3rd July 2016 —
I never thought it would be possible to love a place the way you can love a person. But Tallinn is personified to me, and the passion I feel for this city is as strong as anything I could feel for a fellow human. I don’t want to leave. It’s my last night here, and already this studio flat feels like home, and the walk here is familiar, routine. I’ve made myself a life here, in only a week, and I can’t bear go give that up.
I spent the day wandering languidly through the city, revisiting places where memories were made. I wanted to go to Kadriorg, to prove a point to myself, or Google maps, or whoever cared. But I decided to go to the Old Town first.
I wandered through the now-familiar cobbled streets, and — by chance — happened upon a place I’d wanted to visit all week, but hadn’t been able to locate: Vegan Restoran V. I bought three gorgeous cupcakes to takeaway, and went and sat on a bench under the Raekoda arch in Raekoja Plats.
All I saw was Phoenix and Persephone. I didn’t see Persephone’s death, or her speech against the Tsar, or Phoenix sobbing on bloodstained snow. I didn’t see scenes from the actual book. I just saw my characters, laughing, happy, running around. Because I’d brought them home. Perhaps, in a way, I’d brought myself home too.
I was near tears when I left the Old Town — because I don’t know when, or if, I’ll see it again.
I then set off for Kadriorg, but it was raining dreadfully, so I ducked into the Rotermann quarter, and looked around the shops till it dried a little. Then I found a tram headed for Kadriorg, and STILL managed to get off at the wrong stop (is anyone sensing a pattern here?)
Kadriorg was pleasant enough, but it was wet and rainy, and all I really wanted to do was get back to my flat, and snuggle up under a blanket. So I wandered around Kadriorg park, trying to find a tram stop, and somehow ended up on the Narva Maantee, across the road from Pirita beach.
Although I felt pretty miserable by this point, I decided to tick another destination off my Tallinn bucket list, and go to Pirita. The sand was damp from rainwater, and the sky was heavy with clouds, but I took off my sandals (mostly just because they were brutalising my feet) and paddled in the sea, letting the waves wash up to my ankles.
I picked some flowers, and pressed them between the pages of my diary. Then I walked barefoot across the grass to the nearest bus stop and (with sandals back on by this point, obviously) got a bus to Viru Keskus, where I discovered (after six days!!!!) there is a café that does soy coffee!!!!!!!!!!
I sat on one of the curvy, white, plastic benches, drank coffee, and thought about how much I’m going to miss this city. I looked in some of the shops, then took a final walk through the Old Town. I walked the long way back to my flat, taking the road that curves along the base of Toompea Hill.
When I finally reached my flat, I couldn’t unlock the door, no matter how hard I tried. I was frustrated, but I didn’t cry (I gave myself the “You’re a grown-ass woman, etc, etc” speech). Eventually, some neighbours passed — Russian Estonians. I asked if they spoke English. The man spoke a little. I asked for help. He tried the door, couldn’t open it. He went and got his friend, another Russian man, who DID manage to unlock it for me — at which point they cheered loudly, in typical Russian style.
Russian Man No.1 joked that I had to kiss his cheek as payment. I cringed, he laughed. It seems that no matter where I am in the world, middle-aged men will always know just how to wind me up.
4th July 2016 —
Leaving Tallinn was pretty simple — even I managed not to screw it up. That was leaving Tallinn… Arriving in Eru? Now THAT was a colossal screw-up. I missed my stop, and ended up some five km away in Võsu, a “town” in the middle of a forest. There was WiFi near the bus stop (just!), so I sent a message to Anton, my AirBnB host, and explained my predicament. He couldn’t pick me up because he wouldn’t arrive until evening, but he told me there’d be another bus at 1:20.
So I sat in a bus shelter for two.whole.hours. I was so pleased with myself when I got off at Eru. That was over three hours ago now. The directions Anton gave me were: the cottage is equidistant between the Eru and Tammispea stops, and visible from the road. So I walked from Eru towards Tammispea, with my three heavy bags. I walked all the way to the Tammispea stop. There hadn’t been a single house visible from the road throughout the entire walk.
I did what I do best: sat and sulked. Then I decided to walk back, just in case I’d missed it. I stopped every few metres because my bags were so heavy. I walked all the way back to the Eru stop. I discovered that if I sang, the journey went much quicker, so I traumatised the wildlife with renditions of Lana Del Rey songs, and tried not to be defeatist.
