Monday, September 2, 2013

Tallinn. Day 1. Part 2.

Old Tallinn's main square.  All quiet by day's end.

Mid afternoon, we headed out in search of the supermarket that I found mention of on several of the online Tallinn travel forums. The place is called Rimi and Old Town being such a small place, I figured we could easily find it. Of course, I should have looked up a street address but getting stupid these days. In any event, it was pretty much the only supermarket in town except for the small convenience store located about two blocks from the apartment. Even if we needed directions, someone should be able to help us out.


With a street map in hand, Bro was navigating us towards Viru Gate. Somewhere in that area, outside the old city walls, we would find a supermarket named Rimi. Our street map was really detailed for Old Town but anything outside the walls....well, we would have to rely on help from locals.



It had been a cloudy all day.  Not complaining really as it works better for me for taking photos :-)

More of the Old Tallin's charming buildings.

Again, we crossed paths with school children, including this group of adorable boys.  All dressed up in their school uniforms, with their sweater vests, ties and caps, they looked like miniature train conductors.


Our walk took us past the main square.  Our apartment was located only few short blocks away.  You can see that the place was packed with tourists.  Seemed like most of them were *older* - perhaps because of the time of year or maybe because they're the boat cruise generation.



It felt a lot more dreary as the day progressed.  Every now and again, I swear I felt a rain drop.  I hoped it wasn't going to be a downpour.  Eventually, we made it to Viru Gate, marked by two towers.  Then came the challenge of finding the market.  I kept looking for any sign that read *Rimi* but no luck.


Bro hates to ask for directions so it's left up to me to approach kind strangers to ask for help. I headed inside a small restaurant and the woman working behind the bar had no idea what supermarket I was asking about but luckily, the woman standing next to me knew. From her instructions, we were just a block or so away from the market. I thanked her for the directions and headed back out to meet up with Bro. By now, the skies which had just been overcast were now threatening rain; it was already starting to drizzle. We had come so far and with only a block to go, presuming the woman's directions were correct, we decided to chance it and continue to look for the supermarket. Thankfully, the woman's directions were spot on and in a matter of a few minutes, we found ourselves standing outside Rimi.


We had a rough list of items we wanted to get - stuff for at least 3 breakfasts and items for at least a couple of dinners and maybe a lunch. Rimi was stocked with lots of European foods - some familiar but mostly not. I wanted to try so many things but we're limited in how much we can eat while we're here so we focused on covering the meals we wanted.

Inside, we were greeted by a supermarket.  For the foodie in me, it was like being a kid in a candy store. We started in the produce section and the chanterelles immediately grabbed my attention.  At 3.50 Euro for a big container's worth, I couldn't resist getting some.  With memories of the smoked chicken and pasta lunch that we yesterday still fresh in my mind, I knew I had to find some of that delicious chicken as we (or maybe it was just I) had decided we would try to recreate the dish for dinner.  I found my way to the smoked meats and fish aisle.  Yes, this entire refrigerated section is nothing but smoked meat and fish and other goodies.  This is in addition to the deli where they also sell smoked items.  I thought I had died and gone to foodie heaven - I wanted to buy everything! 

But, I can't be greedy so I settled for some smoked chicken and sausages.  We then picked up some items for breakfast as well.  I found the cost of some of the food items to be extremely reasonable e.g., pasta was about 39 Euro cents for a pound compared to $1 USD if I can get it on sale at home.  Dairy and eggs were also cheaper.  We also noticed they sold eggs in cartons of 10.  Maybe to match the metric system??

Makes so much more sense to enclose the cold food sections so you're wasting cold air.   Milk,
cheese, eggs and other refrigerated items were also shelved in closed door containers.

I love the way they have their refrigerated sections here.  You don't open up a single large door and let all the cold air out.  Everything was well organized.


This.....is....the ice cream section.  One advantage to being in the EU is that Estonia gets goods from
other member countries.  Can you say, Italian (yes, real Italian) gelato?  Oh....yum!

By US standards, Rimi is a small market. Even so, I think we easily spent more than an hour inside.  I swear I went down every aisle, looked on every shelf and checked out every item.

When we got to the check out lane, I noticed that every customer was using their own bags to carry their purchases in.  By default, the supermarket does not provide bags.  I don't know if that is true of all supermarkets in Tallinn but most certainly, it was the case here.  In my opinion, no bags by default is a much more sensible approach towards eliminating the use of plastic bags.  In the US, you have to pay to get a plastic bag but the cost is so low, it's really not much of a deterrent.  Here at Rimi, want it or not, there is no option to purchase a plastic bag.  Luckily, we always bring our backpacks with us when we go shopping so no need for bag.

By the time we checked out and headed out the front door, the drizzle had turned into a downpour with no sight of stopping any time soon. We decided to head back inside and wait for the rain to end. Minutes went by and it seemed like an interminable wait. Bro was willing to make a dash for it back to the apartment but I was not. I have no desire to fall sick a week into my holiday so I pushed him into getting a taxi. I stood at the curb and flagged one down. I was actually surprised to even see a taxi coming towards us. Admittedly, it was barely a five minute drive back to the apartment and it cost us 8 Euros but as far as I was concerned, that was 8 euros well spent as it meant we could wait out the rain in the comfort of our apartment rather than standing outside the front entrance of Rimi.


