Day 03 : Dark and Dry

Sunday 24 August 2014

Clothes finally dry. Or at least, dry enough to wear without going ‘ooh that feels damp’. That said, today’s been mostly warm and dry, and not really a day I’ve needed the fleece. It felt like it might start just after midday, but it didn’t last.

I have spent much of the day walking. This was always the intention; get out of the Old Town for a bit and see something of the rest of the inner part of the city. I didn’t make it over to the TV Tower as that’s way out in the ‘burbs, but I’ve already got a few shots from the city wall area so it’s no great a loss.
The furthest I reached was the strange Maarjamae war memorial; a couple of small commemorations for dead soldiers dominated by a very thin Soviet-constructed obelisk (apparently supposed to be a rocket). On the other side of the hill are three small crosses and a handful of graves in German (the German cemetery came first), and the passageway between the two goes through/under a sculpture stuck in the rock that’s probably symbolic of something. The death of art, maybe?

I also passed by the Song Festival grounds. Don’t think Eurovision (although Estonia did win it in 2001). This, rather, is a celebration of music and singing in Estonia, celebrated every five years, and attracts upwards of 80,000 people (with choirs of 30,000). It was first held in the late 1800s as a result of the beginnings of fostering Estonian national identity. In the latter years of Soviet rule, the songs became considerably more political, culminating one year with a Finnish pop band coming over and performing their set, which traditionally they always ended with the Finnish National Anthem – it just so happens of course that the melody is the same as the Estonian anthem …

I also spent much of the rest of the day drinking beer. After grabbing some more dumplings (but this time at a café the other side of the railway station, because the place I went yesterday doesn’t open on Sundays), I wandered to a small pub in the ‘Telliskivi Creative City’ area (a rather posh name for a gravelly car park and ex-industrial site with a few artsy buildings in it) where I, of course, sampled more Estonian beer (out of bottles).
The bottle theme continued later in the evening when I went back to one of yesterday’s pubs (‘Drink Baar’) for a couple more drinks and the best fish-and-chips this side of Whitley Bay.

In-between times, I stopped off at the only museum I planned to visit in Tallinn – the ‘occupation’ museum. This is a fairly new museum, documenting life in Estonia under the Soviets (with a brief mention of the short period of Nazi rule in between times). It had the usual memorabilia of the Soviet age – photos, money, official documents, telephones, etc, with an overview of what happened specifically in the early days of Soviet control – as you might expect this involved forced deportations to Siberia.
One interesting aspect of Nazi rule I hadn’t been aware of was the, oddly, depopulation of Estonian Germans. When the Nazis took over, they encouraged the Germans in Estonia (and the other Baltic states, in fact) to emigrate to either the Fatherland, or to the ‘Lebensraum’ areas of Poland and Eastern Europe. I guess they considered the local populace to be ‘more Aryan’ than the Slavs elsewhere – since native Estonians would be related to Finns.
Although they got shafted by both sides, the general feeling amongst Estonians is a lack of resentment towards the Germans; partly this is because the Nazis were in power for such a short time so long ago (whereas the Soviet occupation was longer and more recent), but also that, regardless how things were under the Nazis, they were never seen to be as bad as they were under the Soviets. I’m not saying the period is remembered with fondness, just that they saw the Nazis as the lesser of two evils.

This evening was much more chilled; in the social room of the hostel, a few people sat around and jammed for a couple of hours on the musical instruments there, plus some others brought their own – there was a piano, a couple of guitars, a couple of kettle drums, a clarinet, and some maracas. This seems to be a regular Sunday thing at this hostel; it was all very mellow, and there was even incense. It’s a shame to leave the hostel, and looking at Riga (my next destination) there seems to be less of interest for me – I can’t even find (m)any decent real ale pubs.

Beer notes (all from bottles):
Poide, Rukkiolu (Rye Beer) (5.2%): Sweet aftertaste, quite thick-textured, ‘bread’-like. A cloudy brown-red colour, similar to that of brown bottles.
Lehe Pruulikoda, Tujukas Tuukon (dry rye stout) (4.2%): Rich, smooth, with a weird cereal aftertaste, drying.
Ollenaut, Suitsu Porter (5.4%): Smokey, rich, dark, smooth, easy-drinking (alas).
Hopster, Aotearoa Sauvin (5.5%): very hoppy, cereally, dry. Tastes ‘agricultural’ – like drinking a farm.

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