April 19, 2016

A Couple of Kalamaja Casuals

We are continuing our interview series not with a single person, but with two people!! Yes, you read that right! We met up with a great couple from Kalamaja to find out about their lives and favourite places in Tallinn. They are both expats of sorts and it's their third city where they live together. Their names? Well they're Feliks Gornischeff and Vanessa Bauke, of course. Feliks is originally from Tartu and very much an Estonian. Despite his relative young age, he has already lived in four countries by now. So while he's not an expat in Tallinn, you could argue that he should belong in the expat community. Vanessa is from abroad and living in Tallinn - she's German and definitely an expat in Tallinn. So we sat down with this German speaking couple to see what's Tallinn like in their eyes and how they go about their business. Enjoy!

Expats in Tallinn

Where did you guys meet?

Vanessa: In Tartu. I was there for four months with three other people from my school and we had an ‘practicum’ or an internship in Tartu. One evening, my friend and I, we wanted to go to a club, but we didn’t find it, so we stopped and started talking in German quite loudly and he noticed that and came to talk us and yeah, it started from there!

Feliks: ..and we ended up going to Nott

How long time ago was that?

Vanessa: Four years ago.

Expats in Tallinn

And you’re originally from?

Vanessa: From Germany, Lübeck. It’s north Germany, close to Hamburg so let’s say Hamburg.

Feliks: Let’s say Lübeck.

Vanessa: OK, let’s say Lübeck (laughs).

So you were in Tartu for four months..

Vanessa: After that I had to go back to my school to finish my term so I moved back.

Feliks: I finished school in May that year, the same time she went back and I went with her to Germany, not knowing for how long - to try our luck and went there and stayed for a year.

Vanessa: So we moved to Hamburg together.

Feliks: I was a bike messenger and a pizza worker for that year!

Living the dream! So you were there for a year and then decided to move to Tallinn?

Feliks: In December, when we had been there for half a year, I started looking for jobs in Estonia and I found a position for Vanessa - a teacher at the European School and she applied and got the positive answer already the following Spring

Vanessa: Actually quite fast.

Feliks: ..and I found a position at the Maritime museum and got that job and everything just clicked and we moved here.

But you didn’t consider Tartu, your first choice was Tallinn?

Vanessa: Yeah, mainly because we both found a job we liked here.

Expats in Tallinn

What were your first impressions?

Vanessa: Well, I actually already knew Estonia a bit, with the four months spent in Tartu, but Tallinn was definitely different. It was a little bit difficult in the beginning, because of the language and I had just started at a new job, where the language is English. We had just moved - I didn’t have any friends and it was a new place, so I just needed to get used to it. But it started getting easier and easier, and I met some friends and at one point I felt already settled in.

How long do you think that took?

Vanessa: It took months.

Feliks: I’d say half a year. For me since 2006, I’d only stayed in Estonia only like one year at a time and moved abroad again. At this point, I knew I wanted to stay for longer and I was happy with the move. We both felt like settling down for a bit.

Vanessa: Feliks wanted to finish his PhD here so that was always going to take time.

So looking back, how long have you lived in Tallinn now?

Feliks: In July, it will be three years.

Are you happy with the move here?

Vanessa: Yes, I am. I’m really happy to live here. I met some friends and I like Tallinn - it’s a really nice city.. or I should say a town…

Feliks: a village (laughs).

Vanessa: ..and I also have a really nice workplace with a lot of international people. Also Tallinn offers you many many things to do here!

Would you say most of your friends are expats in Tallinn and international people?

Vanessa: Estonian and international, I’d say it’s a good mix. I have a feeling that Estonians are quite open to foreigners and like to mix with international people, especially when you consider young people.

Expats in Tallinn

What about the language barrier?

Vanessa: Well, initially I’d say there was definitely a language barrier. I thought my English was really good, but it wasn’t (laughs). So I had to get used to speaking English at my workplace and I didn’t understand that much, so I had to learn on the go.

Feliks: But you had experience with living one year in the United States?

Vanessa: Well yeah, it was one year, but that was a long time ago. I stopped using English for a while so I had to get used to the language again.