Back at the apartment, we unpacked our purchases and put everything away.

The rain didn't last much longer and by late afternoon, we were ready to venture out again. We basically just strolled the streets - no particular destination in mind. 

Bro standing at the entrance to our apartment building.  Very nondescript.

We decided to walk in a different direction than what we had done in the morning. 


What a great decision as in just a matter of a few feet and we had come across a pastry shop and a candy shop!  Bro has a soft spot for anything made with puff pastry.  I have to admit, so do I.  We entered inside the Loiri-Pagar store - it's an Estonian chain of pastry shops.  The sign read *Saksalikud Küpsetised* which means "German pastries" in Estonian.  Of course, we didn't know that when we walked in and saw all the lovely baked goods.


And then the drooling began.....




Even Bro started taking photos of the mouth watering pastries.


Of course, we didn't leave without purchasing a few items.  My contention was that we needed dessert to go with our dinner and the Russian Alley apples were NOT the ticket.

The next place we walked into was a candy shop named *paganripoisid*.   For a few seconds, I was indeed tempted by the sweets in the case....especially the red lumpy things that look liked they were sweets coated with cranberries.  *johvika* is the Estonian word for *cranberry*.  Thank you Google translate :-)



We passed on the chocolates.

We continued our walk.  A short block later and we were at one of the gates of the old city walls.  I realized it was the same one that we had walked through yesterday when we were making our way back to the apartment after parking the car in Jurgen's neighborhood.

Looking from Old Town to modern Tallin.

View into Old Town.

View of a section of the Old City walls.

By now, it was early evening and the streets were beginning to empty out - the cruise ship tourists were returning back to their ships.

The tourist trolley.  Empty by late afternoon.

We could finally relax and enjoy the streets again without having to walk around a tourist or two or an entire group.  It was much quieter too.  Tourists can be annoyingly noisy says the one with a naturally loud voice :-)






This building reminded me of the Art Nouveau buildings in Riga.

We found ourselves heading back towards the main square.  Old Tallinn is indeed a small place.   Located across the street from the Estonian History Museum is one of Tallin's landmark establishments - Maiasmokk which is known for its marzipan and chocolates.


There's a separate retail store but we walked inside the cafe with its luxuriously decorated interior.  We didn't sit down but in hindsight, we should have treated ourselves to a cup of tea and a dessert.  Not often you get to dine in a cafe that looks as grand as this one.



We walked on, continuing our way towards the main square.

The Estonian History Museum.

That little alleyway leads to some nice eateries like.....

Kerhweider where we had our seabuckthorn ice cream and.....

Saiakangi where we had our sea buckthorn cheesecake.



The main town square was pretty empty. It was a bit chilly and there were only a handful of people sitting around and eating.

The colorful buildings standout against the dreary sky.

It was getting chilly.  A waitress sets out lambskin covers for the seats.



It was starting to get dark.  We were getting cold and we were tired.  We headed back to the apartment.  More importantly, it was time for dinner.  On the plate would be our rendition of the smoke chicken pasta that we had for lunch yesterday in Pärnu except our version would have a bit of sausage, red pepper, chanterelles, and cheese. Bro would be doing the cooking honors and I would be his prep chef, chopping up the ingredients.

Ingredients for our dinner.  Smoked chicken is waiting in the fridge.  Look at those delectable chanterelles!

I chopped up all the ingredients.  Bro did the rest.

Waiting for the pan to heat up.

Step 1.  Cooking up the garlic.

Cooking the chanterelles.

Gotta get the pasta going!!

As you can see, it didn't take us long to make ourselves at home :-)

While Bro was busy making dinner, I did laundry duties. A bit of a challenge figuring out how to use the European washer/dryer combo. Our clothes were surprisingly more dirty than I had thought they would be - water was d-i-r-t-y!!



If I might say so myself, dinner was VERY tasty. Bro did a great job and I think I will have him continue with the cooking. He could use with the practice :-)

Voila!  Dinner as cooked up by Bro!

Dessert was the pastries that Bro had brought on our visit to a couple of bakeries. 


After dinner and the laundry, I convinced Bro to cut up a lot of his Russian Alley apples to make stewed apples. My rationale is that if you cook them up, you can eat more of them. So he agreed. We peeled and cut up a pretty good number of the apples. I added a bit of water and sugar and let the concoction come to a boil. I was so surprised when the apples completely disintegrated in to sauce in just a matter of a few minutes! One taste of the sauce and I completely puckered up - it was so damn tart. I added more sugar and more sugar and more sugar. I have no idea how much sugar I added but I stopped when I felt it was beyond reasonable. The sauce was still way too tart to eat. Maybe it would be better once it cooled.....at least that was my hope. Oh well, chalk this one up to an epic fail as far as I was concerned. It ended up being a pretty big pot of sauce. I don't know if we'll be able to swallow it all before we leave :-(

It was a good idea but didn't work out as expected.

After our apple sauce experiment/fiasco, we just hung around the apartment watching TV and surfing the web to plan out our next day.  It had been a great first day in Tallinn.  We were tired but happy and very much looking forward to tomorrow.

Good night from Tallinn!