Thursday, 24 December 2020

Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas despite the current coronavirus situation. Eat, drink and be merry. It's time to enjoy ourselves. We all deserve a bit of cheer! Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Christmas carols sung in Estonian

With Christmas almost upon us, no doubt we are all getting ready for the big day. I love Christmas and nothing pleases me more than buying gifts for my loved one, decorating my home and eating delicious food! I will be busy in the kitchen tomorrow morning cooking up a feast whilst listening to Christmas carols in the background. Estonian songs are the best of course! Here are a few I plan to start my day with. Merry Christmas everyone!

The traditional Christmas carol 'We wish you a Merry Christmas' has a few variants in Estonian. You can either use the word 'kauneid or rõõmsaid'. Here are the lyrics.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas
(Me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,)

Me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
lisaks head aastat uut!

Toob kõigile sära silma,
toob kõigile sära silma,
toob kõigile sära silma,
rahu maa peale toob

Seal leidke kõik see,
mis leidmata veel,
ja kaunimad päevad
olgu ootamas eel!

Me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
lisaks head aastat uut!

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

National Library of Estonia showcases century old textbooks

For the first time, the National Library in Tallinn is holding an exhibition dedicated to textbooks used throughout the ages. The collection includes study materials from the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s. The oldest book on display is from the year 1515.

The exhibition is called 'ABC ja Cicero. Kooliraamat mineviku Eestis' and runs until the 29th May 2021. More information can be found on the National Library website Rahvusraamatukogu näitab esimest korda Eesti haruldasi ja sajandeid vanu õpikuid

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

New Banned Books Museum Opens in Tallinn

A new museum has opened in Tallinn's Old-Town that specialises in censorship and promotes the free exchange of ideas. The museum, located in Munga Street, holds a collection of over one-hundred different titles that were banned from all over the world. The books are classified by country eg. Estonia, U.K, Russia, China etc, and also has a section dedicated to books that were burned. 

The museum was created by Joseph Maximillian, a Scot who has been living in Estonia for the past five years. He studied film and spent several years living in China. According to his website, the aim of the museum is to raise people's awareness of the long history of censorship and the importance of freedom of speech.

Most books in the museum can be viewed or purchased. The museum is open Friday-Sunday from 11am until 6pm at Munga 2 Tallinn. More information can be found here: Banned Books Museum

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Vote your favourite in Tartu's Deed of the Year Award

Tartu has launched its annual Deed of the Year Award, a competition that has been running for the past 23 years. All residents and friends of Tartu can participate in the voting which ends on December 17. The winner will be announced on December 29.

This year's candidates are:

Renovation of the Annelinn Upper Secondary School

Asta and Katre Õimu Eesti Kõnekäänud I and II

World Rally Championship Rally Estonia

Car-Free Avenue

Bolt scooter rental

Opening of the BMX Cross Hall in the former Visa Hall

Welfare Masters begin assisting the elderly

The return of biodiversity to city centre parks

Karl Morgenstern 250 exhibitions and other events

Performances with audio description and subtitles in Theatre Vanemuine

Klubi Tartu Maraton virtual sporting events

South Estonian Week of Flavours 'From Forest to Plate'

Fairy tale exhibition 'Once Upon a Time' at the Estonian National Museum

Play and recreation area in Annelinn, Kaunas pst 58a

Paju 2 high-rise building

Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Tartu Peace Treaty

University of Tartu Delta Centre academic and a research building

Skating rink on the Town Hall Square

New Lodjakoda barge workshop complex

You can vote online here - Tartu's Deed of the Year 2020

Thursday, 26 November 2020

PiparkoogiMaania exhibition opens on December 4

GingerbreadMania (PiparkoogiMaania) began in 2006 by a group of talented artists. The must-see exhibition is held during the Christmas season in Tallinn and showcases some amazing works. Each year GingerbreadMania has a different theme, this year the exhibition has been named 'Fashion'. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Christmas has begun in Tallinn

The Christmas season has officially begun in Tallinn with the placing of the Christmas tree on Town Hall Square last Friday. Sadly many of us won't be able to visit Tallinn this Christmas due to the coronavirus pandemic but at least we can be kept up-to-date online. This year, due to the pandemic, the Tallinn Christmas market will be configured a bit differently, more spread out throughout the Old Town.

Estonia was the first country in the world to have a public Christmas tree. It's a tradition that dates back to 1441 when the Brotherhood of Black Heads put a Christmas tree up on Tallinn Town Hall Square. An official document found in the city archives dated 1441 reveals that the city council paid for musicians to play music by the tree on 25th December. Now the tradition of having a public Christmas tree in city centres can be seen all over the world!

