Monday 13th January 2020
We had an early start for our train journey to Tallinn.
As you walk down the platform, the provodnitsa [or provodnik for male] carriage attendants] stand smartly by the entrance to the carriage under their care. Ours was a formidable looking woman who proved, unsurprisingly, to be kind and helpful.
Although we were boarding the train at 06:25 it was the sleeper train from Moscow and we found we had a room with two berths, rather than seats.
As we had woken early, we did find we were sleepy enough to take a power nap but were woken by our provodnitsa in time for breakfast.
There is an hour’s time difference between the two countries so although theoretically we were gaining an hour in our day, the combined border controls and customs checks on each side of the border took around two hours.
First, Russian passport control took our passports away then a selection of Russian Customs and Excise staff visited the compartment. One asked us to open our ruck sacks and gave these a cursory glance. Another appeared with a sniffer dog who ignored Matilda’s supply of St Petersburg and Earl Grey tea [you are allowed to import these] but correctly identified that Robert was transporting medication across the border. He was asked to open his suitcase. As he was able to produce the prescription labels and identify the capsules as antibiotics and blood pressure tablets, he was allowed to repack the bag. The dog was rewarded with a treat.
We were then visited by a further member of staff who simply told us we needed to get “out”. As we had been napping we both put our shoes back on but when Matilda reached for her coat it transpired that he only wanted us to move into the corridor. He must have thought we were very particular about our socks. A further visual search was conducted with the aid of a torch.
Our passports were eventually returned with the exit section of visas stamped.
So, after some delay we watched as the train crossed the boarder between Russia and Estonia.
Having moved just a few 100 metres forward, our train stopped again, and our passports were checked by Estonian Border Control and the carriage searched again this time by Estonian Customs and Excise. Almost two hours after we reached the border, we continued our journey into Tallinn.
Having settled into our hotel we took a stroll into the historic central square.
The Town Hall Pharmacy [Raeapteek] on the main square in Tallinn is the oldest one in Europe to have continuously provided a dispensing service from the same premises. It was mentioned in the town records as far back as 1422.
There were all sorts of strange exhibits in the museum area and we were not at all sure we would have wished to be prescribed some of them or what they would have been efficacious in treating.
The staff were pleasant and welcoming but we felt they must become rather tired of the sightseers – there seemed to be more tourists than customers when we popped in. Nevertheless, Matilda was slightly bemused when Robert suddenly announced that he had “had enough” and walked briskly out. After she had perused a few more exhibit labels she meekly followed him outside where we “bumped into” our good friends Liz and Martin [see Selfie of the day below].
After exclamations and hugs it transpired that Liz and Robert had been scheming for months to arrange a surprise meeting for Matilda and Martin.
We repaired to a local hostelry which Liz and Martin had visited the night before, to get out of the cold and catch up. Robert and Liz shared anecdotes about the moments when the cat might have escaped the bag. Our car reads out text messages and one from Liz was broadcast as we were driving to Solihull after Christmas but as it seemed to make no sense, Matilda assumed, incorrectly, it had been sent to the wrong person. Robert ”King of the spreadsheets” however, was slightly disappointed that Martin believed Liz’s excuse that his poor quality planning regarding dates was the reason that we would not be able to meet up.
The four of us continued to stroll round some sights passing St Olaf’s Church, which was considered to be the tallest building in Europe in the Middle Ages but which is temporarily closed at the moment . . .
. . . and the Nun’s Tower [out of shot] and Town Wall walkway as well as . . .
. . .the Town Hall itself.
Tallinn looked beautiful at night and we were all looking forward to seeing more of the city in daylight the following day.