Tourist Trends and Two Nights in Tallinn, Estonia

16 Aug

Guest blogger, Stuart Elliott

Ever since crossing the Atlantic in the mid-fifties at the tender age of four, I’ve been studying
people, their clothes and their mannerisms. There was a time when I knew from looking at someone where they were from; the stereotypical smart, preppy East-Coaster with the loud voice, the plaid shirted mid-westerner, the suave Frenchman with pullover nonchalantly draped around shoulders, the Italian just a tad shorter than the suave Frenchman, the southern Englishman with his smart tweed cap, the northerner with his working man’s cap. 
Then gradually the Englishman abroad became embarrassed by his sandals and socks and he too learnt how to wear a sweater over his shoulders. But well into the eighties the travelling few could still be discerned, if not by their dress, then by their language. 
Back in the mid-nineties the Japanese arrived; one didn’t need to be a genius to name their country of origin. So enamoured were they with Euro fashion they even took over Burberrys and almost single-handedly kept Louis Vuitton in business.
Then came Perestroika with clipped accents of cheaply clad East Europeans as they infiltrated the favourite haunts of the well-heeled west European.  
Now it seems in the blink of an eye, and hardly without the Korean nouveau riche getting a look in, the Chinese have taken the lead in who’s out there. Just as the Japanese did before them, they race around in tour groups to all the places a tourist is supposed to visit and more besides. Who told them for example to visit the Eiger in the middle of winter in such numbers that skiers are unable to board their lifts? The difference with this tourist wave is that within only 2-3 years the iconic Euro landmarks are being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. I am guessing, but about 35 per cent of our fellow visitors last week to the Peterhof Palace outside St Petersburg were of Chinese origin. There was no sign of suavity or nonchalance or even socks and sandals.
I am also pleased to report that so far Sharon has only been moved once to suggest to one of the aforementioned to mind their manners. Those of you who know her recognise that she has a strong sense of order; not one to be pushed around. She has also been getting on well with the locals, until one asked her to part with two Euros for the privilege of taking a photo of their market stall*.
Random lingering questions I am pondering:
Why does Russia feel the need to expand her territories? They already control a landmass the size of China, the USA and Australia put together.

Why do people from cold climates avoid greeting people they don’t know?

How does a country like Estonia go from rags to riches in the space of five minutes?

The hotter the climate the larger families become. Does this mean that as the world warms we will have larger families?
Sharon speaking. Stuart has failed to meet his publishing deadline (agonising over his word choices) so I’ve had to intervene. It’s mid-morning and we’re steaming in full sunshine through the Swedish archipelago to Stockholm with Estonia far in our wake. Three days and two nights in Tallinn were a good introduction to Estonia, an orderly, highly developed, connected country well set up for the traveller. 
The medieval walled centre of Tallinn near the port is rather Disneyish, but excellent restaurants and beers in the sunshine amongst summer blossoms beside cobbled streets were sublime. We did all the touristic things, including climbing the 60 metre viewing platform tower of St Olav’s 127 metre high church, said to be the tallest building in the world at one time. We even caught the bus to Pirata Beach to observe how Estonians do a summer Saturday at the seaside, for men an opportunity to show off their gymn-honed muscles in skimpy togs while women remove as much clothing as possible but rarely go topless. The water surprisingly warm. We even found time to have an interesting massage performed by Oksana, who resembled a shot put champion gone to seed. Never have we had our flesh and ear lobes jiggled in such a fashion before.  

 Tallinn marina. 
Not sure if the parking sign is a joke or not. 

Bread and butter pudding with stewed rhubarb and custard for Stuart! 

*Unfortunately the stall holder’s English was limited to ‘Two euros’ which he repeated ad nauseum. He seemed not to understand my questions regarding his ownership of the copyright of the Tshirt illustrations. Since I didn’t wish to buy any of his Putin kitsch I deleted the photo I took of it, smiled and bid him farewell.


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