The First Baltic Adventure: Part #2
The First Baltic Adventure: Part #2
So 5 months after we’d first met, a large black SUV pulled up in front of the hostel. Turns out we were going to her Russian ex boyfriend’s birthday party. ‘…K’ was my cautious response. Maris herself sounded a little nervous, adding that if things got too crazy we could leave. I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. There were 3 other guys in the vehicle with me. Like Maris they were natives of Tallinn and seemed nice, but unlike her they were ultra low energy. I forgot their names with the exception of the driver Oliver, who would leave a memorable impression on me by the end of the night. Oliver looked like the serious fucking boxer type, mostly because he was. While he seemed ultra chill, Maris later told me that one time at a crowded music festival he’d crushed a guy’s nose for bumping into him, speedily adding that in spite of this – he was a real nice guy.
Jaan – Maris’ ex, had an exceptionally nice house – his parents as it turned out, who were away indefinitely. He seemed cool when Maris introduced us, putting a beer in my hand straight away, and there were already 10 or so people there. Realising I was starving, I started talking to some of the guys at the table while I simultaneously helped myself to snacks without looking too carefully at what they were. Halfway through nodding along to an intense rave about gulags from the guy next to me, I nervously looked down to see I was munching on a caviar sandwich. It actually wasn’t that bad. After about an hour lots more people arrived and the Vodka came out. Lots of it. Every 5-10 minutes, a new shot glass was thrust into my hand and refilled. I had no say in this matter. After a rousing ‘Terviseks!’ (To health and sex) and downing it, one was then expected to chase by eating a gherkin, something that was actually more off-putting in theory than practise. In between all this there was more food and lots of discussions about why I was in Estonia and what I liked about it so far. Some people seemed mind-fucked by the notion that I’d come all the way from New Zealand just to be in Estonia, and I had to keep telling them that I was actually living in Italy.
Maris explained that in Estonia (and I’m sure in a good part of Eastern Europe) the Western scale of sober, tipsy, kind of drunk, drunk, hammered, fukin’ gone, etc , doesn’t exist. Simply put: One is either sober, or superstar. Shit was this true. I’d noticed no gradual change in the guys I came with in the car; one second they were introverted shadows, the next they’d all become permutations of Borat, the Kool-aid guy and Duff man. It was the same for everyone else, and having downed no fewer than 30 shots – I was getting that way as well. Maris had earlier introduced me to her stunning friend Laura and suggested that we and another guy (whose name escapes me) take a break from the party to go check out club Hollywood nearby. It seemed like a plan though I was a bit disappointed to find out through Maris that Laura was already hitched. Not that I was in a position to be smooth. While my brother seems to gain magical women pulling powers when he’s off his face, I become a retarded, slurring, leering dumbass who stumbles around making ridiculously absurd and offensive statements. This was one of those times – so intimate female attention was pretty much off the table for me tonight. At Hollywood we ordered yet more drinks, danced to shitty top 10 music, and I either entertained or harassed several people. I did recall meeting with Maris and Laura in the smoking section and then giving an impassioned speech to some bewildered girl about how I, as a doctor (I’m not a doctor) must implore her to quit smoking as her tiny nation of 1.3 million people simply cannot afford the unnecessary loss of any of its fine looking women to tobacco related illnesses. At some point I was interrupted by an angry bouncer looking guy who could have been her boyfriend, brother or orbiter, and told me to “fuck off you English fuck”. “Ima nota English dude, I’ma froma New Zealand, get it right aye” was my witty retort. This caused him to react with one of the perplexed squints I’d seen earlier at the party, as though he were looking at a Penguin in the Sahara. At some point around 3:30am Maris got a text and said that she had to go back to the house party. I was starting to sober up now so this was fine by me.
