When my brother and sister were visiting, we decided to go to Tallinn on a day cruise from Helsinki. It meant getting up really early on quite a cold and windy day to catch our boat before the 8 am departure. I expected the boat to be a lot like the ships that go between islands in Greece, but it was a bit more than that. We parked ourselves unfortunately near the stage in one of the bar areas of the ship, and the next three hours were filled with unrelenting cheesy old-time Finnish music. As soon as we got on the boat, everyone around us—the average age being about 60—started drinking. I was barely awake, let alone ready for a beer.
The other funny thing on the boat was the duty-free store downstairs. It was full of employees giving out free samples of the alcohol on offer. I was talked into testing a shot of non-Bailey’s Irish cream, which was pretty good, but the thought of anything else (especially some kind of cinnamon-flavored “Fire Whiskey” that is exactly like Goldschläger, the smell of which immediately conjures up memories of vomiting) made me feel ill.
When we got to Tallinn it was lunchtime, and we set off for Sfäär, a hip and happening restaurant recommended by the New York Times in its serendipitous “36 Hours in Tallinn” column, published only days before we went. The low prices and great food and cool vibe made this place a winner. The main downsides were the lackluster desserts and the crazy soundtrack—nothing but 3 Lana del Rey songs and their various remixes on repeat. We seriously heard Video Games come on seven times over the course of our lunch.
My pictures turned out badly but here is what we got:
Water with an jaunty cucumber slice and an herbal sprig in it, complete with Iittala glassware (Finnish design!).
My brother Sean’s chicken and potato croquettes with picked pumpkin cubes.
My sister Evelyn’s lamb patty with mashed potatoes and a roasted tomato (stacked to a goofy, teetering height).
Veli-Matti’s wild boar patty with potatoes and a mushroom sauce.
And my really excellent but basic Caesar salad with pesto chicken (I still wasn’t quite over the queasy feeling of the morning).
Plus really tasty, molasses-flavored dark bread (with a wooden butter knife).
The desserts were just ok, except for the cream puff, which was billed as a “curd pastry.” It was highly recommended in the NYT article, but the “curd” inside was like whipped cream left in a dirty sock overnight. It was inedible.
After lunch we went on a walking tour of the city, aided by some print-offs I had compiled from various internet sources. It was a cold and windy day but I really enjoyed walking around the city’s medieval Old Town. We managed to see every highlight on my inexpertly-produced itinerary.
By this time two hours or so had passed, and we had time only for a coffee before going back to catch the ship. We stopped at a cute, and again very cheap, chocolate shop-cum-coffeehouse. It was a nice place to warm up before going back to the ship.
On the return journey, my alcohol-aversion had passed, but now sleepiness had set in on our group. So the ride back was just as non-party as the ride there. (Minus the terrible music since we learned to go nowhere near the stage!)