Wieder ein TR (geposted in einem anderen Forum und darum auf Englisch).
More than Tier Point Running – One Week in Estonia
Welcome to another trip report of mine. I do hope you are going to enjoy it.
Some of you might be aware of the excellent deal that could be had by BA/AY from LHR to TLL in business class for £230
and which would yield 200TPs for those of us crediting to the British Airways Executive Club. On top of that, AY operates one daily LHR service to/from HEL with the A350 (if you are wondering why, cargo is the reason), so you would get a lie-flat seat on the route as well.
Some background first, though. I first visited Estonia in 2011, then again in 2012, when I attended an Estonian language course at Tallinn University in winter (!). I got to know a lot of locals, with some of whom I am still in contact today. In fact, one of my best friends is Estonian. That’s also the reason why I kept flying to Estonia ever since, to visit my friends, long before any Flyertalkers would fly to Tallinn just because of the fare...
Everyone who flies to Estonia most likely only visits Tallinn, which is a shame, as the countryside has a lot to offer and it is very easy to travel around by bus and to a certain extent by train. Tallinn is a great city with a lot to do and an interesting history, whereas the countryside is very tranquil and not densely populated at all. It is about the same size as Switzerland, where I currently live, but has a population of only about 1.3 million (vs. 8.4 million in Switzerland) and is completely flat (at least from a Swiss perspective). The highest peak in Estonia is only 318m (1043ft) above sea level. Here is a top 10 list of Estonia’s towns and its populations (Source
1. Tallinn: 447,414
2. Tartu: 96,904
3. Narva: 59,463
4. Pärnu: 40,702
5. Kohtla-Järve: 36,106
6. Viljandi: 17,958
7. Rakvere: 15,737
8. Maardu: 15,596
9. Sillamäe: 13,666
10. Kuressaare: 13,635
As it has been a couple of years since I was last on Saaremaa, an island to the west, we decided to book another run, but spend more time in Estonia’s countryside to explore more. When we went to Estonia in the past it was usually a long weekend, so we either stayed in Tallinn or Tartu, and that’s about it.
We did already a couple of those Tier Point runs, the first I believe was in September 2016, then in November 2016, NYE 2016, February 2017 and in June 2017. Unfortunately, the fare was amended and it is now more expensive, but in my opinion, it is still an excellent value to earn TPs and you still get the A350 on the route, which is a plus.
As always, I will share with you the flight details for our trip:
02.11.17, ZRH-LHR, BA719, 1855-1945, A320, 1A and 1C
03.11.17, LHR-HEL, AY1332, 1020-1515, A359, 10A and 11A
03.11.17, HEL-TLL, AY1023, 1625-1700, AT75, 13A and 13B
03.11.17, HEL-TLL, AY1027, 1830-1910, AT75, 2A and 2B (rebooked)
10.11.17, TLL-LHR, BA877, 1540-1655, A320, 1A and 1C
10.11.17, LHR-BHD, BA1422, 1845-2010, A320, 1A and 1C
12.11.17, BHD-LHR, BA1423, 0930-1055, A320, 1A and 1C
12.11.17, LHR-ZRH, BA716, 1300-1545, A321, 1D and 1F
This is the routing on a map:
Now, as you can see, we did book the TP run without going via HEL on the way back, but we added a BHD sector at the end as we wanted to visit a friend in Belfast during this trip, too. This trip would yield 180TPs and we paid about £420 or so, so in my opinion still a good deal (about £2.33/TP). The positioning flights to London and back home from Belfast to Zurich were reward flights.
Thursday was a good day, as we went to work with our luggage as we were heading directly to the airport after work. We arrived at about 5pm at Zurich Airport, checked in our two suitcases and headed to the lounge to have a snack and drink. The flight to London was operated by an A320, G-TTOB. The load was the following: Business 16/24, Economy 98/132.
After departure we were served a drink and nuts, and then dinner. Flying British Airways shorthaul business class has become so normal that I didn’t think of taking a picture of the catering. After arrival we reclaimed our baggage and went to the Hilton Garden Inn, where we were staying for the night. At this point we were both very tired. It has been a busy week at work, so we decided to go straight to sleep.