When we returned it was clear that some serious shit had gone down. Not only had the guys remaining continued to hit back Vodka and traverse whole new levels of superstardom, but apparently they’d gone outside and gotten into a fight with either a group of equally intoxicated Finns, a police patrol unit, or both simultaneously. Jaan himself was a cop so this didn’t really make sense, but in his epic drunkenness his ability to communicate the situation had been severely compromised, least of all in English. What was clear was that several of them looked very roughed up and that Oliver was lying in the tub in the bathroom, groaning in pain – he’d been pepper sprayed. While Maris went to comfort him, Jaan enthusiastically showed me several police moves with his truncheon, which most miraculously did not result in my bludgeoning. It was around this time that I called a cab, which showed up conveniently just as all the guys were getting naked for some guy time in the Jacuzzi. None of them were gay, but they were all fucking crazy. Maris laconically described the night as standard. I got back to my hostel around 6am and went out like a light.
I rolled over and saw it was 9am. Holy shit my head. And stomach. They actually felt totally fine. While I’d been taking care to down plenty of water between all the vodka, this was still the equivalent of being shot point blank and having the bullet pass harmlessly through a sleeve. I’d drunken more vodka than ever last night and here I was fine and dandy. At this point I remembered someone from last night explaining that all those gherkins for chasing would help neutralize a hangover the next day. How wonderful that it actually worked. After sleeping another couple of hours it was time to explore the Old Town of Tallinn by day. While the sky was grey, the town still had a charm to it: the snow, the tall triangular facades of the old buildings and the quietness was all quite mellowing after such a crazy night. I hadn’t had breakfast though, so covered it by having an enormous lunch at a bar recommended by a staff member from the Hostel. For 120 kroons (8 Euros) I got a fantastic standard meal of bread, roast meat and vegetables in a rich sauce. It reminded me of a classic Sunday roast at home, albeit double the size and intensity. This is lunch?! It was certainly fulfilling but none-the-less left me pondering how the hell a population could eat like this and have such low obesity ratings.
Totally stuffed, it was time to get back to seeing the sights. There are a few note-worthy landmarks to see in the old town, most notably the Medieval Town Hall which sits in the centre square right on a busy, hilly intersection. It’s a large, imposing structure which in spite of its pain stakingly simple design, also manages to be extremely striking and worthy of a snapshot or two. The other big landmark is the same landmark you get in every European capital: a great big fuck-you-Satan Cathedral. The Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn is indeed massive, but is much more Russian than Estonian. It was built under Tsarist rule in the 19th Century and served as state headquarters for the KGB during the Soviet occupation. Nowadays it operates as a place of worship with the bell tower doubling as a fantastic observation platform to view the whole of Tallinn, or so I’m told – It was closed in November.
It was now around 4 and thus starting to get dark again. Not sure what to do, I headed back to the Hostel to check out the social scene. It was pretty quiet but one of the staff there – an Australian guy, Matt suggested we go down to an ex-pat pub grab a few beers and watch the English/Australian rugby match that was on. The game itself was really dull so we spent most of the time just chatting away with the topic naturally leading to his decision to live In Estonia. Matt couldn’t praise the country enough, especially emphasizing the fact that the hot chicks here were actually interested in him, as they’d never been back in Australia. I had to agree that many of the chicks here were sublimely beautiful, certainly more so than the trumped-up-but-fuck-all- to-show-for Italian women.
I met Maris and Laura at a Russian restaurant in the Town hall square for dinner. Having never experienced traditional Russian cuisine before, I went along with Maris’ suggestion that I order the 7 meat soup as it appealed to my pathological disdain of vegetarianism. Disappointingly I couldn’t make out the 7 different meats, but it did taste ok. The restaurant was practically a time capsule circa Soviet Union 1953 with its dim lighting, rustic decor, old crylic signs, and to my slight chagrin – a Russian folk band playing Cossack accordion music in the corner. The girls explained that they came here all the time and in between each bite of her dumplings, Maris whimsically stopped to sing out, “mm, love it so much, I’d eat it everyday”. This puzzled me as for someone who seemingly hated Russia, Maris sure chose to make it a large part of her life. But then the line between hate and love is always thin and the situation is a complicated one. Estonians are practically obliged to hate Russians. Following their forced incorporation into the Soviet Union in WWII, over a quarter of their citizens were exported to Russian gulags while those left behind existed in a state of oppressed wretchedness until their independence in 1991. But on the other hand they also had vodka.
