Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

10th May 2011

Night Kapp
Posted by at 6.03pm | No responses | Gay, Out and About

Artwork in KappI’m still not done – this is part 6! If you’ve just joined us, catch up by reading part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5!

When the prospect of visiting Estonia was first mentioned, I will admit that the gay scene didn’t figure into my plans too much. If we were going to Berlin or Amsterdam, sure – but Tallinn? A small-ish Eastern European city? In a former Soviet state, no less?

Our guide book — which devoted two paragraphs out of 96 pages to gay and lesbian Tallinn — was not exactly enthusiastic either: “While attitudes to homosexuality in Tallinn are more relaxed than in fellow Baltic capitals Riga and Vilnius,” it cautioned, “they could hardly be described as enlightened.”

Naturally I studied the legal situation in this area before departure (wouldn’t it be nice not to have to worry about things like this?). Homosexuality only became legal in Estonia in 1992, but some progress was made and with that coveted EU membership in 2004 came some protections against discrimination. But in other ways the country lags behind: there is no recognition of same-sex partnerships, and much of Tallinn’s gay population prefers to keep things quiet and discreet.

Perhaps the most shocking development was when Andrew took advantage of the widely-available free wi-fi to fire up Grindr, which had trouble finding any “nearby buddies” closer than Helsinki – just a short fifty-mile ferry ride away.

Undeterred, on Wednesday night we headed out in search of Tallinn’s homosexual population. The city has a population of just over 400,000 – roughly the same size as Liverpool – but I wasn’t sure whether the size equivalence would translate into a similar gay scene.

The guide book, despite its warning, did point us towards the few gay bars to be found in the town centre. Separately, Andrew had done his own research and discovered Kapp (Estonian for “closet”, fact fans), which apparently has not long opened. It looked like a classy joint from the web site, so we headed there.

Photo of Kapp bar interiorInside it felt quite familiar. Really it could be any gay bar – slightly erotic photos on the walls, bar staff in tight jeans and vest, Lada Gaga on heavy rotation.

Kapp also serves food, so we had arrived relatively early to get something to eat, hence why the place looks empty in the photo here. Studying the food menu we ran into one tiny problem – it was entirely in Estonian with no English translation. I felt every bit the idiot abroad at this point, and eventually settled for one of the two things that was recognisable: a “KAPP’i Burger”, while Andrew went for “Fish’n’Chips”. Predictably we both opted for Saku to drink, having developed quite a taste for it by this point.

The food arrived quickly and was delicious, the burger being served with a good layer of melted cheese and a big bowl of chunky potato wedges. Andrew’s fish and chips looked equally yummy.

After a couple more drinks, it was still quite quiet, so we decided to move on and visit another bar. X-Baar was described as, “the best place to find out about the local gay scene,” so we went there.

There was one small problem – we couldn’t find it. The bar’s web site gave the address as 1 Tatari Street and provided a map. We found the street easily enough, but there was no sign of the bar, just a café, a sex shop (which appeared to cater mainly to the yucky boy-girl kind) and what appeared to be a hookah bar. We wandered up and down for half an hour in case we’d missed it, while Andrew tried to steal free wi-fi from one of the local businesses to get Google Maps working.

Eventually we admitted defeat and headed to Sauna 1, a different address which the guide book gave us for X-Baar. No sign of it here either. We did find Angels, a gay nightclub, which appeared to be completely closed. We eventually admitted defeat and headed back to Kapp.

As a footnote, after returning home I did a bit of digging (well, five minutes on Google) and discovered Tallinn Gaymap, a site which would have been useful to us had we known about it at the time. It identified that X-Baar is on Tatari Street, but the entrance is tucked away around the corner, in a yard behind a 24-hour food stand. Oh well.

The good news was that, in the hour or so that we had been away, Kapp had come to life. It was packed with people, there was happy chatter and a convivial atmosphere. We settled down next to a wall which seemed to be covered entirely in photos from Dieux du Stade collections, and enjoyed a few more drinks while we took in the atmosphere. Even Grindr managed to find someone local – albeit 1,400 feet away.

Andrew took this picture quite late on in the evening. Well, I assume that’s the case – I can’t actually remember posing for it. I do remember being very impressed by the interior decor, however!

Me and Andrew in Kapp

So that was our tour (if you can call it that) of Tallinn’s gay scene. Let’s face it, no-one goes to Estonia for its gay nightlife, but there’s activity there if you want it. It’s a shame that X-Baar seemed so tucked away, and I hope that in future Kapp’s example will be followed, and the gay community will stand up and be counted.

It was a great way to round off our stay, as tomorrow morning we would be going home.

To be continued… (that’s right, I’m still not finished)

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