Let's cut straight to the chase because until this happened it was just another travel day.
We saw The Pope! Il Papa. (the) paavst. Mu süda ärka üles!
We only found out the Pope was coming to Tallinn last week. He must have found out we were coming and decided to see what all the fuss was about. Wait... that's not it.
The Pope is on a Baltic Pilgrimage and is visiting Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Estonia was a fly in-fly out and he was only here for the day. By pure co-incidence it is the same day we arrived. Not only that, he delivered Holy Mass in Freedom Square which is only 500 meters away from our hotel.
We checked in, dropped our bags and then hurried out to see the proceedings. Tickets to the Mass were decided by ballot over a month ago, so we were unable to get in. We stood outside of the barricades guarded by lots and lots of very stern police. Security checked everyone who went in and at one entrance there were even metal detectors.
As it turned out, there did not seem to be masses (pardon the pun) of people inside the barricades. It seemed like the crowd was less than 10,000 and people were regularly walking out. The service was conducted mostly in Italian, so if you were not close to the TV screens to see the translation it might have been hard to follow. According to Wikipedia, Estonia was predominantly Lutheran but Eastern Orthodoxy is the most popular Christian denomination.
After a while we moved around to another of the entrances which had a better view of the stage. Towards the end of the mass we moved again and looked from the other side of the square. Here we had a great view of The Pope and his cardinal entourage as they left.
We decided to walk the long way back to our hotel and by pure fluke ended up on the street where The Pope was being driven to the airport. How did we know? It was blocked to traffic and guarded by lots more of those stern looking police. Again by pure fluke, we moved across to the other side of the street to get a better view of the car as it approached. As it turned out, he was sitting on that side of the car so was in full view and waving at us as he went past, window fully open. We could have touched him. The Navigatrix was overcome.
Back in the hotel, we struck up a conversation with two ladies from North Carolina who had won tickets in the ballot to the Mass. They were similarly excited "and we're not even Catholic!"
This truly was a blessed day. Like Mt Everest last week, seeing The Pope was never something we would experience in our lifetime. It's not like we are going to convert to Catholicism or anything like that but it was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience.
How did we get to Estonia? We caught the ferry. Two hours across the Gulf of Finland.
Where are we staying? The Hotel Telegraaf which is part of the Marriott chain. More on this tomorrow.
After all of the Papal crowds had disappeared, we wandered around the old town. We had dinner sitting upstairs in the window of a hipster cafe, gazing down on the cobbled streets. Later we walked through the old conical city gates, past the still open flower market with a kaleidoscope of roses on display.
We retired to our room with a full moon shining down on us. We did feel truly blessed.