And the Estonian language? Do you still mainly use English with all the local people?

Vanessa: Yes! Of course sometimes I practise my Estonian, when I try to order something or when the person in front of me does not speak English at all - then I try to get by with Estonian and body language.

Does this happen often, when you have to use your hands to show smh like ‘I’d like 2 Cokes please’?

Vanessa: Not that often actually, because most Estonians speak English really well.

So you mentioned that you like Tallinn, what is it that you really like about it?

Feliks: I like Tallinn, because it’s compact. You can reach many places by foot and if you compare that to Hamburg, it takes much less time moving about from place to place.

Vanessa: Yeah, in Hamburg you’d have to take a subway and it can take a long time.

Feliks: .. but not here, here you can just walk around.

Vanessa: Actually it’s even nice that you can go from Tallinn to Tartu and it just takes you two hours. For example when you go from Lübeck to let’s say Berlin, it can take you four or five hours, so it’s a big difference. I really like it that the distances in Estonia are so small, so you can go to Tartu for example and you’re in a different city, but it only took you two hours.

What do you mean by Tallinn being compact?

Feliks: You have the seaside here, you have some beaches in the summer. There’s nature or you can quickly go to the Old Town pretty much from anywhere in central Tallinn and find some touristy spots. You have loads of museums..

Vanessa: ..and a lot of cafés and it's all in a short walking distance.

Do you have any favourite cafés?

Feliks: I think Komeet is really good for a Sunday afternoon to have coffee and cake (laughs). (The interview took place at Komeet.)

Vanessa: I wouldn’t say I have a favourite one. I’m actually someone, who likes to explore different places to see if there is a place I’d love to go more often. At the moment, it doesn’t really belong to Estonia, but I like to go to Caffeine. It has a lot of different places in Tallinn and it's cozy and cheap (laughs), plus there's always a lot of international people.

What I really like is Sinilind. Even day time it’s good to go to relax and have a coffee, but especially at night when they have concerts and live music, so it's definitely one of my favourite places to go out.

Expats in Tallinn

What places would you recommend for nightlife in Tallinn?

Feliks: I really used to like Frank to start the night. Your drink some beer, get some food and enjoy the atmosphere. After that, on the same street, you can go get some wine at Paar Veini.

Vanessa: I also like the Baila bar - just to go dance and listen to some fun music. There’s people from all sorts of places, like Spain and so on. I also like the place next to Texas..

Feliks: Hell Hunt - it has cheap snacks and you can watch football there.

Vanessa: Plus again there’s a lot of international people.

Feliks: Obviously, you can’t ignore Telliskivi. There’s all sorts of food and nightlife places. It’s also in the most ‘hippest’ part of the town - Kalamaja, where we also live. To be honest, it’s not the nicest area in Tallinn, there’s other parts of Tallinn that are maybe nicer, like Kadriorg for example. But it’s quite close to town and has it’s own unique style with wooden buildings. There’s also many good restaurants and places to go out besides Telliskivi, like Sesoon that’s close to our house. Sesoon is probably the best place to have brunch on Sundays. It's relaxed and has all sorts of people who go there, families, a mix of older and young people and so on.. Maybe only hipsters don’t go there.

What's good for a date night in Tallinn?

Feliks: I love live music, so if they have a concert, then Sinilind is probably our favourite place to go. Where else?

Vanessa: Frank - just to eat something.

Feliks: We don’t really go on dates. We just go out to the movies and have some drinks after that, maybe meet up with friends - we’re casual people!

And Vanessa, are you happy with that?

Vanessa: Yeah, I’m happy with that! (laughs)

Feliks: We’re not really partying type of people, I guess.

So if you’re not going out, what else is good in Tallinn?

Feliks: I think what's nice for a good Sunday afternoon..

Vanessa: ..is to stay at home and relax. (laughs)

Feliks: .. that also, but you can go to the KUMU museum and go for a walk through the Kadriorg park towards the seaside. I think that’s one of the best walks in Tallinn. Obviously Old Town is good also.

