Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Exploring the Ruins of Pirita Convent / Pirita Klooster

Each time I visit Estonia I like to discover new places which I have not been to before. After discovering that my great-great-grandfather owned a tavern in Pirita during the early 1900s I was naturally eager to explore the area. Pirita is only a short 5 km away from the centre of Tallinn and in the early 20th century it became a popular spot for bathing and water sports. Although Pirita tavern fell into ruin and no longer exists, another prominent landmark in the area, Pirita Convent, holds much intrigue and is a must see when visiting the area.

Pirita Convent (left) Pirita Tavern (right) ca.1930

Pirita Convent (Estonian: Pirita klooster) was a monastery, for both monks and nuns dedicated to St. Brigitta, It was built during the 1400s then looted and destroyed by Russian soldiers under the leadership of Ivan the Terrible in 1577. The ruins can still be seen today.

The massive façade, walls, cellars and graveyard have survived. The ruins are a beloved venue for summer concerts.

The main church of the monastery was consecrated on August 15, 1436 by the Bishop of Tallinn Heinrich II.

The convent was burnt down but its solid foundations remain.

There are several corridors and passageways to explore.

The rear of the convent.


The new convent is located only a few metres from the original building.

For more information, please click here Pirita Convent

Estonian bread is the tastiest in the world!

I've got a craving for some "Eesti leib" at the moment, particularly after watching this commercial. Every time I visit Estonia I always ensure I bring home at least six loaves with me but next time I will aim for a dozen. Perhaps I will take an extra suitcase just for my bread supply! I'm not sure whether anyone has done that before. Some people visit Estonia to buy cheap alcohol but I consider Estonia's wonderful bread to be of far greater value. Without a doubt, Estonia has the best tasting bread in the world! It's absolutely delicious!

Monday, 29 June 2015

TransferWise Breaks its First Guinness World Record

TransferWise, the Estonian-founded, London-based money transfer platform, broke a Guinness World Record over the weekend by creating the world’s largest currency symbol made out of people.

The old record stood at 327, here are 350 TransferWisers breaking that record

TransferWise founders Taavet and Kristo receiving the official record.

To read the full story, please refer to the TransferWise website: TransferWise breaks its first Guinness World Record

Communication Styles in Estonia and the United States

I woke up this morning to find this article in my inbox. It's an interesting read taking a look at the way Estonians communicate compared to Americans. Even for a third generation Estonian like myself the article describes me perfectly - reserved, a quiet speaker in public who doesn't like to speak unless I have something worthy to say. I think these traits are simply hardwired into our DNA because Estonians across the globe are like this, not just those born and raised in Estonia. This article was written by Lawrence.T.White and is the first of a three part-series.

For the past five months, I’ve been a visiting professor of psychology at Tartu University in Estonia. Living and working in a foreign country can be many things, but “boring” is usually not one of them. Something new and interesting happens almost every day, so I’ve decided to share some of my observations and thoughts about Estonia and Estonians.

It’s always risky to make generalizations about groups of people, in part because the individual variations within a group are usually greater than the differences between groups. Nevertheless, cultural groups often differ from each other in psychologically-interesting ways. The differences may not be large, but they are real.

It’s also risky to make claims about a group to which you do not belong. I am not Estonian and have no Estonian ancestors. I do, however, have Estonian friends and colleagues who kindly answer my many questions. I first visited Estonia in 1997 as a Fulbright Scholar and have returned every couple years to teach and conduct research. Ma ei räägi eesti keelt hästi, aga räägin ja loen natuke. (I do not speak Estonian well, but I speak and read a little.)

In my opinion, one of the most noticeable differences between Estonians and Americans is the preferred or default communication style.  The Estonian style of communication is more reserved than the typical American style.

There’s an old joke that most Estonians know. How can you tell the difference between an Estonian introvert and an Estonian extravert? Answer: When the introvert speaks, he looks down at his shoes. When the extravert speaks, he looks down at YOUR shoes.

Estonians speak quietly in public spaces—in cafés and shops and on the street. Many times I have seen a child run ahead of its mother toward a busy intersection. The Estonian mother doesn’t yell at her child to stop; she picks up her pace and calls to the child in a normal speaking voice.

