Sunday 2nd July
In a fit of wild, unprecedented luxury, we slept in an Airbnb apartment the previous night, meaning we woke up in an actual bed! What a treat.
We wanted to spend the day exploring Tallinn’s old town, an area which is an official UNESCO world heritage site, on account of it being so especially old town-ish. The problem was, we were staying an hour and 15 minutes away from the old town, which is rather a long walk.
“We could drive in, “ I mused. “But the downside of that is we’d have to drive. And park. And pay to park….”
The memories of Helsinki were too recent.
“It’s only 15 minutes on the bus” said Morgan. “Why don’t we just catch the bus?”
A quick bit of Googling revealed that whilst dogs are welcome on public transport in Tallinn, they need to be wearing a muzzle. We were aware that muzzle rules are stricter in many parts of Europe than in the UK, and had even bought Lex a soft muzzle in preparation. The trouble was, Lex had lived the first 14 years of his doggy life without wearing muzzle, and he wasn’t keen to start now. The furthest we got in the training was him wearing the muzzle around his neck like a pretty blue bow, which probably wouldn’t meet the public transport requirements.
“We could get a taxi, or an Uber” I further speculated…“ But they probably wouldn’t be keen to transport Lex either.”
Morgan turned to Lex, seriously. “There’s nothing else for it. We’ll have to walk. I hope you realise how much of a nuisance you are, dog.”
By way of response, Lex continued lounging around on the furry white rug that almost camouflaged him.
We set off about 11.30am, and immediately started noticing people wearing strange clothing.
“Is that… school uniform?” Morgan pondered aloud, as we passed a group of girls sat at a bus stop in matching outfits.
The suburbs also seemed particularly crowded for a cloudy Sunday. Streams of people were all heading in the same direction, some on the pavements and some cutting through fields. Main roads had been closed too, and there seemed to be a heavy police presence.
“Must be those Estonian gangs your mum warned us about,” I muttered, ominously.
Turns out, we were actually witnessing the gathering of the grand Estonian song festival held here once every 5 years! People from all over the country travel to Tallinn to participate in this celebration, many proudly donning all kinds of traditional dress from their particular region of the country. So during our simple walk into town, we stumbled into (and got stuck behind) the world’s longest parade, containing what appeared to be 60-70% of the population of Estonia, marching in age order. First, groups of young children passed us wearing things like tiny waistcoats, or adorable sweater vests with matching woolly hats; then teenagers marched past, performing gymnastics and playing instruments; then the adults followed, singing and dancing as enthusiastically as any of the kids.
Lex was very interested in the parade too, and decided to proudly sport an Estonian flag for the rest of the day, which greatly endeared him to the entire city.
Most of the parade spotted Lex as they strode past, and many were highly impressed by his role in this event.
We also passed a dog park on our epic quest to reach the old town, which provides a rare opportunity for dogs to be let off the lead legally. We tried to persuade Lex to engage in a spot of agility training while we were there. He was not impressed.
Several hours later, we finally arrived in the old town, having successfully stretched the hour and a bit walk into a three and half hour hike. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the nooks, crannies and cobbled streets of the old town, which is haunted by not one but 3 ghosts! An executed monk is supposed to roam the streets alongside the ghost of a lion and.. the ghost of a galleon! What a sight that must be.
Tallinn also boasts some very cool onion-domed cathedrals, from when it was part of Russia first time around. (Poor old Estonia spent centuries being ruled by Sweden and Russia, until the end of WW1, when the country enjoyed a brief window of independence lasting until the end of WW2. Then Estonia was absorbed right back into the USSR.) This cathedral’s domes look like they’re made of dragon skin:
Lex was EXTREMELY popular in Tallinn, both with tourists and locals. We spent the entire day having conversations with people who stopped us in the street to ask about Lex, their faces lighting up with happiness at the mere sight of him.
After the 5th person asked us in all seriousness if he was a wolf, Morgan decided to have some fun.
“Yes, he’s a tiny wolf,” he answered straight faced.
“Ohhhhhhhh!” Squealed the group of Chinese tourists in a sort of fearful excitement, but still stroking him eagerly. As we’d established in Norway, Lex is highly popular with Chinese tourists. One of them approached Morgan to ask a question.
“Excuse me, but may I ask… how is it you are allowed to keep a dangerous animal?” she asked delicately.
At this point, we couldn’t keep straight faces anymore and confessed that Lex was just a dog. Disappointed, the Chinese tourists decided to climb into the flower beds instead.
But people just kept asking if Lex was a wolf throughout the entire day!
“If they’re silly enough to think this fluffy little thing could actually be a wolf,” declared Morgan, “then I’m going to have some fun with it.”
By the end of the day, Lex had a full on Tallinn-based fan club. Circling back around to the main square, waiters were rushing out of restaurants to say hello again (to Lex, not us.) I popped into the supermarket as we left the old town while Lex had to endure a constant stream of people stopping to greet him outside.
“I saw you earlier, in the old town,” squeaked a woman excitedly. “Can I say hello?”
A queue was forming behind her as she spoke. It was like a book signing.
As we started the long trek back into the Soviet suburbs, the streets were filled with hundreds of locals returning from the song festival. They were all grinning with enthusiasm, some even still singing happily. What surprised us most was how sober everyone seemed; if this has been England, everyone would have been wankered by 10pm on the night of a huge festival. Hell, if this had been England, everyone probably would have been off their tits by midday! It seems the stereotypes about the heavy drinking, melancholic Baltic states are misguided. Or, they all just hide their alcoholism very, VERY well.
We walked along the beach for part of our long hike home, enjoying a bit of natural beauty as we left the dense part of the city.
Alas, as we noticed on our way into town, swimming is not allowed here. I was highly disappointed, until I smelt the raw sewage pipe pouring into the ocean. Lex was delighted about the swimming ban. He hates it when his humans go swimming.
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