Vanessa: I like to go Flamenko dancing. I go to Arte Flamenco on the Pärnu maantee and it’s really fun. There’s great people there and the classes can be really good! Or if you have a car, you can go to Viimsi..

Feliks: .. or Türisalu and see the cliffs.

Vanessa: Yeah, just driving through the coast can be really nice. On both sides of Tallinn there’s many interesting spots to see close by.

Feliks: Like the Ruhe restaurant (laughs). My brother got married there.. Actually going by bicycle at the seaside is even better when it’s good weather. You can go towards Stroomi rand or Pirita. I know that Vanessa likes to roller-skate by the seaside also.

Oh yeah, there’s one really great museum in Tallinn called the Sea Plane Harbour or the Estonian Maritime Museum. It’s the best museum in Tallinn and you should definitely go visit that.

I heard it has really great employees also..

Feliks: I heard it has a really great collective! A few of my friends work there and it does seem to be a really great group. If you go to the museum, you get struck by ‘WOAH’ and think to yourself, that you never want to leave that place.

Expats in Tallinn

What other places similar to museums you like to go to?

Feliks: If you want to be cultural, you can go to the National Opera - Estonia. You can watch a ballet or an opera. Vanessa doesn’t speak Estonian so we don’t go to the theatre too often. I recently heard that Kanuti does theatre in English, so we might go check that out soon.

Vanessa, is there anything you miss from Germany?

Vanessa: I mainly miss my friends and speaking in German. Last night I met someone in town, who I could talk to German in and I was really happy about it. In your home country, it’s not always English, English, English or trying to speak in Estonian. I get to speak in German with Feliks so it’s not the biggest problem, but it would be nice to have more German friends or a bigger German community here. However, besides the language and people, it’s not like Tallinn lacks many things. Every now and then, I miss certain German food, but Estonian food is actually quite similar so it doesn’t happen too often.

Is there big differences otherwise between Estonian and German people in your opinion?

Vanessa: How do you say ‘ernst’ in English?

Feliks: Serious.

Vanessa: Exactly! Estonians and Germans are both pretty serious, but Estonians are a lot more quiet. I actually like that, because I’m similar in that way. For example, when you go on a tram or on a bus, it’s just quiet. You don’t hear anything. If you’d live in Spain for example, it’ll just be ‘blaap-bla-bleep-bla-blaap’ on the train and everywhere else, but not here. (laughs) I also noticed in the beginning, that Estonians are quite modest or shy, but if they start seeing you as a friend, they’re really nice to you. It depends on a person of course, but in the beginning they are not as open.

There’s also a lot less bureaucracy in Tallinn, which is good. Getting things done takes you a lot less time and is a lot more convenient here. Plus there’s free Wifi almost everywhere, which is nice. However, the traffic here seems a lot more dangerous than back home. There seems to be a lot of arrogant drivers so crossing the road is more of a hassle.

What do you find funny about living in Tallinn?

Feliks: One thing I know that she’s told me is that - people rush for random reasons. For example on a tram..

Vanessa: Yeah, when you want to get off the tram, you don’t really have a chance to get off, because people would be pushing inside. I mean you can just wait. Also about the politicians, it’s funny that everyone can become a politician - some strange, stupid people. (laughs) You’ll even see advertisement on TV for politicians, which is something I don’t really understand, because you don't see that in Germany. Is there something else?

Feliks: We don’t really have superstars. In Germany, when someone famous would be walking down the street, you’d have people crowding them, trying to take a photo. Here no one really cares and it’s more normal here.

Vanessa: Yeah! In the beginning, I found that strange that when you see someone you recognise on the street, there’s no one walking up and asking for a picture. I guess it’s good for famous people, but it’s strange that when you see someone famous, people act like they don't care.

Looking ahead. Is there something you wish to do soon?

Vanessa: Right now, I’m just trying to enjoy my life in Tallinn, because I’m satisfied and wouldn’t want to move anytime soon. Unless, we both find something and we say let’s do it and try it out.

Feliks: Yeah, you never know.

Vanessa: Exactly, who knows! Maybe at one point we want to find something else, but otherwise it’s nice to live here in Tallinn!

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