(blatantly stealing a device from a Tartu blog for the title)
We went strolling around Tallinn today. I wish I had had my camera. Another beautiful day with a feeling that it wants to rain but the sun won't have any of it. At the end of the walk (which I forgot to mention when I posted this entry) we saw a pigeon chase and taunt a lazy black cat that just wanted to lie down in some grass on our street.
We climbed up to Toompea, Tallinn's Città Alta. I thought it might be just as full of sidewalk cafes and nut-vendors as the lower town. Instead it's a very strange place, lovely but very quiet. You've got parliament, two cathedrals and embassies, sure, but it mainly seems deserted and residential, with very specific institutions, like the Ballet School and the Representation of the Russian Railway in Estonia.
And, most bizarrely, what must be a community of expats from Kaliningrad. Because the seat of power in Tallinn has at least five Russian souvenir shops, all of them entitled "Suveniirid". It's disorienting. Toompea is only about four or five blocks long, but big enough that you can't see the lower town, and each time you round a corner you see another souvenir shop with the exact same name. Actually, eventually you get to one that is called "Symphony of Amber". They are so proud of their originality that they sprang for wrought iron cursive lettering. It must taken a while to forge, and I would hate to break it to the proprietor that amber is not found in Estonia.
Besides amber, all of the shops also sell "nestling dolls", which sounded cute (as in aw, the dolls are in love with each other and are spooning) until I realized it was just the Russian matrioshki. Bo-oring! What is cool is when the smallest matrioshka in the series is a caricature of Bush or Putin and contains a dead insect, like amber, but no luck. These were probably new and made in China.
There is some kind of cultural disconnect going on up on Toompea all right, and the only restaurant to be found was Greek. Or maybe this is globalization and I'm getting old.
There are tourists up on the viewing platforms, and the view from Patkuli Steps toward the harbour is beautiful. Not a single high-rise can be seen (except for the 13th century St. Olaf's); they're all around the corner. I hope it stays that way.
The bizarreness continued as we left the viewing platform and we saw a person some on Toompea might see as an "asocial" (aftereffects, open sores) giving a tour to some Finns, holding forth in an opinionated tone. I have to pride him on his resourcefulness. There was no dead air on this tour, he was earning his keep, or maybe he was just a down-at-heel relative.
Earlier we followed the sound of tümps or sült music to Freedom Square and up Harju Hill, where there was a Labour Day (hold the puns) event in progress. Kids were jumping on a trampoline to the beat of the music and blue balloons were everywhere. The colour red was nowhere to be seen. The lyrics were "raha ei ole" (don't have money) and the singer was yodelling at the end of some of the verses. It wasn't protest music.
We found a boulder halfway down the hill marked "future site of the Freedom Monument". It was one of those natural rocks with carvings you might see in a county manor park honouring some 19th century poet.
I should probably read more and blog less: I thought the Freedom Monument was going to be installed down below in the middle of the square (I just had Riga's Freedom Monument in mind, which is a nice spacious area) giving an excuse to get rid of the parking lot that is taking up the place. But no. From the looks of it they are gouging out half of Harju hill to make a place for the monument to be in. I think this qualifies as "numnuttery". I just hope they remember to remove the boulder before digging too far into the hill.
I'm sure there's a brilliant reason for all of this, including why they paved over the tennis courts at the foot of the hill.