Trip Start Jun 21, 2011
9Trip End Aug 06, 2011
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
After my terrible bus experience heading from Russia to Mongolia, I was a bit reluctant to book another bus ticket from St. Petersburg to Tallinn, Estonia’s capital. It was the only sensible option, however, with the trains running at limited times. And apparently the vast majority of folks take the bus. Once the Lux Express pulled up in front of the Baltskyaya train station it was easy to see why folks preferred the bus.
I’ve ridden on some pretty rattletrap buses in my time
The Lux Express put me at instant ease. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a nicer bus, and I know I’ve never ridden on one. The seats were comfortable and fitted with individual power outlets; there was a toilet (and it was clean!); it had a coffee machine capable of producing cappuccinos for free; and to top it off the bus had WI-FI. Welcome to Europe!
Needless to say the bus journey went pretty well. We arrived at the border after a couple of hours and had a fairly seamless crossing as far as buses go. The total immigration/customs process for both borders probably took about an hour. Compared to the four plus hour fiasco at the Russian/Mongolian border it was heaven. We didn’t even have to get off the bus on the Estonian side. A fellow came on the bus, collected all of our passports, and then returned a bit later with them and we were off. I could sense that entering the EU was going to make things much easier.
Looking out the window at the Estonian border town of Narva it was very nice to see Roman letters on the signs again. And I found out soon after, as I suspected, most Estonians speak English quite well. This is often the case with smaller countries. Their total population of around 1.3 million is about the size of many smallish cites, so speaking Estonian will only get you so far.
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and it was a wonderful little town to lay my head for a few days. The cobblestoned streets of old town are incredibly tranquil and beautiful in a medieval way. My days were mostly filled with me sitting in various cafes, restaurants or bars. It seems to be the way of things here. I’m staying in a beautiful studio apartment I rented at half the price of a bad hotel in Russia. As nice as it is, though, it would be a crime to stay inside in such a lovely city that feels like a town from the past. There are many, many tourists around and I think most of them are coming in from cruise ships. I’ve also been introduced to the tradition of 'the stag party’. Huge groups of British blokes roaming the streets with matching shirts and one poor bugger who is getting married. They get outrageously drunk and many restaurants and bars actually have signs up that say ‘No Stag Parties Allowed’
As on many of my previous trips I’m starting to get ‘touristed out’, one beautiful sight after another starts to take its toll, and the eyes tend to glaze over a bit. That said, I did make my way to the 600 year old town hall that sits smack in the center of old Tallinn. Whilst roaming its decidedly medieval chambers I was amused by a Russian couple who were quite clearly upset by the lack of Russian signs. Everything inside was written in Estonian and English only. It’s probably evil of me to take pleasure in such a thing, but after days and days of linguistic frustration in Russia I couldn’t help but chuckle as this woman ranted in front of a sign. I finished my tour of the town hall by climbing its tower. The views were sweeping and many a photo was snapped.
Latvia is next…