In Estonian cafés, it’s nearly impossible to hear what others are saying unless they’re sitting at your table. When I return home after living in Estonia for several months, I’m aghast at the noise level in cafés and restaurants and shopping malls. We Americans could learn a thing or two, I think, about how to comport ourselves in public spaces.

Estonians do not state the obvious. They speak when they have something worth saying. After 10 visits to Estonia in the past 18 years, I still find myself saying silly things like “it’s a beautiful day” and “how are you?” From my American perspective, I suppose I’m trying to forge a connection with someone, but that kind of small talk can make an Estonian feel uncomfortable. From their perspective, it’s pointless.

At the Institute of Psychology where I work, colleagues acknowledge each other at the beginning of the workday by making eye contact and uttering a simple tere (hello). When their paths cross again later in the day, they don’t acknowledge each other a second time. No nod of the head, no smile, no eyebrow flash. They’ve already been there, done that.

Estonians are comfortable with silence. I have spent many hours in cafés and parks, watching people. I have often seen two people eat a meal together or walk together and barely speak. They are neither depressed nor angry. They simply have no need to fill empty space with words.

Estonians rarely approach or speak to someone they do not know. In my time in Estonia, I don’t think it’s ever happened. I’ve been approached by strangers, but it’s always been a Russian Estonian, a foreign tourist, or an American missionary. The rule here seems to be “don’t disturb others.”

This rule can produce humorous results. A few months ago I went to the cinema and sat in the seat assigned to me by the cashier’s computer. Six other people did the same thing. The computer gave each person the “best available” seat, which meant all of us were packed together like sardines in the exact center of an otherwise empty theatre. After the lights dimmed and the movie started, not a single person moved to another seat. We all stayed put, not wanting to disturb or offend someone.

I’ve observed one change in the Estonian communication style since my first visit in 1997. Part of a reserved communication style is a tendency to not use superlatives—to not say that something is the best or the most, for example. But I hear Estonians today using superlatives almost as frequently as Americans do, maybe because of the influx of American TV shows.

In February, I was a spectator at a 100-meter-sprint Nordic skiing competition in Tartu. At the end of a closely contested race, the animated announcer would shout uskumatu (unbelievable)! After this happened six times in a row, I came to the conclusion that close finishes in a short race were, in fact, quite believable.

We are creatures of habit, but habits can be broken. Over the years, I've come to appreciate and to even prefer the Estonian communication style. It’s liberating in a sense to know that you don’t have to acknowledge everyone you see. To know that you can walk in public spaces and not be bothered. To know that you can sit in silence and enjoy the simple presence of another human being.

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/culture-conscious/201506/communication-styles-in-estonia-and-the-united-states#sidr-main

Friday, 26 June 2015

Fearless Estonian Teens Pose for Selfies Atop of 600ft Tartu Television Tower

A group of fearless teens have filmed themselves performing nail-biting stunts at the top of a 600ft TV tower - with no safety equipment. Daredevil Ervin Punkar, 17, risked life and limb to scale the Tartu TV mast, built in 1857, with his two best friends, Keivo Pint, 19 and Jüri Uluots, 17. It took the intrepid trio an hour to reach the summit, where they performed death-defying stunts above the sprawling landscape of Tartu - the second largest city of Estonia.

To read the full Daily Mail story, please click here: Teens pose for selfies atop of 600ft Estonian television tower

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Vehkleja (The Fencer) to Screen at the Munich Film Festival

It's great to see the Estonian film "The Fencer" feature on the programme of the 2015 Munich Film Festival. It will be screening on Friday 3rd July at 8pm in the Gasteig Carl-Orff-Saal. No doubt local Estonians will be looking forward to seeing this intriguing true story on the big screen. I've got my ticket!

