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Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 59: Day Out

So today we had an outing with Kirsti and Urmas!

First up, Kirsti took us to an open air museum. It was really spiffy, especially because the houses on display were actually extractions from the past (they weren't replicas). The houses all had some form of organic roof system, because rather than tiles they had branches or reeds of some sort that composed a thatched defense against the elements. This explains why none of the houses had chimneys -- you wouldn't want sparks lighting your house on fire! And in addition to that, all the walls were made of logs, and the flooring was either dirt or stone. No nails were used in the construction of these houses, they actually just cut notches in to the wood so that the walls would support themselves. The doors were very small, and Kirsti joked that this was because people were shorter back then. This may have actually been the case, but in addition to that it probably had to do with keeping smoke as confined to one room as possible. This is because since there were no chimney stacks, and since Estonia can be quite cold, a fire would have to be going through most of the night to keep everyone warm. Of course, they had constructed oven mechanisms so that the wall would heat up in the adjacent room from an oven burning in the neighboring room... but smoke still would post a problem since there was no adequate ventilation. Even stepping inside of these houses, I could smell the smoke! The interiors of the houses seemed to be painted black in many instances, but the reality is that the smoke stained the wood from so much exposure.

There were also horses, chickens, and pigs living in the outdoor museum... and there were people dressed in the fashion of the time, too! We saw some windmills, swung on an oldfashioned swing (you stand on it, you don't sit), and overall it was quite the learning experience.

Later on, when we were leaving the museum, we met up with Urmas and we went for a tour of some of the government buildings where Kirsti worked. Then we went to a church in Old Town and saw a ton of Germanic family crests... it was odd walking on the floor because you were literally walking over someone's tomb. Then after that, we all went to the Raddison and got a drink so we could enjoy the view from the top. It wasn't very tall by American standards, but it was tall enough to see most of Tallinn. The secret is that no one is allowed to build a building nearby that is taller than the city spire, so therefore you can still get a good view and see that the important buildings of old still hold some significance in the urban landscape.

For dinner we went to a restaurant in Old Town. KP and I shared an ostrich steak with sauteed mushrooms, as well as some fish soup. It definitely met with our approval! Interestingly, the bathroom on the second floor of that particular building was built inside of a chimney... so looking up, all you saw was darkness!

We said our farewells to Urmas and Kirsti, and went to our hotel to enjoy some down time. We threw some towels on and went in to the sauna, watched a really bad movie about a Sorority house with a ghost, and cooked up some sausage to snack on.

That night, KP and I were a bit restless... it was our last night in Estonia and we didn't want to sleep it away. Instead, we went to Club Hollywood for a while and burned off a few cake calories by dancing. It seems that no matter where we go, when we're in the girls washroom and speaking English, someone has to ask us where we're from -- it's nice how our language itself can be a communication initiator.

Afterwards, KP and I ate some leftover sausage, and chilled by drinking some wine by the well. Then, when the sun started to creep up, we decided it was time to hit the hay, and we went to bed.

I will miss these comfy beds.

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