How I went to 11 marvellous countries, & taught the Germans about the Queen in 2015. If I can do it, so can you!

Original photo © Belén de Benito
Original photo © Belén de Benito

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!

My. What a year we’ve had.

2015 was fabulous for me and 2016 is going to be even more spectacular!

But first, let’s take a walk down memory lane of all the countries that I went to last year, and what I did. According to my WordPress annual report, over 69,000 people have read my blog in the last year from 171 countries. 69,000 people!! To think this little blog is but two (2) years old. Isn’t that brilliant?

The three (3) top countries were:

  1. USA – 13,000 readers.
  2. Germany – 10,000 readers.
  3. UK – 9,500 readers.

With the lovely Latvia right behind – 9,300 readers.

Amaaaazing!

Thank You!

Thank you so much for reading, making comment, and sticking with me. I love you all!

So let’s start with the country of my birth (England), and end with my new home-country (Germany). Here we go. Choose your poison….!

THE 11 COUNTRIES THAT I WENT TO LAST YEAR WERE:

  • England
  • Holland
  • The Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Lithuania
  • Latvia
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Poland
  • Spain
  • Germany

ENGLAND:

Oysters and stout on a wooden table outside a pub, England UK - ©VisitBritain Daniel Bosworth
Oysters and stout on a wooden table outside a pub, England UK –
©VisitBritain Daniel Bosworth

Last year I went to Bristol and I was extremely honoured to be invited as a guest of Visit Bristol. While I was there, I decided to drop into the city of Bath too but I haven’t actually written it about it yet, but you’ll get that post soon enough lol!

Not bad at all!

HOLLAND:

In the Red Light District, Amsterdam.
In the Red Light District, Amsterdam.
  • I have a great husband and every now and then I get a free weekend. It was January and I hadn’t been to Holland in nine (9) years so I decided to go on a solo weekend to Amsterdam and this is what I did: I went to a sex-show!!!

THE CZECH REPUBLIC:

"The Tall Young Gentleman" surrounded by teenaged girls at Rokytnice nad Jizerou!
“The Tall Young Gentleman” surrounded by teenaged girls at Rokytnice nad Jizerou!

Not only did I visit one of my favourite countries ever. But in 2015, I actually went twice!

And then I went to Prague.

In Prague reading something and looking all serious, but not completely serious!
In Prague reading something and looking all serious, but not completely serious!

What?

You haven’t yet been?

Incredible!

HUNGARY:

Chess players in the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and Swimming Pool - Budapest.
Chess players in the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and Swimming Pool – Budapest.

Hungary was on the map this year but for all the wrong reasons. Sadly, rather than the lovely goulash and paprika soup, it became far more known for the dismal handling of refugees running for their lives. Lest we forget, as far as the common man in Europe is concerned, #refugeesarewelcome.

THE BALTIC STATES:

A map of the Baltic Sea.
A map of the Baltic Sea.

I travel a lot and as much as I love travelling to my favourite regions of the world over and over again (Hello Tuscany!), one of the most interesting things about the Baltic Region is that I had never been there before so I decided to make a family trip out of it.

My husband gulped when I told him that not only were we going to the “other” Eastern Europe otherwise known as The Baltics, but we were going by long-distance coach-bus from country to country! I’m a determined woman and so with the part-sponsorship of an Estonian company called Lux Express, we went by road and back again!

LITHUANIA:

Vilnius B&B in Lithuania.

LATVIA:

Riga Black Balsam.

Twenty six thousand (26,000) views, hits and shares!

Absolutely Outstanding!

Thank you Latvia!!

ESTONIA:

Estonian Young Folk.
Estonian Young Folk.

FINLAND:

Helsinki Monument, Finland. @VisitFinland
Helsinki Monument, Finland.
@VisitFinland

POLAND:

Jesus in Warsaw.
Jesus in Warsaw.

For many people, Poland is an unknown country somewhere in an obscure part of Eastern Europe. If you do want to venture there, not to worry as I’ve been going there for almost twenty (20) years, so I’ve got tips to help you plan your way!

SPAIN:

Paella for lunch at TBEX in Lloret de Mar - Spain. Yum!
Paella for lunch at TBEX in Lloret de Mar – Spain.
Yum!

I love Spain and for the first time, I decided to attend the TBEX conference which is the holy grail of the travel blogging world and stands for Travel Blog Exchange.

I decided to stay closer to home and attend TBEX EUROPE. In previous years, the bloggers conference had been in Dublin and Athens but in 2015, it was in Costa Brava, Catalunya. In Lloret de Mar to be specific. Near the beach. Olé!

But is it just me or does disaster follow me around like a bad smell? Firstly, my flight out from Berlin to Barcelona was delayed, and was so late coming in, that I had to stay at Barcelona Airport all night! And secondly, my return flight was also delayed, ten (10) hours behind schedule! Ten (10) hours!

I mean.

Come on!!