Wednesday, 18 November 2020


The coronavirus has temporarily halted international travel to Estonia. If you are not able to visit Tartu at the moment then perhaps take a virtual walk via this video. Get inspired for the days to come! 

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

New book by Endel Uiga - 'Where the Light Comes From: One Hundred Years Looking Back'

Endel Ulga is an Estonian currently living in New Jersey in the United States. He was born on March 3, 1918, just days after Estonia declared its independence from Russia. In his memoir, he describes the idyllic life of a curious and ingenious child with great promise for a successful future while a roiling undercurrent of unrest pervaded eastern Europe. Endel and his country came of age together, before their destinies diverged during World War II.

About the authors.

The 184 page biography was published in August and is now available in paperback and kindle.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Happy Father's Day!


Father's Day in celebrated on the second Sunday of November in Estonia. To mark the occasion, Statistics Estonia released some interesting facts.

* There are 304,800 fathers and 132,000 grandfathers in Estonia.

* Estonian fathers are 53 years of age on average, while the average grandfather is 66.

* 37.7% of fathers in Estonia have only one child,  41.7% have two,  15% have three and  3.8% have four. The remaining 1.8% of fathers have five or more children.

* There are eighty-eight fathers in Estonia with ten or more children.

* The most popular baby names for 2020 are Robin, Martin, Oliver, Rasmus, Mia, Emily, Lenna and Sofia.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Estonian Railway Celebrates 150th Birthday!

The first railway was opened in Estonia on the 5th of November 1870 and ran the Paldiski-Tallinn-Narva-Gatchina route. In the same year, the new railway was connected to the St. Petersburg-Warsaw railway. The train network revolutionised travel in the region. It boosted trade and economic growth, improved infrastructure and created new settlements. Palju õnne Eesti Raudtee!

Tallinn Railway station group photo 1871

One of the first train engineers in Estonia was my great-great-grandfather Carl Woldemar Becker (1845-1890). He was born in Kadriorg and married my great-great-grandmother Julie Louise Jorik in Tallinn in 1879. I am very proud that my family is part of Estonian history.

Archive marriage record.

The Becker family in Tallinn 1900.
Sadly I don't have a photo of Carl Becker.

Eesti Post has released this commemorative stamp.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Estonian Spy-Thriller 'O2' Tops Box Office

Margus Paju's new film 'O2' had a delayed release date due to the coronavirus, but it hit cinemas on October 9 and is now at the top of the Estonian box office. 'O2' is a spy thriller about an Estonian intelligence officer, who has to track down a mysterious Soviet double agent on the eve of WWII.

Monday, 26 October 2020

Estonia has Europe's lowest 14-day COVID-19 rate

As of today Estonia has the lowest 14-day coronavirus rate in Europe at 41.1 per 100,000 residents. Estonia is also one of just three European countries together with Moldova and Montenegro, where the rate has fallen in the past two weeks.  The highest infection rates in Europe can be found in Belgium and the Czech Republic.

The spread of the coronavirus has been stabilised thanks to the responsible, attentive, and careful behaviour of the people of Estonia, said a representative from the Estonian Health Board. Whilst this is good news for Estonia there are new concerns about the virus. Previously it was thought that a person could not contract the coronavirus twice, that the body builds an immunity to it, but this theory has been dispelled. A handful of people across the globe have been reinfected, The first case was reported in Hong Kong, then Belgium, Ecuador, USA and last week in Estonia. These people tested positive in March then again in September. Immunity only appeared to last 3 - 6 months. Some people reported that their symptoms were more severe the second time round.

So what can we do to protect ourselves while we wait for a vaccine to be approved? Abide by the 2 metre social distancing rule. Don't sit down in a cafe or restaurant where the other table is only 30cm away from you (this is common in Italy and France). Wear a mask in all indoor public places. This should be compulsory in every country of the world yet its not. Crazy. A mask needs to cover both your nose and mouth because if you inhale the virus through your nose it typically goes to your lungs, and if you breath it in through your mouth, it ends up in your stomach. Stomach acids gets rid the virus but if it settles in your lungs, that is when it can be dangerous and you may need to be hospitalised.

Research has revealed a very interesting point about the coronavirus. The vast majority of people who have been hospitalised or have died from the virus were found to be deficient in Vitamin D. This explains a why so many elderly people in care homes have died and even younger people in England. They simple don't get enough sunlight. Health experts have advised people to up their intact of Vitamin D either by spending more time in the sun and/or taking suppliments. As winter nears in the Northern Hemisphere, this advice should be followed more than ever. 

