I was really excited at the prospect of entering Tallinn, so I don’t want to be a wet blanket and rain on my own parade or anything, but if I’m being really honest, I’d have to say navigating the Estonian public transport system at 7am after a 16-hour bus ride from Poland was not something I enjoyed doing. And I enjoy most challenges.
Finding the right bus stop in the multi-faceted Warsaw bus terminal was emotionally-challenging enough, so when I arrived in Tallinn super-early in the morning to find a severe lack of signage, memories of the previous day came flooding back. On top of that, I’d had next-to-no sleep, the air was cold, the torrential rain was…torrential, and I had only consumed two coffees, a litre of juice, and around 10 sour-tasting berries that I thought were blueberries in a 24-hour period.
When you’re travelling alone, you quickly discover that losing the will to go on achieves nothing because no one in your vicinity knows you enough to care – you learn top deal with situations pretty efficiently. So I stood there with my giant bag and remembered piloting my way through torrents of snow in Iceland, having to illegally hitchhike in Bulgaria, spending 13-hours overnight on a packed train in India, and visiting the Tower of London in Jeffrey Campbell’s during flash floods, and I realised getting from the bus station to town couldn’t be nearly that difficult, got over it, and started looking for solutions.
After unsuccessfully trying to connect to the bus station wifi (the wifi signup page involved inputting a password you could only retrieve by checking your emails…just think about that for a minute), I milled around for a while trying to decipher what few signs I could see, eventually used an offline map to find a tram stop, and found a Swiss guy who was trying to get to Helsinki.
Together we trudged to the tram stop, arrived, put our bags down, bought tickets from the machine (which was very easy, thankfully), and met a supremely drunk man who tried to give us directions to the tram stop we were already at. We all got on the same tram and, despite our best efforts to convince him otherwise, Drunk Man attached himself to the idea that Swiss man and I were Netflix and chilling on the regular, and went on to talk about a host of things that basically boiled down to ‘don’t get married, it’s not worth it, Netflix and chilling is better’.
After bidding farewell to Drunk Man and Swiss Man, I hopped off at the stop on the outskirts of the old town of Tallinn, and I realised I’d have to walk the rest of the way.
It was still raining at this stage. A lot.
If you’ve ever been to Europe, you’ll be familiar with the layout of the majority of towns and cities – there’s the new part, and the old part. With cobbled streets, medieval architecture, floral windowpanes, stone castles, cathedrals, and a host of historical monuments, the old town is almost always where you want to be if you’re a tourist. On the other hand, due to the narrow streets adorned with ancient relics, and a lack of modern-day infrastructure, you usually have to leg it around the place yourself, which is fine if you don’t have a 20kg backpack (like me), and the old town you’re in isn’t on a hill (like Tallinn).
I heaved my way up the stony hill in the rain with the assistance of a map, spent the usual 20-odd minutes being lost, discovered I had been floundering around in front of my destination for a solid five-minutes, realised the hostel was locked, asked a nearby shopkeeper (a bemused 16-year-old) if I could use her phone, contacted the hostel and asked them to unlock the door, walked inside, made coffee, and felt pretty pleased with myself.
Sure, I wasn’t allowed in to my room for an additional five-hours due to my early arrival, but you know, it still felt pretty good to finally be there, so I went back down to the bemused 16-year-old and bought a pile of chocolate for breakfast in celebration because I’m an adult and I can do what I want.