OTHER PARTS OF GERMANY:

Roman cohorts at the Varus Battle in Osnabrück. © Tourismusverband Osnabrücker Land e.V.
Roman cohorts at the Varus Battle in Osnabrück.
© Tourismusverband Osnabrücker Land e.V.
  • The most popular post about Germany is still actually the very first post, that I ever wrote on my blog. Isn’t that funny! The title was: Germany is Boring. Ooops! Yeah, I got insults and abuse for this post. Mainly from people who never read it.

Ah well, I’m famous now. Right. Right?!

MORE NEXT WEEK!

The Black Kilts and my British-German family! © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
The Black Kilts and my British-German family!
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

Blogging is a lone game and a solo art and in 2015, many more experienced bloggers struggled to maintain momentum or to overcome exhaustion. I’m lucky. I have a family and I have a life. Most importantly, I’ve already found my home-base  – Berlin – and I’m extremely happy with where I am and who I am.

Thank you so much for your support everyone. 2015 was a lovely year. Here’s to the next. Bottoms up!

I'm a very happy British lifestyle, expat, travel blogger. Right here in the beautiful city of Berlin - © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
I’m a very happy British lifestyle, expat, travel blogger. Right here in the beautiful city of Berlin –
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

This post is not sponsored and I can’t wait to hear from you!

If you have any questions about Berlin, Germany or anywhere in Europe, don’t be shy, I’m an expert! Go ahead and ask me!

I have so much to share with you so next week I will be writing about some of my travel destinations for 2016 with you.

It”s a New Year. Hip! Hip! Hurrah!

If you’re not in Berlin in January, then where the hell are you?

January is going to be splendid!

Watch this space!

We love my blog!

Where did you travel to last year? Any achievements that you would like to share?

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

Advertisements

The smart guide to travelling to Helsinki.

Reindeer in Finland.
Reindeer in Finland.

Wow!

I cannot underestimate how being a British person in Berlin is a marvellous thing.

Last week, I was practically everywhere!

Remember when I told you that I met a producer from the rbb TV station, and how they saw my blog and the film interview with Travel Massive,  that you can also find on my Writing & Film page! Anyway, they weren’t joking and last Tuesday, we actually started filming!

German people don’t mess around LOL!

Never in my dreams had I been expecting this so I speedily put out an appeal for a voluntary PA on my Facebook page, and a professional photographer that I had met at the Berlin Music Video Awards – Pascale Scerbo Sarro – offered to take official photographs. Before you knew it, I was strolling down the street and the cameras were strolling with me. I wanted to watch a cultural production at the English Theatre Berlin, and they came along and watched it with me!

OMG! Don't I just look like a city babe © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
OMG! Don’t I just look like a city babe
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

It was a little strange having a camera and a huge fluffy microphone thing hanging around, but I soon got used to it LOL!

The next day, I went to meet the editor of the rbb Inforadio station. I thought we were going to talk about future projects, it turned out that she had her microphone and recording device with her, so we did an interview right there and then!

We continue filming the documentary next week at a Scottish pub called Das Gift and on the first day that Queen Elizabeth actually arrives Berlin on June 23rd, I will also be participating in a Live TV show and drinking tea at The English Garden!

I might even have some haggis!

I couldn’t be more pleased!

All the rbb TV team are here! © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
All the rbb TV team are here!
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

I’ll let you know when the programmes go out next week. They did actually tell me, but in all the excitement, I forgot!

For now, it’s time to go back to the last destination on our Spring trip to the Baltics.

Yep, to Helsinki. In Finland!

Here we go!

Finland.

I’ve spoken at length about the three Baltics States that we previously went to, but if you’re landing here for this first time, here’s the info:

Lithuania: I survived a 26 hour coach-bus adventure and I didn’t die and we had a pig’s ear in Lithuania and it was chewy!

Latvia: Gosh! Riga in Latvia is gorgeous: 10 reasons to go there right now and the magic drink of Latvia is Balsam and I drank it!

Estonia: How I went to Tallinn in Estonia, a Medieval Old Town surrounded by Danish Castles. How utterly charming and a simple guide to Estonian food and Russian beer!

Pick your poison on the Lux Express!
Pick your poison on the Lux Express!

We travelled to the Baltics by coach-bus and via our part-sponsor – Lux Express. My German husband – The Music Producer – panicked a bit at the thought but I have to tell you that it really wasn’t that bad at all.

From Berlin to Vilnius in Lithuania, we travelled with the Simple Express part of the company and it was just like any other coach-bus journey but with nifty individual flat screens and personal entertainment! From Vilnius onwards however, we travelled exclusively via Lux Express and the journey was rather impressive. I couldn’t believe how coach-bus journeys had changed and that so many people were also doing the Baltic Route. In fact, we met a French fellow in Vilnius and met him again in Riga. It was that popular!

I mean, with nice clean wide seats, free WiFi, individual flat screens for films and shows, free headphones which you helped yourself to, and free hot drinks like tea, coffee and hot chocolate, I’m thinking, yes please!

Travelling to Finland was another kettle of fish because this time around we travelled to Helsinki by mini-cruise and we sailed across to Finland, on a sponsorship deal with TALLINK SLJA LINE.

