10 Thing to do on your First Time in Estonia
Stay at Telegraaf Hotel
Talk about getting your wires crossed — with delightful results. The charming hotel in the Old Town was built by an architect from St. Petersburg in 1878. It started life as a bank but turned into a post and telegraph office after Estonia’s independence. Destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt in 2005 and now functions as a quaint 86-room boutique hotel with a spa, an indoor heated swimming pool and the Restaurant Tchaikovsky, which “presents a symphony of Russian cuisine”. Bookings at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dine at Art Priori
Art resides on the walls as well as on plates here, so it’s difficult to know where to look. The restaurant works as a gallery with changing exhibitions. When I visited, the walls had ‘photo paintings’ in the style of the European Old Masters with the restaurant staff, playing dress up, as subjects. Everything on the menu is scrumptious, from the home-made bread and pate to the stuffed quail to the ‘smoking forest’ desert. There are lots of vegetarian options, by the way. If you can’t decide, try the degustation menu.
Satisfaction guaranteed. www.artpriori.ee
Admire the art at Kadrciorg Palace
Think of it as Estonia’s Taj Mahal. Peter the Great of Russia bought the then manor house as a token of love for his wife Catherine. She didn’t care for it after his death. So the building was totally overhauled in the 1820s by Nicholas I and, following Estonia’s independence, became state property. Today, the grand baroque palace set in the midst of glorious gardens with an opening hall reminiscent of Wedgwood china, contains some 9,000 works of art from western Europe and Russia.
Down a few schnapps at Olde Hansa
While people do come to partake of the two-hour feasts offered by the restaurant, which is set up like the home of a 15th-century Hanseatic merchant, I’d advise you to drop by to soak in the medieval atmosphere and down the evocatively-named house schnapps (aquavitae with caraway seeds, healing drop with peppers, Monk’s bride) and the dark honey house beer. The staff, dressed in period costume, is chummy and knowledgeable and happy to pose for as many selfies as you want. What’s not to like? Reservations at www.oldehansa.ee/
Visit Seaplane Harbour
In 1939, Estonia took delivery of two British-made submarines. Kalev was taken over by the Soviet Navy in 1940, reported missing the next year and never heard of again. The other, Lembit, finds pride of place in the 8,000 sq m hangar that’s part of this martime museum. There’s also a century-old steam-powered icebreaker, Maasilinn, the oldest sunken ship found in Estonia’s waters, a mini yellow submarine, seaplanes, mines, and lifesized naval figures—displayed at three levels: in the air, on the sea and under water.
Eat at Kõu Manor
This 13th century manor, which does double duty as a boutique hotel and restaurant, cannot be rushed through. Every room, every gorgeous artefact commands attention as do the sprawling grounds that contain a Coach House with a sauna and indoor swimming pool. The spectacular Eight Legs Restaurant, which derives its name from the tentacle-shaped chandelier, offers a seasonal menu inspired by journeys around the world. A must-visit. Bookings at www.kau.ee
Go walkabout in the Old Town
This colourful cluster of gabled houses, churches and open courtyards, which is on the Unesco World Heritage List, was built in the 13th to 16th centuries and was earlier known as Reval. Next to the market square stands the Town Hall, built in 1402-1404. Though not particularly imposing, the building is interesting as a marker of history and the ancient tapestries it houses. This is the only Gothic town hall left intact in Northern Europe, and is now used mainly for concerts or for receiving VIP visitors, such as Indira Gandhi in 1982.
Lunch by the waterfront at Noa
The setting of this cheerful, seaside restaurant is spectacular. Located on the border of Tallinn and Viimsi, Noa’s glass walls afford diners a breathtaking view of the Old Town skyline across the bay. The wine list is imaginative as is the eclectic menu (think king crab legs, moose pie and Nordic pizza with sour cream). There’s also a seven-course degustation prepared by super chef Tõnis Siigur. Noa is far from cheap, but it’s always packed, so make a reservation.
Have a spa treatment at Vihula
The idea of luxury in Estonia is decidedly different from what we’re used to in India. But the picture-perfect grounds, quaint bridge and painstakingly renovated ensemble of historical buildings more than make up for the bare rooms and basic bathrooms in the ‘full-service manor resort’ set in the wildlife-rich Lahemaa National Park that’s just 4 km away from the Baltic Sea. And yes, the spa treatments are swell. www.vihulamanor.com
Loll at the airport
Tallinn airport is tiny compared to most international airports, but therein lies its charm. There are the regular duty-free products on sale, but much more attractive are the local specials such as the Estonian vodka, juniper crafts, faux (and real) fur and linen produce. Also enchanting are techni-coloured lounge chairs, and a library that operates on trust and allows travellers to take away books on the promise that they’ll be back with them.
Courtesy of The New Indian Express (First Published in July 2016)