Day 1 – Baltic in the Baltics

24 Sep

 

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Just jumpers?

Packing the night before was a weird experience. Everything just fitted.  Even the extra jumpers.  Special mention to the advance party of David MacDonald and Jackie Bramley (seperately) who had given me advance warming of the declining temperatures.  21.3kg of jumpers should be OK, yeah?  I think I might have been optimistic and added some sun cream.

KLM’s mobile app failed to keep my boarding card, although their handy new feature of sending them via Facebook Messenger was far more useful.

5:00am was an ambitious target to leave home.  A quick stop via Tesco for some last minute forgotten jumpers items, and I was on my way.

Edinburgh Airport has changed a bit since the last time I used the long stay car park.  The bus seemed to drop me off closer to Fife than the terminal.  At least I found that the tram stop is in fact closer than I thought (and closer than where the bus driver dropped me off.)  At that time in the morning, I was his only passenger.

One bacon rolls and cappuccino in Wetherspoons later and I was on my way to Amsterdam.  Plenty space, I’d thought, but no – the plane was full.  There was a chicken involved in the included sandwich, but I think it was as an egg.  The label was non specific.  As was the taste.

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People getting on a plane.  I managed to skip to the back door.

I have history transitting through Schiphol airport, but suffice to say I managed to get to the next gate within 30 minutes, without getting distracted.  I mean, even I realise that there are only so many times that “rolling my Easter egg” is a valid excuse for being late to the gate.  Met a nice Irish passenger assistant, wearing a big yellow smile badge, and he chatted away whilst trying to give EU passengers priority over the “aliens” in the other queue. Former British army, almost a pilot and former RTE game show technician.  He had quite a varied story, but clearly loved his job.

The only slight hiccup was when the passport examiner checked every page of my passport carefully, hovering a bit too long for my liking on the Iranian visa.  He asked if I travelled on business.  Nope, sorry, just a travel junkie.

“Lightly toasted” was the only description you could apply to the next sardine can that I was chauffeured into.  Lots of changed seats, mine included, and I ended up at the very back (i.e. no recline) with a Dutch chap who had only just moved to Tallinn because of his wife’s job.  I don’t know what’s come over me, but I seem social all of a sudden!

Arriving into Tallinn 15 minutes later than planned, I quickly picked up my case and met my driver who had a huge box trailer on the back of his 7 seater van.  Just for me.  He’d obviously been warned. Despite the other cars on the road, we made it to the hotel in record time.  Several bus drivers that he cut up must surely be complaining to the police.  Seatbelts have never been more welcome.  The supposed 6pm meeting was not happening – instead there was a notice from our tour guide that he’d be taking us to dinner at 6:40pm.

After a quick shower, in my physically adapted hotel room with a 3/4 size bed (that’s 3/4 of a single), I made it to the lobby in time to meet Steve, from Salt Lake City, Utah, USofA.

Then Karen and Ruth from Western Australia.  And Voa Leng (sp?), a Dutch born, Chinese, Canadian (female).

Not at all matching my perceived stereotype for this tour. And so far no others from the UK.  3 people missing though – 8 in our group in total.

Our tour guide, Tauno Noulik, from Tallinn, walked us through the old town, past the square, and to the “Peppersack” restaurant.  Creamy cheese soup, followed by lots of meat with sauerkraut.  I did start with an Estonian schnapps – it happened to be pink.  I’m afraid the group have an impression of me already.

We discussed many things – like how 100% of Estonians speak Estonian, except for the ones that speak Russian only.  More of that later.  He promises.

Trump got a brief mention.  Steve is already planning his move north to Canada.  I warned that my Brexit prediction didn’t come true, so he better be careful predicting anything!

Anyway, after the restaurant closed the door to stage a shouting match downstairs ( I think it was actually a show), we abandoned all hope and walked back through the very touristy old town to the hotel.  Tauno was only in a t-shirt.  I was feeling like another couple of jumpers should have been in the bag.

The place looks very interesting indeed.  The size of a postage stamp, but cobbled everywhere.  The cobbles could not be described as even. Nope. Never.  High heels are not recommended.  Thankfully they didn’t fit in my bag.

Tomorrow is a city tour after a leisurely breakfast.  For those that are interested, the plan for the next two weeks is below.  See you tomorrow!

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The planned route

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