WHY GO TO FINLAND?

Wooden houses in Finland.
Wooden houses in Finland.

I’ve said it before, living in Berlin means that Continental Europe is right on your doorstep. Basically, if you’re an expat living in Europe and you don’t use the opportunities to check out the neighbouring countries, then you’re a fool!

There. I said it.

A fool!

I decided to go to Finland because it wasn’t far from Estonia and once we were going to be in the region anyway, I thought well, why not?

So many people know of Finland, Lapland, reindeer, and Father Christmas, but how many people have really been there?

Have you?

I didn’t think so!

Finland, is not really a Baltic country but a Nordic one. It’s often lumped together with the Baltic States because of the relative ease and physical closeness. In reality, Finland is bordered by Sweden, Norway, and Russia!

Ice Church. @VisitFinland
Ice Church.
@VisitFinland

Finland is full of interesting contrast such as the Midnight Sun and days full of darkness in Winter. Over two-thirds of the world’s people who experience the Midnight Sun, actually live in Finland itself!

In fact, in the most Northern part of Finland, the sunlight can be present for a consecutive number of over 70 days!

In land mass, Finland is the 8th largest country in Europe but with one of the lowest populations. It has just 5.4 million people, 37 national parks, 70% of the country covered with trees, and 15.8 inhabitants per every km2.

Wow!

Helsinki Central Railway Station. @VisitFinland.
Helsinki Central Railway Station.
@VisitFinland.

Here’s some history:

The country’s official name is the Republic of Finland also known as Finland, Suomi or Suomen Tasavalta.

Finland was once part of Sweden and as a result of this, the official language in Finland is both Swedish and Finnish! 91% speak Finnish, 54% speak Swedish and 1,700 indigenous people who live in Northern Lapland, speak Sámi. Finland was also a part of the Russian Empire and briefly became an independent republic in 1917 until WWII. It joined the UN in 1955, became a neutral nation, joined the EU in 1995, and has the Euro as its official currency.

HELSINKI

Helsinki Monument, Finland. @VisitFinland
Helsinki Monument, Finland.
@VisitFinland

I would like to go to Lapland one of these days, but for this journey, we went to the very cultural city of Helsinki which is the capital, and also has a 100 km long shoreline and around 300 islands!

Helsinki as the capital of Finland, was founded in 1550 and has a little over half a million people living there. It’s a modern European city famous for its culture, design, high technology, and its own unique cultural space. It is traditional but modern and is internationally renowned for its strong Finnish design, bold and innovative culinary suave, and it’s hip urban nuances, in a backdrop of sea and forest!

HOW DO I GET THERE?

Sailing away! Photo @AS Tallink Grupp
Sailing away!
Photo @AS Tallink Grupp

You can of course fly.  There is an international airport in Helsinki called Helsinki-Vantaa Airport serving all the major airlines. You can also take the train if you’re coming from Russia. Trains tend to come from ex-USSR States but no-one really recommends them as they’re far too old, far too slow and far too unreliable.

Pretty much everyone we met was travelling by ship, and so were we!

We crossed the sea with the help of a sponsorship deal from TALLINK SLJA LINE. In fact, the E-commerce Manger offered us a complimentary sailing to Sweden but on this trip, I had already fixed the itinerary and moreover, I wanted to travel mainly overland. However, watch this space for a future visit to Sweden, Finland, Latvia, and Estonia!

It’s going to be quite a trip!

Thank you so much!

Cruising to Helsinki, Finland.

TALLINK is an Estonian shipping company currently operating Baltic Sea cruise ferries and ships from Estonia to Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Germany. They are part of the AS Tallink Grupp and is a leading provider of high quality mini-cruise and passenger transport services in the Baltic Sea Region. We booked to sail with them from Estonia to Finland and back to Estonia.

There are a variety of various fares and ferries, but many travellers and tourists, as well as Estonian and Finnish people, regularly take day trips across the water, as the ships travel from Tallinn to Helsinki, from Stockholm to Helsinki, or from Stockholm to the Aland Islands in Finland. We wanted to spend a little longer and decided to spend 2 nights in Helsinki.

It was such a shame that we didn’t have the time to nip into St. Petersburg too as there is a legal way that you can go to Russia for 24 or 72 hours visa-free, as long as you arrive by ship, and pre-organise your hotel or sight-seeing activities!

The next time I’m in Finland or Estonia, I’m going to do just that, as I’m desperate to go to Russia. Even for a day but hopefully, for much longer LOL!

Tallinn-Helsinki mini cruise.

If you’re travelling from Tallinn then most likely you would be sailing with either the Tallink M/S Star or the M/S Superstar cruises across the Baltic Sea.

It’s really quite convenient as there are 6 daily departures and you can travel from either Tallinn or Helsinki in just two (2) hours.

All year round!

I recommend checking in at least one (1) hour prior to setting off, as there’s a small off licence, lobby and “bar.” Considering the amount of tourists drinking beer and snacks at 09:20, you would be in good company as refreshments, ranged from €1.20 a piece!

