When we last checked in with our heroine, she was whining that Copenhagen was too modern to suit her tastes. What a fine bit of irony, then, that the next stop in the cruise was Tallinn, Estonia. Not to say that a person can’t find Starbucks, McDonalds and such in the newer part of Tallinn. But since we spent our time in the old part of town, I eventually really started to feel like I was in medieval times.
And how was it? Well, the sugared almonds were heavenly. The pig’s ear specialty was beyond our capabilities. But at least I found a place I could say a prayer for a friend.
Our boat dropped us off way too early in the morning, so for a time, we just trekked around the cobblestone streets with all the other tourists. And calling them cobblestones is really doing them a favor — parts of these streets were so old they were just plain rocks. Very rough on the ankles, and the angled streets were hard on every muscle at the same time. But then as the guide had told us, as you get toward the city wall, you’re walking sometimes in what was the moat of the castle — how civilized is it supposed to be?
Besides, I didn’t mind. I had a landmark in mind from the beginning. The old town isn’t large and so you can easily get around on foot (as long as your ankles and muscles hold out), and there are a number of enormous churches vying for attention, with the gorgeous Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral sitting high on a hill. I had promised a friend that I would light a candle for her, since she was going through health emergencies with both parents. I hadn’t had any luck in the U.K. or Denmark, but I knew I’d do better here.
And so I did. Inside there was a divine liturgy going on and low, sweet chanting was coming from behind the iconostasis. I managed to work my way through the process of buying the small candles and tried to focus on prayer for just that minute. I don’t know that I was fully successful, but I realized that the combination of the incredibly ornamented interior and the milling tourists was going to throw me off my game. Greg didn’t realize that photos weren’t allowed before he took one. That’s okay with me. It saves me the trouble of trying to describe it.
Outside, four babuskas were begging for money. No one was paying them any mind, and maybe they knew something I didn’t. But we couldn’t pass by — it didn’t seem right. Greg gave them four dollars to split, and it made them very happy.
Back in town, Greg found a wi-fi zone — he’s got a gift — and parked to get some work done, while I went wandering. The streets were starting to fill up with people, and I realized all at once that it felt like being on the set of a movie — I might have been fooling myself but I started to feel like I knew what it must’ve been like to have lived in these times. A couple times I passed a wonderful cinnamon scent before I realized that it was a street vendor selling almonds cooked with brown sugar and served up in a paper cone. The vendor gave me the price in euros, kronos (the Estonian currency), dollars and, as an afterthought, rabbit skins. It was a joke about the rabbit skins of course, but I think I would’ve gone looking for rabbits just to get some of those almonds. As it turned out, I scraped together the cash, so I didn’t have to.
At the outdoor cafe we found, the specialty of the house was something that involved pigs’ ears. We didn’t want to go there. We stuck to the bacon rolls, which were very good, and other items with identifiable ingredients.
At the end of the day, we were able to count it all a big success. a few pigs kept their ears, and I kept a promise to a friend.
And we sailed for St. Petersburg.