I spent my last day in Tallinn getting out of the Old Town. I took a short wander into the Old Town first thing, in search of breakfast, and discovered that overnight five whole cruise ships had docked in the harbor, and who’s cargo were now filling up the souvenir shops and clogging the quaint Tallinn alleyways.
So I decided to leave them too it and headed out of the old town in search of entertainment. First I headed for the Balti Jaam flea market. My advice: its worth a look at least. I don’t know why they call it Balti Jaam. Balti Jam sounds pretty horrendous if you ask me. I think the ‘Jaam’ bit means ‘station’ – and it is next to a station.
But it was a remarkable place. A few stores selling the most useless tat you could never need, and along side them a few little gems flogging old war memorabilia – Nazi war medals, used hand grenades, huge (one assumes decommissioned) machine guns. Huge (perfectly still usable) army knives.
I contemplated purchasing a bust of Lenin, to act as a mascot for my impending journey across Russia. Bit it looked pretty heavy. So I thought better of it.
Its not massive, its not going to soak up much more than an hour. But for something interesting to do to get you out of the old town, its well worth a look.
To get to the Balti Jaam flea market simply walk to Balti Jaam train station, and its right behind there. There is no entry fee.
I spent the rest of the day visiting an old prison. I say old – the thing was still a working prison until 2005. Quite how they were ever allowed to put human beings in this horrific place is beyond me, especially in the 21st century. Fine, be tough on crime and all that, but if you ask me this place was enough to turn anyone homicidal. Huge concrete cells, a tiny little exercise yard, paint peeling off the walls. It was relentlessly shocking.
And it was bloody scary if nothing else! The prison has essentially been left exactly as it was the day it closed. There are no displays, no information boards telling you about the jail. In the exercise yard weeds run rampant. Half broken furniture lines the rooms. You need to walk through utterly dark coridoors along the way, and you’re always half expecting some nutter to jump out wielding a knife purchased moments before from the flea market right around the corner.
Shock tourism, they call it. But proof that, sometimes, the way to make an impact is to simply present something as bare, unwashed and undressed as you can, and let it speak for itself. It certainly left an impression on me.
The prison is on most maps, near the harbour and the sea plane museum. You can get a taxi, but the walk is perfectly safe, taking about 20 minutes from Balti Jaam market, and takes you through a neighborhood full of pretty wooden houses, Russian style (and indeed this is the Russian district of town). I say, walk it! The prisons not a tourist trap – which makes the whole place feel all the more authentic. Admission is 2 Euros.
So, that was Tallinn! I did quite like the place. I’d go back again. I liked it more than Riga, but not as much as Vilnius. There you go. Sums it up pretty neatly, right?