The first stop in Estonia was the small city of Tartu where I stayed overnight. Distances are small in the Baltic states, which is a key advantage since this leaves plenty of room to cover many places and still have enough time to visit and relax. Tartu was one such place. Being the second largest city of Estonia, there are plenty of cafes, book stores – and students. In fact, the national University of Estonia is located here. Founded back in 1632, it is considered to be one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. No wonder, Tartu is being considered the intellectual center of Estonia.
Another good reason to visit the country was my next day’s trip to the capital city: Tallinn. There, one of the best intact medieval old towns in Europe lies well preserved waiting to be discovered by the increasing influx of tourists. The cobbled streets are numerous and I couldn’t wait to park my rental car to start exploring by foot.
Unfortunately, there is one trap for visitors coming here by car. Make sure you have a local phone SIM card, since all the parking spots in the Tallinn center seem to accept exclusively mobile payment (aka: “pay by SMS”). So I left the car without paying for the parking spot. After an exhaustive visit of the old town – when returning back to my car, I found the subsequent parking fine lurking behind the windshield wiper. Since the fine for about six hours of illegal parking didn’t cost too much, I decided to pay immediately through my online banking account – by using the citywide available free Wireless LAN. Conveniently, the fine contained all the needed information (IBAN-number) for the payment transaction. Which I found quite absurd, since I had no means to pay the parking spot in advance – only its fine afterwards. However, this minor hiccup couldn’t spoil the general perception of Tallinn being a fine city.
To speed up the transit to Lithuania – the last country on my list of Baltic states, I decided to stay overnight in Pärnu, a small town 120km south of Tallinn. Pärnu, being the “summer capital” of Estonia, is a health resort town with many bathing establishments. Most notably, the Pärnu mud baths are well known to treat several illnesses. The city also has a beautiful beach side, which can get quite crowded in summer. An early morning stroll through the small, but beautiful town center concluded a relaxing visit to Estonia. Later that day, I left for Vilnius (Lithuania) – transiting through Latvia.