Thursday, 16 September 2021

My 2021 summer holiday to Estonia

A trip to Estonia has been long overdue so when my brother suggested we should go in August I was only too pleased to accept. We have both been to Estonia many times before but never together and so I was keen to create some new memories. We spent three fun filled days together in Tallinn before I set off to Haapsalu and then Hiiumaa.

I haven't flown anywhere during the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic and I was concerned about airport delays before my departure. To my relief everything ran smoothly, I encountered no problems. Even at Tallinn airport I was expecting some kind of inspection of vaccination documents but there were none, I simply walked through arrivals as usual. My only complaint was the weather, it rained on and off most of the time I was there. Apparently this August was one of the wettest and coolest in years.

One thing I like to do each time I visit Tallinn is to walk around and see what has changed. This time I noticed that the Kaubamaja supermarket has closed down and a new Prisma has opened up not far from Viru Gate.  When I visited the Apollo bookshop I was surprised that they were no longer accepting cash payments, only cards and when I took a look at the Coca Cola cinema, the ticket booth was gone, replaced with a row of ticketing machines. It seems a lot has changed since I was last in Tallinn three years ago. When it came to dining, most of my favourites were still there but some restaurants had disappeared with several new Indian ones in their place. That really took me by surprise because I counted at least four.

Whenever I'm in Tallinn I'm always on the lookout for new experiences but I also like to visit my favourite places too. Coffee and cake at Maiasmokk is always a must. I like going there knowing my grandparents went there in their youth. I also like walking up to Toompea and buying stamps at the old post office there and invariably I walk through the the door of the Raeapteek.

A place I've wanted to visit for quite some time now is the Memorial to the Victims of Communism in Maarjamäe. It's easy to get to, just drive towards Pirita and you will see it on the right.

 Several members of my family died as a result of Soviet terror and I wanted 
to see their names on the wall and pay my respects.

Estonia lost a fifth of its population due to the Soviet occupation.
So many people perished, many of whom are in unmarked graves.

The Electronic Memorial can help you find family names in the database.
The memorial is a very impressive structure that needed to be build.

Over 75,000 people from Estonia were murdered, imprisoned or deported by the Soviets  
The Memorial to the victims of communism is dedicated to all of them.

Afterwards, we made a brief stop at Pirita.

The ruins of Bridgettine Convent in Pirita.

The convent was destroyed in 1577 and has been a place of fascination ever since.

It's always nice to visit Käsmu and take a dip in the Baltic Sea.

After my five days in Tallinn I travelled on to Haapsalu. I have never been there before and discovered it to be quite a sleepy town, with few people around during the day. During the weekend the streets become livelier. 

Haapsalu is famous for its old railway station. It was built in 1904 and is known for is long 216 metre platform.

Many Russian Tzars have visited Haapsalu by train. They had a separate arrivals pavillion.

The history of Haapsalu station.

Today Haapsalu station is inactive but a museum of sorts, dedicated to old relics.

One of the main tourist attractions in Haapsalu is the Haapsalu Episcopal Castle. Construction began in the 13th century to create the residence of the Bishopric of Ösel–Wiek and continued for the next three hundred years. Up until the 17th century the Swedes used the castle as a defensive stronghold but after Estonia fell to Russia during the Great Northern War, Peter the Great partially demolished the castle wall and it fell into ruin. Today, the castle houses a museum.

When the castle was operational it would have thrived with activity.
Many Bishops ruled here over the centuries and hundreds of people were employed.

Many of the castle rooms have been restored.

Mediaeval finds reveal Haapsalu's past.

St. Nicholas Cathedral. The Bishop of Ösel-Wiek had his throne here.

Legend of the White Lady.

To learn about any new place, a trip to the local museum is alway worth a visit. I found Haapsalu Town Hall Museum quite interesting.

Many famous people have passed through Haapsalu over the years including Pjotr Tsalkovski, Lord Mountbatten and Phillip Jakob Karell.

Example of an 18th century home.

Haapsalu has many traditional wooden houses that have been there for hundreds of years. They are typically build close to the road with no front garden. This house located at Ruutli 4 is over 300 years old and Peter the Great stayed there in 1715.

Haapsalu used to have a thriving Swedish population but they were forced out during different periods in history. The Coastal Swedish Museum in Haapsalu is dedicated to the Coastal Swedes who used to call Estonia home. 

There was not a unified Estonian-Swedish dialect, but several.

More information can be found on their website. 

After my nice stay in Haapsalu, I left the Estonian mainland and caught the ferry over to  Hiiumaa. As Estonia's second largest island, I have always been curious about Hiiumaa but never ventured over. The ferry service to Hiiumaa departs twelves times a day from Rohuküla, near Haapsalu and takes 75 minutes. I found the crossing over to be very pleasant, the vessel was modern, clean, with everything you need.

I spent four very relaxing days in Hiiumaa but I will tell you all about that in my next blog post.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Estonian jokes

It's Sunday morning and a good time to explore this Estonian jokes animation series. Got a chuckle from a few of them. Enjoy.