Estonia's largest archaeology project to begin ahead of Rail Baltic construction | News | ERR

The biggest archaeology project in Estonian history is set to begin in the three counties the proposed high-speed Rail Baltic track will pass through.
Estonia's largest archeology project to begin ahead of Rail Baltic construction | News | ERR

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Estonia's Longest Nature Trail Now Extended to 820 km (510 Miles)

Estonia's State Forest Management Centre (RMK) has recently opened a new 192km (119 miles) section of of the country's longest nature trail. The trail stretches from western to southern Estonia and is now 820km (510 miles) in length.

"The trail consists of mostly old paths and recreation areas, but we have also built new roads and stopovers," said Margo Rammo of the State Forest Management Centre.

The newly opened section takes hikers from Peraküla on the western coast to Aegviidu in northern Estonia. The first 628km (390 miles) section from Aegviidu to Ähijärve in the country's south was opened two years ago.

Peraküla, the start of the 820km hiking trail.

The trail passes many Estonian landmarks such as the singing sands of Nõva and Keibu, Rummu quarry with its turquoise waters and the ruins of medieval Padise monastery.

Open Farms Day / Avatud Talude Päev 2015

The first nationwide Open Farms Day is set to take place on 19th July with approximately 150 farms participating across Estonia. The event will run from 10am until 7pm during which time visitors will have the opportunity to see amazing farm animals and plants, check out farming equipment and taste real farm food! Workshops and demonstrations are also part of the programme - fun for the whole family! 

To find out which farms are taking part, please click here: Open Farms Day

Sunday, 14 June 2015

An Eye Witness Account: Life in Estonia at the Outbreak of WWII & Occupation

When World War Two broke out in September 1939, no-one could have imagined the horrific consequences it would have for Estonia and its people. At the start of the war Estonia had declared itself neutral and for a period of time life went on as usual. The first people affected in Estonia by WWII were the Baltic Germans. They were an ethnic minority comprising 10% of the population who had lived in Estonia for centuries. They had deep-seated roots in Estonia but that swiftly changed as a result of the war.

My grandfather’s cousin Dorothea Niggul was of mixed ethnic Estonian and Baltic German ancestry. News of the Baltic German Resettlement Program came as a great shock and although many Baltic Germans participated in the program and left Estonia, many families chose to remain. Dorothea’s father was a patriotic Estonian who had fought in the Estonian War of Independence and later became a military judge based in Tallinn. As the Soviets tightened their grip on Estonia, her father’s life became increasingly endangered like so many others in government positions. Dorothea was sixteen years old when she and her family fled Estonia in 1941. Her memoir provides an insight into what people experienced in Estonia during those initial terrifying days.

Dorothea at home with her family in Köie Street Tallinn in 1930.
Photo: Grandmother Leenu, father Karl, mother Ellinor with baby Karl, cousin Alex (my grandfather) and Dorothea. 

September in the Baltic region was mostly a very beautiful month – the days were still bright and often sunny and the nights were already cool. Apples ripened on trees in all the gardens everywhere and their aromatic fragrance permeated the air everywhere you went. 

School began again in September after a three month break which most town families spent in the countryside. And if one missed the rather free life from the summer holiday, one would also be glad to back in the city and at school again. There were of course lots of school friends and the coming winter also brought with it a welcome change. 

Our family lived in Köie Street in Tallinn, a district only a few minutes’ walk from the Baltic Sea.  The harbour was not far from our home and we often heard the horns and sirens of the incoming and outgoing ships. Our imaginations ran wild as we wondered where these ships came from and where they were going.

September in 1939 began just like any other autumn. We had certainly heard that Germany had declared war on Poland and subsequently invaded but the consequences of these events had not really affected anything in the comparatively remote Baltic region. However, suddenly we were also affected. 

Dorothea with her younger brother Karl and cousin Alex in 1935.

One morning at the end of that September my mother came into my bedroom clutching a newspaper in her hand. She said to me nervously that all Germans in the Baltic countries would be resettled to Germany. She said events were just beginning that would have far reaching consequences but I couldn’t really imagine it. 

My father at that time was in Kuressaare on the island of Saaremaa. He was a district judge in Tallinn who was required to travel to Kuressaare a few times a year to work through cases in the civil court. Dad was only too happy to make these trips – he loved the island of Saaremaa due to its unspoilt countryside and its somewhat rugged beauty which was typical of Estonia. 

