...& Estonian Excess

Estonia, like most things in life, is strikingly beautiful if you only look in the right places. The capital, Tallinn, contains an incredibly well preserved medieval town with cobblestone roads and underground cafes housed in the remains of ancient dungeons. There also lies a stunning Russian church and houses lodged in colorful, rustic architecture. If you go five minutes outside of the town, however, you are bombarded with Soviet buildings, Grey as dirt, hundreds upon hundreds of metros of anonymity disguised as housing. And wherever there were tourists, there was sex for sale: In a travelbook Dave had on Tallinn, there were 3 pages listing adult entertainment sites to visit. There were also 2 pages listing nightclubs to go to - all of these were also stripclubs. But we weren't concerned with any of that - we were there for the footie.

Our boat docked at ten, we were at the hostel by noon and by one o'clock we were on our way to the stadium. Amidst 3000 Estonian supporters we donned our red shirts and horrific Canadian headgear, basking in the friendly jeers and tuneless verses of "Blame Canada". We were three of no more than a dozen Canadian supporters, and easily the most foolish looking, which made us very popular with the locals. They were fantastically friendly, shaking hands, practicing English, trading Estonian scarves for Canadian flags. We were also photographed and interviewed for a Canadian magazine, Toro, in a story about how terrible Canada's soccer program is and how nobody comes to watch them play. Almost nobody, anyway.

A few other Canadians came and introduced themselves during the game and were nice enough to take us out that night, after we had finally slept. They took us to the three best bars in town, all within 50 feet of each other - it's not a big town - and we ended up in the same bar as the Canadian soccer players. I spoke to one, Martin, who I knew from Victoria, and as the night progressed ever more drunkenly, soon my friends and I became great chums of the team, drinking and hanging out with them for the night. Also at the bar were the photographers and writer from the game - it's really not a big town. There was much drinking, much dancing, Rob blew 4 times the legal limit on a breathalyzer; it's all quite hazy, really. The night ended with a middle-aged gay Russian man named Yuri trying to pick me up on the street, attempting to fool me with the old "Hello-my-friend!-In-my-culture-we-greet-each-other-like-this-which-coincidentally-involves-me-fellating-your-hand" trick. I stumbled home quickly, and off to bed.

Dave and I wandered the town the next morning, allowing Rob to suffer through his headache (he left a note saying "I am desperatelly hungover, but able to walking". That was around 2 pm) and took in the few sights that Tallinn's old city has to offer. Back on the boat for a rocky ride to Stockholm - the Baltic was still frozen for the most part, allowing the boat to carom off foot thick blocks off ice for the bulk of the journey - a short flight to London and a 13 hour sleep later and I was back and feeling human again. It was a terrific time away, and at least as absurd as we were all hoping it was going to be.

As for the match, it ended 2-1 with Estonia scoring the winner with less than a minute to play. People tried to console us by letting us know that it was actually a good result for Canada, as Estonia is ahead of us in the FIFA world rankings, a fact that left me feeling infinitely more depressed, not better.

p.s. For those in Canada, look for an upcoming issue of "Toro", coming soon with your weekend Globe & Mail