30 June 2011

The Hanging Room [Estonia]

It seems fitting to leave Europe with a bit of a bang. Even though I will still be on the European Continent for the next couple of thousand kilometres, Estonia is the last European country I will be visiting for a long, long time. I am heading east to Russia this evening on an overnight bus, fingers crossed everything runs smoothly with my visa at the border (I did get the visa with fake documents!). I can't help but feel a little sad, I have spent the last two years and four months in Europe, made some incredible friends and had the time of my life. Leaving Europe kind of brings that all to a close.

Anyway, I was talking about going out with a bang; Estonia, specifically Tallinn, was just that. Although maybe not as beautiful as some of the other cities I have visited, it certainly has character. The old town is unique, as it has a very strong mid-evil theme. Almost all the restaurants are decorated, there are people standing out in the street dressed up, the buildings, roads, everything feels authentically mid-evil. And what is better - there is a hill (Toompea) right in the old town which provides beautiful views over the city.


I have come to like this quick and to the point style of writing. So, highlights (apart from the old town); Patarei Prison. I was wandering around Tallinn when I bumped into Rolando and Alejandro, two Mexican guys I had met in Riga. They, along with Casey, an American guy, were heading to the prison so I decided to tag along. It is a large complex near the sea in Tallinn, used by the Soviets during USSR days. It is a grim and depressing place; grey, damp and dark. Large parts of the prison are open for tourists to freely wander around, including the exercise yard, library, infirmary and hanging room (I'm not kidding, take a look at the photos). It was known as a brutal place, famous for torture and death, the last death occurring in 1991.

I took time to visit the Bronze Soldier, a monument dedicated to the Soviet soldiers lost in the Second World War. It was originally named the 'Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn', and placed in the center of town. This caused a lot of controversy, as to many Estonians it is a symbol of 50 years of Soviet repression. But the Russians living in Estonia see it as a monument to remember those that died fighting the Nazis. The friction caused large protests and riots, and the monument was moved to the Tallinn Military Cemetery.

As Estonia has very strong pagan roots - the mid-summers festival (around the time of the Summer Solstice) is a very big deal. The Estonian people celebrate by getting out into the wilderness, lighting a big fire, singing songs, dancing, eating a lot of food and drinking a lot of alcohol. Some of the more traditional customs include jumping or running over the fire, and staying awake until the sun rises. These are both considered very good luck... And to be honest, you don't have to wait long for the sun to rise. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year... I am writing this at after 01:30 and it is still light outside! It doesn't even really get dark, the sun hides just over the horizon for a few hours, then pops back up.

While in Tallinn I was surfing with a cool Estonian girl named Krystal. She was really awesome and spent a lot of time with me, showing me around, hanging out, drinking beer, eating the biggest pancakes I have ever seen in my entire life! A quick observation using my sophisticated 'how much does a pint cost' measure, I found Tallinn to be much more expensive than the other Baltic countries. The Baltic region as a whole seems to be more expensive than other Eastern European countries, but Tallinn was even more-so. Example; a beer in Ukraine: around €1. A beer in Lithuania: around €2. A beer in Estonia: around €3-4.

So it is with huge sadness that I write my final post about Europe for who knows how long! There is only one word fitting the occasion... EPIC. Europe, I will miss you and your creamy, gooey goodness. But do not cry, I will return.


  1. Well you'll have to return because someday I'm going to go there and you'll have to show me around, right? :)

  2. Ooooh I will check out the prison for sure. Boo to you getting all that sunlight - it will practically be winter solstice when we are there - there's like 2 hours of proper daylight lol.


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