We got up quite early. After a good night’s sleep we got ready for our trip to Tallinn. After a couple of minutes, we arrived at T3 where we checked in once again our baggage. Security was slow as it was a busy morning at the Fast Track. Then, we headed directly to the Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge to enjoy breakfast. We soon realized that our flight would be delayed. The inbound plane was about one hour late due to fog at Heathrow. In a way this was good news, as it meant we had more time to enjoy the magnificent lounge. On the other hand, I feared that we would miss our connecting flight. Fortunately, there were flights from Helsinki to Tallinn every two hours or so, so this was good news.
Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge at LHR T3
After finishing breakfast and the first two glasses of Moët&Chandon we went to the Business Class area of the lounge to have some Wonton Noodles. Later, we quickly went to the American Airlines International First Class Lounge to check it out but unfortunately it was underwhelming. I had another glass of champagne there and it was then time to head to our gate. Boarding started after 11am, whereas the original planned departure was at 10.20am.
Door 2L was used for boarding, so I turned right to find my seat, 10A. I realized that 11A has a much better wing view as 10A. 10A only has one window. The load was the following: Business Class: 42/46, Economy Class: 212/251. The reason why Finnair uses the A350 on one of the daily rotation to Heathrow is cargo demand.
We taxied to runway 27L where we passed by the Concorde and took off at about noon, so 1.5h late.
Waiting for our takeoff clearance
After departure it took quite a while for the service to begin. There was a choice of a pork stew with rice or tortellini with a mushroom sauce. I opted for the tortellini and they were very delicious.
En route to Helsinki
The flight went by quickly and we then landed about one hour late at 4.20pm. By now our connection to Tallinn had departed as well, so we were given new boarding passes at the transfer desk. Kudos to Finnair for proactively rebooking us and they had the boarding passes ready already when we arrived at the desk.
After immigration via the E-gates we headed to the Finnair Schengen Lounge to have a snack. It was busy since the evening wave with flights to Europe was about to start. I had some game meatballs and mashed potatoes and it was really tasty.
It was then time to head to gate 20A to board our flight to Tallinn. As this flight was operated by an ATR-72 aircraft, the aircraft parked at a remote stand and we had a bus transfer. The flight was overbooked, and they looked for a volunteer to take the next flight (2 hours later) for a compensation of 125€.
The flight time to Tallinn was only 20 minutes. Boarding from the rear as always:
After arrival at Tallinn we took Uber to the Hilton Tallinn Park Hotel.
Our hotel room:
We then headed to the Telliskivi District for dinner at F-Hoone and later into town for drinks with a couple of friends.
We woke up at about 9 o’clock and I had a massive hangover. But we were hungry as well, so we headed to the 2nd floor where the breakfast was served. Hilton’s breakfast was good, and they had a lot of choice.
After breakfast we went back to the room to get ready. Today’s plan was to drive east and go for a 8km hike. A friend of mine organized this for us. The place is called Jussi Loodusrada. The nature trail is interesting as it goes through Jussi nõmm, which translates as ‘hell’. During the Soviet occupation, this area was used for extensive bombing. The craters can still be seen today and nothing really grows in the area. The hike was very pleasant, and as Estonia is very flat, not very challenging.
After the hike we drove back to Tallinn and relaxed for a couple of hours. In the evening we had dinner at Frank
, again together with my friend who went hiking with us. I was at Frank before and I was now disappointed two times in a row, so I will not go back there. Firstly, the service is very slow and not very attentive. Secondly, it took over an hour for the food to be served. Thirdly, the food was good, but not excellent. It’s a pity, as it is very cozy and I see a lot of potential. We finished the meal with some shots as we were quite tired. We continued to NoKu Klubi, located in the Old Town as well. NoKu is a special place to me, as I spent a couple of evenings there during my stay in 2012 when I visited Tallinn Winter School.
A brief history about NoKu Klubi:
NoKu is not just a regular drinking spot, but a bar with history. It was created during the Soviet times by artists as a reaction to another artist’s bar Kuku which had a strict admission policy.
This was the place where artists and other culture related people gathered for a drink. NoKu was closed to the public and you had to have a card to get in or sneak in with people who went out for a smoke. Now it is open for everybody but with a 2580 code at the door (use it wisely and with respect). You cannot miss the beautiful blue-red door on Pikk street.
It is situated on the second floor, two spacious rooms with heavy vintage furniture and wooden benches. I like it for the ’70s vibe and warm dusky light. The food is regular, but I enjoy just having a drink with my friends in the calm atmosphere more.
