02 November 2009
Estonians = Amazing
Disembarking from the ferry felt more like saying farewell to a mega cruise on board the “Baltic Breeze.” Our ride from Helsinki to Tallinn was just two hours but our boat was equipped with a pub, a restaurant, a burger joint, a business lounge (for serious people wearing suits and such) a mini-mall, a reception desk a FULLY FUNCTIONING supermarket and yes, even state rooms. What was missing? Enough seats for everyone on board. I felt like I was on a floating city, which Matt explained is what a cruise is like. “But why do you bother getting on the boat if it’s just everything that’s on land, only in miniature form,” I asked. “Because it’s fun!” Oh yes, of course.
We were met at the “ferry” terminal by Martin (right) - our couchsurfing host extraordinaire. Begin sequence of events that certify Estonians are indeed the most generous people in Scandinavia (and quite possibly Europe). First, he gave us his room and stayed with his friend Hannes who lives outside the city. GAVE IT TO US. We had met him five minutes earlier. Second, he took care of every reservation, booking or plan that had to be made for us - buses, cars and even lodging with other friends around the city!
Then there is Hannes - compatriot of Martin, EU power broker and social secretary for all of Estonia. He found us lodging in Latvia and - alongside Martin and Jaak (the artsy, cool dancer who gives your gang “street cred”) - managed to plan one of the greatest weekends of my life. From delicious meals to raging nights on the town, the “Tallinn Trio” were phenomenal. Naturally, the magic did not stop there.
“Everyone has heard you’re here,” Hannes tells us. “It’s a small city and news travels fast. You’re going to be very popular.” By the end of Friday evening we had no doubt left an impression on Tallinn in general and my future wife, were she 30 years younger or were I 30 years older. I’ll call her Betsy to protect her anonymity, but she is the Queen B of at Club Angel and decided she loved us, which was the perfect build-up to Saturday night.
On Saturday night we attended the birthday party of Ep - friend of Martin, Hannes and Jaak as well as the most popular person in Tallinn. She and a friend rented an entire art gallery which still wasn’t big enough for their myriad of friends, acquaintances, Estonian celebrities and random Americans who decided to turn up. Betsy (my Estonian wife) had already come and gone speaking of “the two Americans who changed her life” with all her would listen. As such, by the time we arrived it felt as if all eyes were on these strange Americans. Over the course of the evening we ran into Tallinn’s star weather man and - wait for it - the daughter of Estonia’s Oprah! At the post party I was sitting chatting to a lovely Estonian woman about the city only to learn afterward that she was Estonia’s biggest celebrity. In fact, as she left, everyone just stopped and stared.
Apparently there is a “scenester” newsletter that comes out every Tuesday and we may or may not have made it in. That may officially solidify our place in Estonian history forever. In the meantime, one more thank you to the stellar “Tallinn Trio” for an amazing visit.
One final note on Estonia: There is wireless internet everywhere and by everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE. From museums to restaurants to shopping malls to supermarkets in teeny tiny villages, the entire country is completely wired with FREE wifi. Compare that to the good old US of A where you can’t get online anywhere and when you can, you have to have a monthly plan with some company that offers dial-up speed at broadband prices. I mean, seriously America? We need to get this together!