Adam Bird

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Monday, 7 April 2008

Tales from Tallinn

Having missed out last year on Mark's Stag do, I was more excited than most when Reaso and Foordy declared that we would be going to Krakow to celebrate Will's last weekend of freedom before heading off into life as a married man.

However, despite Reaso and Foordy's best laid plans, the cat somehow escaped the bag and Will discovered the destination! Krakow was swiftly discarded and plan B put into place, we would now be going to Tallinn, Estonia instead!

I am not too sure how the change of location was not fully communicated, but sitting on board the Easy Jet flight to the Estonian capital, Tommy asked, almost knowing the answer "so we are not going to Poland then?" He had, only the day previously taken a visit to Lunn Poly or somewhere and exchanged some of his well earned English Pounds into Polish złoty rather than the required Estonian Kroon! How we laughed!

Although, by this stage of the day, I was I must admit, in a mood for laughing at pretty much anything. Having woken up at 2.45 am to meet Will and Hans ready to meet the others at Mid Kent Golf Club where a minibus would be taking us to Stansted for a 6.30 flight. The minibus never arrived, but a full 60 seater commuter coach certainly did. So much for our carbon footprints!

Within 10 minutes of arriving at Stansted, the law of the stag solemnly declared that as much alcohol must be consumed prior to boarding the aircraft as possible. So we did, along with, it must be said, a rather nasty breakfast from the Wetherspoons pub. I don't know why I persist, as I knew that it would be rough, but ordered it anyway. Still, it worked as a sponge which was well needed at that time of the morning.

After emptying our Easy Jet flight of alcohol and playing along with the card games, not wanting to appear non macho and optin for a sleep instead we arrived in Tallinn. The airport was rather a surprise, having been to some rather shed like buildings previously, the Tallinn terminal appeared to be still under construction, but the parts we saw were nice and modern. One slightly quirky experience was at customs, when you are faced with a locked door, similar to that of a contemporary apartment block. When the customs officer is satisfied you were not on the Estonian most wanted list you were able to pass through into an as yet unseen part of the terminus building.

Onwards into baggage reclaim, and instead of trying to recreate the porno magazine episode of Malia we had a whip around and the first bag off the conveyor belt won the money. Luckily for me Stuart and I did a deal whereby if either of us won we would split the cash. It would prove to be the only thing Stuart would win all weekend as his usual competitive streak reaped little reward. On passing me my half of his winnings, he gave me a sly wink and told me to "spend the money wisely my friend".

Not wanting to give a blow by blow account of the whole weekend, as much as we had fun and a great time was had by all, it won't be much fun for the casual reader, or for those who wish to know about Estonia and wanting a Judith Chalmers report from me. But I feel that I need to give an immediate first impression of what I gathered when I exited the terminal building and stood waiting for our minibus.

All that went through my mind was "wow, this country is grey!" Trying to define what I meant by that is quite tricky, but it wasn't the fact that the weather was certainly very cold, and indeed overcast, but it just appeared to be swathed in an ambient grey light, that made the buildings look dull and oppressive. As Estonia was formerly part of the old USSR it was clear than many of the buildings were from that era, and the legacy had clearly remained. There was a mixture of old and new buildings and a vast amount of construction work, but even the new bits looked... well very grey!

On arrival at our hotel, the Hotel Skane, another bizarre event was witnessed. It appeared that somebody had been run over right outside the hotel, so rather than excitedly looking around our rooms when we got there, we headed straight for the window to see if the man outside was dead, as some rather excited rumour mongers amongst us proclaimed. Luckily it appeared that the gentlemen involved was indeed alive, although I am sure an overnight stay at the local hospital was required.

Full credit to the best men, as their arrangements thus far had been exceptional. Within five minutes of checking in, we were acquainted with the hotel bar, and a young lady whose name escapes me, given the role of our guide for the day.

