Okay, so technically the title is a bit misleading. The day was the first full day I was in Tallinn, but that’s a minor detail, right? At any rate, it was full of fun.
To start, I spent the morning/early afternoon at the famed Kadriorg Gardens, in the eastern part of the city. While I’m not quite sure about the origins of the garden, it definitely was affordably opulent. There were plenty of fountains and prime real estate (including a children’s park and FC Levadia Tallinn’s stadium) to be had, and while I was walking through, I saw quite a few Tallinners relaxing, having picnics, and even drawing. For the latter, it wasn’t that unusual considering the massive presence of several art galleries (more on those in a bit) on the grounds. The overall comparison of Kadriorg that springs to mind is a very, very small and humbled version of Versailles, due to the baroque architecture. My first stop was a smaller (it used to be the kitchen for the palace, apparently) gallery that had a neat exhibition called “Fake or Real?”. The gist of this was to demonstrate what essentially amounted to historical art plagiarism, and it was fascinating seeing the more cutthroat side of art. From there, I headed over to the main Estonian art museum, Kumu (short for Kunstimuuseum), which was phenomenal. I do believe that seeing the de facto national art museum helps provide insight into the national psyche, and this was completely the case. The majority of the art dealt with 19th and 20th century Estonian life, but there was the occasional 16th or 17th century painting. (Side note here: seeing all that art reinforced how incredible artists can be.) I also apparently came at a good time, because there was an exhibit on loan from the Czech Republic based on Jaromír Funke’s photography. While I am by no means an art historian, I could appreciate how revolutionary his work was back in the 1930’s and 40’s. All in all, it was a phenomenal time spent indulging in relatively underappreciated art!
The beauty of Tallinn is that you genuinely can walk around, and consequently I spent a pleasant half an hour walking to my hostel in Old Town. I spent some time talking with the awesome Russian girls in my room before heading out to a free prison tour on the northern coastline of the city. Funnily enough, plenty of people had the same morbid curiosity to check it out, and so our party consisted of about 20 plus people. The tour lasted for about an hour and a half, but man was it enthralling (or, at least as much as seeing an abandoned Soviet prison could be)! Among the highlights were seeing the prisoner cells (both for the, and I quote our loveable guide, the “people who weren’t dicks” and the “people who really were dicks”. Aka the non/troublesome inmates.), the solitary confinement rooms, and the execution room (painted red to make it easier, plus the hose to wash blood off was still there). Cheery stuff there, am I right?
Afterwards, the rest of the evening was spent meeting new people over beers and pasta. The hostel life inherently throws you into these social situations, but man, every single person I met at the wonderful Red Emperor Hostel (seriously, stay there whenever you’re in Tallinn!!!) was an absolute joy to talk to. I met a German girl with an amazing New Zealand accent (she was there for a few months), two New Zealanders, a fellow American (!!!), some incredibly jovial Aussies (which is redundant, I know), some mellow Swiss guys, more Germans, a Brazilian, a girl from Montreal, the previously mentioned Russian girls, and a Canadian teacher (with whom I discussed the woeful state of the Maple Leafs with). Seriously, they’ve made this vacation exceed any and all expectations I had, and for that I cannot thank them enough! (If any of you happen to be reading this, please, please, please stay in touch!) Yep, it was a fun day.