Sunday, 29 November 2015

The President of Twitter: Toomas Hendrik Ilves

Estonians are fond of their president. He's forward thinking, tech savvy and acts in the best interests of his country and people. He is also a very honest president who is not shy to speak his mind on social media. “With a little bit of creativity, you actually can go far beyond your borders,” says Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

Here's an interesting article about President Ilves written by Max Seddon. To read, please click here: The President of Twitter

Friday, 27 November 2015

TMW Organiser and Social Activist Helen Sildna Named Citizen of the Year 2015 | News | ERR

Culture Minister Indrek Saar presented Helen Sildna with the Citizen of the Year 2015 award in a ceremony at the Estonian History Museum. Sildna was chosen from 21 candidates nominated for the award.

The Citizen of the Year award was announced on Thursday, which marked the Citizen's Day in Estonia. The day is meant for all citizens and people living in Estonia, regardless of their ethnic origin. The aim is to raise awareness of civic status, elevate civic pride, and recognise the decisions made by citizens in shaping the country’s development.

Citizen's Day has been celebrated on November 26 since 1988. It's the day the Land Council passed a decree on “The citizenship of the Estonian democratic republic” in 1918, by which, for the first time, the notion of the Estonian citizen was established in the legal sense.

The Citizen of the Year title was first awarded in 2003. The previous recipients of the award include former president Lennart Meri, athletes Jüri Jaanson, Andrus Veerpalu and Konstantin Vassiljev, and composer Erkki-Sven Tüür.

Every year the Ministry of Culture chooses one field under its juristiction to pay special attention to. This year's theme was "Music Connects" and the award went to music promoter and events producer Helen Sildna. In 2009 she set up Tallinn Music Week, a music industry conference and one of the biggest showcase festivals in the Baltic-Nordic region. She is a board member of the Estonian Music Development Centre, Estonian Culture Council, and a member of the Estonian President¹s Advisory Board. Sildna is also one of the activists behind "Tolerant Estonia" initiative, which promotes a more accepting, open-minded approach to ethnic and sexual minorities.

TMW organizer and social activist Helen Sildna named Citizen of the Year 2015 | News | ERR

Thursday, 26 November 2015

President Ilves to Release a Compilation of Favourite Songs From His Youth

On the 4th of December President Toomas Hendrik Ilves will release a compilation called "Teenage Wasteland - Favourites 1963-1978". A donation will be made from every album purchased to the Minu Unistuste Päev (My Dream Day) charity project, which makes dreams come true for seriously and chronically ill children in treatment at Estonian hospitals.

According to President Ilves, the songs in the compilation have all shaped his later tastes in music, from new wave to punk, grunge down to today's Wolf Alice, Palma Violets and Vaiko Eplik. "These were the songs I listened to at night with a small 12 transistor radio when I was growing up, which provided much needed redemption for life in what The Who called a Teenage Wasteland. Funny to say now, turning 62, but back then my life was saved by rock 'n' roll," he admitted.

The compilation includes 16 various songs from 1963-1978 that influenced the President when he was growing up in the United States of America. The following favourite songs of the Head of State have made it to the record: Four Tops - "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)", The Temptations - "My Girl", The Shangri-Las - "Leader of the Pack", The Beach Boys - "Help Me, Rhonda", Cream - "Tales of Brave Ulysses", The Band - "The Weight", The Velvet Underground - "Rock & Roll", Roxy Music - "Virginia Plain", The Who - "Baba O'Riley", Lesley Gore - "It's My Party", New York Dolls - "Trash", The Troggs - "Wild Thing", David Bowie - "Panic in Detroit", Ramones - "I Wanna Be Sedated", Peter Sarstedt - "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?" and MC5 - "High School".

"This isn't quite a collection of my favourite songs. That would include all kinds of songs from 1963-78 most Estonians know – the Beatles, the Stones hits, for example," said Ilves. "They also do not include bands that wouldn't give permission for a collection of this type, which means crucial songs such as the Kinks "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night" are missing. As are the We Five's "You Were On My Mind" which a mere year later paled before Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love". Missing too is the musical and spiritual father of Pearl Jam and Nirvana, Neil Young, in his "Cinnamon Girl" phase. As is the early garage punk band Music Machine's "Talk Talk"."