Saturday, 10 October 2020

'Apothecary Melchior' now filming in Tallinn

If you've enjoyed the novels no doubt you'll be keen to see the films but you will have to wait until next year to see the first installment of Apothecary Melchior on the silver screen. Based on the books by Estonian author Indrek Hargla, Apothecary Melchior is a series of seven novels set in medieval Tallinn  during the 15th century. Melchior is a detective pharmacist who suffers from a family curse and only love can save him. The first three novels will be made into feature length films, with the first to be released next autumn.

Film scene from outside Tallinn's Town Hall.
In recent days a lot of filming has also taken place in Aida Tänav.

The Apothecary Melchior novels have been translated into several languages including English.

Thursday, 8 October 2020

100th birthday of Estonian poet Kalju Lepik

Kalju Lepik is considered one of Estonia's greatest poets. Born in Koeru in Järva County he fled to Sweden in 1945 and wrote in exile. During his lifetime he published 13 volumes of poetry, a main theme of his work related to missing his homeland. In honour of his 100th birthday on October 7 a new bronze sculpture has been unveiled in Koeru depicting Lepik as a young boy.

Visitors to the area are encouraged to sit on the boulder to read beside him.

A few works by Kalju Lepik.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

How to know you're a cool Estonian

Estonians are a unique bunch of people. With around a million ethnic Estonians living in Estonia and a further 200,000 scattered across the globe, it's almost like they all belong to an exclusive club.  Estonians are a close-knit nation who are determined to keep culture, traditions and language alive no matter where they live. Estonians may not consider themselves cool but in many ways they are - they know how to live, survive and thrive.

Here are ten ways to identity if you're a cool Estonian.

1.  You use your mobile phone to pay for virtually everything including parking, movie tickets, meals, even your Christmas tree while your're in the state forest.

2. You fly within the Schengen zone without the need of a passport, you simply use your ID card.

3. Can speak English perfectly as a second or third language.

4. You think blue, black and white is an excellent colour combination.

5.  Can identify and name most of the plants and animals in the forest.

6. Know the health benefits of a sauna and have one at least once a week.

7. Use Transferwise for all your international payments.

8.  Don't queue at polling stations. You vote online.

9. You love to sing folk music and are not ashamed to sing out loud.

10. You value and practise tradition despite the temptations and conveniences of modern life. 

Monday, 28 September 2020

MS Estonia | The story of her sinking

The sinking of MS Estonia on the 28th of September 1994 was one of the worst maritime disasters of the 20th century. The ship sank in the Baltic Sea on its way to Sweden. 852 lives lost It's a national tragedy that still haunts Estonia today..

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Short story of Estonia 1918 - 2020

On this day, 76 years ago, on 22 September 1944, the Red Army reentered Estonia beginning the Soviet occupation that would last almost half a century. Estonian resistance by those at home and in exile also began. It was a struggle endured until August 1991, when Estonia finally restored its independence.

Monday, 21 September 2020

New memorial unveiled on Puise Beach dedicated to those who perished at sea in 1944

In the autumn of 1944 tens of thousands of people fled Estonia trying to escape the advancing Soviet army. Sadly, not everyone made it to safety and an estimated 5000  Estonians lost their lives as they tried to reach Sweden. A new memorial was unveiled on Saturday in Lääne County dedicated to those who perished.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Rail Baltica set to connect Europe like never before

It's been a long time in the making but the last missing piece in the European railway system will finally become a reality with the creation of Rail Baltica. Set to open in 2026, Rail Baltica will be a new high speed train service that links all three of the Baltic States with the rest of Europe. The 870 km train track will see regular daily services between Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius and Warsaw where passengers can then change to connecting trains in Poland to reach other European cities. The cost of the project is estimated at 5.8 billion euros, less than the cost of the London Olympics in 2012. An additional underwater tunnel will be bulit between Tallinn and Helsinki that will connect Finland to the rail network. Currently the ferry journey between Tallinn to Helsinki takes 1h 40m - 2 hours but with the proposed FinEst Link, that time will be slashed to just 30 minutes with Rail Baltica. More information can be found here: Rail Baltica

Monday, 14 September 2020

Estonian Film: Skandinaavia Vaikus

Skandinaavia Vaikus (Silence of Scandinavia) is a 2019 psychological thriller directed by Martti Helde that focuses on the naturalness and silence inherent in Nordic people. The plot centres around the reunion of two siblings, Tom and Jenna, who a few years earlier, experienced a violent event. As they travel through the wintery countryside together Tom and Jenna are forced to deal with their unresolved past that then determines the future of both of them. Stars Reimo Sagor and Rea Lest.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Elk saves woman's life in Estonia

A 71-year-old Estonian woman who got lost in the woods and collapsed in a ditch had her life saved by an elk. The creature lay next to her until someone came along to help. Two wildlife photographers spotted the elk, who then discovered the exhausted woman who had been missing for over a day. The incident took place near Paide. You can read the full story (in Estonian) on the Postimees website -

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Help Fund the Solaride Project

 A team of ambitious and talented students from Estonia's top universities are working on a solution to target climate change by producing a solar car. They realised that lessening road traffic won't solve the problem but driving smarter will. Once built, the car will be tested in extreme conditions by racing 3000 km through the desert in Australia. The Estonian solar car will be entered into the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, racing alongside creations from some of the world's best universities. The teams will travel all the way from the north coast to the south coast of Australia. 

