One thing that consistently amazes me about Tallinn Old Town is the complete lack of relationship between the outward appearance of a building, and what lies inside. Many of the buildings are protected, and so nothing has been done to alter the exterior of these places, with their flaking paint and crumbling walls. Many of them look like nothing more than a rather dismal, sad, run-down old house.
Then you step inside and find restaurants that can take your breath away with their unexpected size and beauty. I’ve seen a huge, contemporary restaurant, buzzing with people and atmosphere, behind a set of creaky, dirty stable doors. An elegant, sophisticated Italian place at the back of what appeared to be a standard street café. A cosy, intimate restaurant in a dark alleyway, down a dubious set of steps into what appears to be a basement.
I would never have thought to venture into some of these places, being accustomed to a lot of advertising and eye-catching signs to reassure me that somewhere is worth investigating. It has taught me my first major travel lesson: always explore, because nothing is quite as you’ll expect it to be.
On the subjects of restaurants that don’t quite match the buildings that house them, though… I think we have a winner with this one: