It was a lovely visit to Tallinn, Estonia today, even the rain could not bring me down. This was probably one of the simplest tours we’ve been on but one of the most satisfying. The tour was called town and country life. It started with a visit to a local dairy farm about 15km from town centre. One would think, if you’ve seen one dairy farm you’ve seen them all however, we were in Estonia. A small Baltic country that was once ruled by Sweden, buy Finland, by German and more recently Russia. The dairy owner works the same land that was farmed by his parents. However, during communist rule the 1000 acre farm they once had was reduced to a 1.5 acre farm and the rest of the land went to the government. After the Russian rule he and his brother were able to acquire 200 acres and they resumed farming. Since Estonia is such a small country there is no profit selling his milk or cattle to large dairy producers. He had to find a way to make money. His focus was not profit growth but financial sustainability. So he started to make cheese. He found an assistant who was trained in Dutch cheese, specifically Gouda so that is what they did. His cheese factory is in a building not more than 20 yards from his home and not more than 50 yards away from his barn. Today he sells cheese, yogurt and cheese curd. He had a great log cabin meeting house where we went to hear his story and sample his dairy products. His whole yard was beautiful and green with picnic benches and flowers. He even built a WC building for the visitors to use. I suppose opening his farm to tourists boats helps sustain his farm business too. Ben was so excited to know he’d see cows.
After the country visit, we had the town visit. For this one we visited a typical “suburban” home in Tallinn. This man was a taxi driver and he lived in his home with his two children. He told me that the house first started out as one story and two rooms but he added a second floor by himself and what Ben called a “man cave” (it had a beer can collection and a sauna). I wish I had pictures to show you what I saw but it felt too disrespectful to be welcomed into this persons home and take pictures as if i was at a zoo. Now, by comparison by the interior decorator and HGTV obsessed America, I’m sure it would look very “unfinished” or lacking in “features.” To me, knowing the history and political climate AND economic climate these people endured for the last 20+ years, I had so much admiration for him. This guy is a simple taxi driver and jack-of-all-trades, he built that second story on his own, he takes care of his kids AND he welcomes tourists into his home to see how he lives and offers visitors cake, coffee and conversation. After Russia and all their rules, restrictions and still appearing 40 years behind the rest of the world…Estonia was VERY refreshing and the people were so kind. Our tour guild Helle was so open and welcoming. Compared to the other ports, Estonia from the surface didn’t have much to offer it’s visitors. However, their generosity and spirit to share not just their town but their way of life made it my favorite tour so far.
After our home visits we went into their small old town section of Tallinn and it started to rain. It did not deter our little tour group. I was once again thankful that I packed raingear. It was really a small historical center. The current parliament building was originally built as a palace by Catherine II of Germany (I’ll have to fact check when I have better internet access, for now I’m going by memory). The old stone walls and towers were left over from the 15th century. Again, large parts of the town were severely bombed in WWII so much of what we saw was rebuilt or leftover socialist style buildings from the Russian regime.
Total tour was 4 hours and although we had another 4 hours until the boat sailed, the rain was really coming down so we went back on the boat to relax the rest of the afternoon. I attended a second lecture by Victoria Tennant on her actor training by some famous Russian acting teacher. I’m sure if I was industry I would remember his name. I was more amused by tales and stories.
Later, after a nice dinner and conversation in the dining room I was up enjoying the view and working on my blog when over the intercom “may I have your attention please, will Susan Diego of stateroom 2036 please report to customer relations.” Did I just hear that? Then once again, “will Susan Diego of stateroom 2036 plea report to customer relations.” I could not imagine what they wanted other than “oh God, what child got into trouble.” As I packed up my laptop I noticed the man at the next table staring at me, “Yep, that’s me,” is all I said I ran out of there. In the end, turned out Havana hurt her foot as she tripped over a divider (that clearly states WATCH YOUR STEP) in a teenage pursuit of some immature teenage boy. Great…ship doctor bill #2. (UPDATE: NO BILL! Ship recorded as an onboard injury)
That was pretty much it for the night. Thank god tomorrow is a day at sea.