The collection is being released by Universal Music Baltics; it will be available from December 4 on CD and on the Spotify streaming service. You can buy the record from all good record stores throughout Estonia, incl. Lasering, Terminal, Apollo and Rahva Raamat.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Another Impressive Christmas Tree Stands in Rakvere

The small Estonian town of Rakvere stood out last year by erecting one of the most distinctive Christmas trees in the world at the town’s square. This year, the town is attempting to repeat the same feat. 

To read the full story, please click here: Rakvere surprises with a Christmas tree, again…

2016 – The Year of Paul Keres | News | ERR

The World Chess Federation has named 2016 “the year of Paul Keres,” to mark 100 years since the birth of the legendary Estonian chess champion.

Keres was born on January 7, 1916, in Narva and came to be known as the eternal second in the world, losing a number of world championship title matches. He was second in 1953 (places 2-4), 1956, 1959 and 1963. In 1948 he came 3-4th at the world championships and in 1950 he was fourth.

Keres is a beloved figure in Estonia, and was also depicted on the five kroon banknote. Some believe Keres consciously lost to a number of Western chess players, in silent protest against the Soviet Union, while he was forced by authorities to fold to other Soviet Union chess players, who were more in line. He died in 1975 in Helsinki.

To commemorate Keres, an international youth tournament will be held in Narva on December 8 and the European Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships will be in Pärnu at the end of 2016. A number of smaller events will also take place.

Source; 2016 – the year of Paul Keres | News | ERR

Thursday, 19 November 2015

6 Hotels to Consider When Planning Your Next Trip to Tallinn

It's always a great joy to visit the beautiful city of Tallinn and one way to ensure your trip is a happy and memorable one is to pick the right hotel. There are many charming hotels in Tallinn, each with their own unique style and features. Accommodation and services do vary in Tallinn but there's sure to be one that appeals to your individual taste and budget.

For me, I always used to stay at the Old House Apartments in Tallinn until one day I discovered they were fully booked and had to seek an alternative. This came as a blessing in disguise because since then I have experienced some lovely hospitality in Tallinn. I prefer hotels with history and character and Tallinn certainly has no shortage of those.  I always love that heart-warming moment when you open the door to your hotel room for the very first time and get the wow factor. It's always a great start to the perfect holiday.

This is a truly lovely hotel, I stayed here for the first time in July. I have to admit that I have walked past this hotel so many times thinking it might be at the higher end of the price scale but I was pleasantly surprised to find it was not.  I found My City Hotel to be good value for money with modern, elegant rooms and good facilities. I highly recommend it.

An old favourite, I have been staying here since I first visited Estonia with my family in 2003. The Old House does not only offer stylish well-appointed apartments but they also have a guest house and hostel too. Every budget is catered for which is why the Old House has such appeal.

Estonians love their saunas as do visitors when they come to Tallinn. The Meriton Grand is a great place to stay if you want to enjoy the sights of charming Tallinn combined with a relaxing spa holiday.  I have stayed at The Meriton Grand several times and have enjoyed some of their facilities which include - spa, swimming pool, sauna, beauty salon and gym etc. There is also a Russian restaurant and French patisserie on the premises for you to enjoy a good meal.  

If you want to experience a hotel with character then a stay at the St.Olav Hotel is a must, The rooms are nicely decorated but a bit on the small side. However, that doesn't matter because it's what's outside your room that you will find most fascinating. The hotel is full of charming hallways, corridors and stairwells which instantly makes you want to explore. Don't be surprised to walk to your room and find guests photographing the corridors because everyone finds this hotel truly delightful!

Located in the heart of the Tallinn, the Tallink Hotel is a great place to stay if you want to be in the centre of it all. This a large modern hotel with all you would expect for its size - the breakfast service is excellent with plenty of choice and there is never a shortage of taxis parked outside to take you wherever you wish to go. All the sights are a short walking distance from this hotel which is sure to please guests.  

If you are a budget-conscious traveller preferring to spend more money being out and about than on your hotel room, then Hotel Metropol might be the place for you. This hotel is very popular with tour groups so don't be surprised to find large groups here. I stayed here once in 2012 and had somewhat of an interesting experience. I found the staff all very nice. the reception area, bar and restaurant all looked great but when I walked up to my room and opened my door I couldn't help but exclaim 'oh, no'. The room looked like it hadn't been renovated since the 1980s and I didn't like the fact that there was no carpet on the floor. On the positive side, the room was large but unfortunately the TV was not (I love to watch Estonian TV!). In the evening the sound carried upstairs from the bar making it a little difficult to sleep but I guess if you are a party-goer this might not bother you.

