Half the fun was getting there. I suppose for residents of Finland and Estonia–and a few other places, like Gibraltar, Hong Kong, etc.–traveling to a completely different country via ferry is just everyday life. But for an American like me, this is a big deal. I’ve crossed a gazillion borders via bus, train and plane…but not too many by ferry. I really looked forward to the two-hour boat trip from Helsinki to Tallinn and it didn’t disappoint. The 9AM ferry set me back just $17 and besides the stone-cold breakfast (which cost me more than the ferry ticket), I enjoyed every moment. Soon we were pulling into shore on the other side of the Gulf of Finland. It was time to see Tallinn.
Tunes in Tallinn
Who goes to an incredible and awe-inspiring 13th century European walled city and headlines his article with a record store? This guy!!! It wasn’t just the coolness of a vinyl shop with walls of stone, but it was the fact that the actual music inside Old Town Records would impress even the most soulful of R&B DJs. I was absolutely floored seeing LPs from deep classic soul artists like Delegation, Tower of Power, Confunkshun, Kashif and more. How the heck did this music end up in Estonia? Somebody pinch me! I ended up buying an Electro-Bossa CD (You might want to look up that genre, it’s amazing) and enjoyed the free cup of coffee offered to me by the clerk. I could’ve spent hours inside this shop and am still trying to comprehend, of all places, how these rare R&B grooves found their way to Estonia. What am I missing?
And Now, Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Tour
After a quick check-in at my hotel and my lusty vinyl-affair at the record shop, it was on to do what normal people come here for – to wander the old town. I enjoyed strolling up and down the slanted cobble stone streets and alleys. There was a raised section of town that required a pretty steep stair climb, so I’d get my exercise for the day. I enjoyed passing the windows of a grade school class in session, walking through small tunnels, past old churches and along the castle walls. I trekked and trekked, until I tired, heading back to the hotel to rest my bones before dinner.
Only moments after I started poking around the streets in search of the perfect dinner, did a tremendous rainstorm occur, barreling in out of nowhere. It was the kind of rain that caused you to run for shelter fast: a torrential downpour that threatened to not just soak your head, but just about guaranteed wet shoes and socks within 90 seconds, too. I wasted no time ducking into the first open door I spotted, a restaurant in the main square called Karl Friedrich. With no sign of the rain letting up, the weather would decide where I’d eat tonight, as I grabbed a table and perused the menu. 30 minutes and 25 dollars later, the rain had let up and my tummy was full. It was time to move on.
With about an hour of sunlight left, I was curious what the city looked like outside of the walls. The rain had let up, so I headed outside the confines of old town to see what life was like beyond the borders of fairy tale-land. As luck would have it, my haphazard stroll took me right through a market and into an industrial area-turned hipster food court. “DEPOO” (Depot?) was a collection of shipping containers and train cars turned-food stands and was one of the coolest collection of food and drink vendors I’ve ever seen. I was immediately sour that my stomach was filled to max capacity from an entire pizza and meat soup. Oh, how I would have loved to sample the goods from a few of these cargo containers with windows. This was one neat setup! It was a shame I couldn’t fit in even one more bite of anything.
Antiiks Road Show
But wait, there’s more! Just when I reached the end of DEPOO, I found myself standing in a giant antiques mall called ANTIIK. I slipped in just while they were shutting down for the night, otherwise I could’ve spent hours perusing the aisles of vintage toys, jewelry, electronics and nicknacks. This place was an antique fan’s dream and rivaled the stalls of San Telmo in Buenos Aires. Wow!
I stopped into the third vinyl store on my way back to the hotel. Same story: a shop filled with awesome music, including more funk, soul and classic R&B. How did all this super-dope music make its way into Estonia? There must be a backstory.
It was off to bed and up early for a 4AM taxi to the airport. Spoiler alert. There would be trouble ahead.This entry was posted in Europe