Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Happy Halloween!

To mark the occassion of Halloween, the Visit Tallinn website has published a collection of eight ghost stories set in Tallinn. It's an interesting read for anyone fond of old tales. Enjoy!

1. Devil's Window at Rataskaevu 16

Let’s kick off with the most famous scary story in the old town - the fake window of Rataskaevu 16.

Once long ago the then owner of the house fell on hard times. Things were looking bad until a stranger came to him with an offer: allow the stranger to host a party in the upper left room of the house and in return there would be a bag of gold. The owner was more than happy and promised complete privacy. No one would even go up the stairs while the guests were there! The guests arrived and all went up to the little rented room, a lot more than the room should have been able to fit. 

As the party upstairs progressed the owner got curious and snuck up to see what was happening. As he looked through the keyhole he saw a wedding in full swing. But his hair turned white with fright because everyone at the party was on hooves and with horns on their head and the beautifully decked out bride was accompanied by none other than the devil as the groom. 

The owner ran down the stairs and hid the whole night. When morning came and the roosters called out then the whole party rushed out of the house and disappeared into the morning mist. By noon the owner was brave enough to go up to the room where he found his bag of gold only to have it turn to dung in front of him. No money for him. Ever since then the devil has a habit of using the room whenever he wants and so the following owners walled the whole thing in.

2. The Building of St Olaf's Church

St Olaf's is a beautiful towering church in Tallinn Old Town that by tradition must be the tallest building in Tallinn's skyline. Today St Olaf's is 123.7 m high but it was built to be even higher! 

In 16 century during one of the rebuilding's of the church the spire of it was to become 159 m high. But where to find a builder mad enough to do it? The work was dangerous and city short on money. In all contracts the city made sure that money would only be paid if the tower was finished. Builders took up the challenge! But, oh misfortune, first one then second then third and all together seven master builders fell off the tower to their death. All of a sudden no one was willing to finish the church. It was cursed!

Along came a man who called himself Olav and promised to finish the tower. All he asked was thousand pieces of gold. All the money the city had left. Tallinn had no choice but to accept the bargain and Olav started to build. He did all the most dangerous work himself and built the spire as high as it was asked. Only one thing was missing - the golden rooster from the top of the tower. Olav himself climbed up under the eyes of the crowd gathered to see him finish his work. 

As the final nail hammed in Olav slipped and fell off the tower. He landed amongst the people and all saw a snake and a toad crawl out of his mouth. Everyone called it the devil's work! Truly, the tower of St Olaf's is quite unfortunate, it has been struck by lightning many times and burned down to 123.7 m of height. 

3. Horror of the Stable Tower

Many towers of the city wall also served one time or another as prison towers. One such tower is the Stable tower facing Toompea. Once there was a young man imprisoned in the tower for being dishonest in matters of love (cheated a girl out of a dowry, that bastard!). His family paid quite handsomely to have the boy's stay in the tower be as comfortable as possible. He had good food and wine, warm bed and even entertainment. Still the boy complained and begged to be taken to any other tower for his time in jail. 

To calm the young man down his father sent a servant to keep him company at night. The servant ran screaming from the tower. Next his mother came to see what was going on. When she tried to stay the night she fainted from fear. After that the father spent a lot of gold to get his son moved to another jail and away from the unspeakable indescribable horror in the Stable tower.

4. The Black Baron at Pikk-Jalg 14

This unassuming house is haunted by the Black Baron. Usually he is not seen, only the candle he carries walks around lighting the rooms. Doors unlock on their own and things go missing all the time here. The Baron though is not a nobleman at all but a goldsmith. Goldsmith of great skill who sold his jewellery both to upper and lower town. But he also practiced black magic and everything he made was cursed. People who wore what he had made died soon after. The goldsmith never found rest having cursed himself along with his works. Needless to say that one should never keep jewellery found lying around in this house. 