Solaride is a completely non-profit, student-run project, working to transform the transportation and renewable energy sectors in order to create a better future. They have the knowledge, but  don't have the resources. They need your help!

A fundraising campaign has been established on Hooandja to raise 20,000€ to build their engine. 

More information can be found on the campaign page Solaride: A solar car for people

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Video: Delicious Estonia

Sadly I didn't make it over to Estonia this summer. I took one short trip to Poland to visit my brother and while there we agreed to go to Estonia together next year! His girlfriend has never been so it's sure to be an exciting trip. Estonia is beautiful this time of year, I love spending time outdoors in nature, visiting markets, attending festivals and eating out of course. Some flavours you just can't get outside of Estonia. I miss delicious Estonian bread. To me, its the tastiest in the world! Until my next trip to Estonia, this video reminds me of some of the things to look forward to!

Monday, 31 August 2020

31 August 1994 - the last Russian soldiers leave Estonian soil

On this day 26 years ago, the last Russian troops left the Republic of Estonia marking completion of the country's restoration of independence. The occupation which began in June 1940 finally ended on the 31st August 1994. What a joyful day that would have been!

Photo: National Archives of Estonia

Friday, 28 August 2020

Estonian Honey Cake Recipe (Meekook)

It's my father's birthday soon and when I spoke to my sister today I was surprised when she told me she plans to make him a 'Meekook' - Estonian honey cake.  I must admit I've never heard of this cake before but now that I have discovered it I plan to make one myself. Looks interesting!

Meekook is a five layrered honey cake that is filled with sour cream.

My first meekook. Not bad for a first attempt!


Cake base:
3 Tbsp honey
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
360g plain flour 

Filling (between the layers)
1 kg sour cream
85g caster sugar

Whisk eggs until pale and thick. Heat honey and sugar in a large saucepan. When it's about to boil, remove from the heat and add the whisked eggs, combine well. Add baking soda and stir again. Add flour gradually, mix thoroughly. Put aside to cool.

Divide the dough into six equal parts. Take six sheets of baking paper and dust slightly with flour. On each baking paper, place a portion of the dough, roll into a ball then roll flat into a 24 cm circle. Bake each dough circle one at a time for 5 minutes at 225 C. It should be dark golden in appearance. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking paper.

On a cake stand, start layering the five baked circles and place some of the sour cream mix in between each layrer. Take the sixth and final cake circle and crumble in a food processor and sprinkle on the top layer of the sour cream mix. Place in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight to set.

Instead of using sour cream you might prefer to use creme fraiche. Lemon juice can also be added to the filling for extra flavour.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Hollywood Estonian co-production 'Tenet' hits cinemas today

The wait is finally over! Christopher Nolan's latest film 'Tenet' that was partially filmed in Estonia last summer premiered in Tallinn today. The film stars Robert Pattinson, John David Washington, Elizabeth Debick and Michael Caine. The movie includes several local Estonian actors and extras and scenes were shot on Laagna tee in Lasnamäe, on Pärnu mnt, Linnahal and in the city centre. T'enet' is a complex spy thriller that probably needs to be watched several times to fully understand it. 

Here is some behind the scenes footage taken by Kert in Tallinn.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Oldest Estonian Marta Kivi dies aged 108

Estonia's oldest resident, Marta Kivi, passed away at Rapla Hospital on Sunday, at the age of 108 years and 201 days. This makes her officially the second-oldest Estonian on record.

According to Kivi's son Jüri, Marta remained active until the end of her days, she enjoyed solving crossword puzzles and was mobile in her wheelchair.

After a fall on August 17 Marta was admitted to Rapla Hospital where she passed away on Sunday afternoon.

Born on Saaremaa in February 1912, Marta Kivi graduated from the Lääne County Teachers' Seminar in 1932 and became a primary school teacher. She later moved to Tallinn and was a long-time teacher at Tornimäe School. Marta also taught Estonian and German lessons as well as home economics.

In February, while celebrating her 108th birthday, Marta Kivi revealed a rule for living a long life: "If you're hungry, you have to eat and eat whatever you're hungry for!"

Marta Kivi is survived by one son, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Ilusat taasiseseisvumispäeva, kallis Eesti!