By now another friend joined us. He is currently living in Sweden and was visiting for the week-end. Unfortunately, we were getting very tired at this point and decided to leave quite early.
Sunday was a very calm and relaxing day. After having breakfast, we headed to the city. I have been to Tallinn many times, but I haven’t been on Toompea in a while. The view was beautiful, but I was very surprised to see so many tourists here. I mean it is November. Who visits Tallinn in November? The scariest though was to imagine how many people would be here in summer when all the cruise ships stop in Tallinn.
The view from Toompea
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The next stop was kohvik must puudel. I have very nice memories about this place. It was my regular hangout spot after school. I used to come here, order beer or tea and work on my Estonian language skills. It hasn’t changed much, except that the prices went up. If you are in Tallinn, do try to come by and try their delicious meals or just relax.
After the quick lunch stop we headed to Viru Keskus, the shopping mall in the center, to buy a couple of things we needed. After this it got dark already by about 4pm. We headed back to the hotel to relax more. Much to our disappointment, the room had not been made. We went to the front desk to ask for the room to be cleaned. In the meantime, we had a drink at the bar.
Bar at Hilton
About an hour later we went back to the room, but it was still not made. I then went to the housekeeping to get at least fresh towels and then called the front desk to inform them about the situation. They promised that the room would be cleaned during dinner, which we would have later at the restaurant in the hotel. I then started to write this report, before we went to the Able Butcher restaurant for dinner. Dinner was good, but not perfect. I had a beef carpaccio as a starter and a beef entrecote medium rare, with a pepper sauce and baked potato as a main course. The service was ok, but not great.
Dinner at The Able Butcher
We went to the bar for another drink and then headed to the room. Guess what, the room was still not made…
We had quite an early start on Monday! After enjoying our last breakfast at the Hilton, we went to the airport to pick up our rental car. The agent was friendly and we soon got underway in our VW Golf. The first stop was Glehn’s Castle in Tallinn’s Nõmme district.
We then continued to Haapsalu, where we met a friend of mine for lunch. Haapsalu is a seaside resort town. The weather was quite bad unfortunately, so we only stopped very quickly at the railway museum (Eesti Raudteemuuseum), the castle (Haapsalu Piiskopilinnus) and the seaside promenade. It was time for lunch with a friend who lives here.
Estonians eat a lot of herring, and so do I. So delicious!
At about 1pm it was time to continue driving. We drove south, to Virtsu, where we took the ferry over to Muhu island. The crossing takes about 30 minutes and costs about 14€ for two adults and a car.
Boarding the ferry
Muhu island is a small island with a population of about 2000 people. Muhu is linked to Saaremaa by a causeway. Saaremaa is the largest island with a size of about 2600 square kilometers and a population of about 30,000 people. About half of the population lives in Kuressaare, where we were heading.
Causeway linking Muhu with Saaremaa
On the road
Located about half an hour from Muhu and about 20 minutes from Kuressaare is Kaali. Kaali is an area with several meteorite craters, the largest has a diameter of 40m.
In the evening we went for a walk to the Kuressaare Castle, which was built in the 14th century.
We then had dinner with friends and went out for a couple of drinks afterwards.
We used the full day to explore Saaremaa. It was such a beautiful day. Blue skies and 9 degrees. And yet we were the only ones on the road on most part of the trip. This is what we really like about trips like these. The quiet nature all to yourself and no crowded spaces when sightseeing. In fact, we probably saw more animals than people that day!
We first drove southwest to the southernmost point of Saaremaa, the Sõrve peninsula. This is where the Sõrve tuletorn, or Sõrve lighthouse is located.
The Sõrve peninsula ends in the tip of Sõrve - loved by nature enthusiasts and bird-watchers alike, the peninsula continues on in a number of islets that are part of the Irbe Strait and local legend.
According to this legend, these islets were created by Great Tõll; as the hero was chasing the Devil out of the country, he threw the stones after him. The heavier stones fell, but the lighter ones flew further out.
On Viieristi nature trail one will find the Kõrgemäe sacrificial spring. It has been known as a sacred place for centuries and people believe that its water has healing powers.
Did you know...?: The Sõrve peninsula was first mentioned in 1234, and to date has had only 1,600 inhabitants.