5. The ladies of Toomkooli 13

This house is haunted by two ghosts: the Gray Lady and the Black Lady. Both thought to be Estonian girls and both had the rotten luck of having the attention of the von Uexküll family men. The Gray Lady was a maid in the house and she was beautiful. She got the attention of the lord of the house and was forced to become his lover. But soon he grew tired of her and killed her one night. He had her walled into the basement's wall but she might have been alive then still because now she appears in a gray dress and with long ragged nails as if she had tried to claw her way out of somewhere. She tries to strangle men sleeping alone and has a manic laugh.

The Black Lady was a girl from the countryside. She fell in love the lord's son and he with her. They were going to get married but for that she had to meet the family. The young man brought her to Tallinn and his family was very upset and unhappy. But there was no changing the young couple's mind. The wedding preparations went ahead and everything seemed fine until one morning the bride was missing. The groom looked far and wide but never found her. He should have looked real close though because she never left the house. His father killed her and buried her into the basement. Now she walks around in black looking for the lover that never came back.

6. The Monk in the Short-Leg Gate Tower

The Short-Leg Gate Tower and surrounding houses have a very persistent ghost. People have witnessed huge bloody faces on the walls, life size ships sailing through the houses, and most commonly a dark monk like figure, sometimes bloody and sometimes not, praying with a glowing cross on the wall. The monk can be quite violent if he wants. He brakes and hides things but also hits the living: an artist living here in the 1970s said that the monk would come some nights to pull his toes and also to kick him in the ribs. 

Probably the name of the ghost is Justinius and he wasn't a monk at all. He was a novice set on becoming a monk and was killed in 1233 before he could repent for his sins. And sins he had many because before becoming a man of god Justinius was an executioner's apprentice. A job most disrespected and feared in Medieval society. 

7. The Blood in Pagari 1

This house has very nice apartments that have some trouble finding a buyer. The reason is rather obvious. This used to be the KGB headquarters in Tallinn. How many people were tortured in the basements and how many were shot in the courtyard during the war will probably never be known but we do know that for thousands the road to Siberian prison camps started right here. When entering from the main door during the Soviet time they would joke: "Why is the doorknob worn down on the outside but not on the inside? Because, many go in but few come out."

Another case of good Estonian humour is the saying that the Pagari 1 house had the best view in the whole city, hell, the whole country. From its basement you could see straight into Siberia. It should then come as no surprise that the place is haunted and that one must have a rather cold heart to take up residence at this address.

8. The Knight on a White Horse

Not all ghosts are nicely tied down to one place. This knight in shining armour rides somewhere between Lasnamägi and the sea. The horse is white and the knight always polite and he stops those passing by. He offers to sell them skins. 

Behind his saddle he has a pile of skins and they smell horribly. Most people are straight up not interested but if anyone asks what type of skins these are then the knight answers that they are human skins that he took off the backs of his enemies during war. He had everything made out of them: his clothes, boots, and his saddle. Hearing this people run away but once there was a man who asked for a price. The knight said he only wants peace and the skins taken off his back. The man buying was happy to hear this; he took the horse, the skins and led everyone straight to hell. 

He was the devil himself. The devil pointed out a group of men waiting for them and said that they were the knights victims and enemies. They were now going to take the skin off the knight's back every night. So, most nights the knight is suffering horribly in hell but every now and again the devil allows the knight back up with his horse and his skins. If he manages to sell them off to someone else then they will take the knight's place in hell.

EV100 hot air balloon (kuumaõhupall)

In the early morning of 23rd August 2017 a beautiful sight took place in Tallinn. A hot air balloon adorned in the Estonian colours graced the city's skyline. The balloon set off at Freedom Square and is part of the EV100 celebrations.

The below video was produced by Skycam.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Recapture the moments from Laulupidu 2017

A new book Laulupidu 2017 illustrates behind the scenes moments in 350 photos taken during the XII Estonian Youth Song and Dance Celebration week. Latvian photographer Mārtiņš Kālis, who has performed similar photography projects in Latvia, believes that the true essence of Song and Dance Celebrations can be experienced only among the participants during everyday rehearsals, life at school, long night chats with friends and persisting hot sun or heavy rain. But, undeniably, also the public side of the festival - procession and concerts - is a wonderful culmination of the festival.

