30th June, 2019
It was a glorious morning, and at breakfast time we approached yet another superb Baltic port of call. We headed straight into the outer port area, nipping ahead of two other larger cruise ships aiming to use the same harbour for the day too.
Tallinn is a stunningly preserved example of a Medieval town, and for that purpose is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site. The upper town is characterised by watchtowers, graceful spires and winding cobbled streets, while the lower town offers red gabled roofs and soaring spires. The golden era in this city’s history came in the 15th-16th centuries, when the city attained fame and powerful role in the Baltic Sea area through its membership of the Hanseatic League.
Our tours today ran all over the town and further afield, as they normally do, with visits to local manors, displays of cold-war military paraphernalia, and even a cycle ride around Tallinn itself. My favourite tour here has to be entitled ‘Back to the Soviet Era’ where you are generously offered a seat upon a 50 year old Soviet bus and rattled around town on a tour of old sights, hosted by a part militiaman/part comedian. Shots of vodka and pickles are encouraged, to really get you into the Soviet spirit.
I have been fortunate enough to have visited this town a few times and even partaken in the Soviet tour, therefore today I decided to make the most of the glorious weather and take my bicycle off on a little trip along the coast. My ride didn’t get off to a flying start though, as I quickly found myself entangled in Tallinn Port’s complex one-way system and being directed back to the very vessel I had just attempted to ride away from.
Once I had negotiated an exit to the one-way port approaches (this was eventually achieved by dismounting my bicycle, lifting it over a barrier, walking across a few streets and then re-mounting, facing the other direction) I then stumbled across my next challenge, for I was funnelled into a large sectioned-off area of roadworks. Fortunately, there were no workmen around (this happens on Sundays in Europe – and any day of the week in the UK!!) and so I was able to weave around holes and earth-moving machines, back towards the coast and the tantalising sight of the waterfront promenade only yards away now.
However, at the other end of the roadworks section there were large 10ft high metal fences preventing my passage. Determined for my journey not to be thwarted having come this far, I unlinked a section of fence by lifting it out of its coupling, bicycle propped against my bottom, only to have the whole section topple and crash over onto the adjacent grassy knoll – popular with Sunday picnickers and sunbathers. Luckily nobody seemed to care, and I hastily re-erected the fence before finally enjoying freedom and the waterfront promenade.
I continued for several miles along either a designated cycle track or a surfaced path weaving its way along the coast, at times through woodland, before happening across an ice cream shop where it would have been foolish not to replenish oneself. I passed the old 1980 Olympics sailing competition centre at Pirita, and continued onwards north to a spot called Pringi, which was much quieter than the beaches and coastal paths I had left. Regretfully, I had foolishly agreed to a meeting on board at 16:00, and therefore turned back, retracing my tracks to the ship at this stage.
As I neared the outskirts of the city and port again, I was optimistic that I would end up automatically being funnelled into the same one-way system I had fallen foul of on my way out – this time of course I would be going the right way. Sadly though, it was not to be. My chosen route turned into a cobbled track, busy with sightseers and aimlessly wandering folk, which made cycling awkward not to mention uncomfortable. I was then confronted with a busy motorway, if I didn’t want to continue to the city centre.
Fortunately the slow-moving motorway had an exit only a few hundred yards one from where I timidly entered; one which promised an option to proceed towards the international port. This, I took, and found myself at a terminal building with options to travel by ferry to Finland, Sweden or Poland. Reluctantly back-tracking another way out, I finally ended up reaching a one-way road (going the wrong way, of course) toward the outer port and where my ship awaited.Safely back on board just in time for my meeting, I was rewarded with sausage rolls for afternoon tea and all stresses of negotiating foreign road-ways were quickly forgotten. AN hour or so later, it was Andy our Safety Officer’s turn to ‘drive’ the ship out of port and begin our passage westward towards Germany and the entrance to the Kiel Canal – which will mark the next exciting stage of our cruise.
Captain Kim Tanner
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