We continued to the Kaugatoma cliffs.
First, we had to convince those goats and sheep to let us through though!
As you can see this stretch of road was a gravel road, which resulted in a very dirty car!
On the road
This windmill can be rented in summer. Must be very cozy!
The last stop of the day was Angla Tuulikumägi, or Angla’s windmill hill. The owner was very friendly. We bought tickets for 3.50€ and she gave us a massive key to go visit the windmills.
You might be surprised that we didn’t do more. But let’s not forget that it gets dark at 4pm. Also, on most roads the speed limit is 90km/h. So it takes some time to get around and the day is short.
When we arrived back in Kuressaare we went to the Spa to relax a bit. We then had dinner at Kohvik Retro. It was a quiet night with only a couple of guests. The meals were delicious and freshly prepared.
After dinner we went back to the hotel, packed our bags and got a good night’s sleep.
An early start again! As we had about 350km of driving ahead of us, including a ferry crossing back to the mainland, we departed Kuressaare at about 8.30am to catch the 9.40am ferry.
Onboard the ferry
The crossing was quick and we continued driving towards Pärnu. Due to time constraints we didn’t stop in Pärnu. We have been there before and it is anyways more a summer resort town and there is not much going on in November. About one hour east of Pärnu is Viljandi, and this is where we were heading. I have admittedly never actually been in Viljandi, although I’ve driven through it a couple of times. So this was the perfect spot to have lunch and explore the rich history of this nice little town. But first we stopped very quickly at the Kõpu Manor:
If you like hiking, do come here, as Soomaa rahvuspark, or Soomaa National Park is nearby and is very beautiful.
20 minutes east of Kõpu is Viljandi. After lunch at Kohvik Fellinn we met up with my friend Marit who lives there and she was kind enough to do a walking tour with us.
This is the song festival ground and it is used in summer when the traditional folk music festival is taking place.
The old castle is massive
The old water tower, or veetorn in Estonian
Time for coffee and cake at roheline maja pood ja kohvik (the green house shop and café). It is an old pharmacy.
At about 3pm we hit the road again towards Tartu to arrive there just before it got dark. We checked in to Hotel Lydia which is centrally located and has beautiful rooms and a very relaxing spa area.
Our room on the 5th floor:
We went to the spa right after arrival to relax a bit. We later headed out for dinner at KarriTehas, which was delicious.
No route map today as we stayed in Tartu during the whole day. The plan was to relax and visit the Estonian National Museum. The Estonian National Museum is located about 1.5km north of the city center. There is a bus linking the city center with the museum every half an hour, however we walked there. It was quite a cold day, around 3 degrees and a light breeze chilling the temperature down to around 0 degrees. The museum opened not so long ago and is massive. There are three exhibitions, all of which we visited. The most interesting exhibition in my opinion was the one about Uralic peoples. Estonians are not Slavic peoples as many may think. Estonians are together with Finns and Hungarians part of the Finno-Ugric or Uralic peoples. They all have a common linguistic and cultural background.
Old hangars from the old AFB
Tartu University main building
The Estonian National Museum
Here one could listen to Estonian people telling stories from all the different areas.
The first Estonian flag
After spending a couple of hours there (you could probably spend a day or so there), we headed back to the city center and relaxed a bit in the hotel’s spa. We then had dinner at an Italian restaurant and went out for a couple of beers. Keller and Naiiv were very nice places with large selection of beers.
After enjoying another breakfast at the Lydia Hotel, we started driving north. Since we had a couple of hours to spend we didn’t take the most direct route from Tartu to Tallinn, but drove along the Lake Peipus coast and then up north to Rakvere and then west to Tallinn. Lake Peipus is the fourth largest lake in Europe (3,555 sq km) and the largest transboundary lake in Europe. However, it is not deep at all. In fact, the maximum depth is about 15m only. As it was raining during the whole drive we didn’t really stop anywhere except in Rakvere to have a light lunch.
On the road
We then drove to Tallinn, returned our car and checked in. Tallinn Airport has recently been expanded and there is now a new security control area in the west of the terminal, or at the far end to the right when you enter the terminal. This new area is now more spacious. Tallinn Airport is not very busy overall, but it tends to get busy especially in the morning when all the flights are leaving around the same time. Security control was quick, and I was once again randomly selected for an explosives test. For some reason I am selected quite often for this, no idea why though… As British Airways does not pay for the contract lounge for its customers, we had a coffee in the terminal and then headed through passport control towards gate 13.
