sale you’ve ever been to set up shop in tin shacks and table in the melting snow, in a kind of sketch neighborhood in Tallinn, Estonia. And also all the thrift stores. And the little corner ethnic grocery stories. And all the sellers were 45+ years old. And spoke Russian. And had each maintained a specific collection of kinds of objects (one table: watches, power cords, socks. another: camera batteries, old bras, tweezers) for the past 20 years and were displaying those collections now.
It is exactly what I imagine the black market to be like, except maybe on the black market they had a smaller selection of items.
Highlights include: legit Russian fur hats from the actual USSR, about a zillion pairs of shoes, gravestones (coffins sold elsewhere, I guess), lots of cranberries at the grocery stalls, and old cameras I had to quickly move away from to keep myself from buying.
It’s pretty great. Go there sometime, if you get the chance.