We took the 10:30 cruises out on a Wednesday morning and the cruise itself was nice and clean and similar to those crossing Calais and Dover. From Tallinn, the cruise was not crowded at all and pretty quiet. There were no kids or people rushing about and 80% of the passengers were elderly Japanese tourists.

There were also lots of small sofas and tables to read, write and relax on. WiFi was free and  worked very well, and the WiFi connection code was under the bar code of your ticket, so don’t lose it!  However, I searched and walked around for quite some time trying to find a power outlet to plug in my laptop. There were hardly any at all!

Comfort Class - I bet they had power outlets here LOL! @AS Tallink Grupp
Comfort Class – I bet they had power outlets here LOL! @AS Tallink Grupp

The cruise had plenty of cafes and restaurants and prices were very reasonable. They also had a mini-game room for big and little kids. Places are free-seating so you can choose where and how you spend your time while sailing.

There is a comfort class ticket which included a light buffet, non-alcoholic drinks, newspapers and power outlets! Sadly, our ticket was “Star” rather than “Comfort” but for a two hour ride manageable and not really worth the surcharge.

Myself on the M/S Star Tallink mini cruise from Tallinn to Helsinki.
It was rather windy…!

There were cabins on deck and surprisingly, we had the best weather in Finland, as everywhere else had either snow or rain!

The sunroof was brilliant for taking photos and the backdrop of the sea, and there were loads of friendly people helping each other to take photos, with not a selfie-stick in sight LOL!

The return cruise from Helsinki to Tallinn was super crowded with many day-trippers and lots of children. I guess it was because it was a Friday so take note.

So now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty:

The Smart Guide to Travelling to Helsinki.

  • If you’re short on cash, or pushed for time, just take the day-return cruise instead.
  • Finland isn’t really a budget destination so if you’re looking for the lovely treasures of Lithuania or Latvia, then you’re probably in the wrong country!
  • Hostels might not always be the cheapest option in Helsinki and depending on the season, you might actually be better off in a small hotel or B&B after all!
  • If you want to spend a bit of time in Helsinki, then remember, there’s no such thing as “cheap!” Finland is not your typical Baltic State but is Nordic, and with that comes Nordic prices!

At the Old Market Hall or Vanha Kauppahalli in Helsinki, Finland.

  • If you’re making your own meals there are supermarkets aplenty and we were able to buy small snacks and drinks to make our own sandwiches without breaking the bank. Roughly, €9.00 each.
  • Helsinki is famous for it’s culture, and strong Finnish modern design. Take advantage of the Art, Fashion & Design Districts, and marvel at everything you see.
  • Helsinki is quite small in the grand scheme of things and has an efficient public transport system. I recommend using the tram or walking as much as possible.
At the Finnish Museum of Natural History in Helsinki, Finland.
At the Finnish Museum of Natural History in Helsinki, Finland.
  • The museums are fantastic and are reasonably priced such as the Finnish Museum of Natural History. We were so excited that we didn’t know where to start, and had a brilliant time there. Highly recommended and we only paid €5.00 each!
  • The exhibition Mad about Helsinki at the Helsinki City Museum was really interesting and absolutely free.
  • We arrived during the week and weren’t able to join the free walking tour that takes place every weekend but if you’re in Helsinki on either Saturday or Sunday, contact them here.

Art Nouveau in Helsinki, Finland.

  • Helsinki isn’t Riga but it has a pretty impressive Art Nouveau history of it’s own!
  • Free WiFi pretty much everywhere in the city centre.
  • Watch out for taxi prices especially if you’ve just come from the Baltic States. We took a taxi back to the ferry for what was pretty much a four (4) minute ride and to say that the €20.00 surchage shocked me was an under-statement. I was in fact quite horrified, especially as we had walked around there the night before and it had taken us just ten (10) minutes! Why was I so lazy? Why?!

Design District Helsinki, Finland.

  • For fantastic local food go to the Old Market Hall or the Vanha Kauppahalli where you can buy such fare as cheese, seafood, vegetables, fruit and cake and which has been serving customers since 1889!
  • Restaurant prices are ridiculous as they are so high and with a growing lad….Gulp! I had visions of us starving to death! I discovered however, another way to get around this and still have the option of dining out. We ate sushi! Yep! We found that this was rather bizarrely, the cheapest option. We found a Japanese restaurant in the hip Design District where we were staying called Sushi-Ravintola Yamato. The food was fresh and interesting and the staff were lovely and friendly. The evening buffet was just €13.70 each including non-alcoholic drinks. We were stuffed and delighted!
  • Eat as much fish and seafood as you can manage. It’s Finland after all and we’re extremely close to the sea LOL!
Helsinki Hakaniemi Market @Elina Sirparanta
Helsinki Hakaniemi Market @Elina Sirparanta

That’s all this week but there’s just so much that I want to share with you about Helsinki, so next week I’ll be telling you about the Art Design District and how we tried and tested Helsinki’s food culture.

Food Helsinki?

Hel Yeah!!

For more information about mini-cruises around the Baltic Sea, please contact: TALLINK SLJA LINE.

