Julie Bindel @ Tallinn
Monday June 27 2005
The following is a reader's letter published in The Guardian on the impact of young Brits on Tallinn.
On my first morning in Tallinn, the beautiful capital of Estonia, I was woken painfully early. A group of drunken British men was lurching along the corridor outside my room.
Later, five of them staggered into the breakfast room, stinking of alcohol, in nothing but their underpants. They were wrestling each other and asking for beer.
Their conversation - which one couldn't help but overhear - was about the "totty tour" they had been on, and the number of "silicone tits" they had seen in the lap-dance club.
The waiters dealt with them quickly. Sex tourists on "stag" weekends from Britain and Finland have become regular guests in Tallinn's hotels. As the waiter bought him his beer, one of the drunks flashed me his bum.
Beer and vodka are really cheap in Tallinn ; so are the women - a big attraction for groups of men whose idea of fun is cheap booze and birds.
Brits have only been coming to Tallinn on stag weekends for the .............
past couple of years but it's set to get worse. More and more tour operators back home are selling these trips. I found a site on the internet called Tallinn Pissup, which organises most party weekends there. One of the things on offer is training at Dr Death's military academy on how to use pump-action shotguns - unfortunately not on each other.
They can visit strip clubs where there are "working women" and drop in on a medieval lesbian strip show.
I've been lucky enough not to see the Underpants since that morning. One of the hotel staff told me they don't get up until the afternoon, and then head straight for the bars. Some pubs have "No Stag Party" signs on the door, but most Tallinners can't afford to lose the business. Not many regular tourists will be keen to visit once they see sights like a load of Brits and Finns parading through the Old Town waving pictures of naked women on flags.
I talked to an elderly couple in a restaurant. Joan is from Bradford, and her husband, Henry, was born in Tallinn. They have visited twice a year since they got married, but after this trip won't be back until the sex tourists stop coming.
Many Tallinners stay away from restaurants and bars when the sex tourists are in town, too. As a result, the majority of money is going to those businesses that provide some kind of "adult" entertainment. Other businesses are suffering and are in danger, I am told, of being taken over by criminal gangs who have the funds to buy them out.
Families are unlikely to come to Tallinn when the sex tourists predominate, so hotels are forced to advertise on the websites offering party weekends. This in turn puts off regular customers and it becomes a vicious circle.
Government officials say they will do all they can to stop Estonian women being trafficked, but they are ignoring the sex tourism on their doorstep.
Estonia has at least 5,000 prostitutes, and it is a small country. The numbers of brothels are rising to meet the demand of the Underpants Brigade. There are growing numbers of strip clubs in the Old Town, and, as in Amsterdam, taxi drivers are paid by the criminals who run these places to take stag groups to brothels. Women from the poor, depressed areas in the north-east of Estonia, mainly Russian-speaking ethnic Estonians, are being trafficked into Tallinn to meet the increasing demand.
Tallinn is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, but it is being ruined by men from my own country. It could end up like one big brothel. HIV is on the rise in Estonia, as you would expect when drunken men demand sex without condoms, as a health worker told me happens. I hope I don't see any of them on my flight home.
What's the maximum penalty for air rage?