We were a very short walk from "The Old Town", the epicentre of Tallinn and the focal point of our weekends activities. We were taking to a couple of bars where we sampled a few of the local beers. The Old Town itself, as it's name implies, was very old, built in medieval times, and indeed many of the bars were themed with the history of the surrounding area very much evident.

Although the Old Town's infrastructure was hundred of years old and the country has a colourful past with its Soviet occupation, some of it's thinking is vastly superior to ours. For example, like the UK there is a smoking ban within public areas, but rather than banishing smokers to the elements outside, there are smoking areas within the pubs and restaurants themselves. Most of which were in the form of separate rooms, but nonetheless, all were warm, comfortable and didn't infringe upon other patrons in the non-smoking areas. Something which we agreed could be implemented over here.

After only the second bar I was the next victim of the bad luck curse which seemed to hit most of our party at one point or another. I had taken with me my camera, with the intention of taking photographs of our daily shenanigans and leaving it back at the hotel at night for fear of losing it. I had taken no more than ten photos and taken great care in keeping my camera in my jacket pocket when it wasn't in use. However, I had started to fall asleep whilst sitting at a table and so rather than risk having my eyebrows plucked or cigarettes put up my nostrils I decided to take a walk to the next pub along where some of the group had gone for some food. I hadn't anticipated the rest of the group leaving shortly after with my jacket in tow, minus the camera.

It was, one of those things. I could have been more careful, the person carrying my jacket could have felt it drop, or indeed it could already have been pick pocketed or one of a thousand different things. The staff in the pub were fairly helpful in that they called the police, but having only been in Estonia for 20 seconds or so I really wasn't in the mood for discussing something as trivial as a lost camera with the Estonian authorities.

It had been a long day, but we were only half way through as I was constantly reminded by Gareth, who was probably only telling me so in order to convince himself as much, but back to the hotel for a quick S, S, S and off out to dinner. Our daily guide had retired for the day, and so we were met by two other young ladies whose responsibilities where ensuring that we were indeed tucked up in bed by nine pm, safe and sound.... cough.

Dinner was a jovial affair with much banging on the tables in medieval style, speeches by the best men and father of the groom added to the macho atmosphere before all tucking into a feast of steak and chips. I don't think Foordy had eaten for a week as after we had all finished he slowly made his way around the table and finished off everybody else's.

It really was no rest for the wicked at this point, our desert for the night was waiting. At this point we said a fond farewell to our guides and made haste to a local gentleman's club. Now, most of us have experiences in some shape or form about what a gentleman's club entails. This one however was the first any of had seen containing a dungeon. When standing in the smoking room talking to a member of staff, I enquired as to what occurs in the dungeon and how much it cost. She rather happily informed me that for 1,400 kroons I would be tied to the chair and whipped. How hard my whipping would be was at entirely my discretion, but it was something, I told her I would maybe do next time... or not! Personally speaking I think we ought to have all chipped in and ensured that Will had the spanking of his life!

Indeed the evening drew to a close, and it had been a long day. I returned back to the Hotel Skane at 3am, a little over 24 hours since I last slept and rather than have nightmares about a rather enthusiast Estonian dominatrix I slept peacefully until 8am where Gareth woke me up telling me to get myself out of bed as breakfast was being served! He had been up somewhat earlier than I had as he discovered that he had lost all of his credit cards and debit cards and so had to phone back to the UK and cancel them all.

It took him two hours of constant punching and prodding, but I made it out of my slumber at 10am, albeit too late for breakfast, but ready to meet the others whom were already on their way to the Old Town and to a bar situated on the magnificent town square. I will readily admit, I wasn't quite ready for beer at that time of the morning, and with go-karting fast approaching I wasn't going to endanger myself by drink driving. I am fairly happy to say that it was my only shirk of the weekend, but one that had a very responsible thinking behind it.

Seeing as I had missed breakfast, along with Gareth, we decided to enjoy the perks of globalisation by visited McDonalds and having a rather unhealthy brunch. It was however a welcome tonic and settled me down for the rest of the day.

