On Board the MS Baltic Princess. Tallinn – Helsinki

MS Baltic Princess

While I was in Tallinn the advertising campaign for the national shipping company featured a disturbing clown dressed in a red fitted jump suit and a slogan that read Sirkusen Taikaa, which translates as “Circus Magic.”

"Circus Magic"

I travelled from Tallinn to Helsinki on the MS Baltic Princess and a circus it most certainly seemed. Magical? Not so much.

Tallinn Harbour

The journey began happily enough; plenty of room to wander; food, drink and gifts massively overpriced but available; lovely views of Tallinn harbour and the city’s rooftops as we pulled away. But then everyone started drinking.

I had made a concerted effort in Riga and Tallinn to avoid the hoards of stags (bachelor parties) that congregated (and, some might say, ruined) the centre of both cities; dressed in matching shirts, belligerent and drunk. For me, it was even more pressing to distance myself from these people because they were my people: the British.

I had thought that only the British were guilty, but I made the crossing on a Monday morning and, judging by the PVC leggings, metal shirts and wild hairstyles sported by my fellow passengers, I was joined by the Finnish stragglers from a long, drunken weekend in Tallinn.

The mass export of alcohol was astounding. People were carrying crates and pushing carts full of it; beer mostly, but whisky, vodka and various fruity “long drinks” too. I understand that alcohol is a lot cheaper in Tallinn than in Helsinki but, gosh, is the price difference really substantial enough to warrant a production that rivals Prohibition-era bootlegging?

Booze carrier

At first it was amusing watching everyone card their slabs of booze on board, but as containers were cracked and bottles and cans began to pile up on deck, I had an ominous feeling. Prescient, I realised after I walked into the ‘Entertainment Lounge’ and was groped by a drunk. Of course I shouted and kicked up a fuss, but then retreated to a couch in reception shared with a group of quiet elderly ladies. Besides a brief interaction with a man dressed as one of those hideous clowns, I was left alone to enjoy the rest of the trip.

Chocolaterie Pierre, Tallinn

Chocolaterie Pierre

In Estonia I am eating the most chocolate since, I think, those few days in Bariloche, Argentina.

Velvet sofas, red silk tablecloths, thick coffee and rich, dark chocolate: Chocolaterie Pierre has been the best chocolate experience of my trip. It is hidden away down a side alley in the Old Town, but still is almost always busy, though never too busy. I preferred to take a seat in the cozy, dimly lit, bohemian-styled cafe, where but there is also summer seating in the courtyard.

The hot chocolate is a thick, gooey dream of cream, rum and melted chocolate. Hot chocolate will never taste the same after trying it here.

Pierre shares owners with Josephine café just down the street.