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Tour "Around The Baltic Sea" report - Report 5; Estonia & Tallinn; 30/7/06 – 5/8/06. (2006)
Robert Laing (Szkocki Bob)

Leaving Hiiumma was a pain. After a fairly average camp fire party (by Polish standards), we were up around 5am to breakfast and leave camp site to cycle 20km to catch the early Sunday morning ferry to Haapsalu.

To have an extra night in Tallinn several of us cycled directly there rather than an overnight stop via Paldiski. The road was long, hot, boring and very busy. Total distance was 144km and as a result most of us arrived too tired to enjoy the extra night. But next morning we were up reasonably early to enjoy the delights of Tallinn. A lovely Old City; one of those places where around every corner produces a new different and delightful experience. We managed all the recommended viewpoints from the old city walls but the best view was from the café on the 23rd floor at the top of the Radisson SAS hotel. Superb views of Tallinn, the harbour, Baltic Sea and, of course, the trees of Estonia. After a party in the park (Polish style), a few of us did the whole city and the 23rd floor thing again after midnight. The city is a completely different place at that time without tourists crowding the streets. A unique experience. After that it was back to the sleeping place to find that it was still disco time. To bed as the sun was coming up.

After the disco and a few hours sleep it was time to say goodbye to Tallinn. On the way we visited the site of Estonia’s highest waterfall only to find …it had no water! That day finished with a meal at a fish farm where it was possible to catch your own salmon and have it cooked while you waited and had a beer. Delicious. And somewhere along the way we passed through a hamlet called Moldova. So now I can truthfully say I have visited Moldova as have many other Baltic cyclists – even if it was just a few houses in Estonia!

Other memorable event of our stay in Tallinn was the efforts of Ula and Maryla to get a hot shower. As any Baltic cyclist knows it can be a hot, dirty, smelly time on BalticCycle and a hot shower at the end of the day is an important requirement. It seems wherever Ula & Maryla go they always try to have a hot shower every day and rarely fail and have many stories to tell about their various experiences. Somewhere in Moldova last year they simply knocked on a door and asked to use the shower. The husband and wife were very suspicious at first but eventually agreed. The girls emerged from the shower to find a full dinner waiting for them and eventually got back in the wee small hours. In Ukraine the girls were so desperate that they paid full price for a hotel room just to use the shower but only after much paperwork and having to give passport details, address and fathers’ names, etc. All just to have a hot shower and return to sleep in a tent! In Tallinn however there was no hot water and Ula & Maryla set a new BalticCycle record for the cost of a shower. After 2 hours searching they found a disco/sauna. A sauna must have showers so they asked if they could pay to use only the shower. The gorilla in charge declared it was not possible to use and pay for a shower without also paying for the sauna. The result was that so desperate were the girls for a shower that they paid 400 Estonian Krones (approx 25 Euros?) for a shower and did not use the sauna.

For me another highlight of our time is Estonia was the ice cream. I bought which was black on the outside thinking it was very dark chocolate but turned out to be liquorice. Inside was delicious dairy ice cream and inside that was a strip of soft liquorice. Aaaaah. Orgasmic!

Weather still fine and dry which means wind still from the east making cycling into a headwind rather tiring.

One disadvantage of rough/wild camping is that sometimes we are far away from a shop and bottles of beer heavy and difficult to carry on a bike. One evening that very efficient Polish woman who shall remain nameless but was the same one successfully organised visas for everyone set off in the van to get beer for a party round the camp fire. Returned with many bottles of beer for everyone which turned out to be … non-alcoholic!!! Could have been a disaster but those resourceful Poles simply added vodka and drank the beer that way. Other use I have found for vodka is to remove the pine tree resin from my clothes.

I’m afraid that although Rein has done super job with his handbook of cycle routes many of the roads have been long, straight, surrounded by trees so you can’t see anything and therefore rather boring. We have been told that the trees ARE the beauty of Estonia. In that case we have seen several million beauties! And it says something about the routes when any with some bends and undulations (ie slight hills), is described as “picturesque”. And Estonia is so flat that several times we saw people on bikes with no brakes at all – not even a back-pedal brake. To stop the rider simply waited until they ran out of momentum or just scraped their foot along the ground.

The 3rd August was Day 35 of the trip and therefore halfway in terms of time.

Next report; Russia and St Petersburg.