Wednesday, 15 January 2014

My alarm went off at the cruel hour of 01.45 for the drive down to Gatwick in the pouring rain. 2 hours later I arrived, dropped my car off and headed to the airport. I joined the other travellers for the obligatory beer at 5 am and boarded my Easy jet flight to Tallinn in Estonia.

The flight was smooth and I arrived in Tallinn at 12.45 local time. The landing was in the lap of the Gods as we arrived in a blizzard. I don’t know how the plane stopped on a snow-covered runway, but thankfully I arrived in one piece.

Walking out of the plane to snow and temperature of -12 was a shock to the system, but what did I expect in the Baltics!

I collected my backpack and went outside the terminal to catch the number 2 bus  (cost €1.60) to the old town, where my hostel (The Red Emperor) is located.  I found it ok (with the help of the GPS on my phone).

The Hostel is going through a bit of a refurbishment, but my room seemed ok (4 bed shared mixed dorm). My room is called the Flying Fox, and I’ve been allocated a top bunk called France! 

 Im sharing my 4 bed room with 3 girls aged under 25! I dropped of my backpack on top of France, and went out for a bit of an explore.

The snow was coming down fast AND I’VE NEVER FELT COLD LIKE IT!! It was bitter, and getting colder still – now -18 with a realfeel of -23, but I kept walking through the old streets of the town. It’s a beautiful town and the snow enhanced it. Stunning churches and towers were everywhere. 

I bought myself a cup of hot wine to keep me going- the poor girl selling it must have been freezing. The view from the top of the town over the snow-capped rooftops was amazing. The temperature was still dropping so I took refuge in a Bar for a local beer to try and warm up.

I returned to the hostel, to charge my phone and sort out France.  Attached to the hostel is the Red emperor Pub, which is a hip local pub, with interesting artwork scrawled onto its walls and a weird collection of chairs and tables. I’m currently writing this journal on an old school desk, which was similar to the one I used about 35 years ago!!

I went back out for a wander and to find a pub to have a few beers. I found an Irish pub and enjoyed their happy hour. 2 beers for the price of 1 - €2.50.

I met up later with Kim, a South Korean girl from my room for more drinks back at the hostel bar, and  a group of lads from the UK. It was a great night, Kim was a good laugh, although the last part is a bit of a blur!!

I woke up at 9.00am and felt reasonably ok, and headed out for breakfast with another roommate called Gabriel, a delightful girl from Poland, now living in Copenhagen.  She was great company and we talked travel and life.  The breakfast was a shrimp omelet, which was tasty and helped ease my hangover. We stayed on in the old town to join the free walking tour, which started at 12pm. It was absolutely freezing walking around the town. It was interesting but it was difficult to concentrate, as it was so cold. My phone now told me it was-16 degrees C!!

The tour finished off in the main square, and we had lunch in a stunning Estonian restaurant/café called The 3 dragons. It was a dark candlelit place with 2 women dressed in traditional Estonian costume serving Elk soup and Elk Pie. I’ve never tried Elk before, but it was sweet and delicious. Soup €2, pie 1€.

After lunch I went back to my hostel for an hour to chill out and warm up, ready for my Prison tour ive booked withb my hostel at 4pm (cost €9)

The tour was around an old abandoned Soviet prison. It was a grim place and the conditions were horrendous. We walked round the cells and rooms in darkness. It was so eerie, and I was glad to get out of there.  At one point we lost the tour guide in the darkness and could only see with the lights from our mobile phones!

I walked back to the hostel, via the Elk pie café, and tried to thaw out in the room! I’m going out later with Gabriel for dinner at an Indian restaurant in the old town.

After a couple of hours chilling, we went out back into the bitter cold to an Indian restaurant called Maharaja  in the old town square. We had a great view from our table over the square below. And the food was excellent and the spicy heat was welcome.  We walked back to the hostel to join in with the quiz night that started at 10pm. We joined a team, with a guy from Ireland and 2 Estonians – a true International team!! We did ok, but we won no prizes! I had a relatively early night, and was in bed asleep by 12.30am.

