The BEEF – Plan B

We leave the KGB museum and bust it back across to Old Town. Almost getting on narmz o’clock but we decide to use the remaining daylight to try and find an overlook of the city by the Toompea Castle. This brings us back around to the Kök.

We skirt the Tallinn walls through a cool crumbly arch…

…and come out into the streets again by St Mary’s

We pass a memorial commemorating the Estonian War of Independence

The Estonians declared themselves as independent in Feb of 1918 but were then marched upon by German troops the very next day. But after WWI and the German Revolution the Germans decided to give it back and that’s when Soviet Russia thought they’d have a go. In a tumultuous November of 1918, the Russians took the border town of Narva with eyes on Tallinn. An Estonian army made up largely of volunteers fighting for their country started to counter. They were soon aided by naval and air forces from the UK, and eventually more volunteers from Finland and Latvia and a handful of Swedes. The fighting lasted until early 1920 and a peace treaty was drawn up in Feb of that year telling the Russians to keep their mitts off the place…

…which they did until 1939 when it was taken by the USSR, then rolled by Hitler’s Nazis in 41, then retaken by Stalin in 1944 and remained part of communist Russia until 1991 when it collapsed and they re-declared their independence and formed the Republic of Estonia.

Canadian Embassy – WooT!

Ahh we’re back by the remarkable Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

(Should we just get Estonians to do all the cathedral restorations on Earth from now on? I mean… look at this thing)

Let’s take a quick gander inside…  Definitely not meant for tourists (the signs even indicate that tourists should check themselves, and are excluded from much of the cathedral).  This helpful guide keeps us in line:

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Napoleon Dynamite’s brother says shhhhhh.  We don’t get any other pictures obviously, cause we’re respectful like that. We also let our wild dog pack run free outdoors while we scope the scene. It’s very serious, aside from the sales of icons. We throw a Euro in the donation bin and get out.

The cathedral is just across from the Parliament buildings so we dip down beside those too.

It opens up into a magnificent lawn and garden area and yet another fantastic tower.

Pretty, symmetrical, well maintained gardens

Which overlooks a park down below.

Around the corner from this we find the overlook we were overlooking for.

It’s official, Tallinn is crushing the beauty department.

This is stenciled on the wall right beside the look-off. The times we had indeed.

Enjoying the view lil buddy?

Good use of the day, wow. Walked all over Tallinn, got to the museum of towers and tunnels, checked out a KGB museum, a cathedral, parliament and a city overlook. Worked off that Full English Breakfast and are ready for the main course. Wasn’t that Georgian restaurant right around here?

Tbilisi

The Georgian restaurant is rustic, with all sorts of random stuff mounted on the walls. It’s like a three-hundred year old TGI Friday’s but with swords and daggers on the wall.  The music is traditional Georgian tunes that sound like they’re played on a lute – somehow Shazam doesn’t recognize it, “What do you mean I can’t Shazam this 14th century lute song?” 

Not many people in here so we pretty much get our pick of places to sit. We choose a small raised section that looks regal enough and the owner-lady takes us over.

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The restaurant is named after the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. We never got there on the Mongol Rally, unfortunately, though I did hear good things about that city.

<rallyrant>

(Let’s see if I can spill this out over a few run-on sentences)

No, in a 24 hour period, Peter and I drove our asses off across all of Turkey south of the Black Sea, through most of Georgia and just as we were getting to see the lights and buildings of Tbilisi we made a hard left for Azerbaijan and booked it to Baku. Why? Because McFuckinBurger couldn’t secure an Azeri visa and had flown from Istanbul to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan but then only had a five day visa to work with there. So we needed to somehow race to get there, find him, and extract him into Uzbekistan. Of course the car broke down a few times along the way and, despite acquiring the services of a fixer named Ishmael in the Azeri capital of Baku, Turkmenistan was having a hissy fit with Azerbaijan at the time over oil in the Caspian Sea and weren’t sending the Russian container ship we’d secured back across it to pick us up. So we were late getting there.

On top of that James wasn’t receiving any of our messages describing this shitshow because twitter and facebook are both dictator-blocked in Turkmenistan. So he was running out of time and having a minor freak-out of his own, penniless because there are no bank machines in the fucking country, and resorting to sleeping on sofas in the basement of hotels when no one was looking, eating scraps and shit like that. Then the Admiral breaks down an hour outside of the city (after a brutal 12 hour A -> T border crossing off the boat and then flying across shit roads that were melted where transport trucks had driven. Never seen anything like it) and we have to flag down a friendly truck driver and draw pictures to communicate that we have a rope if he’ll be so kind… Only to get to Ashgabat and find out the alternator is blown and there are no parts like that in all of Turkmenistan (or Vauxhauls / Opels at all for that matter).