Today, Estonia celebrates the Day of Restoration of Independence. On the 20th of August 1991 Estonia restored its independence after nearly 50 years of occupation by the Soviet Union. Sadly, not every Estonian who fled the Soviet occupation or those who were forced to live through it, lived to see Estonia free again. Many passed away during those bleak years, longing for the freedom they once knew. I always think of my grandparents on this day, knowing how elated they would feel that Estonia was a sovereign state once more.

Freedom Singer Alo Mattiisen wrote this patriotic song “Sind Surmani” (You to Death) that is often performed at the Estonian Song Festival.

I would love to be in Estonia celebrating today but due to the coronavirus I am currently avoiding airports and flying at the moment. Instead I am in Warsaw with my brother and will have a celebrational drink tonight at dinner. Happy Restoration of Independence Day my beautiful Estonia!

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Song: The Great Awakening

As Estonians will be celebrating Restoration of Independence Day next Thursday (August 20) I thought now is a good time to share this patriotic song. 'The Great Awakening' was written by Alan Owens and sung by Estonian YouTuber Artur Rehi.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Estonia: A country of good traits and good genes

If you ever wondered what makes Estonia such a great country, the answer is simple - its people!

Much praise has been given to Estonia over the years. Success in the digital sphere stemmed from the country's need to reinvent itself after independence was restored in 1991. Forward thinking leadership saw the benefit of pursuing a path in digital innovation and now Estonia is regarded as one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world. The strong Estonian work ethic, thinking outside of the box, grit and perseverence has enabled Estonia to survive and thrive.

With a land mass of 45,339 (km2) Estonia has often been referred to as a tiny European country yet Estonia is geographically larger than Denmark (44,493), Switzerland  (41,290) and Belgium (30,510). Estonia has a relative small population of 1.3 million people and those residents are spread thinly throughout the country. Estonians like their space and consider a good neighbour to be one whose chimney smoke can just barely be seen in the distance!

Estonians stand out from their European peers, not just because they're tech savvy preferring to vote, lodge their tax returns and pay for everything online, but because physically they have some unique characteristics.

Estonians are among the tallest people in the world. They are ranked third with an average height of 175.13cm (5 feet 8.94 inches) behind Latvia and The Netherlands. Research conducted by scientists at Imperial College London and published in the journal eLife found that humans get taller as nations become richer and the quality of life improves. In 1914, Estonian women had an average height of 157cm, while in 2014 it was 169cm. The average height of Estonian men was 167cm a hundred years ago compared to 180cm in 2014. Estonians are also very fast walkers. This may be due to height or simply because they like to reach places quickly.  Either way, don't be surprised if an Estonian gets annoyed if you walk too slowly in front of them. They're sure to overtake you!

Estonia has the highest concentration of blue-eyed people in the world with over 90% of ethnic Estonians having blue eyes. The degree of the blue does vary however, some Estonians have startling deep blue eyes while many others have a pale shade of blue. Estonian women have also been complimented on their beauty, no doubt their blue eyes have been found to be alluring!

A country deeply in tune with nature, Estonians value history and culture and go to great lengths to preserve it. The Estonian Song Festival is a much cherished event that dates back to 1869 and takes place every five years. Estonians from around the world return to the homeland to attend and it is a tremendously enriching and unifying experience. When you ask an Estonian what are some of their favourites pastimes, they invariably would say - a walk or trek in the forest, picking wild mushrooms or berries or something related to handicrafts. Many Estonians keep ancient traditions alive by passing down techniques they learnt from their grandparents.

One of the best traits that people admire about Estonians is their punctuality. If you write to a government department, you will receive a prompt reply, if you post an Estonian a Christmas card, expect one in return shortly after and if you plan to meet-up with an Estonian they will always be on time. In fact it is quite common for an Estonian to arrive at the appointed meeting point 10-15 minutes early but if you arrive at the designated time they will consider you late!

In some regards Estonians have been shaped by their experience of recent history but it is the gems from the more distance past that makes Estonia unique.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

St. Madeline's Wooden Church in Ruhnu

Estonia has many charming old churches but perhaps one of the most interesting is St. Madeline's on the island of Ruhnu. Built in 1644 during the time of Swedish rule, St. Madeline's was constructed from the timber of old shipwrecks. Today, St. Madeline's is the oldest surviving wooden building in Estonia. 

There is very little chance of going inside the church as it's usually closed but visitors can always peer through the windows to catch a glimpse of a bygone era.  

Church services are held in the stone church that was built next door.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Video: A super quick history of Estonia

Is it possible to summarise Estonian history in under 6 minutes? Mr History did a pretty good job!

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Interview: President Kersti Kaljulaid speaks with Dennis Wholey

This is a good interview that took place last year between President Kaljulaid and Dennis Wholey from This is America and The World. The interview covers a broad range of topics and highlights some of Estonia's best features. The internview made me feel proud to be Estonian. 