For more information about coach-bus transport in the Baltic States, please contact Lux Express.

For more information about Finland’s capital city, please contact Visit Helsinki.

This article is part-sponsored by Lux Express and TALLINK SLJA LINE but all opinions and the delightful sushi we thoroughly enjoyed, are my very own!

Stay tuned!

A Finland stamp.

The Queen will be visiting Berlin from 23.06.15 – 26.06.15 and I will be doing a documentary, a radio interview and also as an expert panel of Brits on a Live TV show!

I’ll be at the Discover New Artists (DNA) event which is a forum to discover new local and international artists in Berlin, both musically and visually, on 11.06.15.

The 23rd Lesbian and Gay City Festival is taking place between 20.06.15 – 21.06.15.

Fête de la Musique an open-air street music performance day, will take place all around Berlin, on 21.06.14.

Berlin’s Mardi Gras (the 36th) – CSD – Christopher Street Day Gay Pride festivity, will be on 27.06.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin, where the hell are you?

June is thrilling & the Queen’s coming!

Watch this space!

@VisitFinland
@VisitFinland

Have you ever had been to Finland? Do you think these tips about being smart in Helsinki are useful? Are you a fan of sushi?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

How I went to Tallinn in Estonia, a Medieval Old Town surrounded by Danish Castles. How utterly charming!

Tallinn Medieval Days. Kristina Õllek @Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau
Tallinn Medieval Days.
Kristina Õllek @Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau

Wow!

2015 has been something else and pretty extraordinary.

It’s May and I’ve already been to seven (7) countries.

Seven!

Whoop! Whoop!

And some of them are already turning out to be my favourites.

And others not so much!

So where did I go?

In Prague reading something and looking all serious, but not completely serious!
In Prague reading something and looking all serious, but not completely serious!

I went to the city of sin also known as Amsterdam. I also went skiing in the Czech Republic and told you how I fell off the ski lift, but this time I was ill and ended up spending most of my time eating fried cheese and soup! For our family holiday, we went to the relatively unknown Baltic Region and went on an exhausting 26 hour bus journey to Lithuania and spent an interesting time eating pig’s ear in Vilnius! After that, we went to Latvia and the very gorgeous Riga.

Due to other engagements, my husband – The Music Producer – only travelled with us for a week and flew back to Berlin whilst “The Tall Young Gentleman” and I continued the rest of our Baltic cultural adventure together. Once we returned home to Berlin, I prepared myself to go to the TBEX conference and even though I had a great time there, I got abandoned at the airport not only on the outward flight journey but on the return flight too! Thankfully, Barcelona more than made up for it.

Me on the beach at Lloret de Mar, Spain.
Me on the beach at Lloret de Mar, Spain.

I also went to Estonia and Finland but I haven’t written the details yet so I’ll be writing about them in the following weeks.

ESTONY WHAT?

Estoooo-nia.

Sigh!

But alright. OK. Most Europeans don’t know much about it either so cue…

Victoria aka The British Berliner to tell you all about it.

Let’s get back to where I was just a few weeks ago. In the Baltic Region.

ESTONIA

Happy Estonian people!
Happy Estonian people!

Estonia, officially called the Republic of Estonia, is a country surrounded by Finland, Latvia, and Russia. It is considered one (1) of the smallest countries in the European Union, as it only has a country-wide population of 1.3 million people!

An advanced, highly economic country, its history with Finland is tightly connected, coming from an ancient type of Finnish people! The Estonian language stems from Finno-Ugric which is closely related to Finnish and Sami, with a distant link to Hungarian.

Estonia is so far North that it’s on the same latitude as parts of Alaska and Siberia!

Estonia’s modern development has risen so quickly and achieved so much success that Estonia is often described as one of the most wired countries in Europe and has the nickname of “e-Estonia!”

Wow!

Denmarks' flag in 1219.
Denmarks’ flag in 1219.

Here’s a little history:

Eston has just 1.3 million people but has been in the region for over 10,000 years! With Finno-Ugric roots that run thousands of years deep, they are closer to their Nordic cousins in culture and language than to their Baltic neighbours and were ruled by the Danes, Poles, Swedes, Germans and Russians. They became independent in 1918, lost it to half a century of occupation and only regained their independence in 1991 following the Singing Revolution based on the national pride of a society rich in music, creativity and entwined in folk song.

Estonia became a member of the EU and NATO in 2004, uses the Euro as its main currency and is part of a small group of countries known as the Baltic States.

These dolls were a little bit creepy & everywhere in Tallinn, Estonia!
These dolls were a little bit creepy & everywhere in Tallinn, Estonia!

The Baltic States might be small in landmass but the countries are considered to be old European in look, rich culture, enchanting history, and long-established tradition. In fact, quite charming!

Estonia is also a country not well-known and even within the E.U. itself, many Europeans have a hard time remembering what the capital city is or where it is.

It’s Tallinn by the way!

Get ready for the other country in-don’t-be-ridiculous-it’s-a-Nordic-or-perhaps-possibly-in-Eastern-Europe….