Luckily the hotel where we found MacKay also had the British Embassy on the 4th floor (We’d spotted MacKay randomly through a window lurking behind the restaurant we were eating at while discussing how in the hell we were gonna find the guy). The Embassy dudes drove us around in a blacked out Land Rover to the only bank machine in the city (in a totally deserted 7-star hotel, very weird) and the main dude was a total boss and forced some mechanic to fix the damn Admiral despite the aforementioned challenges finding parts. Then that guy ended up being a fucking car ninja and jimmy-rigged a BMW alternator on the Opel to get it moving again (and our air conditioning seriously leveled up a few notches to boot). So while our visas were running out and James was now in the country illegally we dashed across Turkmenistan for the Uzbek border. And didn’t make it. And slept in the car to avoid authorities. And then crossed the next day. Ahhhhh good stuff (all stories for another time)

</rallyrant>

We relate this whirlwind of nonsense to Agent Oogie as we peruse the menus while he’s just shaking his head at the whole shebang. Looks good, time to family dinner this place with a bunch of plates to share. We start with a cold eggplant dish ‘Badridzani Nigvzit’, and a spinach and nuts dish called ‘Phali Ispanakis’, all good. Are those pomegranates? nice.

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For our main courses, we get a kebab-style thing, a meat pie, and a bowl full of all sorts of stuff that looks spicy, but really isn’t.

It’s called Tsanahi and has eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and beef in it. Not overly flavorful actually.

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Kababi K’isturi – a pork kebab with slightly spicy red sauce, onions, basil, pomegranate, pickled goodies and roast potatoes. This one may have won best of the plates.

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Kubdari – a simple looking lamb pie that packs a lot of flavor. “It’s like a lamb sausage in a pastry”, “The Georgian Corndog!”

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Mad Murphy’s

After dinner we make an obligatory trip into Mad Murphy’s Irish Bar since, also on the Mongol Rally, we were in a place with the same name in Almaty, Kazakhstan (and that’s a serious shitshow story for another time). 

Standard Irish sports bar material here. We post up at the bar and get a round of beers.

It’s a classy establishment

We continue to formulate a plan at the bar. We’ve pretty much decided that we’ll take the ferry across to Finland for something we’ve coined as ‘Day Drinki Helsinki’. Fairly self explanatory one there, but we figure we’ll get over early and spend the day bouncing between bars and any touristy sites there may be. “Doesn’t look that great to be honest”, “Really? Bars or sights?”, “Maybe both”, “Oh there’s gotta be fun to be had”, “It will also be raining. And colder than here”, Oogie is looking at it too, “Aaaand flights out of there kind of suck too actually.” Well shit.

We get another round of beers to sauce up the brain spinners but somehow it doesn’t help with the planning process. Phones are also crashing after a full day of taking pics in museums and exploring. Alright, let’s head back to Munkenhoff, charge up and really figure this shit out.

The BEEF – Plan B

We get back to the hostel and take up positions on each bed with our phones out. Feels weird to come up with something as fun sounding as Day Drinki Helsinki and not go do it. But it isn’t checking off enough boxes for it to really be worth it so we start re-evaluating the Plan B we were formulating back in the 100 Beer Tunnel. That is, to get to Vienna and hit Budapest, Bratislava, Belgrade, Bucharest and then the Balkan countries from there. Four cities relatively close together that all start with B, then the Balkans, hence Plan B (because if we were actually keeping track of how many times our plans change this would be about Beta Eff 3.6). Should be easy for Oogie to dip out from any of these places too, so that’s a bonus. We start looking at flights to Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and Belgrade.

Yeah, Oogie’s right, Helsinki isn’t that great to fly out of. “What about just leaving tomorrow and go somewhere. Save a day and a ferry ride, skip Finland and just go straight into one of those places from here? It’s gonna rain anyways, not great for Day Drinki Helsinki”, “Hmmm, yeah. Could do”, “Actually the best option so far that I’ve found looks like Munich. Tallinn to Munich. Not at stupid o’clock, it’s the cheapest thing I’ve found, aaaaaand it’s tomorrow”, “Oh shit. Well I’ve never been to Munich”, “No, me neither”, “Fuck it. Let’s go to Munich!”

Alright, flights to Munich are only 100 Euro, which is incredible. It leaves at 10:45 which is easily doable even if we go full bombardo tonight (say the guys who missed their flights to Singapore that time), and it gets in at 3:25 so we can still have a bit of daylight left when we get there. Everybody in? Yep. Alright get em. Done. Done. aaaaaaaand MacKay’s transaction times out on him and he doesn’t know if he got them or not. Classic. Well at least Oogie and I are going to Munich in the morning.

Fuck yeah, feels good to get that figured out. Time to celebrate. Plan B is in the works. Fly to Munich, train it down to Austria and then hit up Plan B -> Budapest, Bratislava, Belgrade, Bucharest and down into the Balkans. Sounds like a fucking awesome trip. With that settled we saddle back up and get out onto the cobblestones for one last turn at Tallinn.

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