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Skype co-founder Toivo Annus dies aged 48

Estonia lost one of its great countrymen last Sunday. Toivo Annus, one of the masterminds behind the invention of Skype died suddenly from an unexpected illness. He was one of the men who revolutionised the telecommuncations industry and brought us Skype.

Skype was launched in Estonia in 2003 by two Scandinavian entrepreneurs, the Dane Janus Friis and Swede Niklas Zennstrom, and four Estonian developers – Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, Jaan Tallinn and Toivo Annus.

Annus played a major role in managing the first Skype office in Tallinn and overseeing the engineering and core peer-to-peer network team. After he left the company, Toivo invested privately in a number of ventures across the world and was very active in Singapore.

In 2010, former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves bestowed Toivo with the Order of the White Star, fifth class.

RIP Toivo. You made people dream bigger.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Archaeologist Marika Mägi reminds us of our Viking past

When the world thinks of the word 'Viking', countries such as Norway usually spring to mind but Vikings were not exclsuively from Scandinavia, Estonia had Vikings too. Estonian archaeologist Marika Mägi has been on a mission for many years to bring to light the history of Vikings in Estonia. Thousands of ancient relics belonging to Baltic Vikings have been frequently unearthed across Estonia.

Baltic Vikings were coastal warriors who lived in modern Estonia, Finland and Latvia.  In her 512 page book In Austrvegr: The Role of the Eastern Baltic in Viking Age Communication across the Baltic Sea, Mägi explores the cultural, mercantile and political interactions of the Viking Age (9th-11th century), focusing on the eastern coasts of the Baltic Sea.

Mägi's work has been praised for its cultural significance. In this photo she received the Estonian State Award for Research in the field of humanities from Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

In Austrvegr: The Role of the Eastern Baltic in Viking Age Communication across the Baltic Sea by Marika Mägi is available here.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Baltic States outperform the rest of Europe in dealing with the Coronavirus crisis

The world is currently facing the worst public health and economic crisis in a century. As of 20th June 2020, around 463,000 people had died from Covid-19 across the globe. Many countries responded swiftly to the crisis and took action whilst countries like the United States failed to act and are now experiencing the devastating results. All countries need to strengthen the resilience of their health systems and prevention programs. Estonia ranks number 5 in dealing with the COVID19 pandemic among OECD members, according to the Sustainable Development Report 2020. Well done.

You can read the full report here: Sustainable Development Report 2020

Sunday, 5 July 2020

How to make Estonia rye bread from a starter (DIY- Cooking with Tammo)

I thought I would share this video today as it shows how Estonians living abroad (Canada in this case) continue to keep Estonian traditions alive in their adopted homeland. I quite enjoyed watching this video as I picked up a few tips. Thanks Tammo! 

Monday, 29 June 2020

Tallinn University Study: Why do we speak 'Estonglish'?

Helin Kask, a doctoral student at Tallinn University recently completed a study of the linguistic changes in Estonia. Kask reports that the Estonian language has changed throughout history and had most contact with both the Russian and German languages, but after Estonia regained independence, the language has been busy incorporating more words from the West where the influence of the English language, in particular, has begun to increase. The Internet plays a big role here, Kask states.

In her study Kask found the definition of a word is the main the reason why English words and phrases are used in Estonian. This is mostly because words and expressions with a specific meaning often do not have an exact match in Estonian. 

For example, it is difficult to find a one-word match for the English word "outfit", because in Estonian it is "riietus" (English: clothing) which, unlike the English word, does not include accessories, shoes, etc.

English discourse particles are also trending in Estonia to express emotion. Expressions such  as 'oh my god'  (jumal küll), "anyway" (igatahes), "last but not least" (viimaks), or "whatever" (mida iganes) are becoming more popular. Also, words with a strong emotional connection are often borrowed from English, e.g. "I'm so excited"(erutatud), or "I love it!" (ma armastan seda).

These changes in the Estonian language is a reflection of globalisation, the era in which we live and the ubiquity of the English language. 

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Go Baltic shopping with Nord Haus

I recently found this website and was pleased to discover another Baltic design house in the market. Nord Haus produces a range of homewares including linen and ceramics using Nordic and Baltic designs. Part of the latest range uses designs from Muhu, Poide-Saaremaa and Kolga-Jaani in Estonia, along with prints from Krustpils and Rucava in Latvia.

You can browse the Nord Haus website here.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Head võidupüha ja head Jaanipäeva!