You can download the eBook here: Laulupidu 2017

The book can also be purchased as hardcover print edition from most leading bookshops.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Lonely Planet names Tallinn as the best value destination for 2018

No longer the plaything of greater powers – Danish, Swedish, Polish, German and Soviet – Tallinn is now a proud European capital with an allure all its own. It's lively yet peaceful, absurdly photogenic and bursting with wonderful sights – ancient churches, medieval streetscapes and noble merchants' houses. Throw in delightful food and vibrant modern culture and it's no wonder Tallinn seems in danger of being loved to death, especially after a few cruise ships dock. But it's one of those blessed places that seems to cope with all the attention.

Estonia’s capital is compact, fashionable and terrific value. Explore one of Eastern Europe’s loveliest old towns on foot for free, stay in good-value dorms, guesthouses or private homes, and take in Baltic Sea views and a superb panorama of the city from the flat roof of the vast Linnahall (one of Tallinn’s best free things to do). Connected by budget flights from around Europe, the city isn’t a secret – but if you want a taste of Tallinn to yourself then head to Kalamaja, a fast-changing neighbourhood home to Telliskivi Creative City. The food trucks here offer Instagrammable fill-ups that won’t tax your wallet.

With all these wonders to behold, no wonder Lonely Planet has named Tallinn as the best value destination for 2018!

Here's the complete list of the top ten:

1. Tallinn, Estonia

2. Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain

3. Arizona, USA

4. La Paz, Bolivia

5. Poland

6. Essaouira, Morocco

7. United Kingdom

8. Baja California, Mexico

9. Jacksonville, USA

10. Hunan, China 

To read the full Lonely Planet article and to watch the Tallinn video, please click here: 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Estonian Meigo Märk - The Walk Around the World

27-year-old Estonian Meigo Mark is an man on a mission. Three years ago he embarked upon an epic journey of walking around the world, a feat that has only been completely by less than a dozen men. During the last three years, four months and three weeks, Meigo has walked 17,810 km, travelled through 21 countries and has slept out in the open in a tent, as well as spent nights in some 180 homes.  Meigo began his walking journey in Tallinn on May 11, 2014 and is now in Singapore.

Meigo has said he is not out to break any records, for him the journey is about having a great learning experience. On average Meigo walks 30 to 40 kilometres before resting. Sometimes he rests for a day or a few weeks at a time. He is in no rush, he likes to take in the cultures of the places he visits along the way. 

To cross oceans and bodies of water Meigo relies on boats, ferries, ships, and airplanes. On land, he prefers to walk. He is currently on his 21st pair of shoes.

Meigo is currently spending a month in Singapore while waiting for his Estonian passport to be renewed as he has run out of pages. Meigo plans to continue walking for another six years.

The below video is an interview with Meigo during his time spent in Vietnam.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Family Tree DNA - The Forefathers of Estonians

The fascinating field of genetic research had led to the discovery that all ethnic Estonians can now trace their ancestry back to one of five men. These men came to settle in Estonia during different periods in time and their descendants are all among us today. If you wish to unlock the secret of your DNA then participating in the Family Tree DNA  - 'The Estonia Project' may be the thing for you!

The Estonia project is a dual Y-DNA (paternal) / mtDNA (maternal) project, which is mainly created for ethnic Estonians, descended from paternal and/or maternal line from families that have their earliest-known origins in what is now Estonia. Over past centuries, territory of Estonia or parts of it belonged politically at various times to: German crusaders' and their descendants' states, Kingdom of Denmark, various Christian bishops, Kingdom of Poland, Kingdom of Sweden and Russian Empire. Populations moved to and from the neighbouring states of Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland. DNA of families of Estonian origin could exhibit Finno-Ugric, Baltic, Western European, Eastern European or other characteristics. This group will allow those who have a family ethnic and geographic origin in Estonia to compare their DNA with that of their geographic neighbours and, possibly, find family matches.

The below video is about the male lineages of Estonians and is aimed at Estonians living abroad to participate in the genetic research.

