20 reasons to visit Estonia
It’s no secret there’s a small country up there called Estonia, but how much do you really know about it?
Estonia got on my must-visit list around two years ago, when I saw a picture of Tallinn at one of my favorite travel blogs. I was blown away with what I viewed, the capital city seemed to be so colourful! This summer I got a chance to explore more than just the most touristic city in this Baltic state. Here are 20 reasons why you should book your airplane ticket as soon as possible.
1. Colourful streets
As I mentioned, this was one of the main reasons I wanted to see Tallinn. If you’re like me, enjoying to photograph cobbled streets and buildings of all colours, you’ll feel like you’re in heaven when visiting Tallinn. My camera was out all the time. Two tips though: don’t wear high heels and for the best photographs in summer months, get up early before all tourists start pouring in.
2. Cute restaurants and bars
As a food lover, I must point this one out. You can order a cake in almost every bar (and they are all incredibly delicions) and the food is great. If you’re travelling on low-budget, I highly recommend you Drakon, a is an old-fashioned pub in Tallinn wherein all the meals cost 1-3 units of money. It’s right next to Town Hall Tower, so located at old city centre, but unlike other places around, this one is very inexpensive. When entering, you’ll be taken into medieval times, when the soup was drank out of clay pots (and not eaten with a spoon) and electricity didn’t exist. Perfect place for rainy days, which I couldn’t avoid. I can guarantree elk soup and carrott pie are very tasty.
Another amazing restaurant in Tallinn is Trofé. Their grilled salmon was one of the best dishes I have ever eaten (and I eat all the time!).
I mustn’t forget to mention Must Puudel, a retro bar with a wide range of beers, dreamy ice cream (peanut ice cream with salty peanuts…) and great meals. It is super groovy, but a little hidden, so make sure to go in. Also, the staff is really friendly.
However, you can’t really avoid touristic prices in Tallinn, that’s why I suggest you to visit more cities that you can easily reach using public transport or by car. In Viljandi I enjoyed Seljanka soup for 2€ (if I’m not mistaken, that would be around 6€ in Tallinn).
3. Tallinn airport
The largest airport in Estonia is only 4km away from the city centre. It’s small compared to bigger airports (Istanbul, for example), but so very cute. Excellent facilities, comfortable seats, modern look and positive messages on toilet doors (“Lipstick will save the day!”) all helped to make it my favorite airport. They also have the coolest business card exchange there with houndreds of cards pinned to the board.
Travel Movie Monday: Into the Wild
Every second Monday I’m going to recommend you one travel movie (in no specific order). Each one of those mentioned, had some kind of an impact on me and I’m sure they will affect you too. Travel movies have the ability to inspire your wanderlust, the motivation to a new destination and give you the power to chase your goals.
INTO THE WILD (2007)
After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.
This is one of those movies you could watch weekly and feel incredibly inspired by it. Into the Wild was released in 2007, but is still often discussed almost a decade later. Although movies rarely stay close to the books, Sean Penn’s spellbinding film adaptation did the source justice. It’s very easy to relate to the main character; haven’t we all at some point wished we could just throw it all away and escape the reality? Chris is an idealistic dreamer, who is intruduced to as someone most people would envy. He’s missing something in his life though, a connection with nature. What makes the movie so likable is the fact it’s based on a true story and shown that way. There’s a lot to learn about survival in the wilderness…
Guide: NYC-Toronto-Niagara Falls-Buffalo-NYC by public transport only
When planning US trip, I discovered there are three options most people use when leaving NYC to visit Niagara Falls and Toronto; either they take a train to Buffalo, pay to a tour company or fly. Trying to avoid any more flights and wishing to spend more than just an afternoon in Toronto, I was searching for option number four. Something that would not require renting a car.
After days of research and contacting some locals, I found the solution. Keep reading to discover how you can pay less and get more. Note you’ll need to book your trip months in advance, if you want to save.
