Mini holiday in Tallinn, Estonia

We went to Tallinn, Estonia's capital, in March 2009. Tallinn's old centre is a beautiful and well preserved medieval town, and this is the story about our visit.

View over Tallinn

As the plane approaches Tallinn, we see the snow covered fields of Estonia. Tallinn is grey from above, but the red spot near the coast must be the tiled roofs in the old town.

I say: "Hotel Bern" to the taxi driver. He seems bewildered until he sees it in print. "Ah, Hotel Pern!" he exclaims, stressing the P.

Estonians have a peculiar attitude to consonants. A bank is called "Pank", and Bern is "Pern". The trip to the hotel in the old town costs almost 100 Estonian kroons (EEK). There are 2 Estonian kroner to 1 Danish, so for us it is easy. With euro it is slightly more complicated: 1 euro equals 15.67 EEK.

Our first view of Tallinn's old town

The old town is very beautiful with houses in pastel colours. The houses are well maintained and have doors in happy colours. The streets are cobbled and dangerous terrain for high heels. Pavements are narrow, but traffic is scarce so you can walk on the road most places.

Door in Tallinn Door in an old house in Tallinn Door with happy colours in Tallinn

We are very tired and drop in at the Irish pub O'Malley's, where a sweet girl serves two pints for 80 EEK. "Service not included," says the bill. In Estonia you tip. Irish songs flow gently from the loudspeakers. Home to rest.

Restaurant Controvento

Katarina Käik

Stairs at Controvento

A rest does wonders, and we walk to the Italian restaurant, Controvento, which we located during our short walk. The address is Vene 12, but it is actually in Katarina Käik, an alley between Vene and Müürivaha.

The restaurant is popular. There are two floors with several rooms, and having no reservations we are lucky to get a table on the ground floor. It is a bit cold near a door to the alley, but all right.

The waitress speaks excellent English. Estonians must have a talent for languages and a sense of humour. Why else would Estonian Air write "Istudes kinnita turvavöö", when they mean "Fasten seat belt while seated"?

We both have minestrone. It is without tomato, but with lots of vegetables. It could do with some salt, but is good.

For main course we both order a beef fillet - Helle's with gorgonzola sauce, mine with mushroom sauce (porcini). With this one portion of oven baked potatoes and 1 mixed salad, which we share. The wine is a carafe with the house red, a nice Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

The fillet turns out to be two large medallions of beef tenderloin for each of us. Everything is very good.

However it is very cold when I go outside for a smoke. It reminds me of the Finns, who run naked from the sauna to roll in the snow. The Finns have few amusements, and running naked in the summertime is unwise because of the mosquitoes.

We finish with espresso and a local brandy, Belõi Aist, which tastes of caramel.

There is an error on the bill. They have charged us for two glasses of red wine instead of a carafe. It is impossible to change (computers rule the world), so I get an extra bill and am not charged the full amount. In total we pay 1195 EEK, and that is cheap considering what we have had.

3½ glasses of 5 possible 3½ glasses of 5 possible 3½ glasses of 5 possible 3½ glasses of 5 possible 3½ glasses of 5 possible


Vene 12 tlf.: +372 644 0470
email: info at
Open daily 12 - 22:45, the bar to 24.

Popular Italian restaurant. Reservation recommended. Pizzas are only served Monday to Thursday from 5 o'clock.