Adventures In Urban Orienteering

A few days ago, I was informed that one of the activities that the people of the Baltic states are a greatly fond of is something called orienteering.  When I asked about it to a local gentleman here, who had lived in Portland six years ago for a summer selling encyclopedias, he commented that it involves being skilled with maps and running around in the forest, which sounds like a suitably odd activity for me to be interested in.  At least with a vague understanding of what it entailed and an interest in exploring the city of Tallin by foot, I decided today to engage in some urban orienteering and the results were mixed, although ultimately they ended up quite pleasant once I found my bearings after an initially rough time of it.  The end result was a fun story and my feet did not end up too sore, and thankfully I did not end up too lost either, all of which are for the best.  And as for the rest, my trip did allow me to see some very interesting parts of the city and to ponder on the ways in which only parts of it are designed to be tourist friendly.

Those who know me well are bound to know at least a little bit of my tendency to explore different routes and allow myself to get lost a little in order to see that I can find my way aright again [1].  Sometimes this works out better than other times, but in general I like to inform my intuition about geography with experience in exploration. On the way to services, it worked out particularly well. I chose a simple route and was able to follow it and read enough street signs in Estonian to keep myself on the straight and narrow, so to speak, and take a lot of photos of the gorgeous buildings and humble pigeons I met along the way.  On the way to services I wore khakis and a polo shirt, not knowing how odd my appearance in a suit might appear to the locals.  In retrospect, I needn’t have worried at all given that quite a few of them were prepared to explore the town by foot and dress up, and I did not receive any looks at being a strange or odd person for my love of hiking and urban exploration, which was gratifying given my general sensitivity to receiving that kind of attention.

On the way back from services, things did not work out so well.  There are many reasons for this.  The main reason for this was not staying on the main road long enough to get to the right right and departing from it too soon and in the wrong direction, not helped by the fact that the persistently cloudy skies made it impossible to get clues from the shadows of the sun and because once one left the tourist-friendly areas near the Old Town the maps abruptly stopped even along main roads as did the access to wifi.  We ended up finding where we were fairly soon, and found a tram route back into the intersection where we had been trying to go in the first place, but we found once we had boarded the tram that there was no way to pay the 2 euro per person fee by cash, no one to pay it to, aside from using one’s cell phone.  I didn’t have an app for that, alas, and so we ended up unintentionally fare jumping after we reached the Viri exit near the Estonian Drama Theater, a place that holds obvious appeal for someone as interested in drama as I am.

From this point the urban orienteering went as well as could be imagined.  We were on a road that connected Uus, where my hostel was, as well as Vene, the road where my parents’ hotel was located and the location of Pierre’s, the restaurant we wished to dine at.  My stepfather, who is almost seventy years of age and has some bladder difficulties at times, was able to go to the restroom at a McDonald’s, and then we drove for home and took more photographs of beautiful old buildings in the fading light of twilight as we made our way quickly to their hotel, where I dropped my books as we enjoyed some sparkling dinner conversation, and then collected them back to walk home about 8:30PM or so.  I had no difficulties and was soon back as well, having enjoyed my experience of traveling by foot through Tallinn even if that meant getting lost for a bit of time.  No harm was done, and many interesting sights were seen.  It is not so much of a disaster after all when one ends up safe and sound.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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7 Responses to Adventures In Urban Orienteering

  1. norma says:

    If you eat in the mall , they have no restroom. You have to find one outside the restaurant and pay 20 euro cents I was shocked to discover.

    • That sounds deeply unpleasant. At least he restroom in the McDonald’s was free! I remember when I visited Montreux more than a decade ago that the charge for restrooms while wandering about town was about a dollar. Talk about sticker shock.

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