Monday, 26 December 2011

Estonian Song Book

When I was in Tallinn a few weeks ago I was in search of a Christmas carols book with the lyrics written in Estonian. Unfortunately I was unable to find one but a helpful woman working in the book section of the Kaubamaja recommended to me  "Meie Lapse Lauluraamat". I followed her advice and purchased the book online and when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does the book contain some Christmas songs but it also has many children's nursery rhymes, all with the accompanying sheet music. Very cute indeed.


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Estonian DVD Recommendations

In this year's Melbourne International Film Festival I was surprised to discover that two Estonian films featured in the program. "Sky Song" directed by Mati Butt and "Escape / Põgenemine" directed by Kristjan Holm were both well received.

One of the best places to buy Estonian DVDs is in the media section of the Kaubamaja department store in Tallinn. Here they have a whole section dedicated to Estonia films, both new releases and classics.

According to a poll that was conducted in 2002 by Estonian film critics and journalists, the top ten Estonian feature films are as follows:

1. Kevade (1969) directed by Arvo Kruusement

2. Hullumeelsus (1968) directed by Kaljo Kask

3. Ideaalmaastik (1980) directed by Peeter Simm

4. Vimne Reliikvia (1969) directed by Grigori Kromanov

5. Georgica (1998) directed by Sulev Keedus

6. Nipernaadi (1993) directed by Kaljo Kiisk

7. Hukkumud Alpinisti Hotell (1979) directed by Grigori Kromanov

8. Naerata Ometi (1985) directed by Leida Laius & Arvo Iho

9. Põrgupõhja uus Vanapagan (1964) directed by Grigori Kromanov & Juri Muur

10. Tuulte Pesa (1979) directed by Olav Neuland


Viimne Reliikvia (The Last Relic) has become a cult classic in Estonia. It is famed for its unique soundtrack, comedy elements and medieval battle scenes.  I must admit that the song Põgene, vaba laps! is a catchy little tune which I often find myself singing at home from time to time.
Other Estonian films I have in my DVD collection I feel are worth mentioning are:

Nimed Marmortahvlil (2002) directed by Elmo Nüganen. It is a film about Estonian freedom fighters. How a group of schoolboys fought Soviet soldiers and won freedom in 1918.

Georg (2007) directed by Peeter Simm. It is a film about the life of legendary Estonian singer Georg Ots.

Where to Find Accommodation in Estonia

I was recently emailed a link to a new website which makes it quick and easy to find accommodation in Estonia. You can check it out here -

Map of Estonia

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Tallinn Christmas Markets

Since 1991 Tallinn has hosted the annual Christmas Markets in the Raekoja Plats (Town Square). Here you can find an abundance of handmade crafts, food and wine. The markets open during the last week in November and close after Orthodox Christmas which is 7th January.   

Thursday, 8 December 2011

How to Sing "Silent Night" in Estonian

Püha öö
Püha öö, õnnistud öö
Kõik on maas, rahu sees
Joosep valvab ja Marial seal
Hingab lapsuke põlvede peal
Maga patuste rõõm!
Maga patuste rõõm!

Püha öö, õnnistud öö
Ingli hääl välja peal
Laulab rõõmsasti Halleluuja!
Annab teade ka kajastele
Kristus sündinud teil
Kristus sündinud teil!

Püha öö, õnnistud öö
Kes sa meil ilmutand
Isa armu, mis önnistust toob,
Rahupõlve maailmale loob
Laulgem Halleluuja!
Laulgem Halleuuja!

Silent Night
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

Silent night, holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly host sing Alleluia!
Christ, the saviour is born
Christ, the saviour is born!

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

How to Sing "Oh Christmas Tree" in Estonian

During my recent trip to Tallinn the only item I was unable to buy on my shopping list was an Estonian Christmas carols book. I really wanted to get my hands on a copy because the only carol we sing in Estonian in my family is "Oh Christmas Tree" and I want to learn more. I made a few enquiries but unfortunately they were all sold out. I was told there was a copy available in Viljandi but I wasn't in a position to travel there. Maybe I could find a copy online.

"Oh kuusepuu"
"O Christmas Tree"
Oh kuusepuu, oh kuusepuu
     O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Kui haljad on su oksad!
     How are thy leaves so verdant!
Ei mitte üksi suisel a’al.
     Not only in the summertime,
Vaid talvel ka siin külmal maal
     But even in winter is thy prime.
Oh kuusepuu, oh kuusepuu
     O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Kui haljad on su oksad!
     How are thy leaves so verdant!


Christmas Shopping in Tallinn

Now that I'm living back in Europe I thought to myself where do I want to do my Christmas shopping this year? Tallinn of course! When I told my sisters I was going they made me laugh because I was expecting them to say to just buy them a little surprise but they actually gave me a list of all the thing they wanted! I wasn't planning on that. So all weekend I was running around Tallinn in search of these items and luckily I found them.

Winter has come late to Europe this year. I was hoping for snow in Tallinn so I could take a few good photographs but it wasn't to be on this occasion. Maybe I will return for the Independence Day celebrations in February.

I usually stay at the Old House apartments whenever I'm in Tallinn but unfortunately they were fully booked. Looking elsewhere I was surprised how difficult it was to find a hotel room, even for one person but I managed to find one at the Meriton Grand Conference and Spa Hotel. It's located on the other side of the Old Town near the Parliament building. The room cost only 70 Euros a night including breakfast and is only a 7 euro taxi fare from the airport.