Dad was away on one of these trips to Kurressare as news of the resettlement came. Since speaking to each other by telephone was nothing like as easy as it is today, my parents weren’t able to speak for several days to discuss what our family should do.  We qualified to take part in the resettlement program due to our Baltic German ancestry but my father later convinced my mother that we should stay. When the time came to say goodbye to our German friends there were many hugs and tears and all of the German schools and churches were closed down. After the resettlement concluded it became apparent that many Baltic German families chose to remain in Estonia and life briefly returned to normal.

The winter and spring of 1939/1940 passed. Most families went to the countryside during the summer holidays, among them my friend Ined Pfaff with her family. We later met up and travelled back to Tallinn by bus in the evening and laughed and bantered as we always did when we were with each other. In the bus sat an Estonian sailor who had been observing us closely. All of a sudden he said we ought to be happy and laugh while we still could because soon there will be nothing left to laugh about.  The Russians were at the border and ready to invade Estonia. There was nothing but disbelief from our side – why would they do this? Only John Anrich who was somewhat older than us seemed to pay attention and we saw that he looked really shocked. He began to ask the sailor about every last detail. We arrived home to find our parents extremely nervous. They sat by the radio listening for any new developments. It was first believed that Russian troops would not invade the entire country, but rather occupy key individual bases. The Estonian government was toppled and a new Estonian government was installed consisting of hard-line communists who had been waiting for their chance for a long time. I still remember how the names of the new government ministers were read out on the radio in what seemed like an endless drone. At first, one was somewhat relieved that it was still an “Estonian” government but it was nothing more than a puppet regime. After the bases had been occupied in strategically important areas, the Red Army now occupied the entire country as they did Latvia and Lithuania. The three small Baltic countries which had been established at the end of the First World War in 1918 after fighting tooth and nail for their independence had practically no chance of defending themselves against their enormous neighbour Russia. The Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians simply looked on in utter dismay as their own countries were bulldozed to rubble.

The Baltic Germans were resettled in the Waethegau region.

Grim days followed the Russian invasion of June 1940. The remaining Baltic Germans, my parents included, were completely shocked and bitterly regretted not leaving the country when they had had the chance. Even in the first days after the occupation groups of people streamed through the streets crying and chanting – unsavoury looking types, unkempt and in torn clothing. They were apparently meant to represent the “proletariat” which had never really existed in Estonia. Where had these people been pulled from? They were demonstrating that the so-called Big Brother, the Soviet Union had liberated them from their misery and were welcoming the occupiers. Virtually none of these individuals were in fact Estonians. 

Mother and I were in town one day and happened to be surprised by a demonstration of this nature. We tried to get home via side streets, even when we got home I couldn’t be free of the shock. It was my father who suffered the most, he had been the driving force behind our family’s decision to remain in Estonia and he now had to carry this responsibility with him. He often said in the years that followed that these had been the worst days of his life.  He himself was in grave danger because he was a judge for the independent Republic of Estonia. He went into town often trying to gather as much news as possible. Coincidentally he was present when the Estonian flag was lowered from Pikk Hermann Tower and replaced with a Soviet flag. This was a ghastly sight for Estonians to behold and they could only look on in desperation. 

After a period of time my father lost his job as a judge and the senior government official roles were replaced with hard-line communists. He was able to continue work for a period of time but soon had a young communist as a boss who made his life very difficult and frankly wanted to get rid of him.

More and more Russian military had come to Tallinn in the meantime. Many officers and soldiers brought their families with them. These families were housed with Estonians and Baltic Germans. Whoever had a large home was forced to give up several rooms or even leave their homes. We did not have any Russians come to live with us but Uncle Paul had to accommodate Russians in his home. The Russian women were mostly friendly and well-meaning and couldn’t do much about their situation either. They mostly got on well with the women who had to take them in. Their transfer to the Baltic countries opened up a whole new world for them. It is now almost unimaginable how people lived during the Stalin era but it is a fact that women had nothing to wear which we in the West take for granted. Many had no idea what underwear or garters were. They looked at shop display windows in complete astonishment as they marvelled at things such as night dresses and ball gowns, and of course this immediately made them want to dress like the ladies in Tallinn. The Estonian women accompanied these Russians to the dressmakers, advised them about which underwear to buy and it was actually a pleasant experience for everyone concerned; a small glimmer of humanity during an utterly inhuman time.

