May 07, 2019 | Written by Patricia Murphy

Second Stop: Tallinn Days 1 & 2

One reason I REALLY wanted to visit Tallinn was because I teach the essay Estonia, The Digital Republic, in my travel writing class. I was fascinated by the descriptions of the country and upon more research we found that many travel writers are calling the Baltic States the Next Scandinavia, for their focus on art, design, and cuisine. Say no more!

We arrived by ferry to a small port and decided to simply walk the short distance to our AirBnb. I normally prefer booking at hotels, but we chose an AirBnb in Tallinn because it was so much cheaper and there was so much more space. I found a gorgeous apartment in the middle of Old Town. Which would have been perfect, if the owner had been ready. We ended up lugging our luggage around for three hours during which we could not get in contact with the owner. I don’t ever want to do that again. He ended up feeling so bad about it he took us for coffee later and we had an interesting chat. We asked him about the rise of the right-wing populists in Eastern Europe and he confirmed our fears, that there are factions who are xenophobic, racist, and Islamophobic. But I’ll return to that topic later.

We spent our Day 1 exploring the new arts district, Telliskivi Loomelinnak, which is a former industrial area that is now full of colorful murals, shops, and restaurants. We would return here several times during our stay for shopping, sips, and bites. We also enjoyed the nearby market, Balti Jaam Market, that had gorgeous fresh produce and some interesting local items.

After a lot of walking, we made room for dinner at F-hoone. And am I ever glad we did. This place was so inexpensive, had a super hip vibe, and served me some of the best dumplings of my life. I consider it a must visit.

One difference in hotel vs AirBnb is that we usually get our breakfast included at a hotel. Since we had not shopped for groceries, and the coffee service at the property was a rickety and not nice French Press that I failed to master, we would need to procure some coffee and sustenance stat! Luckily John used his research skills to get us to Rost, which was an epic win. We could smell the shop well before we saw it. Tucked into an area that is being revived for young professionals, this bakery served me the best cinnamon roll I’ve ever had.

Next, we had such a lovely visit to Kumu Art Museum. It confirmed the reports that contemporary artists are thriving in Estonia, since the exhibition on fashion was one of the most interesting I’ve seen in ages. But I also really enjoyed the organization of the design of the space. The exhibitions on 18th and 19th century art taught us as much about history of the region as they did about artistry. And there was a room full of only busts, with a soundtrack of voices piped in, that afforded an ethereal and magical experience.

We also loved the exhibit on Eastern Fashion. For her project, the artist Marit Ilison scoured the archives of the Narva Museum, digitized the art and made it into print fabric, which she sewed into identical versions of the well-known historic garment, the chintz smock. The display included 77 dresses all of the same shape but each with a different print (based on the museum archives). It was one of the most fun, whimsical, yet historically impactful exhibits I saw on our trip. 

Now let’s talk about lunch at Restoran Mon Repos. We literally grabbed this off TripAdvisor after leaving the art museum so hungry. It is walkable and beautiful and the meal was one of the best of our trip.