Estonia,  Europe

Exploring Tallinn: Fairy Tale Houses, Friendly Locals, and a Toy Horse Named Billy

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Tallinn had been on my ‘must visit’ list for years. A random place? Probably. Especially considering most people I spoke to at home had never heard of it. But, after hearing about the Baltic city from my uncle in the military, I was pretty set on seeing it for myself. Mainly because he told me it looked straight out of a fairy tale, and we all know I’m a sucker for fairy tales.

The gates to Old Town Tallinn
The gates to Old Town Tallinn

Last March I finally made it to the supposed fairy tale capital of Estonia, and it completely lived up to my expectations. I fell in love as soon as I walked through the stone gate into Old town. I loved the orange rooftops, the uneven cobblestones beneath my feet, the winding alleyways, and the low doors that made me to duck to fit under them. It was everything I love about European cities.

Brightly painted houses in the main square
Brightly painted houses in the main square

Aside from the story-book charm, I was blown away by the kindness of the locals. An elderly man was quick to approach me when he saw me struggling with my map when I arrived. And later, a woman on the bus helped me find my way, despite her inability to speak English. As a solo, female traveller, their kindness meant the world to me. I know more than anyone else that not everyone is willing to go out of their way to help a stranger.

Tallinn (4 of 5)

Those in the tourism industry were equally kind. I was always greeted with a smile when I entered a shop, and never felt pressured. At least not to buy anything. But I did manage to get myself into a very strange situation.

To be honest, I’m still not entirely quite sure what happened. One minute I was browsing Tallinn-themed shot glasses in a quaint shop, the next; one elderly woman was tugging me towards a wooden bench while another lifted my camera from around my neck.  Though they did speak some English, it wasn’t a lot, and all I managed to catch was ‘nice’ ‘Billy’ and ‘photo’.

Before I knew it, I was posed on the wooden bench beside a giant stuffed toy horse (Big Billy) while holding his baby brother (Little Billy) for the women to take a seemingly endless amount of photos with my camera as well as with her own.

Smiling awkwardly with Big and Little Billy
Smiling (super) awkwardly with Big and Little Billy

My impromptu photoshoot lasted about five minutes. I had to change my pose, pull forward my (messy) hair, and move Little Billy so he could be better seen. What they couldn’t adjust was the awkward smile on my face. I was worried about what they wanted; after all, I had previous experience being chased through Venice for taking photos of masked ladies, and hustled in Ireland for taking a picture with a Leprechaun. I knew all about the price of fun photos.

Turns out they didn’t want a thing. They just wanted to have some fun with a stranger, do something to give them a laugh. And I was all for it. After all, interacting with the locals is one of the best parts of travel. When they finished I was rewarded with a couple of hugs and an invitation to come back anytime. And, of course, another random story to add to the books.

Has anyone else out there posed with Billy?

Tallinn (1 of 5)


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