AM. DAY TWO. RIGA.
We made it to breakfast nice and early ready to get our butts on the road. Firstly though, we had to pick up a car. Otherwise this road trip would have taken a hell of a lot longer.
Hamilton was driving because his birthday is before mine, meaning he is slightly older and car rental places make it cheaper for people slightly older than myself to hire a car. The max we would be driving each day was 2/3 hours so it wasn’t too much for one person.
Our first stop on this journey…
It’s a 3 hour drive to Tartu and check in to our apartment wasn’t until mid-afternoon, so we made a stop on the way at Lake Otepaa, an important place to Estonians, that was once blessed by the Dalai Llama. I believe its also an ice road when its a bit colder, meaning people actually drive on the frozen lake, which is mad.
With these things in mind we were excited to stop for a walk around the lake. Unfortunately I don’t think we picked the best place to stop – we did walk around the edge of the lake and indeed on the lake (we were feeling brave and we had already seen other people do it), however we mostly walked around what looked like an abandoned seaside resort. Not the fun abandoned either, just a bit boring. We didn’t have a bad time – it was interesting to see the juxtaposition between the freezing cold lake and summer resort but it didn’t blow our minds.
We didn’t spend too much time there before heading off, so we had a whole afternoon in Tartu. Now, if you google image search pictures of Tartu, it comes up with pictures of it in bright sunshine or adorable snow. It was the in between stage for us and not quite so picture perfect. Mind you we had definitely just been spoilt for choice in Riga. We pulled up at our little apartment and met the host, who was lovely. I must say, every single person we met on the road trip was nice. We didn’t realise we were meant to pay cash upon arrival (we booked online) so she told us not to worry – we could leave cash on the table that night and she would collect it the next day (which is what we did).
OLD TOWN TARTU
Now, we weren’t there for very long so we didn’t have too much time to explore – the following opinions could be completely missing out on something but we were a bit underwhelmed by the old town. We went to the cathedral (which I didn’t realise before getting there, is now a ruin) and then thought we were going to the art museum, but actually paid and went inside the University museum which is very different. It was fun though – there was an exhibit on about solving crimes, which had a lot of interactive bits – a crime scene to look through, an interrogation room… There was even a table you could take your fingerprints down on, which we decided to take with us in case someone decided to steal our identities/clone us.
It was a cool place, the only comment I would make it that as it wasn’t an art museum as we expected it to be, it was slightly lacking in art. After that odd experience, we grabbed a pizza from a restaurant in town which ended up being full of cute dogs, so that was quite the win.
We had planned on doing more exploring the next day but then realised the other two places we wanted to go to were open late that night, so we walked up a big hill in the rain to them (#commitment) and continued our evening.
THE UPSIDE DOWN HOUSE (TARGURPIDI MAJA)
I had seen Mrs Suvi go here on her blog and we were very excited to visit. I’m not gonna lie, it was great fun. Its not cheap for what it is, but I would do it again. The premise of the whole thing is simple… The whole house is upside down and so you can take pictures of yourself, turn them the other way up, and it looks like you’re upside down (as above).
We went in 30 minutes before closing, which was loads of time. Plus, it was empty, so we could take whatever stupid pictures we wanted without anyone there judging us. If you’re in the area, do go in, its such a fun idea.
It is a bit trippy though as the floors are all sloped, and the furniture is stuck to the ceiling. We were both falling over each other walking around, even though we were yet to have a drop of alcohol.
ESTONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM
The house just so happens to be right next door to the Estonian National Museum, which is one of the largest and most beautiful museums I have ever seen. Built on a disused runway (with a past that I believe was ignored where possible), its impressive inside and out.
It was also open late and super empty, which was nice. One tip though, when you go in they should give you a card which you tap on electronic displays to turn them into English/your preferred language (very clever). We were not given this and spent far too much time completely confused. Its still fun looking at all the amazing things in there but a bit more interesting when you know the background of them.
It has the most amazing collection of things in, I don’t even know how to explain. All of with a long back story. Everything from flags, to ATM machines, jeans, skeletons, furniture, plates… You could happily spend an entire day wandering round there (if you have the card that tells you what things are, that is). Everything about Estonia’s past is mentioned, which makes for very interesting reading.
We only had a few hours there but I really enjoyed it. Estonia is very technically advanced, especially digitally and so there are lots of clever tricks/gadgets within the museum that really show off their collection and make it that bit more impressive.
It shut at 8pm, so afterwards we went back into the town to a cool place we had walked past when we got pizza, called Meat Market. They had a drinks menu as long as my arm and a cool East London vibe, which we were super down for. Also it was warm and dry in there, the complete opposite to the outside.
I got an absurdly strong cocktail which I think only contained different types of alcohol. I picked ever so slightly at random because I do not speak Estonian and I didn’t want to ask the bartenders to explain every cocktail to me.
I regret nothing though, it was a good time.
… And that was our time in Tartu. They have great museums, nice people and an obsession with bollards in the shape of animals that we were very there for. Plus lots of statues of babies that we weren’t as enthused by. Also I played it down, but the streets are actually very pretty.
For us, we had just the right amount of time there but you could definitely spend a bit more time there. For us though, we had places to go and bogs to see…