From New York, NY you take megabus to Toronto for 15 USD. You’ll spend 12 hours on the bus, which is a little tiring, so wear something comfy, take a book or your favorite magazine, and try not to forget a pillow. The bus we took was at 7.50am, but if we did it again, we’d change it for the one at 11.50pm instead. It’s a long ride and if you’re driving at night, you’ll most likely manage to catch some sleep. Not as much as you wish and sure, you won’t wake up feeling fresh, but at least you won’t throw the whole day away because of one bus ride. Tickets can be booked here. Pricing for tickets increases according to how many people have booked tickets, therefore I advise you to be quick and book yours around 2 months in advance. I know greyhound does the same route, but I am not sure about their starting price or anything else, because I’ve never used their service before. Find more information on their website.
Five days at the heel of Italy
Puglia, the region in the heel of Italy’s boot, offers you to escape from the crowds, but still enjoy authentic Italian cuisine (it doesn’t get any better than that!) and historic buildings. My recommendation would be to book your accommodation in Bari, the capital city of the region, because it has great national and international connections.
We landed at Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport late afternoon and took a local bus to the city (the bus tickets can be bought at the book store on the first floor of the airport, and yes, you must buy them in advance). After a long unplanned walk around the city, we found our way to the hotel we booked. It was a short walk away from the bus and train station, so the location was perfect. Same foes for the price; I usually pay as much for 3 nights at hostels in 10-bed dorm. Free breakfast, which was served every day, was another wonderful addition.
On our first full day there, we did some sightseeing and enjoyed the sun. Luck was on our side; the weather was absolutely beautiful the whole time. The path also led us to Swabian Castle. The Norman-Hohenstaufen Castle, widely known as the Castello Svevo (Swabian Castle), was built by Roger II of Sicily around 1131. Destroyed in 1156, it was rebuilt by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen. The castle now serves as a gallery for a variety of temporary exhibitions in the city. It was a big disappointment, though. Half of the area was closed due to building work, which is something nobody tells you when you pay for your ticket. Apart from a short film and a small museum, you couldn’t see much. Make sure you walk through the old part of the city, it’s magnificent! If you’re looking for a list of attractions – visit one of the tourist offices (one is on Piazza Moro, in front of the railway station, and the other in the city at Via Giuseppe Sangiorgi) and take a lovely free map, which is very helpful, when wandering around.
The following day we took a train to Alberobello. I fell in love with that city when planning the whole trip (as much as it was planned). It’s a small town, about one hour away (by train) from Bari. Alberobello has only about 11 000 inhabitants and is famous for its unique prehistoric trulli buildings. The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighbouring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs. You can read more about that on Unesco website or watch a very short documentary here.
The center of Alberobello is very attractive with many terraces. That’s where the biggest and the main square and the town hall are. Not that far from the square, there’s the Basilica. This beautiful church was designed by the architect Antonio Curri.
16 travel goals for 2016
Since the new year has just began, I thought I could share with you my goals for the next 12 months. Although 2015 was a success when it comes to travelling (after all I saw 5 new countries!), I am already daydreaming of new destinations and maybe it’s just me, but once I write goals down, I work harder to achieve them. Also, it gives me an oppurtunity to track down my progress.
1. Get a new camera – ACCOMPLISHED
Right now I don’t have any. My last one got stolen and for the past two years I’ve been using my family’s, which does not meet my requirements. The more I wander around, the more I miss having a professional camera with me.
2. Meet with more couchsurfers – ACCOMPLISHED
I still remember the evening when I first heard about couchsurfing. What a fantastic idea! But how could one get into it when not being able to host and lives in a small village no tourists ever visit? These days I still can’t host, but since I’m now very close to the capital, I can hang out with fellow couchsurfers and exchange some tips.
3. Visit Madeira
4. Learn to communicate in Brazilian Portuguese
And Portugal in general, but Madeira is my number one right now.
My wish is to be fluent in another foreign language. Last year I got the oppurtunity to start a course, now it’s my time to do more.
5. Improve my French – MILDLY ACCOMPLISHED (I can tell that the cow is eating grass and few more things duolingo taught me)
Because “je m’appelle Ursa” and “merci beaucoup” are not all I should have known after 4 years of learning.