Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tallinn (Estonia)

Curious mixture of sex shops and mock medieval restaurants in the old walled city, whi8ch is what it must have been like in the Middle Ages. It’s now one of those wander the cobbled streets and alleys sort of place. Finns galore as it’s only a two hour ferry ride from Helsinki but no real signs of the Brit stag party brigade. Outside of the old city you’re into wooden houses and soviet blocks of flats. Inside, there’s an astounding number of restaurants with serving wenches promising mead, meat and sauerkraut. Amber’s everywhere, although its charms escape me. But it’s the sex clubs and striptease bars that produce the great contrast. The local freebie guide describes them honestly enough as rip-off joints, some ‘where anything goes’ others offering ‘whole body massage’ and girls who have ‘expert hands’. There’s even limousine rides that ‘you’ll never forget’ and a ‘torture room’. It’s all pretty grotesque and geared up for the hideous British ‘lad’. I’m sure the girls of Estonia know exactly how to extract their cash.
Nazis and Soviets
Eastern Europe has only just emerged from the opression of the Soviet era, withthe fall of teh wall in 1989, with some taking several more years to become independent states. Every city has, therefore, a museum or at least 'place' where one can see for oneself the continuity of methods between the fascism of both the far right and far left. Having travelled extensively in Soviet Russia in the late 70s and seen East Germany and other states under the soviet blanket, it's heartening to see a pepole and places flourish when they're given their own heads. However, it's not quite true. The Baltic states are being heavily subsidised. You see the EU flag on capital projects everywhere. Sure infrastructure's important for inward investment and growth but it's not enough in itself. 
What you see in the Museum of Occupation in Tallinn is the explict link between fascism from the West and the East. Interestingly, Tallin seemed to be rather Scandinavian, as it's only a two hour ferry ride from Finland, but the Russian presence in terms of people, langiage and political threat is still here.
There's the inevitable cell doors but also interesting tableaus on the partidsans and dissidents who fled to the woods and operated well into the 1950s. They were largely ignored by th west but held the flame of independence and are much revered by the locals, now that it has been achieved.
E-stonia
Estonia, or E-stonia, far from being a backwater, is one of the most wired countries on the planet with electronic voting, even mobile voting, in elections. There was a presidential and political programme to put technology in every school over four years. This has paid off. On the downside, Russia has attacked its internet infrastructure with a vengeance. Doughty little country this.
Cuisine
Cuisine seemed ordinary until we got a recommendation for an establishment down near the port – Neh. Fantastic Estonian food – pickled root vegetables, smoked lamb, smoked fish, fish pate, chicken liver pate – the works, with four types of bread and raspberry vinegar and rape seed oil dip. Then wild boar stew with honeyed vegetables and mushrooms and beef. Dessert Spruce Shoot Posset. Faultless.
Only two hours on the ferry to Helsinki, so decided to do an unplanned trip across the Baltic

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