Hello faithful readers,
Our latest adventure brought us to the old world, into a city in Estonia named Tallinn.
Tallinn sits on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, and we reached our destination via a large cruise ship named Baltic Queen. This thing is a huge, Love Boat style cruise ship, complete with bars, restaurants, shopping, and most importantly, *activities*, led by our cruise director Irene Hansson.
We dropped our gear in the cabin, buzzed around the ship, and found our way to the sun deck. It was freezing and tornadic on the sun deck, so we didn’t linger, but we did get to say goodbye properly to Sweden from this vantage point.
As we wandered around the ship, I remember thinking how utterly screwed you would be if something unfortunate were to happen to the boat whilst cruising. These ships are so large and so many people are on them that it would be challenging for strangers to navigate to the top under sub optimal conditions. I started out confused and became more so with each drink. That became a small worry for me, and remained a big worry for Bex, as she had information that I did not yet possess…
A quick trip to the supermarket found us armed with an enormous Toblerone, which was enjoyed in the Tango Bar.
We first encountered cruise director Irene Hansson in the ship’s Pub Bar. She was hosting the Music Quiz, a music-related game whose rules remain unknown to me. The rules were lengthy and potentially complex, and they we delivered in Swedish.
Cruise director Irene Hansson is a stern, matronly woman with a commanding presence and a proper officer’s uniform. She has a broad face, and wore her black hair in a bun. She maintains ownership of multiple languages and can switch effortlessly between them. She has the speaking and singing voice of a German opera singer.
Music Quiz consisted of ten segments where Irene sang, karaoke style, snatches of popular songs from the 50’s to the 10’s. We were to write something down. Who knows what? There were many verbose rules, and as the game progressed, clues…provided to contestants, alas, in Swedish.
Somehow, we finished third in this competition, and were rewarded with drink tickets and yet more Toblerone (having already acquired in the onboard market a bar of Toblerone occupying approximately one cubic meter). I figure we coulda won this thing if we had any earthly idea what game we were playing. We felt good and moved on to the next bar.
Two overpriced hamburgers and a number of pints later, we found ourselves once again enjoying the crowd-mastery and crisp diction of the fabulous Irene Hansson, whom we had by this time respectfully nicknamed Mistress Bun. Miss B kicked off and hosted a raucous three+ hours of karaoke which featured a Charlie Daniels’ Band song (Long Haired Country Boy), a guy doing Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll in Russian, a guy failing and yet at the same time über-winning whilst getting through I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing for his girlfriend, and the mighty Bex utterly crushing the Carpenters’ Yesterday Once More. A good time was had by all, and with a breakfast call awaiting us in a couple of hours, we decided to retire to our cabin.
The remainder of the trip was relatively uneventful; unsatisfying boat sleep, bad breakfast, disembark. As we were leaving the ship, Bex shared with me some information that she had kept to herself prior to and during the journey. That information is this: a ship identical to the one we cruised on, and operated by the same company, had sunk during this same journey several years ago. 862 of the 989 souls aboard were lost in that event.
The story of this failed journey is horrifying and fascinating. The circumstances and subsequent handling have been shrouded in controversy. The boat took on water during a serious but not unusually severe storm. A series of misfires from the crew led to the situation not being understood and handled with the attentiveness that it deserved. The crew under-reacted to quickly worsening conditions, and as a result, most of the passengers drowned in their cabins as the boat quickly sank in the night.
The MS Estonia and those who died aboard remain today at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The cost to salvage the ship and the bodies was deemed too expensive, and a decision was made to bury these folks at sea. And there they remain, along the path we traveled in the night.
Having avoided this fate and safely reached Tallinn, we decided to celebrate with a drink, taken at Hell Hunt (translation: the Gentle Wolf; yes something was lost in the translation from Estonian to English) following a short explore of the city. This is a legendary pub, claiming to be the oldest in Estonia.
The day was finished off with one more round of beer at the Depeche Mode Bar. This place plays Depeche Mode music exclusively, shows Depeche Mode concert videos on screens located all over the bar, features Depeche Mode-related art and memorabilia, and even has Depeche Mode themed novelty drinks. Steer clear of the Enola Gay.
This is the only bar in the world dedicated to a single band. Can you believe that? You shouldn’t, because I just made it up. But it might be. Suffice it to say that you really need to love Depeche Mode to tend bar at this place.