If you live in Estonia then you are lucky. You have a two-day public holiday. For the rest of us Estonians living abroad, it's work as usual but there's sure to be some celebrations tonight for Jaanipäev. This evening I will have Estonian food on my table, Estonian music playing and the beloved blue, black and white flag on display. Jaanipäev is one of the most important days on the Estonian calendar and Estonians everywhere will be enjoying themselves tonight!

Happy Jaanipäev everyone!

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Where to find War of Independence monuments in Estonia

In honour of Victory Day (Võidupüha) that is celebrated in Estonia on June 23, the Land Board has released a comphrensive list of where to find war monuments. The online portal is easy to use and allows you to zoom in to street view. The map of monuments can be accessed here.

Victory Day marks the decisive battle during the Estonian War of Independence that saw the defeat of German forces in 1919 who sought to re-assert control over the region. Victory Day is a public holiday in Estonia featuring a military parade rotating to different parts of the country each year.

Monday, 15 June 2020

Tallinn is open and awaits you!

Countries in Europe are slowly opening their borders and allowing visitors to enter but we still need to be vigilant regarding the coronavirus. The pandemic is not over yet. Estonia now permits many foreign nationals to enter the country without the need for quarantine. Now is a good time to start thinking about you next trip to Estonia! I sure am!

Sunday, 14 June 2020

‪Today Estonia mourns the victims of the June 1941 mass deportations

On 14 June 1941 the Soviet Union forcibly deported over 10,000 people from Estonia to Siberia. Today we mourn the victims of this horrendous crime. We will never forget.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Johann Anton Beckert: Estonia's first chocolate maker?

One of the joys of researching family history is unearthing long forgotten facts that have either personal or historical significance. This is the case with my fifth great-grandfather Johann Anton Beckert who was a chocolate maker from Bohemia. It is not known when Johann left Czech lands and settled in Estonia but he married his Estonian wife Margaretha Schumann in the Church of the Holy Ghost in Tallinn in 1784. 

Johann and Margaretha Beckert had three sons who were all born in Tallinn. Johann Nicolaus Beckert was born in 1784, followed by Paul Peter Beckert in 1786 and Johann Gottfried Beckert in 1789. On the boys' birth registrations their father's occupation was listed as 'chocolate fabricant' / chocolate maker. If this is true, as the records suggest, then Johann Beckert would have been making chocolate in Tallinn 24 years earlier than Lorenz Caviezel, the man who is credited as being the first chocolate maker in Estonia.

Church record from 1786.

A brief history of chocolate in Estonia.
History books have recorded confectioner Lorenz Caviezel as being the first chocolate maker in Estonia. Caviezel was originally from Riga and opened his confectionery shop in 1806 at Langstrasse 16 in Tallinn (now known as Pikk Tänav 16) where Café Maiasmokk stands today. Caviezel moved back to Riga in 1835 and in 1864 the business was taken over by Georg Johann Stude who founded the Maiasmokk café. Today Kalev, the largest confectionery manufacturer in Estonia, owns the property where it keeps the tradition of chocolate making alive.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate further records about Johann Beckert and his chocolate making in Tallinn. Sadly he died young and unexpectly in April 1789 from typhoid fever. He had lost his wife and son Paul the previous month from the same illness. His two remaining sons grew up orphans. It is a tragic end to the man who might have given the residents of Tallinn their first taste of chocolate. I think I know who I got my sweet tooth from!

Monday, 1 June 2020

How Did the Russian Nobility Relax in Estonia?

Aurika Meimre, senior research fellow and associate professor of Russian Culture at the School of Humanities at Tallinn University explains how Tallinn '(formerly Reval) was popular among the Russian nobility in the 19th century. Tallinn, or more specifically Kadriorg, was often visited by Russian blue-bloods and used as a summer residence, a place where they came to rest and heal.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

'Back to Our Roots' exchange application now open

If you are aged 18- 30 years, living abroad and come from an Estonian backgorund then the 'Back to Our Roots' exchange programme might be of interest to you. There are two opportunities to take part this year, the first commences in September and the second in November. Applications are now open.

More information can be found here: Back to Our Roots

Sunday, 24 May 2020

VIDEO: Kuressaare Castle

Kuressaare Castle reopened last week after being closed for over two months due to the coronavirus.  Safety measures remain in place in which people must keep a two metre distance and tour groups must not exceed ten people. Kuressaare Castle is one of the most popular tourist sites on the island of Saaremaa. It was founded in the 14th Century by the Teutonic Order.

More information can be found here: Kuressaare Episcopal Castle

Friday, 22 May 2020

Estonians love their mittens

Knitting is a cornerstone of Estonian folk culture. Gloves and mittens are made in Estonia using century old techniques with traditional motifs. Every pattern has its own unique meaning and history. These videos by Nordic Knitters explains more.