The various German families who chose to remain in Estonia were now desperate to leave. Again and again they discussed the possibility of a second resettlement to Germany. There was a German diplomatic mission in Tallinn but all enquiries were met with icy rejection. They were told “You had your chance” and “the last ships left practically empty”.  After much persistence and a petition, people’s prayers were answered and a second resettlement was approved. We didn’t waste any time submitting our papers.

Life in Tallinn before the war and occupation.

Since it was summer our parents decided to travel once again to the countryside, to our beloved Anija. We were introduced to Anija a few years before by my father’s colleague Judge Laanekõrb. He had likewise spent his holidays here with his family.  I remember very well how he liked to walk along the river in his long white summer trousers. In the summer of 1940 he was also there. One day a police officer came from Kehra, The policeman had known Judge Laanekõrb for years and told him it pained him to do this, but he had to take him in. Judge Laanekõrb did not take it seriously at all thinking it was simply a misunderstanding and that he would soon be back. So off he went in his white summer suit and we never saw him again. We learnt many years later that he had been deported to Siberia where he presumably perished. 

We heard again and again of deportations in Tallinn – people simply disappeared without a trace. There were some who returned after many years of exile but most were sick and completely broken, like our cousin Ralf who was deported not long after the second resettlement had taken place. Our father was also in very grave danger because of his profession. My parents, in fact all of us, knew of the danger and my parents had put together a precise escape plan should anyone come for us.

It was no longer pleasant in school, some teachers had been replaced, most were frightened to death and there were those who were aggressive and provocative – the wonderful mood of our past school years had completely disappeared. It was now expected that education should be carried out in the spirit of communism. Autumn of that year is very grey and dark in my memory, the atmosphere in our beautiful city had completely changed and everything felt so very repressive. People felt threatened by spies and uncertainty about the future was a very heavy burden to bear.

Months of tension and anxiety eventually came to an end for us when the competent authorities approved our resettlement. We were now free to go. It was now just a question of completing the last preparations as quickly as possible. 

Our household was dismantled bit by bit. A few items were sold but most were simply given away. Our neighbours who lived above us, the Talivees, got a few things as well. Mr Talivee was an Estonian police officer who very kindly accompanied us to the port on the day of our departure. When I returned to Tallinn in 1978 I was very sad to learn that his family was also not spared the brutality of the Soviet occupation. In 1941 Mr Talivee was arrested and sent to Sevurallag in Siberia. He was originally given a ten year sentence but that later changed and in 1942 he was executed. Mrs Talivee also came very close to being deported but one night, out of the blue, a soldier appeared at her door warning her that her name was on the list. Naturally she was extremely frightened by his words but she heeded his advice and went away for a few days. Before the soldier left he wanted to point out that he was not Russian but Ukrainian. Perhaps this gesture was his way of doing something good in the evil world in which he found himself. 

Dorothea during her trip to Tallinn in 1978. 
Reunited with her cousin Ralf Lesthal and his two daughters Helja and Liis.

We left Tallinn on the 17th of February 1941 on board the second ship ‘The Brake’. Taking any money out of Estonia was strictly forbidden. It was not until we had left Russian occupied soil and found ourselves in German territory; that everyone felt a great sense of relief. We were finally safe! We later discovered, shortly after we left that Soviet soldiers had come thumping on our door to take father away. We had managed to escape just in time! We eventually got used to life in Germany but our hearts never really left Estonia. 

Dorothea in Germany in 1970. 
Sadly, Dorothea passed away in 2006.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

New! Sleeping Pods Now Available at Tallinn Airport

Tallinn Airport is the fifth airport in the world where these Finnish innovative GoSleep Pods are available. Pods have already welcomed been at airports around the world, providing users with privacy and silence 24/7 in the midst of passenger traffic.

