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Pole to Pole

Day 24: Helsinki to Tallinn

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleHe won't elaborate on what is so good about Russian girls but tells me where to find them.

'The night bar of the Palace Hotel.'

Later I ask Clem where we're staying in Tallinn. It's the Palace Hotel.

I'm unapologetically excited by my first sight of Tallinn, which appears to starboard from a low green coastline about one o'clock in the afternoon. I have never quite believed in the existence of Estonia. It always sounded more like a name out of fable than fact, this tiny country at the tip of a spur jutting out into the Baltic. Quite suddenly, since glasnost, the existence or non-existence of Estonia has become a crucial political issue, and as we approach I feel I am not only on the verge of satisfying a lifetime's curiosity, but of seeing some history in the making.

Rising around soft brown city walls are the spires, turrets and towers of a medieval city, but the docks present a dejected picture. In marked contrast to the bustling cosmopolitan harbour we left three hours ago, our only companions on the Tallinn waterfront are rusty-hulled colliers and cargo ships in need of a coat of paint. All bear the hammer and sickle on their funnels. The immigration forms are faint Xeroxes, and as there are long queues to process them I go back to take a last picture of the Georg Ots. A car pulls up almost instantly and a soldier gets out and eyes me with contempt.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 24
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Tallinn
  • Book page no: 50

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