I slept quite well, and was out and showered by 10.00 AM, to try and find the Russian market located across town. The walk was very picturesque through streets and parks,  past the city wall. I made it to the market and bought a pair of gloves for €4.  The market was ok, but nothing special, and was uncomfortable to stay there too long in the freezing sunny cold (now -21 degrees in the daytime!). 

I walked back on a bit of a café crawl to have breakfast and coffees, before moving onto a delicious hot wine, and then a pint of Estonian beer called Saku. I couldn’t have too many though as I’ve booked an afternoon shooting tour at 2.30pm!

I took a taxi at 2.15 to get to the shooting place a 7km ride out of Tallinn. The place was an old warehouse on the Baltic coast. The shooting experience organized by the hostel cost €70 and was amazing. I got to fire several types of guns and pistols, including AK47, Glock, Sniper and pump action. The AK47 was brilliant, and I fired off 30 rounds in less than 4 seconds!

 My adrenalin still pumping, I caught a tram back to Tallinn to sink a few beers, firstly in a bar called Hell Hunt, and then onto an Irish bar close to the old square, where I met a bloke called Dave from Wolverhampton.  After a few beers I went back to the hostel to join the gang back in the Red Emperor. Again the rest is a bit of a haze, and I woke up at 9.00am just in time to get dressed, pack and leave the Hostel for the bus station, to catch my 10.00 am Lux Express coach to Riga in Latvia. The journey took about 4 hours  and we passed  through some stunning countryside and across frozen rivers.

I arrived in Riga about 2pm, and made my way out of the bus terminal to the Naughty Squirrel Hostel a short 5-minute walk away.  The hostel was comfortable, with nice bar and common areas.  I’m sharing a room with 5 others. A couple of Aussies, a young student from Germany and a guy from London called Paul. Paul’s hilarious with some bizarre and wonderful stories of his travels. My other roommate is a guy called Ravi. Now Ravi is one strange guy. He’s a Half Indian half American, skin doctor working in Delhi and New York. That’s his main job, but he also writes psychedelic Science fiction books. The one called 13 Witches, is about a German SS officer who is a time traveller, and basically sleeps his way through 17th century England! He also has the world’s loudest snore! He was quite intense to talk to, and I’m not sure I was on the same planet as him.

I showered and changed and went out for a walk around the local area, stopping for a beer and calamari at an Irish pub. I chilled out for the rest of the evening with a few beers back at the hostel.

I got up at 9.00 am, some were still drinking from the previous night including the Australian owner of the Hostel, probably the most drunk person I’ve ever seen! It was Australia day and he was definitely celebrating it well! He fell over on top of me and apparently he earlier threw a cup of coffee over the common room wall!

I went on the free walking tour around the old town with my roommate Paul and   a few others, taking in the sites. Some stunning Art Noveau  architecture, and some fantastic views. 

After a buffet meal at a Latvian restaurant called Lido, I went back to the Hostel to join the others in the bar. A great night of drinking and chatting away. I woke up next day still fully dressed (a sure sign of a good night out) from the night before and tried to get myself together. I’ve got a Bobsled tour booked for 2.30pm, but I’m in urgent need of some food to awaken me! An Irish potato and sausage breakfast later I was beginning to feel human again.

We got picked up from the hostel at 2.45pm for the 50-minute journey to an Olympic bobsleigh track outside Riga.  Well what can I say;  the three of us from the Hostel were joined by a professional to steer. We hurtled down the run at 125km/h. The 1200m course was over in 45 seconds. I’ve never felt an experience like it, so, so fast and one of the scariest things I think  I’ve ever attempted.  Great fun, but NOT for the faint hearted!