TALLINN

Street in the Old Town - Tõnu Tunnel - Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau.
Street in the Old Town
Tõnu Tunnel – Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau.

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is known around the world for its Hanseatic architecture and used to be known as a town call Reval. The preserved cobblestone streets of the city and it’s houses dates back as far as the 11th century in the Medieval age where brave Estonian knights rode through medieval architecture and made pacts with Baltic German nobility!

WHY GO TO TALLINN?

 

Outside the 15th century Epping Tower in Tallinn, Estonia.
Outside the 15th century Epping Tower in Tallinn, Estonia.

The Old Town in Tallinn is a medieval one and just bursting with culture. It is also preserved as part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage and so we went to Tallinn not only once, but twice!

Amid the Gothic houses of merchants and Guild houses, churches and warehouses, Tallinn’s Old Town offers such a medieval flair and authenticity, that no other city in the Baltic region can offer 15th and 16th century towers and walls, as well as the oldest Gothic Town Hall in all of Northern Europe!

The Tallinn Card for visitors & tourists.
The Tallinn Card for visitors & tourists.

With the help of the Tallinn Card 72 hours which was kindly offered to us by the Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau, we were able to explore Tallinn and travel through the city.

Thank you so much.

Did you know that:

  • Only 431,184 people officially live in Tallinn with a considerable number of locals actually living elsewhere!
  • Registered Tallinn citizens can travel the whole city using public transport, completely and utterly for free!
  • You can travel to St. Petersburg from Tallinn by cruise, visa free for 72 hours!
  • Tallinn is the 3rd most popular destination for cruise ships in the Baltic Sea Region.
  • Most people in Tallinn speak Estonian, Russian and English with many also speaking Finnish, German and French too!
Medieval Days in Tallinn - Kristina Õllek - Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau
Medieval Days in Tallinn – Kristina Õllek – Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau.
  • Estonia is considered to be the country with the highest percentage of start-ups per capita in the world. Much more even, than in my lovely Berlin and is one of the leading countries in the world in the development and promotion of e-business and the use of digital information!
  • There are 40 art galleries and exhibit halls.
  • 42 places of worship.
  • 58 museums.
  • 178 cultural societies and associations.
  • And 610 folk culture groups!

TAKE ME THERE?

Pick your poison on the Lux Express!
Pick your poison on the Lux Express!

As you know, we were so lucky to be on a part-sponsorship of the largest international express route coach-bus operator in the Baltic region. An Estonian company called Lux Express, taking us through the Baltic Region by road from Germany, all the way through to Estonia, and back again!

In travelling from Berlin to Lithuania, we were on the cheaper arm of the coach-bus company called Simple Express but once we got to Latvia, we were switched to the more aptly named Lux Express. We also went from Latvia to Estonia by the very same means.

I’ve already given you my verdict about Lux Express which you can find right here and here!

Travelling with Lux Express across the Baltic Region is certainly different from any other coach-bus company that I have either travelled with. And I’ve travelled with a lot LOL!

Relaxing on the Lux Express.
Relaxing on the Lux Express.

And was it worth travelling by coach bus from Latvia to Estonia?

Absolutely!

The seats were wider and bigger, there was a toilet on board and because there were fewer people, was fairly clean! You could recline back quite well, and there were individual screens on the seat with which you could watch films, comedy or TV series, listen to music, play games or go on-line. And there was WiFi that worked fantastically with headphones which were complimentary.

Included in the amazing price was also as much complimentary tea, coffee and hot chocolate as you liked. You just helped yourself as there was a huge drinks machine in the middle of the vehicle. And we did.

Lovely!

The journey from Riga to Tallinn was only 4 hours and 25 minutes.

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

Literally one man and his horse, at the Estonian Open Air Museum!
Literally one man and his horse, at the Estonian Open Air Museum!

Nope!

Less than half a million people live in Estonia’s capital city and it was low season. We went to a few of the more famous sights and we were pretty much the only tourists there.

WHAT IS TALLINN LIKE?

Estonian Young Folk.
Estonian Young Folk.

We were only there for three (3) days but I had heard so many good things about Tallinn that when we returned from Finland, we spent another 1.5 days there too!

Whereas in Lithuania you definitely had the impression that you were in Eastern Europe, Estonia like Latvia, is a completely different kettle of fish. Although I found Riga utterly gorgeous because of it’s history with Art Nouveau, Tallinn was different.

Tallinn has something else.

It too is an Old Europe type of city that recognises it’s traditional roots and looks old-fashioned in character with it’s medieval history and dark, mysterious, romantic stories.

But it’s different.

Fighting with gallant knights.  Raise your sword sir!
Fighting with gallant knights.
Raise your sword sir!

It’s quite historical in look but extremely modern in thought and philosophy.

It’s a city that is very eager to welcome tourists and visitors as right from the taxi-driver to the shop-keeper, everyone was absolutely tip-top. The technology for such a small country was astonishing and everything worked beautifully.

I DON’T SPEAK ESTONIAN.

Not. A. Problem!