Tallinn was buzzing last weekend. Walking down the streets I heard a whole range of accents but the majority of them were Russian. I discovered there were several Russian tour groups in town and some of them were staying at the same hotel as me. I found it amusing when I spoke to market sellers in Estonian but they all said goodbye to me in Russian. I know I do look Russian, I have Russian heritage but I didn't say one single word in Russian so they shouldn't say it to me. I think once I gave in and replied "paka" as I left the stall.

The Christmas markets in Tallinn are located in the town square and there are also some outside the Viru Keskus (shopping centre) too. The Old Town is full of souvenir and craft shops with Estonian wares and if you can't find what you are after in one of those shops, you can always visit the Kaubamaja. I had a really good look around the Kaubamaja during this trip because I was travelling alone and I didn't have anyone telling me to hurry up. Sometimes it is hard travelling with family because everyone wants to do different things. I know my father hates walking around shops all day but women love it.

I think I got a bit carried away with my Christmas shopping because when the time came to check in at the airport  I discovered I was 6kg over with my luggage. It was the first time in my life I had to pay an excess luggage fee. I couldn't leave anything behind so I had to pay. It's all worth it in the end though.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Old Estonian Photographs

One of my most treasured possessions is my photograph collection. Thanks to my great grandfather Arthur Lestal who was a photographer by profession, I have been able to catch a glimpse of my family's life  in Estonia as far back as the 1800s. I have always been sad about the fact that I grew up without a grandfather (my father’s father Alexander passed away when I was two years old) but through Arthur's photographs and my father’s stories I feel as though I really know my grandfather.  I never tire of looking at these old photographs, I enjoy seeing the big family gatherings, how people used to decorate their homes and the ever changing fashions.

Becker family

Arthur & Margarethe Lestal with friend.

The Lestal / Becker family.

Nurses during Tzarist time.

Hans, Annette, Arthur, Margarethe and Ralf Lesthal.

Alexander Lestal and friends, Ambla.

Becker / Jorik family.
Son of Carl Becker.

Becker / Jorik family.

Margarethe, Arthur and Alexander Lestal outside their home in Koie Street.


Lestal / Niggul birthday party.

YMCA huts.

Alex Lestal.

Alex & Margarethe Lestal.

Lestal party

Lestal party

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Estonian Birthday Table Tradition

One of my favourite Estonian traditions is the birthday table tradition. My grandparents did it with their children every year and my father sometimes did it for me too. I know from experience that there is nothing more exciting for a child than to go running into the living room on their birthday to find all their gifts beautifully displayed on the table. I loved it! And I also love looking at these old family photos of my father and uncle enjoying their birthday tables. You just never know what delights await you!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Singing Happy Birthday in Estonian

My father turns sixty this month and to celebrate I have planned a lavish party to show him how dearly he is loved. With six children he is bound to be spoilt rotten and rightly so, he has always been such a wonderful father. My uncle Nardo is usually the one who proudly starts singing in Estonian for like me, he likes to keep up traditions in our family so we remain connected with our Estonian heritage.

This is how you sing happy birthday in Estonian.

Õnne soovime sul!
Õnne soovime sul!
Palju õnne, palju õnne
Õnne soovime sul!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Estonian National Anthem - "Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm"

With today being the "Day of Restoration of Independence" I thought it fitting to post the Estonian national anthem. Several of my relatives fought in the Estonian War of Independence which took place between November 1918 and February 1920 and I would like to acknowledge their heroism here. Unfortunately independence only lasted twenty-two years in Estonia until the country was once again occupied by Soviet and German forces, but thankfully Estonian independence was restored on the 20th August 1991 a day when Estonians around the world could once again rejoice in their freedom. For many Estonians however, World War II only ended in 1994 when the last Russian soldier left Estonia.

Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm  (My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy)

Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm
kui kaunis oled sa!
Ei leia mina iial teal
see suure, laia ilma peal
mis mul nii armas oleks ka
kui sa, mu isamaa!

Sa oled mind ju sünnitand
ja üles kasvatand;
sind tänan mina alati
ja jään sull' truuiks surmani
mul kõige armsam oled sa
mu kallis isamaa!

Su üle Jumal valvaku
mu armas isamaa!
Ta olgu sinu kaitseja
ja võtku rohkest õnnista
mis iial ette võtad sa
mu kallis isamaa!

English translation

My fatherland, my joy and happiness
How beautiful you are!
I shall not find such ever
In this huge wide world
Which would be so dear to me
As you, my fatherland!

You have given me birth
And raised me up
I shall thank you always
And remain faithful to you 'til death
To me most beloved are you
My precious fatherland!

May God watch over you
My precious fatherland!
Let Him be your defender
And provide bountiful blessings
For whatever you undertake
My precious fatherland!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Farewell Eesti Kroon

On the 1st of January 2011 Estonia forfeited the kroon as its national currency and fully adopted the Euro which became Estonia's sole legal tender thereafter. For many people, myself included, it was a sad day to see the kroon go for it has long been associated with Estonia's cultural identity and national sovereignty. It was a symbol of Estonia's freedom and independence.

I can understand the need for a sole European currency, it does make travelling and doing business a whole lot easier when you don't have to worry about exchanging money all the time but it is sad when a country loses a feature of it's cultural identity and ability to govern itself. I've spent a lot of time holidaying in France over the years and I remember in 2000 how sad I felt when I had to use Euros to pay for things instead of French Francs. I was also displeased that the cost of everything seemed to have risen too with the introduction of the Euro. It's like that in Estonia now too; the Euro has bumped up the price of things.  

As a keepsake and a reminder of Estonia's bygone era, I have kept a complete set of Estonia's kroon banknotes because they are a very important part of the country's history.




I also have this old Estonian banknote from 1932 which is a good addition to my collection too!