“I LOVE it when a plan comes together,” as Colonel Hannibal Smith from the A-Team was so fond of saying.
On the face of it, my trip was fairly simple – a 24-hour mystery tour with easyJet. Roll up at Stansted airport, open an envelope containing flight tickets... and head off. So far, so good.
Airport duly reached, envelope duly opened and mystery destination duly unveiled – Tallinn, capital of Estonia. Excellent. Not been there.
No mad scramble at boarding, an aisle seat secured, and the flight took off on time. We were due to land early evening so the plan was a 15-minute cab to my hotel, check in, then check out the nightlife. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, Mother Nature was not with the programme. Weather was the problem.
The light snow showers forecast for Tallinn were blizzards severe enough to shut the airport runway. The pilot wasn’t prepared to risk landing. Fine by me. But where DO we land?
The answer lay 200 miles south in Latvia. The runway at Riga airport was open so off we headed, landing at the Latvian capital 30 minutes later.
Then it got interesting. You’re in the wrong country. You need to be in the right country. Tonight. Is there a Plan B?
Fortunately, easyJet had one. But it was going to take time.
A fleet of coaches was needed to take us to Tallinn by road, a journey of around 4.5 hours. But fleets of coaches don’t usually hang around Baltic airports just in case a flight is diverted.
So we had to wait. Eventually they turned up, but it was past 11pm. Armed with a ‘dinner’ from the airport snack bar – tomato flavour crisps, Haribos, very strange chocolate bar, fizzy water – I settled down in the coach.
In fairness, the late night drive through Riga was a bonus – it’s a splendid-looking city. And, hypnotised by the swirling snow, I did sleep for an hour before the coach neared snowbound Tallinn. Then things got tricky.
The driver was obliged only to drop us at the airport, not the city centre. Fair enough, them’s the rules.
But at 4am at icy Tallinn airport there’s not a lot going on. And the queue for the few taxis was pretty long. Freezing your Baltics off keeps up your concentration levels as the taxi queue gets competitive (nobody wants to share).
So it was gone 5am by the time my taxi arrived at the Nordic Hotel Forum hotel in central Tallinn.
Alarm set for 8am. Must see as much as possible before heading back to the airport at 5pm. But, having slept through the alarm, it was more like 11am and a bracing -9C when I made my way to the Old Town.
First stop was historic Toompea, on a hilltop with Estonia’s parliament and the Alexander Nevsky cathedral.
Next, downhill to the Town Hall Square and a cafe for a hot drink and a bowl of bacon stew with delicious bread. It’s the heart of Tallinn, home to craft fairs, concerts and markets. I wasn’t going to miss the 15th Century Kiek in de Kok tower (it translates as “Peek into the Kitchen”). The museum inside has displays of all sorts of weapons from across the centuries and there’s a nice cafe at the top.
All too soon it was time to grab a taxi to the airport for the uneventful flight home and on to the Stansted Express.
Just in time to make last orders and a much-needed pint at London’s Liverpool Street station pub.
I love it when a plan comes together.