Saturday, July 30, 2011

Twenty-Second Word: Excursion

excursion- from Latin, noun of action from pp. stem of excurrere "run out, run forth, hasten," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + currere "to run". Sense of "journey" recorded in English by 1660s.

This week Jordan, Alex and I took a "last hurrah" trip to Estonia's capital, Tallinn. After working long and hard to get 13,000 words on my dissertation before our travels, I almost felt as if this excursion was my act of "running out" of Edinburgh to get as far away from my laptop as possible. While we were planning this trip, friends and family kept asking, "Why Tallinn?". Here's why:

I forgot what it was like to be hot. 

When you are used to 50-60F weather ALL. YEAR. ROUND. in Edinburgh, 80F and humid is pretty shocking. In Michigan, you build up a desire for heat and humidity during the long, cold winter months. I secretly enjoyed sweating for once and I already miss my shorts and flip-flops now that we're home.

Anyway, here's a brief synopsis of our three days in Estonia:

The night we arrived:
-we ate dinner at an underground German pub/restaurant, more of an experience than we thought. It was completely empty except for us. We had great and inexpensive food. The appetizer we ordered was brought to us without the accompanying small plates so we opened our napkins and ate off of those. Some translator for the menu decided that "Additives" would be the heading for the list of side dishes. And instead of playing typical pub music what was playing? yes, it was polka. oddly, this was not our only encounter with polka on this trip...
-we meandered through Old Town after dinner and found a pub called Hell Hunt ("affectionate wolf" or basically "good doggie"). This became our staple pub while we were in Tallinn.

Day 1
-Food is always a cultural experience wherever you go. The night before we bought decent looking cereal and some milk for the next morning. Well, we bought tasteless Cardboard Crunchies or something because it was terrible. And the milk actually had yogurt cultures in it so it was soured and thick. eeewww
-We headed up Toompea Hill where the Russian orthodox cathedral and the parliament buildings are located. It was full of tourists but sickeningly cute. Great views out over the city.
-On our way to lunch in a neighborhood of Tallinn we walked through Balti Jaar market, which was a cultural experience to say the least. This open-air market was selling anything from bras to russian baked goods and rotting produce.
-The 3.50 Euro lunch we had was fabulous though. That translates to about $5 (drinks included) so we wound up paying about 12 euro for the three of us.
-We walked through a shady area (which means awesome pictures of rust and erosion) on our way to a former Soviet prison on the coast. We walked along the Baltic Sea a bit until we got to a behemoth concert hall/part-time Soviet fortress that we wandered around.
-We had amazing crepes at Kompressor restaurant and then went to Krug Inn for beer. Krug Inn is a medieval pub selling "Worthy elk soup full of taste" and 6 kinds of pies, all for 1 euro each. "Every drink calls for 2 euro money" so it was really cheap! You could also "catch your own pickles" out of a barrel :) Awesome, we stopped by every day for a pie, they were so good!

Day 2
-Being so hot and so near water we had to head to the beach. We, of course, got off at the wrong bus stop but got to walk down a woodland trail to find our way back. The boys swam and I sun-bathed. The water was a bit too cold for my taste. There were jellyfish everywhere! I love the ocean :)
-After a hot afternoon we went back for showers and went to dinner at yet another underground pub and guess what they were playing? polka! Halfway through our meals, what should come on the radio but, oh my gosh, Old MacDonald Had a Farm. yes, in German. All I understood was the E-I-E-I-O. I don't know which was worse though, that that song was playing in a pub or that neither Jordan nor Alex could remember how the song goes in English!
-We walked around parts of Old Town we hadn't been to after dinner and got some drinks to bring up to the hill in Vabaduse (Freedom) Square where we wound up most evenings for sunset.

Day 3
-We took a tram to Kadriorg Gardens where the Kadriorg Palace and the President's Palace are. We saw both. At the President's Palace we got to see the changing of the guard. It's weird how we could just walk down the driveway and stand in front of the Palace (house) because you certainly can't in Washington, DC or even here in Edinburgh.
-We thrift-shopped our way back into Old Town and headed to a neighborhood south of where we were staying to get lunch at a cool cafe. The area of town we were in left something to be desired though so after about an hour of meandering we made it back to Hell Hunt for final beers. We went to a really fancy dinner of duck, rabbit, and mutton only to top it off with (of course) soup and pies from Krug Inn :)

Tallinn is a must for anyone travelling to eastern Europe. It was as charming, if not more so, than Bruges, and bigger. It was cleaner and more "western" than Budapest, but it was quite touristy in Old Town. Also, for being on the Euro it was really inexpensive!  I wouldn't recommend Estonia for their beer culture (or lack there of) though.There are quick hops to Helsinki and Stockholm by ferry. We had such a good time and it was great going with one of our best friends, Jordan. If this is the last excursion we take before we come home in less than a month then it was a really great one.

Say What?
As three linguists, we really enjoyed trying to figure out Estonian as best we could with what little we knew ahead of time. You can figure out a surprising amount if you try. Like laim is...lime. Easy, right? Ok, now you try:
yea, ok.

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