A 90 minute ferry ride away from Helsinki sits the Estonian capital where even the Finns go to have fun. (Or so a tour guide told us, but judging from the list of things to do in Helsinki I don't think she was wrong). After disembarking at the pier, beaching Tallinn's rough, industrial exterior immediately gives way to the rustic and quaint Old Town, where one could easily spend several days getting lost in its winding cobblestone streets full of specialty shops, cafés and ancient churches. We only had the better part of an afternoon, so we tried to make the most of it.
For 2 euros, St. Olaf's Church provides a bird's eye view of Old Town from the top of its immense spire, which at one point was the tallest in the world. The view from up top is well worth the price of admission, but the climb up the uneven stone hewn steps is not to be underestimated; let's just say it reminded us of how out of shape we are after a month of making and tasting pastries.
Afterward we rewarded ourselves at the nearby Beer House's happy hour, where one can find 0.5 L portions of select drafts for 3 euros and generous plates of German delicacies for 8-12. Tasty, but it's a good thing I'm not vegetarian any more. Just a few steps down the road is the town square, whose market makes for good souvenir shopping.
Following some more aimless wandering we made our way over to the Hotel Viru, which houses the world's first and only KGB museum. I'm not usually much of a museum person (looking at old things tends to lose its novelty real fast), but this was easily the best guided tour I've ever been on. I mean, come on, it's the KGB! How often do you get a chance to look at some of the original equipment they used to spy on people?
On a more serious note, though, having been indoctrinated via an American public education that communism is bad, it was fascinating to get a more nuanced perspective on what life was like under Soviet rule. Our guide, an Estonian native, didn't leave us with any doubt that her country is quite happy being independent, but she did have some pretty incredible anecdotes about how things were before independence.
Bottom line: When in Scandinavia, go to Tallinn.