GoSleep Pod is a specially designed, stylish and sleek chair for tired passengers in need of rest, which can also convert into a bed. Hand luggage can be placed under the seat during use, and a moveable, breathing curtain hides the passenger from the noise and light of the airport and from the gaze of other passengers.

GoSleep Pod provides a perfect place to rest among the bustle of the airport - and at Tallinn Airport it is completely free of charge. The chairs have USB and mains chargers, so computers and cell phones can also gather power for the onward journey. “As is usual with innovations, GoSleep Pod was born from a need - in this case the need for sleep,” says Jussi Piispanen, the Managing Director and Esko Koikkalainen, the Chairman of the Board of Short Rest Solutions Oy.

“When travelling, we have often had to sleep between flights on plastic benches or on the floor at various airports. This gave rise to the idea of developing a more comfortable alternative for passengers. There are always thousands upon thousands of people at the world’s airports with no chance of getting the restful sleep that they need. GoSleep Pod allows you to work or sleep in your own private and quiet space,” say Koikkalainen and Piispanen, describing their invention.

Try them out in Gate 8 and see for yourself how comfy they are. The creators of the product refer to them as cradles, where you can rest peacefully. Let us know how you like them.

Friday, 12 June 2015

The Enchanting World of Estonian Folk Art

The more I explore the elements that make up Estonian culture, the more I appreciate it for its unique qualities. Estonian folk art and traditions are treasured in Estonia which has led to their survival despite foreign occupations and the relentless march of technology. Countless demonstrations, workshops and craft fairs take place in Estonia every year which inspire the next generation to carry on these time-honoured traditions.

Many wonderful examples of Estonian handicrafts can be found in Estonia but if you are looking for them online, it is best to search using Estonian words. The Estonian word for handicraft is 'käsitöö', embroidery 'tikand' and fabric 'kangas'.

The Fabric of the Estonian Nation.

Handwoven belts from Juuru and Viru-Nigula 

Estonia is renowned for its beautiful folk art. Embroidery, lace-making, woodwork and knitwear are some of the handicrafts which have been practised with perfection in Estonia for generations. 

The blue cornflower (Rukkilill) was made the national flower of Estonia in 1968. It's commonly found in rye fields and is associated with daily bread. The cornflower is one of the national symbols of Estonia and features prominently in Estonia handicrafts. 

A lovely Estonian linen apron consisting of lace and cornflower embroidery. 

An embroidery design commonly found on women's blouses as part of the national costume.

The designs form Muhu Island are absolutely charming!
 The colourful flowers set against the black background is popular with locals and visitors alike.

A traditional Muhu wall hanging.


Estonian dress fabrics are unique to each parish, not unlike the Scottish tartans which vary according to clan.

Each parish in Estonia has its own unique national folk costume.
The designs vary according to region and, as you can see, its worn with extreme pride!

Fabric from Kadrina Parish.
Manufactured by OÜ Olgitex-rahvuslikud puuvillased triibukangad
Võidu tn 5A(kudumine) Rakvere.

National costume fabrics are not solely used for the national dress. Estonians also enjoy decorating their homes and practical every day items to keep a link to their roots.

Go shopping in your regional style!

Possibilities are endless with the things you can create!

The St. Martin Day Fair is Estonia's largest handicraft and folklore lifestyle event.  Held over 4 days in the Saku suurhall in Tallinn, it is a must for all lovers of Estonian folk art. You never know what you might find! http://www.folkart.ee/eng/st-martins-day-fair

To discover more about the wonderful world of Estonian folk art and handicrafts, please click here:
http://www.folkart.ee/   http://www.crafts.ee/

Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Estonian Book of Names

An interesting post appeared on my Facebook news-feed this morning. 'Eestlastele Eesti Nimi', the Estonian book of names. This book was written in 1921 and can be found online in the digital archives. Please click here to download a copy: Eestlastele Eesti Nimi

3 Medieval Ships Surface in Construction Site in Tallinn | News | ERR

Construction workers building a new residential area in Tallinn uncovered the remains of three shipwrecks, believed to be of 14 - 17th century date.

