Tallinn, a city by the sea

July is passing away, but instead of days getting shorter, they’re becoming longer and longer as I am more to the north. We are, the bike and me, me and the bike, with which after 4,000 km the rider gets merged, fused together as a hybrid Centaur, half man half machine. You learn every of its responses, its quirks and faults, and of course its noises. Good machine this parallel twin is, easy on gas as a lighter; but the bolts tend to come loose and, worst of all, the nagging noise in the rear wheel when the bearing (or something else) gets hot, not yet identified. Not a nice issue for a BMW barely one year old.
More to the north I’ve said, and more to the north I ride. On a sunny morning portending yet another hot day, I leave behind beauty Viljandi vaguely meaning another, longer visit –perhaps– on my way back. With the sun on my back, I set a course for the Republic’s capital. Always driving on secondary roads I cross the flatlands and marshes of this country, so scarcely populated (one third of Spain’s) I hardly come across a town deserving this noun; only farms and more farms where young peasants, blondes like ripe wheat, blondes like sunrays, endeavour in labours along their seniors, maybe ignoring that in the far south there are nations where a golden mane and sky-blue iris make doors opened better than the best professional education.
At the top end of these Baltic regions we arrive to Tallinn, the millennial city by the sea, sold by the Danish in the late middle ages to the Teutonic Knights, and lost by the latter five centuries later to the Russian tsars, upon which it underwent the same doom as its neighbours: twice invaded by Germany and twice regained by Russia, until the recent Estonian independence. Today, it’s the European capital with a larger percentage of native Russian speakers: almost half of the population. Pity of those minority tongues that will eventually yield in future decades to the puissance of much more pragmatic and international tongues. Sooner or later, Estonian will pass away, stifled by the very weight of Finnish and Russian; and same will happen to Galician or Basque regarding Spanish and Portuguese.

Curioso detalle de una pared que ha perdido su aislante exterior.
Worn outer coating of a wooden house. Tallin.

I chose a hotel right at the pedestrian zone downtown, but then I have to park the motorcycle out of sight, which I do in a square two hundred metres away, by a building’s gate with video surveillance, just in case. It’s hot, and after walking that distance carrying a side case in each hand, I’m all sweaty. The hotel is a very old building of a labyrinthine architecture, the ground floor half carved in the stone, and my room lies at the end of a narrow and rambling hallway. First I was offered another room two floors higher, with a nicer view, but as there’s no air conditioning I’d rather take this one, that keeps the coolness of the very rock. Once I get a shower and change clothes, I go sauntering along the city.

tallinnMuralla
Tallinn’s north wall.

Same as Riga, Tallinn is a very touristic capital, though prettier to my taste, more medieval, with its neatly preserved walls and its castle on top of a hill towering above the city, dominating a red sea of pointed roofs, the church towers’ needles and also the other sea, the blue and cold Gulf of Finland. One hundred kilometres across, from the populous Helsinki, every day thousands of Finns in their cars take the ferry to Tallinn for fueling up and filling up the trunk with cigarettes and alcohol; quite a saving. In the old town, a throng of tourists spread out along the hundred terraces and restaurants, filling streets and lanes, parks and avenues. There are plenty of hotels and youth hostels, high occupancy rate this summer, and all over the place people can be heard talking in English, Spansh, Russian, Polish… Retiree groups in touroperator trips, backpacking young couples, weed smokers on dirty flip-flops, Polish families, Russians in suspicious gangs, solitary travelers on expensive adventure-fashion clothing, sets of slender Estonians hunting for a fun foreigner, locals looking for some hot tourist, and a legion of moochers, sellers, musicians and jugglers on medieval attires striving to feather their nests.
Pity that, despite the beauty and historical purity of the old town, commercial tackiness has managed to make its way through, undoubtedly buying some political wills, to accomplish what we now see: a McDonald’s neon right in front of the ancient stone walls. Nothing against the USAn franchise, but authorities should at least have banned the tasteless neon in this location.

tallinnMcdonalds
Commerce atrocities.

For a change, the good thing about this land is, no matter how hot it is during daytime, it always cools down at dusk. Once the twilight red sun sets below the sea after having begotten the best of the wall towers’ profiles, you need to put a pullover on. And as I don’t have one with me, I finish off the beer I’m drinking at a corner terrace and I head for my hotel, not without first taking a look at the motorcycle. I know I’m tempting fate by leaving Rosaura there, but such are the hazards when traveling, and we ought not to think too much about them if we want to enjoy every day’s journey.
And what about tomorrow? God will tell. Before falling asleep, I ponder about Tallinn being well worth an extra day, but I’m not going to stay; I’m eager for crossing the gulf and setting my feet once again on my beloved Finland; though, when I come to think of it, I don’t really know what I’m expecting; maybe it’s just the feeling that, across the sea, a new stage of this journey will begin.

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