Tallinn - the Modern City

Except for the walk to Kadriorg we haven't seen much of Tallinn outside the old town, which is Estonia's favourite showpiece.

Despite the appealing front you do see poverty here and there. Shabby men with wild beards walk about. Empty bottles lie on benches in the early hours. Old women inspect waste bins.

Today we want to see the modern city centre. There are tall new buildings of glass and steel: hotels, office buildings, banks and big money. Except for the text on signs you could be anywhere - the architectonic imagination of money is universally poor.

Tram in Tallinn

We cannot even spot a small luxury shop. Of course they must be somewhere, but not here. Traffic seems pretty intense, and all trams are run by women. Men drive the buses.

We spot a big shining building with "Forum" on the front. It is open. The shops with fashion clothes and shoes don't open until 10, but essentially that makes no difference to us.

I wonder if the ventilation adds perfume to the air? Or is it detergent? It stinks, and I can taste the perfume for several minutes after we have left this Mekka of fashion.

Back in the Old Town

We would have liked to find a department store, so we could sniff around and get a feeling for Estonian taste and price levels; but we give up and walk back to the old town.

From a bastion at Toompea

The old town seems quiet after the visit to the modern world. It is also quieter than during the weekend. Finns and Swedes like to go on weekend trips to Tallinn. We drop into the patisserie by the national museum. It is quite busy even on a Monday before noon.

I suggest a visit to the Museum of the Recent Occupations. The brochures are at the hotel, so we drop by the tourist office to get the address. It turns out that the museum is closed on Mondays, so after a walk plans are changed to relaxation in the hotel room, before we make another attempt to find a shopping centre in the modern city.

A Shopping Centre

Rotermann's shopping centre is close to the harbour, and the new tall buildings are actually quite nice. The shops however are just a boring collection of fashion clothes, expensive shoes, biological skin care and useless stuff for the home.

An expensive café doesn't tempt us, so we go for pita kebab the same place as yesterday. A girl with bleached hair has replaced the guy with greasy hair. Helle returns to the hotel, while I go to Restaurant Ribe to make a reservation for tonight.

On the way home a man says: "Hi!" I stop, and he asks if I didn't play chess once? I did, but I cannot remember him. He says he played many years ago. He is here on a short vacation with a bunch of chess players that I know. They went to Stockholm Thursday, then to Helsinki and Tallinn. They are going home today.

Small world. I ask him to say hello from Bentzen. I am so surprised that I forget to ask his name.

Café Chocolats de Pierre

Chocolats de Pierre

In the afternoon we go for a walk. The sun is only visible at festive occasions, and it is too cold to sit outside the cafés by the square.

Through the first gate in Vene is a courtyard, and in an old house a café, Chocolats de Pierre.

Up a few steps and you step into a room crammed with old furniture and bric-a-brac. There is a carpet on the floor and tablecloths with red patterns. The chairs have worn plush upholstery and some have fringes. In Denmark the authorities would close a place like this immediately for lack of fire protection etc.

Cocoa at Chocolats de Pierre

You order at the counter, and Helle returns with an okay coffee for me (25 EEK). She has ordered cocoa for herself, and it will be brought. My coffee is long gone when the cocoa arrives after a guided tour in the next room. It is in a big glass with a cinnamon stick. The cinnamon adds a piquant smell and spicy aroma.

A middle aged America couple have made camp with an assortment of cappuccino, cocoa, cakes and chocolate. She says: "Smile!" and takes pictures. When not smiling he reads aloud from a very abridged edition of Estonia's history.

Paul Keres' House

We stroll along Vene, and on a house I see a memorial plate for the Estonian chessplayer Paul Keres (1916 - 1975). I think this was his house.

Keres was a natural and one of the strongest players of his time. Asked why he never became world champion he answered: "I was unlucky, like my country." Paul Keres' portrait is on the Estonian 5 kroons bill.

It is snowing lightly, and we return to the hotel.

Restaurant Ribe

Restaurant Ribe

Restaurant Ribe is a fashionable place. When you look in it seems fairly small, but there is also a room in the basement. The cooking is inspired by the French and Italian cuisine, and later the waiter explains that they have chosen the name "Ribe", because the first monks came from Ribe in Denmark.

The furnishing is modern with white walls and some longish drop-shaped glass lamps. There is sufficient space between the tables, and the chairs are comfortable. At home we would be too mean to visit restaurants of this class, but prices are on a quite different level here, and we are also here to indulge ourselves.

We start with a glass of bubbly: Cremant Blanc de Blanc, Alsace, and we keep the bubbles alive during the first course, which is vodka marinated salmon on a bed of cream cheese encircled by blackcurrant sauce and lettuce. The salmon almost melts in the mouth, and the vodka marinade matches the blackcurrant sauce very well.

For main course we have smoked and fried duck's breast with beetroot/wine sauce, sliced carrot and potatoes filled with pepper and onion in cream cheese. It is exceptionally good and without comparison the best duck I have ever tasted. The wine is a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

We are easily persuaded to order a dessert, but we want to wait and finish our wine first. The lady wants us to order - probably to make things easier for the kitchen.

We shouldn't have ordered, because Helle's 3 small goat cheeses aren't warm as promised, but on the other hand we could have complained, which we didn't. I have an unimpressive raspberry and orange sorbet. The taste is fragrant, and the ice crystals are too large as if it hasn't been stirred enough during freezing. The glass of Estonian apple wine is very good.

We finish off with espresso and grappa. The bill says 1741 EEK.

4 glasses out of 5 4 glasses out of 5 4 glasses out of 5 4 glasses out of 5 4 glasses out of 5

Restaurant Ribe

Vene 7. Tlf. + 372 6313 084
email: info at ribe.ee
Mon.-Sun. 12 - 23

An excellent and stylish restaurant. Reservations recommended.