Far to Tallinn?

Fox or rabbit?

The pleasure of marriage

Man's treasure

Head vanavanemate päev / Happy Grandparent's Day

Today is Grandparent's Day in Estonia. According to the Estonian Bureau of Statistics there are currently 129,780 grandfathers in Estonia and 224,990 grandmothers. Best wishes to all!

Thursday, 9 September 2021

It's mushroom season in Estonia

One thing I noticed when I first visited Estonia in 2003 is that Estonians love their mushrooms. As I drove through the countryside, I saw no-one for miles yet at times I would come across a car parked by the side of the road and see a figure in the forest, bucket in hand, searching for mushroom. In time I learned Estonians have their favourite spots to pick mushrooms and they return year after year.

During me recent trip to Estonia I spent five days on the island of Hiiumaa and was regularly in the forest. I saw many different species of mushroom, ranging from the most sought after to the most deadly. I'm no expert on mushooms but I follow the rule, 'if I don't know, I don't touch.'

Porcini (means little pig) are highly sought after mushrooms.

The death cap
If you eat this mushroom you will become violently sick then die from liver failure.
It is recommended not even to touch this mushroom with your bare hand as it is extreemly toxic.
Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Sunday, 15 August 2021

How Estonia's postage rates compare to the rest of the world

With my summer holiday to Estonia drawing near, thoughts have crossed my mind about what the current postage rates are.  I have promised many postcards to relatives in Australia and Russia and I also want to keep a few stamps for myself. A quick look on the Omniva website revealed that the current price of sending a letter abroad from Estonia is 1.90€. This price applies to both postcards and letters weighing under 20g. 

Postage prices always seem to be on the rise and I am curious to know how Estonia compares to the rest of the world. When I was last in Australia I was shocked at how expensive sending letters had become. When I lived there in 2011, the price of sending a letter overseas was $2.20, now it's $3.40. In the UK, overseas stamps costs £1.70 but in Lithuania it's only 0.81€. From my recent trip to Venice I discovered that Italy has some of the highest postage rates in Europe. It cost me 3.11€ to send a postcard to Australia, I was quite taken aback at how expensive it was, however, the price was slightly cheaper within the Eurozone. Germany has very reasonable postage prices, a postcard to anywhere in the world costs 0.95€ and a letter is 1.10€. Across the Atlantic, stamps in the USA cost $1.15 for a postcard or three 'forever stamps'. This is a term unfamilar to me and anyone else outside of the USA but the price seems quite reasonable. All in all, Estonia's postage rates for postcards and letters seem normal compared to other countries. 

Just can't wait to be back in Estonia! Not long to go now!

Friday, 13 August 2021

Political map of Estonian territory throughout the ages (1200-1920)

Many wars have been fought over the territory of Estonia. Foriegn rulers have come and gone over the centuries, leaving their mark on the land. This video (in Estonian) shows the changes that have taken place during the last 700 years. It took some time for Estonia to achieve its independence but with determination it did.

Monday, 9 August 2021

Estonian writer Jaan Kaplinski dies

Estonia lost one of its acclaimed cultural figures yesterday. Jaan Kaplinski was an renowned poet, translator, philosopher and cultural spokesperson who passed away aged 80 after a period of serious illness. During his career Jaan Kaplinski published numerous collections of poetry, prose, and essays which have been translated into over fifteen languages. 

Jaan Kaplinski was born in Tartu on 22 January 1941 to an Estonian mother and Polish-Jewish father. His father was a professor of philology at Tartu University who was arrested by Soviet troops and later perished of starvation in a labour camp in 1945. In 2009 Kaplinski published the semi-autobiographical novel The Same River (Estonian: Seesama jõgi) which is set in Tartu during the 1960s.

Kaplinski was awarded many prizes during his career including the Baltic Assembly Prize for Literature, the Arts and Science (1997),  the Laureate of the European Literature Prize (Prix Européen de Littérature 2016) and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in the same year. He also has an asteroid named after him, main-belt asteroid 29528 Kaplinski.

In January Jaan Kaplinski celebrated his 80th birthday. To mark the occasion, a poetry program of Kaplinski's work was produced by the Tartu Poetry Theatre group and the literature circle "Ellips".

Poem by Jaan Kaplinski from his book 'The Wandering Border'

We started home, my son and I.
Twilight already. The young moon
stood in the western sky and beside it
a single star. I showed them to my son
and explained how the moon should be greeted
and that this star is the moon’s servant.
As we neared home, he said
that the moon is far, as far
as that place where we went.
I told him the moon is much, much farther
and reckoned: if one were to walk
ten kilometers each day, it would take
almost a hundred years to reach the moon.
But this was not what he wanted to hear.
The road was already almost dry.
The river was spread on the marsh; ducks and other waterfowl
crowed the beginning of night. The snow’s crust
crackled underfoot – it must
have been freezing again. All the houses’ windows
were dark. Only in our kitchen
a light shone. Beside our chimney, the shining moon,
and beside the moon, a single star.