According to a preliminary survey, the old sea sediments hide the wreckage of three smaller ships, said Maili Roio of the National Heritage Board. The ships are buried 4 meters deep.

The find is first of its kind in Estonia. Last similar case dates to 2009, when a 13th century ship was discovered at Lootsi street.

The area where the discovery was made is an old harbor. The bay was filled in toward the end of the 1930s.

The find was reported by Metro Capital and construction company Nordecon, who are working on the Tivoli residential project.

"One day a digger hit something in the ground," Metro Capital's CEO Mart Habakuk said. "The workers immediately stopped and had a look, it was at once clear that it was something historic, so we informed the National Heritage Board."

"A few days later another ship appeared on the opposite end of the construction site," he added. Now, remote sensing has revealed there could be three wrecks altogether.

Archaeological survey on the site started this week. The wrecks will be excavated, documented and preserved.

Metro Capital is also interested in displaying the finds in cooperation with the Heritage Board. Even now, passers-by can watch the excavation work as it progresses.

The seaside Tivoli residential area is located near Kadrioru Park and Pirita Promenade, just 200 meters from the current coastline in the Estonian capital.

Source: 3 medieval ships surface in constructions site in Tallinn | News | ERR

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

FOTOGALERII - Vana-Andrese koguduse leeriõnnistamine Soome Agricola Luteri kirikus

Great to see my Lestal/Soolepp cousins in the press in Canada! Congratulations!

Pühapäeval, 7. juunil (2015), toimus Soome Agricola Luteri kirikus Vana-Andrese koguduse leeriõnnistamine ja jumalateenistus koos armulauaga. Sellel korral oli leerilapseks noor Emma Soolepp, kes osales 20. leeritunnis ja omandas usinasti kõik teadmised et kristliku noorena iseseisvasse ellu astuda.  Eesti Elu / Estonian Life

Monday, 8 June 2015

Estonia Showcases Its Digital Success with a Brand New Set of Postage Stamps

A new set of international postage stamps will be released in Estonia on 6th July 2015. Marking the success of Estonia's digital innovation, the series is part of a larger collection entitled "100th Anniversary of the Republic of Estonia". The "Innovation" range features world renowned companies Skype, Grabcad, TransferWise and Fortumo.

The stamps will be available early next month at Eesti Post / Omniva:  http://pood.post.ee/12235

Saturday, 6 June 2015

How Estonia Set the Pace on the Way to Digital Government I FT

This is an interesting article recently published in the Financial Times.

When Ivar Tallo was due to return to Estonia after working abroad for the UN, his wife needed a job. After two hours sitting at their kitchen table in Geneva, they had created a graphic-design company for her from scratch, with no agents, lawyers, meetings or pieces of paper involved.

The ease of establishing a business is just one of the attractions of Estonia’s digitised governance system, in which citizens bank, vote, park, sign contracts and pay taxes with clicks of the mouse or taps on their mobile phone screen.

In May, the country became the first in the world to offer a secure digital identity to non-Estonians anywhere on the planet by acquiring “e-residency” status, enabling them to register a company online, perform e-banking transactions, make international payments, declare taxes online and sign documents digitally.

For more than two decades, the former nations of the Soviet Union have grown accustomed to taking lessons from the west about how to run their economies, governments and societies. But now the boot is on the other foot — at least in this small Baltic state which is putting the internet at the heart of commerce, governance and politics.

“When the Soviet Union collapsed and we won our independence, we wanted to be like the west but we didn’t know exactly how you do things. So we did it our own way and it was a bit different,” says Mr Tallo, the founder of Estonia’s e-Governance Academy and a roving ambassador for the country’s digital experiment.

This historical accident, which left Estonia without any banks, meant it had to establish new systems with new people and technologies, enabling the country to leapfrog nations with established back-office systems for finance and government.

With a stated ambition to become as renowned for its digital services as Switzerland is for banking, e-governance is a foreign policy goal for the country of 1.3m people.

