Free in Tallinn

Property 822 – Historic Centre of Tallinn

My travels along the Baltic coast reached Tallinn, the easternmost outpost of the Hanseatic League and Germanic culture. My travels along the depths of human misery also reached their greatest extent in Tallinn, as I finally worked out how to get rid of Captain Clingy.

You see, my next stop was Russia. Russia has stringent visa requirements. I had a visa, but Clingy, (my shadow, my nemesis) did not.

This meant that I could leave him at the Russian border and he would be forced to go back to Sweden, or wherever he was planning on skulking back to. This brought me an undue amount of pleasure. After our adventures in Latvia and Lithuania, I endured another lengthy train trip through pine forests but with a growing sense of joy. I was about to be free.

Tallinn old town

Perhaps it was the lift in my mood, but I found Tallinn to be far more agreeable than the other Baltic capitals. It feels older for one thing, being largely medieval and surviving the war relatively unscathed. It is full of the little lanes and alleys that I love exploring, and an accordingly intimate feeling. There are later baroque additions, but they feel like they’ve tidily infiltrated the old town rather than being built over a demolished past.

There are some rather stern elements though. Tallinn was the furthest outpost of the Teutonic Knights, the crusading bands of Germans who sought to spread Christianity into the Baltic with fire and the sword. The city’s Toompea Castle is an impregnable-looking  pile of stones. It clearly did its job effectively because Tallinn was never sacked by invaders. But then again, given that Tallinn only has brief periods of tolerable weather, the invasion season must have been short.

Old and new

As soon as I arrived in town I found myself a youth hostel where Clingy and I nominally checked in together. I’m not proud of this, but basically as soon as we arrived I ditched him and went walking. I took some photos, drank some coffee, and after meeting some Irish guys from the hostel, drank some beer. They told me about their idiotic plans to sweet-talk the Russian border guards to get into the country and then hitchhike across Siberia to China. I laughed, not at their plans, but at the relief of not having to manage my travelling companion.

Over breakfast the next morning, Clingy took me aside. He earnestly confided in me that our time together was at an end. You see, he said, he had to go back to Sweden to resume his education. There was a ferry leaving later that morning and he intended to be on it.

I stifled my joy. I attempted to arrange my features into an expression of mild sadness and regret. I uttered appropriate platitudes and phrases of simulated sorrow. And then, with a heart bursting with happiness, I escorted him to the ferry terminal.

He boarded, and I waited until I could see the ferry physically separate from the dock. I know it was irrational, but some part of me could imagine him leaping from the deck and splashing his way back to land. As the boat disappeared over the horizon, I decided that this was unlikely. He had probably latched on to some poor unsuspecting Swede and was even now maligning their aura.

The next morning, with a light heart, I boarded a run-down bus with Russian lettering and headed east.


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