Category Archives: Baltic

Tallinn and Helsinki 2005

Originally posted Sept 22 2005 on

At the end of February 2005 I played my first ever solo gig in ESTONIA of all places! There were no direct flights so the trip would be Glasgow > Amsterdam > Helsinki > Tallinn.

I went with my (then) girlfriend, after sorting the problem of stupidly putting my name of both sets of tickets – which usually incurs a change of name fee – KLM kindly waived this when they realised that it was a pretty dumb mistake by someone who doesn’t book flights often.

I had a half-day at work, taking my luggage in with me I left at 12 noon in a bit of a rush to catch the flight. I made my way to the train station where (my then) girlfriend phoned me to tell me the flight was delayed by 2 hours. I caught the next train into town anyway then caught the airport bus.

I was sitting at the front of the bus and the driver was tearing it down the motorway when his phone rang, he answered and the conversation went like this:

“Aye, we got banned at tha’ weekend”

“We got caught goin’ in tae a cubicle tha’gether”

So I arrived at the airport and met up with my girlfriend and found out that the flight would be delayed by a few hours more. We passed the time by playing cards.

I was flying from Glasgow to Helsinki; changing at Amsterdam. We were told that we might not make the connecting flight and may have to spend the night in Amsterdam, and that’s what happened, when we arrived in Amsterdam the last flight to Helsinki had already left, so we booked ourselves on the first flight to Helsinki the following morning and were given half-board in one of the airport hotel’s for the night, unfortunately we couldn’t get near our luggage but we were given a toiletries bag each.

I phoned my friend Jorma in Helsinki, who I had planned to stay that night with, but he would be leaving for Tallinn before we arrived so we’d have to make our own way there, but he gave us instructions on how to find the port. The hotel room was incredibly hot and neither of us slept well.

The following morning we almost missed the bus back to the airport and almost got lost in Schipol airport is a big place! When we checked our tickets, it seemed that our seats were in business class! A mistake surely? Nope, as the airline had screwed up they upgraded us and it was the most enjoyable flight I’ve ever had, we had 1 hostess specifically attending to about 6 people, we had a 3 course meal with numerous free alcoholic drinks, while the rest of the plane got a sandwich.

We landed at Helsinki airport where it was snow-covered and freezing (– 15!)
We got a bus into town; on the way we spotted a KKK supermarket (no joke!) look here link
I saw signs for ‘Technopolis’ and a bus called the Trivia bus that made me chuckle.

Once in town we headed to the port but thanks to me reading a map wrongly we ended up at the wrong port but we found our way to the right one eventually, once there we followed the signs to the Tallinn terminal, where we found an empty locked building. Panic set in! We walked along to the busier looking Stockholm terminal, which was actually where we would board the Tallinn boat. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be leaving for some time, meaning the event I was playing at would have already started by the time I got there! To pass the time we played cards again and bought 2 standard beers and a large pack of peanuts, which cost 12 euros!
The boat was massive; it had 10 floors and took almost 3 ½ hours to reach Tallinn, traveling slowly over the dark ice-covered sea. I took a few photos of the icy waters, it was the first time I’d ever seen anything like it. I also booted up the laptop and attempted to put the finishing touches to my set.

We arrived in Tallinn around 10.00pm. I tried phoning Jorma to tell him we’d arrived but my dodgy phone was acting up (I’ve since replaced it)
We got a taxi to the hostel. On the website the hostel looked cute and picturesque, in the cold dark night it just looked creepy. We rang the bell.
It was a Russian couple that ran the hostel, and they didn’t speak much English. The woman showed us the breakfast area, which was right beside the reception desk, then she showed us our room, which was er, right beside the breakfast area, which was right beside the reception…basically she was right outside our door and in our room we could hear everyone talking in the reception, the man was always watching TV, so we got loud blasts of the Russian edition of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’
We asked for a double bed, we got 2 singles instead. We unpacked, I went to close the curtains and the curtain rail fell knocking over a vase full of twigs!? I dunno, it must’ve been some weird Estonia plant but to me it just looked like twigs in water. So anyway the curtains and curtain rail were now lying on the floor and the carpet was soaked. I got a towel to mop up the water. I returned the vase to its original position, which still had a small amount of water to keep the er, twigs, alive. So after much effort I put the curtain rail back up and attempted to close the curtains again, only for it to fall once more and knock over to the vase again. I was now in an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

Eventually I did manage to close the curtains and so we got ready to head into town. It was now almost 11pm. The event I was playing at started at10pm and was on till 3am. The address was No.1 Townhall square.
Now, with a name like No.1 Townhall square, wouldn’t you think it would be easy to find?
I asked the woman at the reception, who pulled out a map and studied it carefully…
“Townhall square, townhall square, townhall square…” she repeated, while her finger glided over the map.
The man came over and looked at the map too, she circled something and pointed at it, “niet” was the response…she made a few lines with her pen and circled something else “niet” again. They had a lengthy conversation together while I stood there watching. Eventually the man told me to follow him into one of the rooms here he pointed at a window “Townhall square, 10 minute straight! 10 minute straight!”
And so we headed off in that general direction…and got lost.
I tried phoning Jorma again but my phone switched off. I tried to make sense of the map, while my girlfriend stopped a few strangers and asked them for directions. It seems that no one had heard of this fabled “Townhall square”
Then we found a sign that pointed to “Raekoja Plats” Underneath was the English translation “Townhall square” We followed to the sign to a square of sorts, I assumed this must be it. No it wasn’t. It took us a while to realize there was another sign pointing North from here. Eventually we found the “Townhall square”
So you would think that now that we’ve found “Townhall square” finding “No.1 Townhall square” shouldn’t be too difficult right?
I could see no.3 and no.8 but no sign of No.1! The numbers were a bit random and didn’t make much sense. The place was called Saicang café but I could find no mention of it either. We wandered from one end of the square to another and down numerous back streets.
We asked a few people where the café was, no one knew, we even bumped into an English guy, he didn’t know either. There was a group of guys we’d wandered past a few times and so my girlfriend decided to ask them if they knew were it was. They did and took us right to the door; it was a small almost unmarked doorway through a lane just off the square. It was now around midnight. I played last. It seemed to go down well with the crowd. It turns out that the actual room were I played looked right onto the Townhall square, but from the outside the window was dark and unmarked. I met Taavi from the site afterwards. I considered going to a drum n bass club night, but really I was exhausted and so went back to the hostel for much needed sleep.

The following day we visited the market where I was cajoled into buying a pair of mittens. We then ate lunch at a medieval style restaurant, in a dark candle lit basement where the waiters dress liked musketeers! We also visited a pub just behind the Townhall. A cauldron sits outside, all the staff are in medieval dress and minstrels play music, the cinnamon, honey and herb beer’s they sell come in old clay jugs. Touristy yes, but far cheaper than any tourist area in any other European city I’ve been to.

Tallinn’s a really beautiful place, with a well-kept medieval old town; I recommend a visit, and although it looked beautiful in wintertime I suggest a summer visit as it was absolutely freezing!

My photos of Tallinn here:

My photos of Helsinki here:

And photos from the event (taken by Ivan) here:

And I even had a track played on Estonian Radio!