|In many ways Tallinn was the hangover from Riga. I had gone there wanting to chill out and not really drink much, see some sights, save some money and take care of my body a bit. I actually partially succeeded. I was not feeling quite 100% so it was nice to not go completely crazy. Also an Australian girl who I had slept with in Riga happened to be at the same hostel as me in Tallinn and that created some problems. Ever since what had happened in Riga she had been ignoring me and I was not sure as to why until I discussed it with a girl I met in Tallinn and she reconed that she was just embarrissed for various reasons that I will not go into here! Anyway it meant that as there were very few women in the hostel the Australian woman was getting a lot of attention and so I was on the sidelines for a change. I ended up hanging out with Linda (a really nice Scottish girl who I had been discussing the Aussie girl situation with), two German girls called Rebekka and Sabina, who were also really nice and this Aussie guy whose name I cannot now remember.
Tallinn itself is the most beautiful of the Baltic capitals with a large impressive old town (the old town impressed me and as I have seen so many of them now it must have been good!) and friendly people. The weather was also excellent and I really have been so lucky for it to be nice for nearly the whole time I have been in the region. All of the buildings are different colours and outside of the city there are large forests and beaches; all of which are amazing in the sunshine. Me and Linda went off the the beach one afternoon and it was strange to be standing on a Baltic beach in relative warmth with the pine forest behind us. By rights at this time of year it should have been raining and cold. Still, I was not complaining!
The main downside of Tallinn was the prices. Everything in the old town was extremely expensive. To get a beer on the old town square was three Euros which was shocking after the rest of Eastern Europe. Food was also expensive and for the first time in months I actually went to the supermarket, bought some food and cooked it!
I did eat out though with Rebekka and Sabina at an African themed restuarant bizarrely. Another German guy who was also at the hostel came along as well and it was quite a nice evening. Unfortunately though Rebekka was on a bus back to Vilnius that same evening so she could not stay out.
Seeing as how this is the end of Eastern Europe (Finland and Russia fall under different catagories) here are some general musings on the region, without hopefully stereotyping too much:
1) With a lot of Eastern Europe to various degrees there is a veneer of Western European quality of goods and services. In some cases Eastern Europe is actually better overall in this respect but generally you cannot rely on everything to be produced to the same standard.
2) There seems to be a polarisation of the sexes in many countries with men generally placing emphasis on being strong, dominant and macho and women generally being more submissive and placing more emphasis on their looks and general appearance.
3) Most old style trains do not have any lights on when they go through tunnels. This means that when you are in a compartment with five other people there is a brief un-nerving time when you know they are there but cannot see what you are doing.
4) The escalators move more quickly then in Western Europe. This is understandable in somewhere like Kiev where they are incredibly long and otherwise you would never get anywhere, however they are just as fast elsewhere.
5) In most countries when waiting for the metro there is a timer telling you how long it has been since the last train and does not tell you when the next one is due to arrive. This really confused me at first. Especially when at some traffic lights it does tell you how long you have to wait!
6) Every authority figure engenders an unusual amount of respect. Even train guards behave as though they have substantial power over you and the local people are generally very submissive to them.
7) The local food is generally very nice and should be tried.
8) McDonalds is everywhere, even in Chisinau in Moldova. What I really do not understand though is that McDonalds is rubbish food but is cheap and fast, which is generally why people in Western Europe eat it. In Eastern Europe you could buy actual food in a proper restuarant for the same price as a McDonalds meal (admittadly not in the best of restaurants, but still), so why eat there?? Yet everywhere it is really popular.
9) Although most of Eastern Europe is relatively poor, it is also safer I believe then Western Europe. Even when walking around places such as Bucharest and Chisinau at night I never felt threatened, which I would do sometimes in London or Dublin. I think perhaps there are harsher punnishments for breaking the law in Eastern Europe so there is a greater deterrent.
10) Even though to people from Western Europe most of Eastern European countries are really cheap, they are not cheap for the locals. In a few countries at least a basic salary seems to be about 300 Euros a month. This means that for them everything is actually quite expensive and they understandably get a bit annoyed with Western Europeans coming over and start talking about how cheap everything is!
11) Seeing how some people, especially on stag weekends, behaved in these countries made me ashamed to be English on occasion. In cities such as Prague where there have been many such people coming over the locals really do not want to know if you say you are from England, which is quite understandable. In many other places though the people are very friendly, espcially if you learn one or two words of the local language.
12) The Baltic states have a very different feel from the rest of Eastern Europe and these really are the easiest countries to travel in, in the whole region.