February 18, 2014

A Hidden Gem!

Door to...?
Winter isn't an easy time for most of us hens. We are only born with so many feathers, and the charm of snow and 4 p.m. sunsets wears off quickly come January. I fluttered to Florida years ago to avoid true winters most of us experience. Then my employment with Hens on Ice flew onto the scene, telling me in fine print that we'd be going to cold places in winter...very cold places.

This year's tour has taken us to the definition of cold winters: Scandinavia. I mentally prepared for the worst once we bid "arrivederci" to Italy in November. I envisioned tears, tantrums, frozen limbs, and possibly a stay in the psych ward. Thankfully, I couldn't find the psych ward on Google maps, so I've just dealt with the other three. Although it is still winter and we didn't take a sudden detour to the Caribbean, we found a true hidden gem just a ferry away from Finland: Estonia.

Estonia doesn't make U.S. news or history books often, so I knew very little about this Baltic nation. Where is it? Isn't it part of Russia? And what the hell do they speak there? These are some common questions that clucked around. I expected it to be on par with Polish grayness and hopefully less hate crimey than Russia. After a week in Tallinn, I learned a little more about this ambiguous nation and fell in love. Maybe it's the cheap cider talking, but yes, love.

Made for hens.

  • The old city of Tallinn is beautiful and charming. The old buildings are preserved to their historic charm, not crumbling in Eastern European despair. It has the quaint, old European feeling walking through the cobblestone streets, lined with old, colorful buildings, towers, cafes, and cathedrals. There's even a breathtaking Russian Orthodox cathedral so I could pretend I was in Russia for a few minutes.

I can see Russia from my hotel.

  • It's cheap. Okay, it is no Mexico or Taiwan, but if happiness can be relative, so can cheapness. After paying $12 per beer or $30 per average meal in Scandinavia, a normal tab suddenly seemed outrageous! 4 euros for a drink? 13 euros for a meal? Suddenly, those euros turned into Monopoly money and no purchase was off limits. Yes, I'll have dessert and a souvenir mug! Yes, I'll have another round of drinks! Yes, I'll get my haircut! Wait, I think I spent a lot of money in Estonia...

Living fancy! (pre-haircut)

  • Tallinn is the place to go in northern Europe for a haircut. My previous haircut was at home in October, and since then, I'd been putting it off until my feathers were truly out of control. I've put the trust of my feathers into a friend's hands for years who is a feather dresser. Since he wouldn't fly to Europe for me, I put off a visit to a foreign salon as long as possible. I used every excuse: It's too expensive. They won't speak good enough English. I still look good... half decent... or not terrible. But in Estonia, I knew it wouldn't be expensive, English was spoken well, and I couldn't lie about the state of my feathers anymore. Thankfully, with the help of a friend in surveying the city's salons, I found a place called "Glam Salon" that could not have gone any better. I felt confident with the name alone, and then my sassy feather dresser had essentially the same feather style I wanted. I was happy he asked a lot of questions to get my feathers just right, and when I was in doubt, I just said I wanted to look like he did. When I stood up with an amazing new feather style and Carl told me it was 18 euros, my beak hit the floor for such a small price for the superb service. I threw 30 or 300 euros at my lovely stylist and left as a new Estonian bird named Carl. 

Hi, I'm Carl.

After a week in Tallinn, I was sad to bid it farewell. After bracing for stereotypical Eastern European gloom, I left with warm feelings for Estonia, a new feather style, and sacks of souvenirs. Who knew this gem was hidden between Russia and the Arctic?  

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