Honestly speaking, I have been awfully impressed by how in every Baltic State, English is widely spoken however, if you speak Russian, you won’t be out-of-place either!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

A rural hut at the Estonian Open Air Museum.
A rural hut at the Estonian Open Air Museum.

Not at all. It might be a country from “the other” Eastern Europe but you’re definitely going to be living in civilisation!

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

There are plenty of hostels to be had.

I can’t give you any details but catering to the more budget conscious traveller is available as I saw quite a few hostels in very nice historical buildings!

I’M LOOKING FOR A BIT MORE LUXURY, IS THERE SOMETHING FOR ME?

The exquisite lobby at the Hotel St. Petersbourg.
The exquisite lobby at the Hotel St. Petersbourg in Tallinn, Estonia.

Oh yes indeed!

We stayed at the luxury 5-star boutique hotel – The Hotel St. Petersbourg.

The history of the building dates back to the 14th century and was mentioned for the first time in 1373. In 1850, the hotel was redesigned and it became the oldest operating hotel in Estonia! This elegant hotel was located right in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town, was built in the style of Russian traders, luxury, elegance and Russian cuisine and only has 27 rooms!

We were in one of the twin superior rooms and I can’t under estimate how location and history is absolutely key.

Now, Estonia isn’t the cheapest of places, so when we took a taxi from the bus station to the hotel we braced ourselves…

Happily, our taxi fare was just €10.00 and the taxi driver who was Russian-Estonian was very chatty!

I love a budget as well as anyone but when you’re in “the other” Eastern Europe or in that part of Europe, you can afford to splash out, as it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

One of the public areas at the Hotel St. Petersbourg.
One of the public areas at the Hotel St. Petersbourg in Tallinn, Estonia.

The Hotel St. Petersbourg is 165 years old and has been opened unfailingly, since 1850! Rumour has it that during the old USSR period, the presidents of the Soviet Union used to stay there! The hotel is now a member of the well acclaimed and reputable set of Schlösse Hotels and is the first 5-star hotel in the whole country!

Faaaaancy!

My grilled beef fillet mignon lunch at the Hotel St. Petersbourg.
My grilled beef fillet mignon lunch at the Hotel St. Petersbourg in Tallinn, Estonia.

We were so impressed that we even had lunch with the Director of Sales & Marketing – Mr. Alver Pupart – the very next day. He was a young 35 year old man who was really nice, helpful and friendly, and so we chatted about family and lifestyle, and I think he had such a great time that he gave us an Estonian Recipe Book.

So nice!

Whenever we go on a family holiday, I like to mix things up a little in order to experience a wide variety of accommodation possibilities, to meet the locals, and to stretch our budget in a more comfortable way.

A little luxury at the Hotel St. Petersbourg.
A little luxury at the Hotel St. Petersbourg.

I’ve been in hostels and small family B&B’s but I also like comfort, and I’m not averse to a little luxury.

Our stay at The Hotel St. Petersbourg was an indulgence.

When you book a room on-line, you can never be entirely sure what you’re going to get and can only hold your breath and cross your fingers.

I didn’t know what to expect in Estonia and was surprised at what we received.

Our Twin Superior Room at the Hotel St. Petersbourg.
Our Twin Superior Room at the Hotel St. Petersbourg.

Our twin superior room really lived up to it’s name. Our room was huge and had a very soft, plunging sofa, two (2) other rather nice fancy armchairs, a huge glass table and a few more other small lamp tables dotted around, a writing-table, a very large wardrobe, a mini-bar, coffee and tea making facilities, and an AC unit.

We shared our room of course, but for a young teenager, the traditional board games, the snooker and billiards table available on the second (2nd) floor, the large screen TV, the free WiFi, and a mini iPad for use in the room, was a godsend. “The Tall Young Gentleman” was in his element, and loved everything about The Hotel St. Petersbourg. So much so, that every hotel thereafter, for him, was a disappointment LOL!

A welcome pot of tea at the Hotel St. Petersbourg.
A welcome pot of tea at the Hotel St. Petersbourg in Tallinn, Estonia.

We had and a very nice en-suite bathroom that was fitted out with Gilchrist & Soames beauty products and plenty of fluffy towels and slippers, as well as daily complimentary bottles of water and Tallinn rum-flavoured wafer candy. A generous buffet and a’la carte breakfast of both Baltic and Nordic origin.

Oh yes, the excellent facilities of the hotel also included a free morning sauna between 07:00 – 11:00.

I’m British.

European saunas and fear of the unknown always brings me out in a sweat!

Gulp!

I certaintly won't be going to the sauna European style. Don't forget, I'm British!
I certaintly won’t be going to the sauna European style. Don’t forget, I’m British!

Thankfully, we were able to book out an hourly session and be in the sauna completely alone.

The spa and sauna were on the third (3rd) floor with a very large space, lots of complimentary bottles of water, dressing gowns, slippers, moisturisers, oils and gels, lounge and deck chairs, lockers, a hot cabin, showers to cool down, and absolute privacy.

We wore our swimming things and took in the view.

