Tallinn, Estonia
Posted in Travel
Morning watch, 5 bells (6:44 am)

Today we had a nice half-day tour of Tallinn. Now, when I think of Estonia, I think of an ex-Russian holding that eeks out (that's a joke, their currency is the EEK) a living while trying to recover from communism. Not so, Tallinn. This is a beautiful city, and their Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage site. It's full of really old buildings and cobbled streets that are murder on your feet if you've been walking everywhere for the last several days.

We left the ship at about 8:30am, shortly after it docked in Estonia. There was a short bus ride into the town, where we saw the President's house, Peter the Great's house, Catherine's something-or-other, and the parliament building. There was also this cool statue near the ocean, almost right on the beach, commemorating a Russian ship that sank off the coast in the late 1800's. The statue was built in 1902, and all around the outside of the monument are carved the names of the Russian Seamen that were lost. Most people here speak very good English, we didn't have any trouble at all talking to the shopkeepers. We saw a cathedral that wasn't very exciting, so while everyone else was still going through it, Lorien and I jumped out and bought some postcards and stamps. We ended up forgetting to bring our address labels with us, but we still got all our postcards out before the ship closed up. Right now I'm waiting for the ship to leave the port, I can feel that the engines have just started up.

Anyway, back to the travelogue. The Old Town of Tallinn was wonderful—it was clean and friendly and bright. There were an absolute ton of souvenir shops (aka tourist crap) as well as quite a few artists. We bought a watercolor for $20, painted by a man just sitting on the street selling his art. We had some time to walk around the Old Town, which was very nice. There were ladies dressed in what must be traditional Estonian dresses selling postcards and tourist books, we bought our postcards and stamps from one of them. She was very bad at math and I had to help her with the amount of change from a €20 bill when you buy €12.54 worth of stuff. I didn't think it was that difficult, but her English was good, and I'd rather her have good English than good math (as long as I still have good math skills).

We're off to do some laundry and then to dinner and a private art exhibition. Should be exciting, as there's quite a line for the laundromat today. I guess we're not the only ones to travel light and wash clothes as we go.

What you buy in Tallinn is seized by the US authorities. At least in this case…

Swiss Cannabis Iced Tea: Fantastic Natural Feeling

Here is the statue dedicated to the lost Russian lives off the coast of Tallinn.

Monument in Tallinn to a Russian vessel

This abstract little statue was defaced to make it look more like a duck.

Abstract statue, graffiti makes it look like a duck

This one looks like it's dead. I live for this kind of urban graffiti.

Abstract statue, graffiti makes it look like a dead duck

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St. Petersburg, Russia: Day Two
Posted in Travel
Morning watch, 5 bells (6:41 am)

Today was a lot easier than yesterday. Our tour left the ship a little later than most of the other ones, we didn't leave until 9:30. That worked out great, because we were able to breeze right through immigration this time and get right on board our bus. And not the janky one from yesterday morning. I'm talking about the nice one from the afternoon. We started our day off by intending to go to the Hermitage museum, but ended up driving to the Chuch of the Spilled Blood first. We stopped in the rain to take a few pictures. We returned to the Hermitage for a two-hour self-guided tour of the museum. There were too many of us to want to stick to a group and be guided around by a lady that has a really rough Russian accent and says "um" all the time (seriously, it was every other word!) Lorien and I saw the Egyptian room first. Despite being relatively small, compared to Egyptian displays in London anyway, it had some really nice tablets, sarcophagi, and even an unwrapped mummy! The Hermitage was nice, but if you've been to the Louvre in Paris the Hermitage is a far, far second.

For some reason, today but mostly yesterday there were a boatload of Russian brides all over the city. We started playing "spot the bride" after a while, then it just got too boring and easy.

We also toured many renaissance paintings, but they get old and boring after you've seen a bunch of them. Really, how many suffering Jesuses and female breasts (painted or sculpted) can you see in one day without losing touch with reality? After the palace, we went out for lunch, which ended up being in this nice little cafe, but we overwhelmed the two girls working there. Things got pretty crazy because they handed out the food, then afterwards tried to come around and collect money when they didn't even remember what they passed out. We ended up being held late because they couldn't account for a salad that nobody paid for. We're pretty sure it was the fat couple, because after receiving and opening one, they "didn't want it anymore" and handed it off somewhere. Anyway, we had some nice desserts and a coke.

We left next for a boat ride, which was spectacular. The weather had been rainy, but it ended up stopping and our ride was cloudy but there was no rain at all. We rode right by the Church of the Spilled Blood again, and saw other famous buildings as well. After the boat ride, we went back to the shop next to the cafe we had lunch at. The shop was called Red October. They sell tons of tourist crap at reasonable prices. My wife and I aren't in to knick-knacks and little souvenirs that break a few weeks after you get them home, so we didn't buy any. I did, however, purchase a t-shirt. I'll include a picture at the end of the post.

After shopping, we headed back to the ship for some much-needed rest. Unfortunately, I ended up watching us sail out of port and stood on deck for about 3 more hours as we passed by ships, submarines, and other sailing vessels. At one point, we passed a Russian destroyer off our port side. The Russians were out waving their arms, one of them without a shirt on, and taking pictures of us cruising by them. We were all waving back and taking pictures of them as well. There weren't a lot of us on deck, though. It's unfortunate that so many people missed such a site. I don't think it would have been like this 20 years ago, maybe even 10.

It was a real experience visiting Russia. I don't know if I'd do it again, there were quite a few dodgy things going on, and they're really not set up for tourism, but I'm glad I can now say I've been there and done that.

The Church of the Spilled Blood

The Church of the Spilled Blood

I have no idea what this sign means. I think it means run as fast as you can across the street because drivers don't watch out for pedestrians or something.

Weird Russian street sign of men running

Here is the destroyer we passed with the crew out on deck watching us float on by

Russian destroyer we passed out of St. Petersburg

Here are the subs I told you about.

Russian subs we passed out of St. Petersburg

Here's the t-shirt I got.

McLenin's t-shirt, awesome

The party is over

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