Cozy café in the airport terminal
Unfortunately, the two ground agents didn’t do a proper boarding announcement, so it was a complete zoo during boarding. Everyone was rushing to the gate and therefore there was no priority boarding offered either. This flight was operated by the A320 G-EUYI and it was a full flight.
Load: Business 14/16, Economy 139/144
A lot of people were travelling HBO (hand baggage only) which meant that the overhead bins got full quite early. The cabin crew then found more space in the front of the plane. I really think this is a problem in the long term, especially since British Airways plans to densify their A320s and A321s. Interesting times ahead I guess …
RAF A330MRTT at TLL
In my opinion the flight crew wasn’t as professional as others, so it was one of the worse flight we’ve taken. For example, the coats were not labelled, and the crew didn’t hand menu cards and in fact didn’t know what was on offer.
Chicken Tikka Masala main course
My OH’s vegan pasta main course
Overhead London’s City airport
After arriving at Heathrow we headed to the lounge for an hour or so and then continued to Belfast.
Load: Business 23/24, Economy 131/132
The flight was short and I didn’t bother eating so just had a G&T. After landing we headed to the hotel using Uber once again and then went to the Perch Rooftop Bar for a couple of drinks.
We had the full day to spend in Belfast. As I mentioned earlier, we traveled to Belfast to visit a friend who is currently living here. Both my OH and me have been in Belfast before. I think Belfast is very interesting and there is quite a lot going on.
Firstly, we went to Harlem to have breakfast/brunch.
We found it quite delicious, however it was super busy and therefore it took a while for the food to be delivered. We then walked to the west to visit the International Wall Mural and the Peace Wall.
From there, we then took Uber to the Waterfront and walked to the SS Nomadic.
The Big Fish
At the waterfront
SS Nomadic and the Titanic Museum in the background
Unfortunately, I found it a bit boring and would have expected a more informative exposition for the £7 admission. As we’ve been in the Titanic Museum before, we didn’t visit it again this time. We then walked back to the City to visit St. George’s Market and had a drink in a pub.
St. George’s Market
We then went to the cinema and had dinner at The Ginger Bistro, which was ok. As we had an early start ahead of us and were quite tired at this point we didn’t go out to have drinks again.
Flying back home… We had breakfast at 7am in our hotel, the Holiday Inn and then took Uber to the airport. The weather was cold, windy and rainy at this point, but it got better by the time we had gotten to the lounge. Belfast’s City Airport is very compact and going from check-in through the fast track security to the lounge was very efficient. The lounge had great apron and runway views and was quite large, so we easily found a spot by the window. Today’s BA1423 from Belfast to London Heathrow was operated by an A320, G-EUXC and had the following load: Business Class 14/20, Economy Class 118/138. The flight time was only 50 minutes due to strong tailwinds enroute.
Apron view and our A320 at gate 4
Backtrack on runway 22
Isle of Man
Isle of Man Airport
The short flight was a bit of a disaster as the crew didn’t start the service right away and we got our meals past Manchester, at which point the flight was already in the descent.
After landing 25 minutes early we had to wait for 20 minutes for a stand to clear to disembark. We arrived at 11am at the lounge when two minutes of silence were held because of the Remembrance Day.
View from the lounge’s terrace
During the 2h layover in the lounge we met briefly a fellow FTer, KARFA, who was heading to MAN. We then went to gate A23 to board our flight to Zurich, which was operated by an Airbus A321 and was completely full. The flight was interesting, as it only took 1h10 due to strong tail winds again.
A321 Takeoff in London
During the approach we passed through some thick layer of clouds which caused medium turbulences. Because the weather had deteriorated at Zurich Airport we entered a hold for about 20 minutes and then started the approach to runway 28. In the end, we landed 20 minutes behind schedule, but safely. I noticed a couple of people who got sick, and in my experience, it was one of the worst turbulences I had occurred, except maybe the approach into the Faroe Islands where we encountered some strong wind shear.
A321 Landing in Zurich
As we arrived on Dock E we had to take the underground train to the main terminal building, waited for our luggage and then took the first train home.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate and ask!