Monday, 16 November 2015

New Action Sports Centre 'Spot of Tallinn' Nearing Completion

An extreme sports centre on the outskirts of Tallinn will open its doors in January. The centre is unique in Europe and meets all international criteria, allowing new extreme sport competitions to be held in Estonia for the first time.

To read the full ERR story, please click here: Spot of Tallinn

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Estonia Shows Solidarity with France

The horrific terrorists attacks which took place in Paris on Friday night have not only pierced the hearts of the French nation but everyone else who believes in civilised values. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. If you have friends and loved ones in France, I sincerely hope they are safe and well.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

A Historic Look at the Popular Game 'Koroona'

Geoff Chester has written a fascinating article about 'Koroona' a game that has been popular in Estonia since the 1920s. To learn more about the history of Koroona, please click here:

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Legendary Estonian Plane Blown to Bits in New Bond Film | News | ERR

It's great to see an Estonian connection in the new James Bond film. To learn more, please click here: Legendary Estonian plane blown to bits in new Bond film | News | ERR

Seven Places to See When Visiting Tallinn for the First Time

My youngest brother is set to visit Estonia for the very first time next week. He recently finished his studies at university and is currently travelling around Europe with a group of his friends, a trip that will no doubt create many lasting memories.  I think it is wonderful that he will soon see our ancestral homeland. Naturally I feel very excited for him! He recently asked me about the best places to visit and here are my suggestions.

1. Tallinn's Old Town

A must-see of course. Stunning 13th century architecture, cobblestone paths and beautiful old churches, the Old Town looks like it comes straight out of a fairy-tale book.

2. St. Olaf Church

Built in the 12th century St. Olaf's has long been a famous landmark in Tallinn and was the tallest building in the world from 1549 - 1625. For a small fee visitors can climb up the church tower and take in spectacular views of Tallinn.  Many great photographic opportunities await you here!

3. The Raeapteek - Town Hall Pharmacy

This is the oldest pharmacy in Estonia and one of the oldest continuously running pharmacies in Northern Europe. The Raeapteek has been operating from the same premises in Tallinn since the day it first opened in 1422. That's quite a feat considering some of the turmoil the country has experienced over the centuries. I love this building, not just for its age but because my great-great-grandfather completed his pharmacy apprenticeship here in 1860. I love visiting places knowing my family has been there years before me.

4. Kiek in de Kök & Bastion Passages

If you love a bit of adventure, climbing up towers and exploring old passageways then you'll definitely enjoy a trip to the Kiek in de Kök museum. The building is part of Tallinn's old fortress which was constructed during the 13th century and today houses an interactive museum. This is a great place to learn about Estonia's history and culture.

5. Seaplane Harbour

Recently voted as one of the best museums in Tallinn, the Seaplane Harbour is a must when visiting the city.  Its main attractions are the submarine Lembit, built in 1937, and the vintage steam icebreaker “Suur Tõll” that was built in 1914. In the Seaplane Harbour you will also find many unique artefacts and lots of interactive games such as flight and submarine simulators and shooting with air defence guns. It's lots of fun!

6. Maiasmokk Cafe

A visit to Tallinn is not complete without visiting Estonia's oldest cafe Maiasmokk which literally means 'sweet tooth' in Estonian. Built in 1864, the cafe has been operating from the same location since it opened and has been serving delicious treats ever since. Maiasmokk is famous for its marzipan and a workshop is located on the premises where visitors can watch arts of work being created.

7. Vanaema Juures ( Grandmother's Place)

Tallinn has many great restaurants and it's often difficult to decide which one to try first. The Old Hansa and The Peppersack are two of Tallinn's most popular but if you really want to experience some truly traditional Estonian cuisine then pay a visit to Vanaema Juures. ‘Grandma’s Place’ was one of Tallinn’s most stylish restaurants in the 1930s and still rates as a top choice for traditional, home-style Estonian fare. The antique-furnished, photograph-filled dining room creates a warm cosy atmosphere and during the summer it is possible to sit on the street terrace.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Thank you so much for reading!

It's very humbling when people write to me saying how much they enjoy my blog and all the more so when organisations and companies show their appreciation by placing links to the blog on their own websites. Most recently the Estonian American National Council Inc. contacted me to advise that they are recommending my blog under the "Estonian perspectives" section on their website. I'm thrilled and very grateful that they have acknowledged and shared my blog! Thank you for reading!

19 of the Most Beautiful Cities and Towns in Estonia

If you are unfamiliar with some of the beautiful places Estonia has to offer, the following link might help.