I sit at Eru bus stop now (which is just a wooden bench). Anton said he’d be coming from Tallinn this evening, so I have this theory that if I sit here long enough, he’ll drive past, and see me. It’s 5:10. 3½ hours since I first arrived at this bus stop. Thank God it doesn’t get dark till midnight!
There were many times today where I wanted to cry. But the only crying I could muster was that horrible kind of whiny crying. And that’s pointless when you’re on your own, because there’s no one to feel sorry for you.
The fact is, I wanted to be a child, and have someone come and fix my problems for me, but I’m not a child. I’m an adult now, and I have to solve my own problems. Maybe that means I need to go in the other direction, and see if maybe the cottage is somewhere down that way. Maybe it means I should just sit here for a while.
The road is surrounded by forest, but there is a clearing before me, and white butterflies flutter amongst the ferns and rose bay willow herb. What a beautiful place to be lost! Birds chirp in the distance, and it suddenly occurs to me that they probably have bears and wolves in Estonia. That’s it! I’m definitely going to try walking in the other direction!
I’d walked all of ten metres when a thought suddenly struck me: yes, I can’t message Anton, because I have no WiFi, but I could try calling him! So I called, and it worked for about a minute, before my phone realised I was in a foreign country and my credit shouldn’t work. So I’m still ridiculously lost, but at least he now knows that I’m ridiculously lost…
What I DID gather, is that I had gone the right way from Eru — hence, there is no point venturing the other way. I guess I’ll just sit here and hope that Anton finds me before the wolves and bears do.
I’m not particularly sad, or scared, or miserable. I’m not even frustrated anymore. I’m just worn out. And hungry. And I really need to pee. I don’t want to walk anymore, I don’t want to triple-check the location of a building I couldn’t find the first two times. All I really want to do is nap. (And pee — that is the priority).
Anton texted me, asked questions about my location, but my pain-in-the-ass of a phone decided my reply couldn’t send. I’m stranded in the middle of nowhere, covered in mosquito bites, I haven’t had a full meal since breakfast, and there might just be wolves and bears in this forest. I don’t even know if Anton’s left Tallinn yet! This is going to be a looooooooong night. To think, eight hours ago, I was still in Tallinn!
Even though the sun won’t set for another few hours, I feel like it’s already starting to get dark. I need caffeine, and sleep (probably not in that order!)
I miss somewhere right now, but I don’t know whether I miss home, or Tallinn.
A short time later, my Anton In Shining Armour (if we can call him that…) appeared. It turned out the whole confusion had been an issue of semantics. When he said “visible from the road”, he really meant “visible from the turn-off down a muddle pebbly potholed track”. What I interpreted as a road, he called a highway. Well hellooooo cultural relativism!
There is no shower, or sink — the only running water is a hose. And there is no toilet, only an outhouse. And, oh my God, there is no WiFi! I knew there’d be no WiFi, but somehow “no WiFi” in theory, is very different from “no WiFi” in reality.
What am I meant to do for four days? Commune with nature? Find religion?
I felt a bit better once I’d eaten. (At least there’s electricity…) But I still feel incredibly disconnected from the modern world. It’s kind of scary that I don’t know who I am without social media…
My generation gets a lot of flak for being the “selfie generation”, for being obsessed with our online presence. But for someone like me, social media goes a lot deeper than that… I’m an introvert, I can’t stand socialising for more than a brief amount of time. But I need my little audience, my Eliza Fanclub. Particularly now that school’s finished, and I don’t have my teachers to be my daily audience.
I love to be noticed, but noticed on a greater scale. I don’t want to be noticed in the sense of people who are fans of the idea they have concocted of me (I.e. crush type admiration), I want to be admired for the me I present to the world, my own representation of me, and social media is the only way I can create that representation.
I need Facebook, I need Instagram, I need twitter, I need this blog, because they’re the only medium I have for sharing myself on my own terms.
Rain patters down against the roof of the loft where I lie, and I can almost see the beauty in this ‘Little House on the Prairie’ nightmare. I miss showers, and comfy beds, and proper running water, and internet access, but it’s beautiful to be so hidden from the world.
I always seem to take on the energy of all the people around me, and this tiny village of wooden houses is the perfect antidote to a week of city life. The people here seem different to those in Tallinn. When I was stranded in Võsu, I was approached by two sweet old ladies who noticed me sitting there for a while, and wanted to see if I was okay. We could each only say a handful of words in the other’s language, yet they seemed like such lovely women.
