If you want to start traveling in Europe but don’t want to deal with the expensive prices of Western Europe, why not take a trip to the Baltics?
Estonia has some great history, party spots, eateries, and points of interest. Your money will really go a long way once you get to Eastern Europe, especially for Americans.
Estonia is the most northern of the Baltic States with great views for all. You can spend the day on the rocky beaches or hike into the old-growth forests. Not a popular destination for many Americans, but it should be! I arrived there in January with this as my first European experience, don’t let everyone’s dark attire put you off, all of the locals are friendly. Black just seems to be the popular jacket color for the winter. Knowing just a few words can go a long way but have no fear if you aren’t fluent in Eesti (Estonia’s official language) majority of the younger crowd speaks fluent English or can at least point you in the right direction. If you want to just wander around a bit walking around the city, you’ll notice instantly that you start to feel like you’re in a winter wonderland. You may have seen photos of their iconic red roof tops but to experience it during the winter months is a whole other thing.
The Monk’s Bunk Hostel
If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience The Monk’s Bunk Hostel in Tallinn is the place for you. It’s located in one of the best areas in Tallinn and the staff is warm and friendly. This was the first hostel I experienced in Europe after coming off of an international flight from Seattle, Washington. On the initial check in, you get a welcome shot of an Estonian liquor (for those over 18). From that point on, it’s up to you. You can take free walking tours, paid adventures, or you can stay in the hostel and enjoy endless drinking games with their full bar. The running joke we all had at the hostel is that it’s a black hole. It’s so great that no matter what plans you make you’ll probably end up canceling, just so you can spend another day there.
III Drakos (3 Dragons)
If you’re looking for a great place to eat and enjoy a medieval style atmosphere, this is one place you can’t miss. It’s located a short walk from the hostel and in Tallinn’s famous town hall. It’s right on the corner of the building and looks like it might be a dungeon, so keep an eye out for it or you might miss it. Even the workers there are dressed in the classic attire. It’s a great place to grab a soup, pastry or a pint of ‘mead’. All drinks are €2-3, food is €1-3 and brine pickles in the barrel are FREE! Don’t worry even though they don’t have any modern lighting they do have electricity to accept credit cards if you forget to bring cash. If you like a good meat stew then I highly recommend the elk stew. It’s served in a clay pot without any silverware you just drink it from the bowl, it really helps bring the whole experience to life. It’s always great to watch your friends try to use the stick with two prongs to fish for the pickle and have them watch you try to fish for one yourself. It’s pretty difficult since the interior is all lit with candles. There’s no modern lighting inside.
Tallinn’s Town Hall
We already know that we can find the medieval style restaurant III Drakos (Three Dragons) inside but did you also know it isn’t just some gimmick? Situated in the center of the square with buildings built in the same style, surrounded by cobblestone roads is Tallinn’s Town hall. This really is an ancient building. With construction starting in the 13th century; it was completed in its current form in 1404. The city government worked in the Town Hall until 1970. You can take a tour inside or just awe at it from the outside, either way, you can truly enjoy the craftsmanship in this surviving landmark. You can find a reader board that tells you about it on one of the pillars near III Drakos in Estonian and on the opposite pillar with the English translation.
The wall really is a medieval lover’s dream, and I definitely fit in with this crowd. The walls around the city are standing memories of what used to protect the city so long ago. With 1.9km of its original city wall and 20 defensive towers wall still standing. With the cheap price of a ticket, you can find yourself climbing up the tower and walking along the top of the wall and imagine what it must have been like to guard the city against invaders. From the base of the wall, you can find all kinds of souvenirs being sold by locals, most of the items being sold are not only practical items such as hats and sweaters but they’re also handmade. Talk about a real experience! Work on the town’s defenses first began in 1265, but the current outline of the wall dates to the 14th century. At the peak of its use in the 16th century, the wall was 2.4 km long, 14 to 16 meters high, up to three meters thick, and included 46 towers.
If I tried, to sum up, what I think of Estonia’s capital, Tallinn. I would have to say magical. It truly is something out of a fairy-tale when you get the chance to view the city from a vantage point that allows you to see the white powder covered roof tops, the cobblestone roads, and where Estonia’s flag gets its colors (blue, black and white) from. Where the sky meets the shadow of the dense forest and the edge of the tree line meets the white fluffy snow on the ground.