I took the DNA test and it revealed some interesting results. When I told my sister she was quite disappointed to discover that we are only 3% British. As our mother's family are originally from England we naturally assumed the result would be closer to 50%. We were mistaken. It appears we may be descended from Norwegian vikings on my mother's side, which, I think is quite a good thing. I've always considered myself to have the heart of a warrior - I don't like to give up on things I believe in and I am very protective towards those I love. Makes sense to me! Unfortunately I have yet to discover which of the original five men I am descended from. This can only be determined from the Y chromosome in the male line so looks like I need to get my father tested! The test costs $99 US.

Once you take the DNA test you can see all the genetic matches and contact those people if you wish. I discovered that my closest relative in an man called Per in Sweden. We have since corresponded.  

To find out more and to participate in the Estonia Project, please click here:
DNA test - genetic ancestry of Estonians

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Travel back in time onboard Tallinn's retro blue trams

As part of the Republic of Estonia's 100th birthday celebrations, six retro trams will soon be in service in Tallinn.  All the trams will bear the name of important Estonians of the first Republic of Estonia. This beautiful blue tram is dedicated to Estonia's first President, Mr Konstantin Päts.

The trams will operate on tramline 3. 
They will take you to the green area of Kadriorg.


President Päts served five times as Estonia's head of state.
More information about Mr.Päts can be found here: Konstantin Päts

Saturday, 7 October 2017

A. Le Coq Beer Museum in Tartu gives the most comprehensive overview of Estonian beer history and its culture

Tartu was the birthplace of the Estonian beer industry and it has been a beer city for almost a thousand years. The Beer Museum opened on 1st July 2003 in order to preserve the history of industrial beer brewing. It is located in the malt tower on the original A. Le Coq site built in 1898. The museum features the story of beer brewing around the world from the beer culture of ancient Egypt to the present day. On display are more than 2000 items including equipment used for making beer at home as well as old industrial brewing equipment. Also featured among the museum’s collection are many bottle caps, bottles, mugs and barrels used throughout the ages.

Entry to the Beer Museum is 10€ for adults and guided tours are available in Estonian, English and Russian.  To learn more about the production of beer, you can view the historic timeline here.

A. Le Coq is the oldest and biggest drinks manufacturer in Estonia. For more information about the A.Le Coq Beer Museum, please refer to their official website: Beer Museum

Friday, 6 October 2017

Estonia leads the way in e-governance

Today 32 European countries agreed upon common goals for e-government development over the next five years. The European ministers responsible for e-government unanimously approved and signed a joint declaration in Tallinn, now known as the Tallinn Declaration. 

The overall vision is to strive to be open, efficient and inclusive, providing borderless, interoperable, personalised, user-friendly, end-to-end digital public services to all citizens and businesses – at all levels of public administration.

To read more about the Tallinn Declaration, please click here: Tallinn Declaration on eGovernment

Aljazeera: Estonia's experiment with digital IDs

Estonia has been called the most advanced digital society in the world. It has led the way with ID cards, online voting and electronic government services, but with all this comes greater exposure to cyber attacks. This Aljazeera report explores Estonia's digital society.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Estonian Society of Sydney to Celebrate its 90th Birthday!

If you are going to be in Sydney this week then get ready to party for the Estonian Society of Sydney is set to celebrate its 90th anniversary! There is no doubt that that is will be a highlight of festivities at Estonian House this year!

Save the date! Saturday 7th October 2017 from  5:30 pm.
Dinner  will include a sumptuous three course meal - classic Estonian-style canapés, dinner buffet and a celebratory birthday cake. 

Entertainment will come directly from Estonia including Meelis Punder and Antti Kammiste.

The theme for the night is ‘Black and White’ but anyone who chooses to wear blue will certainly be most welcome!


General admission: $65
Members of the Estonian Society of Sydney Inc: $55
Children 12-17 years: $55
Children 11 years and under: Free

Venue: Eesti Maja, 141 Campbell Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2011

Contact Details: info@sydneyeestiselts.com.au Tel: / 0408 698 986 Tiina Alvre