Over the course of the two days we must have walked from the Hotel Skane and the Old Town about twenty times, but we needed to head back and meet our guide and minibuses who were to take us on our go-karting activity. When you book a stag weekend you have plenty of choices to choose from about what activity you can do during the day. Go-karting had been done last time in Prague for Mark's stag, and was a resounding success, so Reaso and Foordy decided to stick with the winning formula.

I had only been on a go-kart I think once before, when I was about 8 at Butlins in Phwelli, nothing like the machines we would be driving around a warehouse in the middle of an Estonian Industrial estate. In fact, an industrial estate is probably being generous! I looked out of the window and it seemed as if the Russians were still blowing things up such was the destruction and decay in and around the surrounding areas!

My inexperience at go-karting was clear to see, as I posted my first lap time of around 40 seconds. If you consider that the fastest lap was something in the high 26s you would be thinking that maybe my go-kart had only two wheels. However, I won't say that I soon got to grips with things, but I steadily decreased my lap times lap by lap. On my second run I posted a quickest lap of around 31 seconds, which was far more respectable despite my limited experience. Once I had figured that I was driving a machine that needed to be driven and controlled rather than it driving and controlling me I was getting better and better.

Foordy was the star of the show, the Alain Prost french blood within him driving him to first place. Stuart was on his tail the whole way around in the final and ultimately it was his competitive streak that was his downfall. Will had the whole way around been driving erratically, like a boy racer on narcotics, and was disqualified in all four of his sessions, and rightly so, but Stuart can feel aggrieved for his disqualification being down to his willingness to win. As he, bumper to bumper with Foordy, trying to overtake on the outside of the last corner at speed, lost control slightly and crashed into the barriers, causing himself to fly a little out of the cockpit and giving those watching a little nervous twitch as we thought things may get slightly messy. As it was the black flag was waved, Stuart was out of the race and Mark and Dan took advantage to move up a place in the final podium finish.

Not one to take well to losing, everyone enjoyed ribbing Stuart about his 'loser' status, none more so that Foordy, Dan and Mark, who wore there winners medals with honour for the rest of the trip!

If pace on the track was unrelentless, the drinking stepped up a gear on our return back to the Hotel Skane, another walk into the Old Town in which we discovered a new bar, The Bar With no Name. Here we discovered a watering hole which we decided was more than adequate for our needs later on that evening, and as luck would have it, Stuarts losing streak continued some more. Despite me nearly decapitating Reaso with a stray cue ball, it was Stuart who got seven balled by Dan and another ribbing for his inadequacies.

Little jokes and laughs at others expense are what makes a boys holiday all the better, especially if it is at one persons constant expense. It must be the fire brigade mentality but Stuart took his ribbing with all the intention in which it was meant.

Another walk back to the Hotel Skane, another quick S, S, S where we discovered the cleaners had been and tidied our rooms. Whilst Gareth was on the first leg of his S, S, S, I found a little parcel on my bed. It was a wallet with a collection of credit and debit cards with Gareth's name on them! Evidently he hadn't looked very well and the cleaner had discovered them whilst cleaning the room. I dare not repeat what profanities were leaving Gareth's mouth at this point, but the tears of laughter were ringing all around the Hotel Skane a short while after!

Back once more to the old town for a meal in a great medieval style restaurant. Vodka was served with the evening meal, and I tried Venison for the first time which I was quite impressed with. But it was the post-meal events which really made the evening and made our stay in Tallinn so memorable.

We headed back to the Bar With No Name, and commenced our drinking marathon. I decided that being on a stag weekend we needed to liven things up slightly, so tried, not very successfully to implement a few games, such as the "corkscrew in a pint", whereby if you were unlucky enough to have a corkscrew put into your drink, you would have to down what was in your glass before selecting your next victim. The game didn't take off as I would have liked it to have done, but there was some worthy participants.

