I was having a stroll around on my second day in Tallinn, having just finished the free walking tour less half a necklace, which broke while we were all dancing in the square – brightly coloured beads bouncing across the cobblestones. As I was trying to tie what was left of my $3 strand of beads back together, melting the fishing line into a knot to hopefully prevent further catastrophe, I heard this music – I found it hard to place at first, being entirely out of context or at least completely outside my expectations of Tallinn. I headed back towards the square, where the music was coming from, and will admit I was quite surprised to see around sixty or seventy Hare Krishnas, all dressed up, singing and chanting and dancing ecstatically as crowds of both tourists and locals milled around, cameras at the ready.
I guess, when you travel, you should expect the unexpected.
A group of men in pale peach and linen coloured outfits, many bare chested, all with shaved heads with that long lock of hair coming out of the top of the skull, were pulled a a cart carrying what appeared to be a shrine as well as the speakers. Groups of girls, dressed in colourful saris and leis, their hair braided with colourful ribbons, henna tattoos on their hands and Indian jewellery draped around their necks danced gracefully and joyfully.
They all sang, or chanted, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare as they moved and wove through the crowds surrounding them. Those carrying flags passed them out to random people walking by so that they too could dance, and little girls in tiny saris carried baskets of biscuits which they offered to the people nearby.
The atmosphere was unbelievably inclusive and I must admit I soon found myself singing along, where I could fathom the words. I felt like I should be twirling around. It seemed as though there was this uncanny outpouring of energy from the group and a number of people joined in the dancing and singing. The man leading the chanting, with a shiny saxophone, just radiated charisma. The man sitting in the carriage with the shrine had giant bags of fruit, which he cut up and threw out into the crowd or put in baskets for others to hand out. He must have had twenty kilograms of bananas at least, and I can vouch for them being absolutely delicious [and free, which is a little cheaper than bananas have been in Australia recently].
While it felt incredibly uplifting and exciting, it also just felt strange. Here we were, in this fairytale European city, surrounded by beautiful old European buildings, and then along comes a huge group of people in Indian dress, dancing and singing about Hare Krishna! It was marvellous, and it wasn’t put on for tourists; it was a genuine celebration. It made me feel really happy, I don’t know why. Maybe I like surprises. Maybe I just like the juxtaposition of two incredibly different cultural experiences and they way it just worked so beautifully. I did spend fifty cents and bought a book on meditation. I figured that I ought to, given the number of free biscuits and bananas I enjoyed.