Winter Explorations

Our Holiday Adventures in North Eastern Europe

When opportunities arise, we tend to hop to it with little reservation. Earlier this autumn, I started talking with an entrepreneurial program located in Estonia and began to learn a lot about the region. Intrigued with the massive change that’s occurring throughout northeastern Europe, and specifically Estonia, we jumped at the chance for a house swap. Our Chinatown, New York City apartment for a great spot just outside Old Town Tallinn, Estonia. Such a beautiful medieval city, rich with history.

To be honest, we were a bit worried. After living in New York for close to a decade, we’ve experienced our fair share of long, cold winters. But the northern Baltics. In December and January!? We thought for sure this would be the coldest Christmas of our lives. We came prepared. Unnecessarily! This was the first black Christmas many locals could even remember. So, we were thankful. However, it rained – a lot. But more of a semi-constant drizzle rather than a torrential down pour. All in all, a good time for us to visit Estonia for the first time.

I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.

Maya Angelou

A great location for travelers.

Many, if not most, people speak English or another foreign language and it proves quite simple to navigate the area. Every corner turned reveals a new discovery. We can wander the streets for hours, popping into small boutiques with local handmade faire, and then enjoying a small cup of rich coffee complimented with a kaneelisai – the best little cinnamon roll one could imagine! The town square hosts an idyllic Christmas market with a variety of pop-up shops. Be sure to try the glogia – Jen’s favorite spiced wine! The food in Old Town is excellent, and there’s a wide variety of restaurants from which to choose. Again, be sure to explore as there are many tucked away little gems.

Our first day wandering the cobblestone streets of Tallinn, we came around a corner and spot this bicycle. We immediately thought it’d be the perfect bike for Jen! This scene – while quite simple – made us feel at home in a foreign culture and context. While Tallinn is a beautiful city, the warmth and friendliness of the people was wonderful. I suspect we were just a few, if not the only, Americans in the city for Christmas.

The greatest reward of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.

The Christmas market on the square in the heart of Old Town is perfection. While I’m sure the locals find it slightly irritating, the scene is beautiful. With lots of pop up shops providing local handmade faire, warm glog, snacks and treats of all kinds, a train, and of course a few reindeer can, one can spend much time and money if not cautious.

The Baltic Sea is mesmerizing. We wandered the shoreline along Tallinn and other rural areas of Estonia (more on those adventures later). It’s beautiful – serene – almost hypnotizing.

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