Afterwards we bounced to a lounge bar for desert, but finding it pretty boring – left quickly to go to another lounge bar, Sterio. Sterio is awesome, it’s fashioned with a white interior that looks supremely sci-fi and everything is bathed in an electric blue light. But what really makes it cool are the giant signature beer cocktails, something that the girls knew about but had never tried. They looked awesome on the menu and since all 15 were totally different, we decided to order them all over the next 2 hours. Now it sounds like a terrible idea to layer beer with things such as hard spirits, liquor, cream, fruit juice, a buffet of garnishes, or the lot – but many turned out to be uniquely satisfying. We consumed them in order from what looked most appealing, accurately leaving the ones which appeared least palatable for last. Indeed the last one, Dark Tallinn was an audaciously Frankenstein concoction of otherwise fine A le Coq beer, vodka, and Tallin Vana – an immensely strong local liquor/drain cleaner. It tasted as good as I expected. By the time we’d gotten through all these I was slightly tipsy and in a great mood, fully ready to check out the club next door, Prive. After checking coats and cameras (they’re forbidden inside for who knows what reason) we headed upstairs to the main bar and dance area. It was a really cool club but unfortunately Maris and Laura suddenly seemed exhausted, possibly a result of all the beer cocktails. I did get my hot Estonian girl though. While Maris had given me her drink to hold while she went to the bathroom, I spotted a total hottie in front of me: tall, lean and pretty with all the unique, delicate, facial features that make Estonian girls look so mesmerizing. She also had dark hair, practically an endangered species in Estonia. I turned her round to face me, spouted some random shit and within minutes we were making out. After some quiet action in the shadows of the club, I found out her name was also Maris and thought it would be hilarious to introduce her to other Maris – given they looked like total opposites. Only I got a laugh out of pointing this out to them though, at which point Maris’ #2 friends showed up and told her they were leaving. So I took her number and bye. At this point I went on a hook-up rampage with a whole bunch of talent around the club. I can’t remember what time I got home, but as Ice cube once said, ‘today was a good day.’
I’d cheated a hangover again so after getting up I went for another circuit of the old town, stopping into a small cafe for an ok brunch of pizza and cheesecake. Here I was served by yet again, ridiculously good looking girls. Hell if I ever come back here, I’m getting my own place and staying for at least a week (*I would do this). I continued on, and ventured slightly outside the old town to stroll through the new mall before returning to check out the largely deserted National Museum. The Museum is fairly small and low on actual exhibits or displays, but it does provide a quite a compelling narrative of Estonia’s long and explicitly brutal history.
Since 1227 the country has been under almost constant occupation by various states including the Danes, Germans, Swedish and Russians. While it did gain independence in 1921, this was lost during WWII and even today, people can’t decide whether they hated the Nazis or Soviets more since terrible numbers of Estonians died under both. But even before then the people suffered considerably. With the exception of a so called ‘Golden period’ under Swedish rule, most of the Museum details out a never ending series of wars, rebellions, plagues, famines and a general hardship which would try the existence of any people. At the risk of sounding like a Nazi hereditary scientist – my theory on why the girls here are so hot suddenly crystallized: the majority of ‘bad’ genes must have been weeded out of existence by extreme natural selection! Indeed this can be said for many places in Eastern Europe and it’s no wonder that Estonia is so proud and thankful to have its independence today.
Maris and a much more back-to-reality looking Oliver came by the Hostel to take me to another nice lounge bar for dinner. The place was most distinctive for its kitchen on display through glass walls, but what really took me back was the bible sized menu which had sections for local, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Indian and Japanese cuisine. I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or worried but decided to order the Butter chicken, something that I’d been starved for in Milan. Thus it was to my great delight that it turned out to be as good a meal as in any respectable Indian restaurant. We spent most of dinner discussing how the hell Oliver had ended up getting pepper sprayed the previous night. He still didn’t seem to know. Sadly, this was my last night in Tallinn and after we got back to the Hostel I said my goodbyes and thanked Maris for fulfilling her promise of showing me a fun time.