Shop till you drop.

Have you ever seen the movie “Confessions of a Shopaholic”? I have a little tendency to shop too much… But whatever I end up buying, I actually really need. Whenever I visit a different country for a vacation, I end up buying something. When I was in Rome last summer, I bought a sweater that says “I ❤ Rome” (<3- the heart on the sweater is red and big!!).
Many people collect objects of some sort- stickers, rocks, knives…. My family and I have a tradition to collect magnets from any country we visit to put on the refrigerator. So far I have a magnet from: Brussels, Rome, Chicago, Ryga, Kaunas, Vilnius, Trakai, Punsk.. We haven’t been collecting for such a long time yet. Even though we have been to Moscow, Tallinn and other US cities, we don’t have magnets from them..yet.. I do have a magnet from London that my friend bought me as a gift. Now I feel like I need to visit the city soon because of the magnet 🙂 .

Since I’m such a shopaholic when I’m on vacation, I did some research on what to buy in both Tallinn and Helsinki.


1.Chocolate!! (I’m addicted to chocolate, so Tallinn is my heaven). Kalev chocolate is Estonia’s famous chocolate company. The Maiasmok cafe actually has a marzipan museum room. And the visit is free!
2. Ceramics. Especially those with replicas of old city buildings are very popular.
3. Jewelry. Estonian jewelry has a hint of the Nordic. Hand mad has a great touch of Estonia.
4. Knitted wear. Since it tends to get very cold in the winter, Estonians are great at knitting! 

Kalev chocolate!

The Estonian Handicraft House is  a place to visit if you must want something authentic from Estonia. You can get a wide selection of wooden, metal or ceramic items.
If you’re interested in hand crafts, the old city is the best place for that. I’m not really interested in them, especially buying from a different country, because Lithuania has this really great fair each year where a lot of hand crafts are sold. But if anyone is really interested, Katariina Passage is said to be one of the best places for this.
There’s also an interesting shop called “Baraka”. It has really funky gifts. From the pictures I saw on their website, this store has interesting totes, pants and other handmade things.


I’m a fashion freak and I will probably be running around Tallinn searching for a mall. And guess what? There’s a small shopping gallery in the heart of central Tallinn!! This must be my lucky search day!! But I have an excuse for a visit to this shopping gallery “Foorum” (Narva Mnt. 5). It’s great to visit this place due to its architecture. Art, culture and shopping in one place!
There’s another shopping center in the heart of the city!! It’s called “Kristiine” (Endla 45). It’s one of the biggest shopping centers in Estonia in terms of the number of shops!
And another shopping center! “Viru Keskus” (Viru valjak 4). It’s considered a fashion mecca!

Of course, you must visit an open market in any city you visit. “Keskturg” is best for a cultural experience. It’s a popular destination for fresh food, clothes and has other “treasures”.  Since Estonian has some Russian influence, there is also a Russian market “Balti Jaama Turg”. I’ll definitely visit!

My next post will be about shopping in HELSINKI!!
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Back in Time

Plenty of research has to be done before I am really ready to go to Tallinn and Helsinki this summer. Everybody knows, that these countries are close. No no, I’m not talking about distance. I’m talking about their similarities: same national anthem, currency and history (Swedish domination, then Russian, then independence after World War I). The reason I’m taking interest in this, is because it will be so much easier for me to understand and point out to everybody, that if planning on visiting one of these cities, definitely visit the other. It’s also interesting to see if they really are as similar as history tells… that’s what I’m going to find out…

What really caught my eye, when I was reading about these two cities, is that “in spite of its Swedish roots, old Helsinki feels Russian.” It’s because Helsinki was remodeled to look like St. Petersburg after the Russians took over Finland in 1809. If any of you have seen the movies Dr.Zhivago or Gorky Park, they are actually filmed in Helsinki because filming wasn’t allowed in Russia during the Cold War… Interesting…

St. Petersburg

Tallinn, as well as the other Baltic country ports, is in a very strategic location: between Russia and Western Europe. This is very interesting: according to BBC Travel, Tallinn was also the center for espionage during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Most of the spying was happening at the Hotel Viru (many of the hotel rooms were bugged and monitored from a secret office on the 23rd floor. It is now a museum).

Hotel Viru

After reading this, it seems that Helsinki and Tallinn are similar to Russia. And since they are both similar to Russia, they are similar to each other. That’s how I understand this after reading everything. 

Tallinn has the famous Kadriorg Palace, which was completed in 1718. It was built on the order of Russian Tsar Peter the Great. And in the Kadriorg Park, Peter the Great’s cottage still stands. It is now a museum.

St. Olaf’s Church

And one other interesting thing: St. Olaf’s church is the tallest building in the city. What you may not know, is that the church held an important radio and television signal jamming station. The Soviet agents used this to block Finnish and Swedish signals from reaching Estonia’s citizens.

I am really happy I found all of this information. It will be really interesting to visit these cities and see for myself whether Helsinki and Tallinn are actually similar to each other or not based on history.