Very nice!

An Estonian breakfast of cold cuts, Estonian sausages, pate and vegetables at the Hotel St. Petersbourg!
An Estonian breakfast of cold cuts, Estonian sausages, pate and vegetables at the Hotel St. Petersbourg!

For breakfast, we had marvellous cold cuts, pate, a variety of sea-food, vegetables, sauces, pickles and cream. As well as a wide variety of cereal, fruit, bread, cake, pastries, pots of tea, coffee and juices. You could also choose from the a’la carte menu which had freshly made porridge and pancakes too!

All this from €170.00 per night in the Superior Twin Room which for two (2) people including a very generous breakfast and a private sauna would be €85.00 a pop!

This hotel was just so amazing.

We both loved it!

WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN I GET TO TALLINN?

At the Tallinn City Museum.
At the Tallinn City Museum.

We only went for four (4) days so this was a sloooooow cultural family trip.

There is plenty to do in Tallinn and we also had the Tallinn Card 72 hours package which was waiting for us at our hotel. With this card you can:

  • Jump on a hop on, hop off Tallinn city tour (usually €19.00 – €23.00).
  • Go to the Epping Tower (usually €4.00).
  • Learn stuff about the Estonian people at the Estonian History Museum – Great Guild Hall (usually €5.00).
  • Get interactive at the Estonian Museum of Natural History (usually €4.00).
  • Spend the day and run wild at the Estonian Open Air Museum (usually €5.00 – €7.00).
  • Indulge your sweet-tooth at the Kalev Marzipan Museum Room (usually free of charge but you get some home-made marzipan too!)
  • Get inspired at the Kumu Art Museum (usually €6.00).
  • Get some information at the Museum of Occupations (usually €5.00).
Door knocker in Old Town -  Merlen Aringo - Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau
Door knocker in Old Town – Merlen Aringo – Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau
  • Get some history and art at the House of Peter I (usually €2.00).
  • Be fascinated at the Town Prison – Museum of Photography (usually €2.00. The basement is not for children as it has a more erotic element!)
  • Go to the Tallinn City Museum. We loved it (usually €3.20).
  • Merely ramble along the cobbled historical streets.
  • Explore and stroll freely through the backstreets and hidden alleys of history gone.
  • Climb up the steep hills.
  • Hang out in the parks, forests or beach.
  • Make use of the city-wide free WiFi.
  • Be accosted by knights and medieval wenches.
  • Pay your respects in the Jewish Quarter.
  • Check out the various cafes, bars and restaurants for a quick bite and a few rounds of Estonian beer and Russian vodka!
  • Go shopping.
  • Go to the sauna, or get a massage, and relax!

WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORT POSSIBILITIES?

Tallinn is so tiny that everywhere is walkable.

Taxis are very reasonable and local trains, buses and trams are easily available, clean and very safe.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Just look at this spread at the Hotel St. Petersbourg!
Just look at this spread at the Hotel St. Petersbourg!

Estonian food is fantastic with lots of Russian and Finnish influences. You couldn’t do a thing wrong.

I’ll tell you all about it next week!

MY VERDICT:

On the cobbled streets of Tallinn, Estonia.
On the cobbled streets of Tallinn, Estonia.

I like Tallinn.

It’s medieval, It’s got fairy-time gothic spires, cobbled streets and a long history. It’s not a cheap destination by any means, but it’s technologically advance and utterly charming.

If you’re looking for that extra somewhere with a bit more of an edge, a bit more class and luxury, a bit more crisp yet dynamic, and engaged with the modern world, then Tallinn is the place to be.

WOULD I COME AGAIN?

Try and stop me!

I intend to do just that and can’t wait to visit again.

Carry on my good man!

On the walls of the Danish King's Castle!
On the walls of the Danish King’s Castle!

For more information about coach-bus travel to Vilnius, please contact: Lux Express.

For more information about a luxury 5-star boutique hotel, please contact: The Hotel St. Petersbourg.

For more information about the Tallinn Card package, please contact: Visit Tallinn.

This article is part-sponsored by Lux Express and the Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau. We received a 72 hour complimentary Tallinn Card  and we got a little discount on the hotels, but all opinions and the sauna experience that we had, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

Stay tuned!

Next week, I’ll be writing about the fabulous Estonian food and drink. Super!

After that, what the view was like on the ferry crossing from Estonia to Finland with TALLINK SLJA LINE and what we thought about Helsinki in Finland!

If you’re a blogger, just interested in travel or want to hang out, then we’re having a Berlin Travel Massive Chapter Meeting on 28.05.15.

The Berlin Music Video Awards will be taking place from May 27.05.15 – 30.05.15 and I will be attending as “press.” It’s going to be exciting.

The Berlin Fashion Film Festival will be taking place on 05.06.15.

 I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin where the hell are you?!

May & June are going to be absolutely packed!

Watch this space!

Church Clock in the Old Town.
Church Clock in the Old Town.

Have you ever been to Estonia? Do you think Villnius is gorgeous or just medieval? Is Estonia in Eastern Europe or Nordic?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!