Estonia

Estonia is a Baltic gem offering visitors the chance to see an ex-Soviet occupied country that is now part of the European Union. Traces of the Soviet era are still there to be seen — e.g. Paldiski, a deserted Soviet army base that was once off-limits to Estonians themselves, can easily be visited on a day trip from the capital, Tallinn.

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Basic Information

I've read about the interesting history of Estonia. Just because I didn't know anything about the country. It has been hidden behind the iron curtain for too long, and now people in the west are starting to notice the country. I can even pay with Euros, which is nice. The rapid shift from east to west during the past 20 years has made Estonia a culturally unique place.

Especially the many historic sites, from different chapters of the country's history, are worth visiting I think. I hope. With only less than one tenth of the population of the Netherlands in pretty much the same area and with a declining population, Estonia might feel a little empty at times.

Estonia has lots of islands and beautiful beaches along the coastline. According to ADVrider locals the east is more interesting for motorcycling, so I'll take the eastern route. The Internet "warns" for wolves, lynx and bears in the east. I'm not worried though. Not really, anyway.

Map

External Info
Distance traveled 186 km
Time spent 2 days

Places of Interest

disclaimer   These are only places that make up 90% of the plan for this trip. Whether or not I've actually managed to visit each and every one of them can be found in the ride report.

Tallinn

The (awesome) ferry from Helsinki will arrive in Tallinn, an ancient medieval city and the capital of Estonia. One third of the country's population lives here.

The harsh contrasts found in Estonian culture are really apparent in the streets of Tallinn, although the rustic atmosphere of the medieval part of the city is partly ruined by tourism. I'm part of the problem, I admit. But I still want to see the city up close, because of its uniqueness.

And, since it's hugely touristic, I bet there's some good local food to be found I can spend my euros on. It's a mixture of Finnish and Russian cuisine, or so I've been told. Sounds yum to me.

Whether I'll be spending the night in Tallinn remains to be seen. I'd rather find a camping site outside of the city, or a cheap hotel in nearby towns.

Tallinn
Tallinn panorama

CC-BY-SA 2.0 Adrián Pérez

Peipus Shore and Russian Border

Basically the same as in Finland, following the Russian border down south. From Tallinn this means going south-east first towards Lake Peipus.

Skipping the main motorways, there aren't that many primary roads left in Estonia. I'll have to handle some gravel every now and then while crossing the country. Most of the roads are in pretty good condition. I've been looking at the maps, and it seems apart from cities like Tallinn and Tartu most Estonians live in rather small rural villages. I don't really speak Estonian or Russian, so communicating with the locals might be a challenge. Most of the youth does speak English, but most of them live in the cities.

I'm expecting lots of peace and quiet, really. Especially in the rather underpopulated south-east of Estonia. At least they get taught how to properly ride a motorcycle. What more could you wish for?

There are a few camping sites scattered across the country and camping is allowed on public lands, so I should be able to set up my tent just about anywhere basically.

Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus

CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 Jerry Flo


Ride Report

This is only what I remeber of Estonia and quickly wrote down during the trip. I'm sure I've missed some details here and there. Sorry! It's chronological, mostly.

During disembarking from the ferry I noticed how far gone my rear tire already had become. And my budget wasn't faring much better. In fact, and this was what I could calculate off the top of my head, I had already surpassed my budget by quite a large margin. These two factors, combined with the ongoing rain in the region making the eastern Baltic route a no-go, made me decide for a radically different approach. The second part of this trip shall be a city trip. Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Gdansk and Berlin. The roads in this region aren't that interesting anyway.

Once I arrived at Hotel Euroopa I booked a second night so I had a full day to explore the city. The hotel was quite luxurious for what I paid for it. The Baltics aren't that expensive as the Nordic countries, that's for sure. The people are just as friendly.

The next day I set out to explore the city. Tallinn is absolutely gorgeous. The medieval city center is almost unchanged for the past century or two. Some walls and roads date back hundreds of years more. One other thing stood out. Its population. Especially its young female population. There's a disproportionately large share of what I'd classify as attractive women. Models everywhere. According to a Dutch expat I spoke, who agreed with my observation, it's because of the Soviet Union. They simply weren't exposed to unhealthy nutrition during their early years. In a way it made sense.

The sun started to shine over the city while I climbed up the hill overlooking it all. On top of it I found a castle. Or what was left of it anyway. Most tourists had also found it, so the peace and quiet I was hoping for was nowhere to be found. What I did find though, was a guy about my age with a large hammer, an anvil and dreadlocks. He asked me, with a posh English accent, whether I would like to give it a swing. Of course I agreed. And missed. The second swing hit its target and produced a nice coin with Tallinn's skyline imprinted on it. Four euros well spent. Wait, what? I just happily paid four euros to make my own coin. The guy's good.

Overlooking his anvil I found a bar. That means beer! Because I had to ride every day I couldn't drink my favorite beverage for a heck of a long time. But not today. I sat down and had the best idea yet. Why not sample the local beers in every city? While I was enjoying my Saku mead beer I noticed the guy with the huge hammer again. I would've sworn he spoke English. Now he was chatting away in Russian. And that wasn't it. Estonian, Finnish, Spanish, Italian, German, I was in awe. And somehow he knew what language people would understand too, by just looking at them.

After finishing my second Saku, which was on the house by the way, I went back to my hotel. Still enjoying the city. It could've been the beer, but I really liked Tallinn. The next day, while riding out of the city heading for Latvia, I felt bad for leaving again. I'm definitely going to visit again.


Photos

These are the photos taken during the trip through Estonia using this gear. Hopefully they're in chronological order. If you'd like a larger version of a particular photo, just let me know and I'd be happy to make it available to you. All photos can be redistributed freely under the Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license.