The Travellers and Food Lovers Guide to Rugby League – Tallinn

By Daniel Andruczyk

The last several years I have had the fortunate opportunity to live and work overseas, namely in Germany. My passion for Rugby League found me travelling all over Europe to watch the greatest game and in one case even managed to participate in a tournament. So I have decided to write blogs on my experiences, the travel, food and cities I experienced and share some photos. This month I look at a place on the rugby league frontiers as well as Europe in many respects, a rich and beautiful city, Tallinn in Estonia.

The City

Tallinn, the larges city in Estonia is also one of the most beautiful. Growing up in Australia you don’t hear much about Estonia or the old soviet block in general. All I can say is wow, wow, wow! Tallinn along with Riga and Vilnius are the undiscovered gems of Europe in my humble opinion.

The modern city of Tallinn is distinctly medieval in its architecture, as many of the European cities are, the architecture from that period seems to survive a lot through Europe. The Town square, though not big certainly manages to pack in a lot. There are restaurants, pubs, bars shops in every place imaginable there.


A view of Tallinn from the top of the town hall tower

Tallinn sits on the Gulf of Finland and one thing that gets you is the amount of large cruise ships always parked in the port. There are many tourists from the Scandinavian countries and so you get this rich mix of Germanic, Scandinavian and Uralic (Estonian, Finnish).

The origins of Tallinn go back 5000 years where evidence has been found of settlements but the “modern” history starts in the 1000’s when the Toompea castle was built and Tallinn became an important trading centre between Russia and Scandinavia.

S5007132Part of the old defensive walls surrounding the old city. There are demonstrations of archery through the summer.

The Estonians who were pagans soon came under the rule of the Danes and Christianity was forced upon them in the 1200’s. In 1285 Tallinn became part of the Hanseatic League and so became rich and powerful in the influence of trade through Europe. In 1346 it was sold to the Teutonic Knights who were militantly expanding through Northern Europe and were looking to extend their influence over the Latvians, Polish and Lithuanian.

By the late 1500’s the Estonians had switched to Lutheranism through the Teutonic Knights Germanic influence and soon cam under the control of the Swedish empire.

S5007200The Town hall in the old centre square of Tallinn

Tallinn consists of three sections that can be distinctly seen. Toompea which is the old Medieval castle and fort, the Old town which was built when it was part of the Hanseatic League and what is known as the Estonian town which sits outside the old part mainly and is where the Estonians settled. The older sections were mainly areas where merchants and administrators lived and controlled the city and tended not to be Natives but foreigners from whom ever was in control at the time.

Tallinn is a World Heritage listed city and thankfully its old town has remained unscathed despite the city being attacked and sacked over the many hundreds of years, including during world war II when the soviets Bombed it. It’s a beautiful city and well worth the visit, you will not be disappointed.

Where to Stay

So the hotel I stayed in was the Skane Hotel, Kopli 2. Its near the train line and just across from a flea market but it is close to the old town, you can see some of the Toompea fortification wall from it. A main train station is there as well and also a bus and Trolley bus line.

The hotel itself was very nice, not bad for a 3 star. It was clean comfortable, had a TV and bathroom. It was quite cheap I only payed about 30 Euros a night, back then it was about AU$50. So I was quite happy. There was a gorgeous girl Anna that did the grave yard shift and I was happy to stay up with you, drink beer and surf the net with you all night!

One thing to be careful of when staying in Tallinn, well when staying there in summer as I did is that there nights are very, very, very short. ‘Sunset’ was at about 11:30 at night and ‘sunrise’ at 2:00 am. I put these in inverted commas since it never really got dark there, it was this very light purple the sky like at dusk and the damn birds never went to sleep, I woke up numerous times thinking it was time to get up only to find its only like 3:00 am! I can imagine what it would be like in winter with near darkness the whole time.

The Travel

Baltic Air – How you terrify me. There really was nothing negative with this trip except that I had to fly a very dodge airline. I guess that provides some excitement in it self but their 737 must have been 20 years old, there were cracks in windows the seats were worn out the plane seemed to shudder at random intervals, and when we landed there was large applause! I guess at 20 Euros a tickets i really could not expect much more.

Tallinn I found was small enough to get around on foot, well in the old town anyway. There is a very good bus, tram and trolley bus system and pretty much will get you anywhere you need to get.

When travelling to and from the airport I used the Taxis. be careful here which one you get. There are taxis that have a meter and charge by the kilometre but there are also ones where you can negotiate the price upfront. You will need to work out which one is cheaper when you get there depending on the distance travelled.

The Food

So Estonian food, like much of Eastern Europe is pretty much meat and potato based and the meat is pork.  The beer however is fantastic I was really surprised by the local stuff.

I spent time in a couple establishments. One an Irish pub, is there anywhere these things have no penetrated, and the other a more local establishment. The Irish Bar was Molly Mallones and the reason I spent time there was that it showed Super League and NRL and also was selling all the Estonian Rugby (League and Union) gear. There I mainly had beer.

The other was the Nimeta Bar and there they tended to have a nice selection of food including blood sausages, jellied meat and slated herring. Thank goodness I am used to this stuff with my Polish background.

Be weary of the Estonian Vodka though, the Estonians do like to get stuck into it and it can at times taste like av-gas.

The Games

The main Rugby fields are at the Hipodroon Stadion just outside the main city. You can get busses and Trolley Busses out there. Its a trots race track round the outside and the fields are in the centre of the track.

In Estonia the one governing body controls both Rugby League and Union so there is never an issue there when it comes to the two sports. John Slade runs Estonian Rugby and you can always contact him when there about games and what to do in Tallinn.


Estonia and Latvia line up before the match

The game I went to see in Estonia was the 2008 European Bowl. This was fought out between the Estonians Latvians and Ukrainians. In Tallinn it was the Estonia – Latvia match.


Latvia get tackles by the Estonians

It was a tough and hard game this one. The Baltic teams certainly don’t shy away from taking the hits up. The thing I loved her was that the spectators were basically on the side lines and so you got to hear all the hits.


The Latvians taking a hit up again.

Early on Latvia demonstrated their dominance. Their backs were much quicker and agile and carved through the bigger Estonian players pretty much with ease. However a rally in the ended of the first half and early in the second saw the Estonians come up with a couple of tries and that seemed to spur them on to at least make a great contest for the whole game. In the end Latvia defeated Estonia 48-10.

EstvLat08 The two teams after the match

One of the great things with these types of matches is that after the match you get to meet the players and even enjoy a beer or two with them. We certainly did that in the Club house after the match and the tradition of a few shots of vodka came out. Thank goodness I have Polish genes!

A month later we got the Unfortunate news that the Ukrainians had to pull out because the EU wouldn’t grant them a Visa, so Estonia ended up travelling to Latvia to play a second match and the aggregate winner to take the European Bowl.


All in all Tallinn is a wonderful, beautiful city to visit. An undiscovered gem of the East and has so much to offer. So make sure that you take the time when in Europe to get out and see one of these Baltic states. I guarantee you wont be disappointed.

Daniel Andruczyk’s email:
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