I was done with this post, but I came upon one other interesting thing!! Not only does Tallinn, Helsinki and Russia share history, but Tallinn has a part of Denmark’s history. It is said, that Denmark’s flag originated in Tallinn. According to the legend, it floated down from the heavens during the Dane’s battle to conquer Toompea Hill in 1219. The park is now called “Danish King’s Garden”. 

All of this is so interesting, that I just want to go and visit Tallinn and Helsinki now!! I can’t wait!

Europe’s all about being GREEN!

In the past few years, people started talking about how polluted the Earth is and why everyone should start to care and have more eco awareness. That really got me thinking: we really do live like animals and if we don’t start doing something, who knows how long the Earth will let us live here. So I started recycling everything I could. I turn off the lights and other electrical appliances if I am not using them. Many European cities have also started to do the same by making their public transport system better, reducing noise, making sure the air and the water is clean, recycling.

I found out, that Europe has this award that it gives to a different city each year called “European Green Capital”. The idea of this was conceived at a meeting in TALLINN in 2006! What a coincidence! I’m going to Tallinn this summer!


The award is meant to inspire other cities to become greener. In order to be eligible for the award, a European city’s population has to be at least 200 thousand and it has to really be taking care of the environment and safe and healthy conditions.

The first European Green Capital was named STOCKHOLM in 2010. 95% of the cities population lives less than 300 metres from green areas, there is little noise and pollution. Du thirds of the population use public transport, bikes or go on foot. Transport emissions are relatively low, and all trains and inner city buses run on renewable fuels. The water in Stockholm is super clean, that many people go fishing in the city center!


In 2011, HAMBURG (Germany) was picked as Europe’s greenest capital. It is Europe’s third largest port and a big industrial city situated on the banks of the river Elbe. Hamburg has a great public transport system, many forests, parks which have good pathways. There are also public bikes anybody can use.


2012’s European Green Capital is VITORIA-GASTEIZ (Spain). The city was founded in 1181 and is second in size in the Bilbao region. It’s a beautiful medieval city with many green places which take up a third of the cities territory. The residents of Vitoria-Gasteiz don’t really use their own cars and rather go by public transport or bikes. Vitoria-Gasteiz id promoting ecological farming, use of solar energy. Kids are also being taught about going green at schools. 

NANTES– France’s 6th largest city will be Europe’s Greenest Capital in 2013. It was actually named “the most livable city in Europe ” by Times Magazine in 2004. Nantes is focusing on public transport, bike trails and sidewalks, parks. 


Many cities have already applied to be named Europe’s Greenest Capital in 2014. They are: Newcastle, Stoke-on-Trent, Bristol, Rotterdam, Antwerpen, Brussels, Gent, Paris, Frankfurt am Main, Zaragoza, Torino, Vienna, Ljubljana, Brasov, Thessaloniki, Bursa, Trabzon, Tampere, Copenhagen.

The next call will launch on the 15th June 2012. This call will be to find the winning city for 2015.

Which city do you think will be Europe’s Greenest Capital 2014?

And the research begins!

I am so excited about summer vacation! I can’t wait to finally put all of my books and journals away and start to enjoy the warm weather and all my free time that I will have.


Like every traveler, I always do a lot of research on the place I am going to. It’s not just for the purpose that I won’t need a guide, it’s because it’s also one of my favorite parts of getting ready for travelling. I find out such cool stuff about a city, country or monument. It’s probably in my blood. That’s why I chose to study international business of tourism.

You already know, that I’m searching for information about Tallinn. But guess what I found?!


Because of the cheap bus tickets to Tallinn, I decided that I can visit another city. And that city is HELSINKI. A ferry goes from Tallinn to Helsinki in about 2hrs! And it’s not that expensive as I thought it would be! It would cost about 40 Euros ( about 52 USD) for one person depending on the time you choose to go. It could be even cheaper, as low as 36 Euros (46 USD) without choosing any of the facilities, like buffet dining, dinner coupons or pet cages. I am going to go early morning from Tallinn and leave Helsinki in the evening. I think one full day is enough to get a feel of the city. This will be my first time in Helsinki!!

Here is the online booking site for the ferry:

I found great sights to see in Tallinn. But I’m not quite done with my search yet.


I was so confused because I didn’t know what city to choose from the list I wrote yesterday. Guess what?!! I picked a totally different city, that wasn’t on the list and somewhere I was not even planning on going. The winner is….

I have been to it a loooooong time ago, when I was about 2 years old. So I don’t remember anything. I’m super excited now. 
What made me pick this city, is that bus tickets (Simple Express) from Vilnius to Tallinn cost from 6-12 Euros (7,5 to 15 USD). That is so cheap!! That means I can splurge on the hotel! And I can go shopping and spend my money in another crazy way!
Just kidding! With the money I save on the transportation and where I stay, I’ll use for my next trip to say…Tokyo?…. Or maybe LA.. Or any other city that is not on my list.
Now my task is to check all of the things I want to see and do in Tallinn. I can’t wait!