Monday, 5 May 2008

Tallin

Tallinn
Distance traveled: 1118 km

I came to Estonia expecting somewhat of a gentle introduction to the wonders and horrors of Eastern Europe - Well - those sneaky fucking Estonians...

While we've been walking around thinking of the Baltics as poor nations, riddled with organised crime from the Russian mob, human trafficking, and an economy in ruins after 60 years of Soviet rule. They've been busy - damn busy - and frankly there's very little things left around Tallinn, to suggest you're east of the Iron curtain. The buildings have been renovated, and anything giving even the slightest stench of hammer and sickle - have been blown smithereens by the city administration. The Lada's og Trabi's of old, has long since been replaced with Volvo's, Lexus', Mercedes' and BMW's. And a pint of beer down in the city center, will set you back 40 kroner. And that's not all...

Estonia, or Tallinn at least, seem to have been subjected to somewhat of a veritable Scandinavian invasion, a couple of 100 years since the last conquests (where, for those who knows our history, is where our lovely flag comes from). Apparently business leaders around the Nordic capitals, collectively decided that 'them darn Ruskis ain't got nothing on us'. So after the last sorry soldiers of the red army left, and the Baltic peoples celebrated their new found independence - in the spirit of our ancestors, they embarked on a capitalistic and cultural conquest on their own, to regain the territory lost 100 years ago.

And so it happened that today, 16 years after the Estonian independence, people drive in their Volvo's or Saab's to the Statoil gas station, buy a pack of Prince or Red Corners, and pay with their Nordea credit card. And before they drive home, they invite their friends out for a Carlsberg beer, with their Nokia phone on a Tele2 prepaid service paid for in Estonian Kroner (or Kroon). So it seems all natural that the city's only two tall buildings, that dominates the skyline of Tallinn - along with the hill where the old town, built by Swedes and Danes centuries ago, lies - would be a Radisson SAS hotel and the Estonian headquarters of Skandinaviska EnskildaBanken. The prime minister has even gone so far, as to suggest they change their flag to a Scandinavian Cross. But hey, atleast they seem more happy about us than the Russians :-)

The city itself is absolutely beatifull, the old town is pretty big, with brightly painted old houses, impeccably renovated, rising above the cobblestoned streets. Full of (expensive) restaurants, sidewalk caf├ęs, and trendy fashion stores. And some huge churches thrown in here and there for good measure. Outside the old town many parts of the city has wooden houses with small gardens and cedar trees. If you look carefully you can see some old soviet concrete appartment complexes - appartently the Estonians decided that if the Russians build it, they can live in it - and left it for the large (40 odd percent) Russian population to live in.

Unlike the ethnic Estonians, that doesn't look all that different from us - The Russians here, still very much look, well, Russian. And from i understand, they don't have much more money than their counterparts on the other side of the border either. But then again - who are we too teach Estonians good morals - we we're having a good time building parcel homes and selecting which jolly garden gnome to put in the garden, while they we're being deported to Siberia for buying the wrong morning newspaper.

Anyway, food, beer, sleep and up for a ferry to Helsinki tomorrow (hopefully in that order).

Tallinn

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