Would you like fries with that Old Town?

Trip Start Jul 07, 2009
Trip End Jul 29, 2009

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Next up was Tallinn and the 16 EUR hostel on Rosena 9 (actually €10 per night – Bargain!). The hostel was (in)conveniently co-located with a stripclub and discotech – which we later discovered operates until 6:00am in the morning!  WhiIe it's safe to say that we were based in one of the less salubrious parts of town, we found our location handy to the tourist centre in the old-town. 

The old town is home to the majority of places of interest including the old city wall, town hall square (host of a medieval market at the time of our visit), Cathedral of Mary the Virgin and, unfortunately, blighted only by the presence of a McDonalds restaurant (can you pick the golden arches?).  

On our first night we ate at the African Kitchen in the Old town (they don’t come more Estonian). However, this was a popular restaurant/bar, which is testament to the skill of the chef, who we affectionately nicknamed big momma.  Over dinner we decided to do the trip to Riga the hard way…

The hard way included a 05:45 wake up call for the 3-hour local stopping train (20 stops) to Tartu in the south east of Estonia, approx. 189km from Tallinn. Tartu is the second biggest city in Estonia but had a sleepy small town feel to it. We walked the 2km from Tartu train station to the main bus station, where we bought bus tickets for our next leg, before walking along the river Emagoji and enjoying a coffee in the main town square.

The bus left Tartu for Valga (aka Vulgar…) at 12:30 and some 90km later we were dropped off on the side of the road in the pouring rain.  If you’ve ever been to a New Zealand town or city when an All Black test match is being shown on TV, or the AFL grand final televised in Ozzie, you’ll understand just how deserted the place was... Nothing was open and there was not a soul to be seen.  It was a ghost town in every sense of the word. 

Valga and its sister city, Valka, are split down the middle by the Estonian – Latvian border.  A true garrison town, the place appeared to be built around soviet-era tower blocks which we assume were once home to the soldiers that manned the border.  Getting photo’s of the old border post and the Latvija sign (all border checkpoints and passport checks ceased to operate in Dec 2007 after both Latvia and Estonia entered the Schengen Treaty) were the highlights of an otherwise underwhelming experience. Avoid at all costs.

The last leg, and the final three hours of a 14-hour journey was an old Russian locomotive to Riga. It’s safe to say we were happy to tick the Valga box and move on.
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