Staying, as I am, with Riho in Tallinn, I am fortunate enough to have my own personal tour guide. This is good, as my sense of direction (infamously terrible at the best of times) seems to deteriorate rapidly the more tired I become, and, left to my own devices, I would have no hope of finding anything of interest. Or, to put it more accurately, I’d find plenty of things, but just stumble blindly past them in a pointless attempt to find Tourist Attraction No. 1 from my guidebook.
Today, I was exceptionally impressed by my clamber around what appeared to be a disused old building. It turned out to be, erm, a disused old building. Having said that, Linnahall is actually only a year older than I am, and, not to sound vain, I think I’ve endured the passing of these years with a much greater degree of success. Anyway, it was something of a novelty to visit a building that you get around by climbing about on the roof. It really is falling apart. In some places, it’s overgrown with weeds and covered in extremely impressive graffiti that is nothing like the IRA/UVF variety to which I am accustomed. In other places, it’s literally crumbling away:
Riho is a big fan of Estonia’s right to have crumbling steps and alarmingly uneven footpaths. He thinks it makes quite a statement about the country as a whole, as, were anyone to become injured as a result of this type of thing in the US or UK, they’d undoubtedly sue. “Look at this!” he exlaimed, dragging me enthusiastically towards one of his ‘favourite things in Tallinn’. It was a large hole in the ground, in the middle of a seemingly ordinary public area. If you weren’t looking where you were going, you’d fall right in and break an ankle/crack your skull/be very embarrassed.
“The thing is,” continued Riho, waving his hands excitedly as I dubiously and respectfully observed The Hole In The Ground, “you never hear of anyone falling into a hole or injuring their ankle on a missing paving stone in Estonia. But if this were on a street in the UK, there’d be a constant stream of people falling into it on purpose, so that they could sue!” This is a fair point, but I’m a little uncertain as to whether Estonians just always keep their eyes peeled for hidden hazards, or whether they fall down holes just as often as the Brits and Americans, and the government hastily disposes of their bodies and hides the truth about their disappearance with a layer of lies. I have a feeling that this suspicion comes from a lifetime spent in the UK, mind you.
Carefully, I backed away from The Hole In The Ground. These things are like magnets to me; I must actively pull away. So far, I have only stumbled a few times, but I expect that’ll change before much longer. I am very solemnly repeating my new motto in the hope of avoiding a disaster: In Estonia, You Always Look Where You Are Going.
It’d probably work just as well back home, but I’ve just never had any real reason to consider it until now…