While the number of tourists, including Russian tourists, visiting Estonia has been down over the past year, Monday's Moscow-St. Petersburg-Tallinn train was nonetheless packed. Many visitors from Russia are in the habit of visiting friends and family in Estonia during the winter holidays.
Despite the gray, rainy reception in Tallinn, tourists arriving from Russia on Monday were nonetheless excited to arrive after a long train ride. Many of them are long since in the habit of visiting friends and family in Estonia — some even more often than just once a year, reported ETV news broadcast Aktuaalne kaamera.
"We really like Tallinn, since we were kids already," Alexey said. "We always visited Pärnu and Tallinn. The Old Town is beautiful. It's great to be by the seaside. It is beautiful and clean here."
For Andrey, most important in Estonia are those friends of his who live here. "We came to see how they're doing, and they come visit us frequently," he added.
"Gorgeous architecture, nature — although that nature is a bit complicated right now, as it's winter, it's chilly and it's more difficult to walk," Ekaterina described. "But incredible architecture, the Old Town, lots of greenery — it's always so easy for you to breathe here, and there are no traffic jams."
The majority of the arriving tourists are from St. Petersburg, but some are from Moscow and surrounding areas as well. Estonian prices are compared to those in Russia — Estonia isn't too expensive. Some wanted to spend the holidays abroad and have chosen Estonia as their destination for the first time.
"We want to ring in the new year abroad," Lyubov said. "Since you are our closest brothers and neighbors, that is why I think this is a good choice for celebrating the new year."
Russian tourists 'want the best'
In Tallinn's Old Town, the winter Russian tourist season has arrived. The Medieval-style Olde Hansa restaurant, for example, is serving some 1,500 people per day.
"They have a distinctive personality, although I personally don't really like to generalize," Olde Hansa restaurant manager Aile Laansalu said. "Russian guests are very friendly and respectful; they know what they want, and they always want the best."
Russian tourists are expected to remain in Estonia through Epiphany, or January 6.
A total of 152,000 tourists were accommodated at accommodation establishments in Estonia at the end of last year, down 3 percent on year; among them, Russian tourist numbers were down 6 percent on year.
Editor: Aili Vahtla