I was under the impression that being on a stag weekend meant drinking shots at every round, drinking through funnels and generally drinking far more than is humanly possible, but there wasn't really any of that going on, so I made my own way to the bar on several occasions and made my way through the shots menu myself. I understand it's not to everyone's taste to be so extreme, but on a stag a little more imagination is needed with the drinking rules! Especially seeing as it was the last night!

Of course, there are some drawbacks, the main one for me is that I get a little crazy on the dance floor and think that I am John Travolta on acid and start dancing like a loon. It started off in the Bar With No Name and carried on to the Hollywood club where things got progressively worse! I was best friends with everyone in the club, or at least that is what my drunken voice told me. High fiving complete strangers, and apparently jumping on members of our group from one of the elevated platforms! I would love to tell you all about what everyone else got up to, but in all honesty I cannot remember seeing anyone else!

Something that does flash back to me was running at Keith for a chest high five. I momentarily forgot that Keith is 8ft 3 and built like the proverbial brickhouse. I bounced straight back off him, onto my back and slid 20ft across the floor into a table and toppled a couple of pints of drink over my head.

Soaking wet, covered in booze I made my way to the bathroom and had a wrestling match with a hand-dryer for half and hour, without a great deal of success! Despite smelling like a brewery, the rest of the evening past, I think pretty much in a blur! All that happened next, at least in my mind is people leaving the club all at once and me emerging into daylight!

Rather than head back to the Hotel Skane for a couple of hours sleep some of us headed back to an all night café for breakfast, two more bottles of beer! I wanting to keep sleep away for as long as possible so I popped off next door to the casino and won myself 20 kroons at a game of video poker, but I relented in the end and had to head back!

When I got to my room, Gareth was already asleep, fully clothed, in his coat and shoes, and so I pretty much did the same, crashed right out! Next thing I know I am being woken up saying that the taxi is downstairs waiting to take us to the airport! I hadn't packed and hadn't the time to change, so I shoved everything I could find into my bag and went to the airport as I was. Dressed in my beer stained shirt and trousers, smelling of goodness knows what!

All in all, it was a huge blast! I am not too sure that the local Estonian people are entirely enthusiastic about groups of Englishmen overtaking their town every weekend, in particular, one women at a refreshment kiosk told me to "go away" when I asked her for an orange juice. Quite what her disdain with me was, I will never ever know, but there appeared in a minority of people a tiredness of the English people.

The Old Town itself, as I mentioned earlier was a beautiful place, and strangely romantic if you were exploring with a partner, but I am not too sure if you would have enough to keep you occupied for long. The vast amount of bars and places to drink is adequate for a group of friends, either on a stag, or a visiting supporter of either one of the home nations placing Estonia in a qualifying game. I can image the town square filled with Scottish Football fans, which may fuel some of the locals distaste, but we were not rowdy in the streets and very respectful to the local people in passing.

Will and I have spoken since we have been back in the UK and both of us would love to go back, even if it is again for just two nights, to visit the Hollywood nightclub which was a vibrant mix of foreign tourists and young Estonians. The local population has an alleged ratio of 70/30 in favour of women, which in my opinion could quite well be true. There were a lot of women about the streets of Estonia, and many had a Scandinavian appeal to them, which was great for us group of guys, looking around here there and everywhere.

Ultimately, even if I hated it, or thought it was the worlds greatest place, it is only the opinion of one man that counted this weekend, and Will had the greatest time he could have had on his "last weekend of freedom". We all played a part at one point or another, but it was the organisation and planning of Foordy and Reaso for which we all owe a great big thank you and a massive handshake for making it all possible.

Until the next time....

2 comments:

markpat said...

Finally I've got to the end! Very good bird man, but what happend to,'what goes on tour stay's on tour?'

Mark P

Adam Bird said...

Very true, very true - but I figured we all had such a laugh I needed to share the love a bit.

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