Anton’s mother also seems lovely. A woman in her fifties (I’m guessing) with yellow-blonde hair, who seems to go about life at a peaceful pace. I watched her gardening, through the window.
The writer in me is curious about the people here, about their stories. Every time I see older people in Estonia, I think about the Soviet era, and wonder what life was like for these people who walk the same streets as me, today, in this world. Did it feel like history was being made when they lived through it?
Maybe I’ve heard too much about “Brexit” recently, but the idea of tumultuous history has been on my mind a lot lately. The things that we view as horrific, or groundbreaking, what were they like for the people who lived through them? Was it just normal life for them? Did things develop at such a pace that the outrageous crept up on them and became normal? I don’t know…
I’m so obsessed with people, with the way they interact, the way they go about their daily lives. But I would so much rather be an onlooker than a participant. I’m a voyeur by nature, and I’m so much better when I watch life from afar. But what happens when I blur the lines between the voyeur and the object of voyeurism?
What happens when I want to participate in life, and watch my own participation as if it were someone else’s? As a writer, I document the lives of others, but there are times when I want to document my own, to have a life WORTH documenting…
I, at times, wish to be both author and protagonist, scriptwriter and star… Can life work that way? Perhaps I can make it work…
For now, I content myself with observation of others. Anton comes into the cottage to get a mattress and blankets for his cottage, which is a few metres away from this one. I find Anton intriguing, perhaps because his English is fluent, so I hope to get a decent conversation out of him at some point. He is a tall man — taller than me, I think — and muscular, with a long face, longish hair, and dreadful fashion sense. (I’m SURE bootcut trousers have been out of fashion since before he was born, but whatever…)
His daughter follows him up the stairs. She’s a cute little thing — about three years old, with dirty-blonde hair. She babbles to her dad in Estonian. He glances at me, then says something to the girl. He must have told her I’m English, because she grins at me and says “hello”, and I completely melt. He introduces her as Melinda. She’s the cutest thing!
Watching the interactions between Anton, Melinda, and Anton’s mother, I begin to think I CAN survive four days without internet and creature comforts. Why? Because I have the good, old-fashioned tools of my trade: pens, paper, and muses for inspiration. Maybe there’s a story here, or inspiration for one — I don’t know.
But I feel like the universe, or whatever’s out there, always puts me in the right place at the right time. And maybe, just maybe, my ‘Little House on the Prairie’ hell is the right place for me right now. Perhaps the next lesson I will learn on my journey is how to get back to the basics.
Earlier, sitting at Eru bus stop and questioning the purpose of life, I began to wonder why I had booked this trip in the first place. Tallinn made sense, because Tallinn is synonymous with my book to me — or, at least, it was. But Lahemaa National Park? Why here? It was nothing more than a whim. I thought: I can come to the middle of nowhere and get lots of writing done.
Then fate played a cruel trick (also known as: I misread the Easyjet guidelines) and I couldn’t take my laptop as well as my other bag. I didn’t even think about the effect such a plot twist would have on this phase of my journey.
All this led me to thinking that coming to Eru was a colossal waste of time. Now, though, I don’t feel like that’s the case. I was sent here by fate, because somewhere here there is the material for a story. Also, my beloved Baltic Sea is only about 50 metres away.
Life is full of possibilities, and full of stories, and perhaps such things are far more important than social media. And as much as I miss the instant gratification of likes and comments, I don’t miss my phone buzzing all the time, I don’t miss being constantly connected to the wide, wide web. (Though I am a little scared about how much crap can happen in British politics in a four-day period).
Anyway, I must sleep.
Sleep? The first night in a new place, did I really expect easy slumber? I went outside in my pajamas, and watched the sunset through the trees. All I could see were colours, a gorgeous orange shrouded with dark green leaves. Anton’s mother saw me, and told me to put some shoes on so she could show me a better place to watch.
She led me over near the door of their cottage, where there was a metre-or-so wide clear view of the setting sun disappearing into the forest, which, in turn, disappeared into the Baltic sea. I watched, transfixed.
I heard Anton and his mother, talking in Estonian somewhere behind me, and, for the first time, I heard the beauty on the Estonian language. That 3-person, 3-generation, compact family unit loved each other so dearly, and I could understand that, even when I couldn’t understand the words they spoke.