“This is pure logic, not just some empty aspiration,” says Mr Tallo. “Government is mostly about communication, so if communication has changed then governments will change also. It is going to happen anyway — it is just a question of whether we can shape it.”

Whether requesting a visa or registering for maternity leave, electronic authentication is sufficient to authorise any state service. Business deals and transactions are also concluded with a digital signature.

Estonia’s e-residency scheme is eye-catching but still largely “decorative”, Mr Tallo says. Far more substantive is the interest in other EU nations in the way public and private sectors in the country exchange data and interact with each other to provide services efficiently.

The system relies on a secure digital identity. An authentication certificate is embedded in a chip in each citizen’s electronic ID card with an accompanying pin number, and also in their mobile phone’s SIM card, creating a unique digital signature.

But technology is not enough — there must also be a high level of trust in the system among its users. With electronic banking available since 1996, Estonians have had almost 20 years of trusting their money to the digital sphere, making it easier to extend it into other areas, such as taxes and ultimately elections.

When the country introduced internet voting in 2005, only 2 per cent of the electorate opted to cast their vote online, but at this year’s general election it was closer to 32 per cent.

“By raising the level of trust in society in general, it changes the climate of doing business,” says Mr Tallo. “And that lowers transaction costs, which raises GDP growth.”
Estonians have used their digital signatures 218m times since the scheme’s inception in 2002, with no serious breach of security so far. Indeed, the US National Security Agency, at the centre of spying accusations since Edward Snowden’s revelations last year, is unhappy that it cannot eavesdrop on communications, Mr Tallo says.

But with so much crucial information in the cloud, there are inevitable concerns about vulnerability to cyber attack and fraud. Last year, researchers claimed the electronic voting system was flawed, and the opposition Centre Party has campaigned against it.

“Yes, there have been moments when people hesitated, and there have been problems with data protection,” says Mr Tallo. To strengthen confidence that information is not misused, people can check their own data online and ask who has accessed it and why.

There are glitches. Journalist Raimo Poom at the Eesti Päevaleht daily expressed his frustration on Twitter last month when two browsers refused to authorise a payment. It felt like things were going back to the 1990s, he said.

But the direction of travel in Europe is clear, and Estonia is positioning itself as a trendsetter. The UK signed a memorandum of understanding with Estonia two years ago to share expertise on digital governance, while Brussels is looking closely at what it can learn.

“Being digital is a way of overcoming the handicap of smallness,” says Mr Tallo. “It has a genuine appeal. We have found a lot of people trying to emulate us and we are very happy about that.”

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Today is Estonian National Flag Day! Täna on Eesti Lipu Päev!

Today Estonians across the globe pay homage to our beloved blue, black and white national flag. Originally used as a students association flag, consecrated in Otepää on the 4th of June 1884, it soon became a symbol of Estonia and was adopted as the national flag when Estonia declared its independence in 1918.

The Estonian national flag was first raised atop Tallinn's Pikk Hermann Tower on the 12th of December 1918. In 1940 it was removed by the occupying Soviet forces. After being banned for over half a century the Estonian national flag re-entered public life in 1989 and has been flying proudly above Pikk Hermann Tower ever since.

If you ask an Estonian their favourite colour combination, no doubt you will told its 'blue, black & white'.  Blue for the sky above, black represented the soil of the homeland and white is for purity, hard work and commitment.  These colours are at the heart of every Estonian!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Exciting Events Set to Take Place in Estonia This Summer

Events! Events! Events! Summer is finally here and now is a great time to get out of the house, go travelling and experience something new! Estonia always hosts a fantastic range of summer events and this year is no exception.  The calendar is packed full with interesting and exciting events that can be found in all corners of the country. Here are a few to spark your interest!

35th International Hanseatic Days in Viljandi
4 - 7 June 2015

Explore the beauty of the Estonian national costume at the Estonian National Museum in Tartu.
6 June 2015

Narva Days
4 -7 June 2015

Traditional Estonian lace-making in Pärnu.
18 - 19 July 2015

Tallinn Medieval Days
9 - 12 July 2015

The first national Open Farm Day
19 July 2015