I chilled out for the rest of the evening after another meal at Lido, and had a decent sleep ready for my bus at 12.20pm the next day. Next destination Vilnius in Lithuania!
I caught the Lux Lounge coach from Riga to Vilnius at 12.30 pm. The coach was amazing. Like a first class seat on a plane. Armchair, TV, Wi-Fi, Hot drinks and snacks. Great value at €25 for the 4.5 hour journey.

I travelled  with Paul, the English guy from the Hostel in Riga, and I headed to Jimmy Jumps Hostel, whilst he had a night of indulgence at the Radisson. I think he went there for a bit of rehab!

My Hostel is another great choice, and I’m in a 6 person mixed dorm. One of my roommates is a charming young girl from Gloucester called Athena who lives and works in Moscow as a translator. We went out for a meal at a local restaurant, and then bought some beers from a nearby Rimi Supermarket to drink before going out later.  We joined in with the Lithuanian girls from the hostel, playing a few drinking games, and then we all went out with a guy from Singapore and a couple of locals. 

It was a great night of partying hard first to a few pubs and then onto a club called Sorento. We all had way too many different drinks, including Black Russian, Vodka and beer. I woke up at 11.00 am after getting to bed at around 6.00 AM!!

Breakfast is Hot Waffle and jam, and is included in the room rate, and was very welcome.  I had to make the most of my short time here, so I forced myself to get showered and dressed, and out of the Hostel by Midday to explore the town in the cold sun. It really is such a charming city, with lots of beautiful churches and buildings.  The frozen snow on the ground made it even more picturesque.

 I came back to the hostel at about 3.30 and back to bed!!  I didn’t manage to get any sleep so I joined the others in the common room to chat and have a few cans of beer. I went out with Paul, who had now joined us at Jimmy Jumps, for a few more Beers at a local bar but was back in my bunk by 1.00am. I didn’t sleep well as we had a persistent cougher in our dorm, plus I was thinking about getting up early the next day for my coach back to Tallinn.

I got up at 8.30 AM had a shower, packed and had a quick waffle for breakfast. I said my goodbyes to my friends- some top people, who have kept me entertained, and then left the Hostel to walk to the Coach station. My simple Express coach was there waiting, and although not as luxurious as my last coach, it was comfortable enough for the 9 hour journey to Tallinn.

The Coach arrived on time, and I caught the no. 2 tram back into the old town.  I checked back into the Red Emperor, same room, different bed – this time my bed was the Falkland Islands. UK Territory at last! I was hungry so I walked back into the old town to an Indian restaurant called Chakra. The Murgh Masala and Naan were fantastic washed down with a bottle of White wine. Full and merry I went back to the hostel to my bunk.

I slept on and off for a few hours and woke up early at 6.30 AM. I decided to get up to catch the sunrise on my last day. I made it to the top of Toompura, in the old town by 8.00 AM to watch the stunning sunrise over the old town. I’ve never felt cold like it, with a RealFeel temperature of -26c! But it was worth the pain to see some stunning colours…..

I thawed out in a stunning Hobbit like coffee shop called Kehrwieder with a pastry and cappuccino, before going back to the hostel to collect my backpack and make my way to Tallinn airport. A Quirky/funky airport to pass the time for my flight home. Turbulence and gales have been forecast for the flight, but hopefully I’ll make it home…….

A fantastic trip to some beautiful cities in Northern Europe. The cold and snow added to the views, and I recommend seeing these countries this time of year......the biting cold is worth it!  What made the trip so good were the brilliant people I met along the way, in some superb Hostels…. Thanks folks!

My other Solo travel blogs are here......Please click on link below!

Cappadocia Blog here

India (North)

India (South)


Central Europe


Hong Kong






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  3. Enjoyed your Baltic trip blog and great photos. Been to Tallinn in March and that was freezing!

    1. Thanks for reading Kim. Sure is cold there, but even more picturesue in the Winter!

  4. Your pics are stunning, I am leaving for the Baltics in 12 days !!