Monday, 18 May 2020

The coronavirus emergency situation has ended in Estonia

Lockdown measures have been lifted in Estonia. I saw this caption online today and had to smile. Clichés often reflect the truth. Estonians are indeed more reserved than other nationalities. 

Estonia celebrated the end of emergency situation with a digital choir concert. You can learn more about it here: Vaata uuesti: Ivo Linna ja digitaalse koori kontsert Tallinna lauluväljakul

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Eurovision: Ten of Estonia's best entries

The 2020 Eurovision Song Contest would have taken place this week but understandably it was cancelled due to the coronavirus. Instead, a two hour special 'Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light' was broadcast live to televisions around the world. Next year the event will be held in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Over the years Estonia has performed many great songs at Eurovision. Let's take a look at some of them. Estonia won the competition in 2001.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Estonia's population on the rise

Based on the data released by Statistics Estonia, in January 2020 the population of Estonia was 1,328,976 which is 4,156 people more than the previous year. In 2019 there were 14,099 births in Estonia and 15,401 deaths. Net migration has been positive for Estonia.

More information can be found here: Immigration helped to increase the population figure

Monday, 11 May 2020

Wooden Estonian Handicrafts

If you have ever been in search of wooden products made in Estonia, then the company E.Strauss might be of interest to you. Located in Avinurme in Jõgeva County, the company has been operating since 1994 and produces a large range of goods. They manufacture everything from baskets to boxes, furniture, lights, sauna products, toys and more. E Strauss also accepts special requests if you require a more customised or personalised gift.

Some of the lovely products made by E Strauss.

it's not just the woodwork that is impressive but the artwork too.

More information can be found on their website here:

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Head Emadepäeva!

Happy Mother's Day everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful day creating new memories. Sadly I lost my mother last year and this is my first Mother's Day without her. This morning I put together a new collection of her photos and hung it up on the wall. She is always near me. Miss you Mum!

If you are interesting in reading some Mother's Day poems, I found these on Elu Life.
Emadepäeva luuletused ja salmid, õnnitlused emale emadepäevaks

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Farewell Ell Tabur ‎

The Estonian community in New York lost a beloved member recently. Estonian folk singer Ell Tabur passed away in New York on the 30th April 2020.

Tabur was born in Tallinn on 29th June 1943. In 1944 she fled Soviet occupied Estonia with her parents and took refuge in Germany before emigrating to the United States in 1949.

Between 1965–1976 Ell Tabur recorded three solo records sung in the Estonian language. She collaborated creatively with the Estonian poet Jyri Korgi.

Later in life, Tabur was the General Manager of the Estonian House in New York.

Her recipe for sweet and sour cabbage was published in the 2015 cookbook ' 'Estonian Tastes and Traditions.'

Friday, 8 May 2020

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two

As Europe commemorates 75 years since the end of World War Two, we must remember that the war did not officially end in Estonia until 1994 when the last occupying Soviet (by then Russian) soldier left the country. The Nazi regime was defeated on May 8 1945 but for citizens of the Baltic States and Eastern Europe, their countries were still occupied by the Soviet Union and would remain so for the next fifty years.

Yesterday the Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid reminded us that "the Baltics and Eastern Europe had “a different history” to the West, which now needs a common “European consciousness,”

Both the Nazi and Soviet regimes were evil and caused death and destruction wherever they went, but for the Estonian people, the Soviets were the worst of the two evils. They caused the most devastation for the Estonian people. Many brave men continued to fight for Estonia after 1945, the Forest Brothers were heroes who were active until 1956 but they were too outnumbered. The Red Army hunted them down and killed them. Thousands of people deemed a threat to Soviet rule were deported to remote parts of Russia.

Estonia endured and suffered much under the Soviet Union and thankfully that all came to an end in 1991 when Estonia's independence was restored. Estonia has since rebuilt itself into a dynamic, modern and innovative country.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Who are Estonia's top chess players?

During this period of lockdown due to the coronavirus, I have been playing a lot more chess than I usually do. Playing online with is a great way to test your skills against players from all over the world.  Blitz games are my favourite as I like to think fast!

Chess enjoys a certain prestige in Estonia compared to many other countries. Most Estonians know their way around a chessboard and chess is played by people from all walks of life. Supermodel Carmen Kass was president of the Estonian Chess Federation for seven years from 2004 to 2011. Chess competitions have taken place in Tallinn since 1903 but they weren't considered official until 1923. 

The greatest Estonian chess player of all-time was of course Paul Keres whose image even appeared on the Estonian 5 kroon banknote. But who is Estonia's top player today? 44-year-old Kaido Kulaots is currently ranked No.1 in Estonia for winning the most competitions. Grandmaster Ottomar Ladva is ranked second. At 15 he was the youngest player to win the Estonian Chess Championship. Now aged twenty-two he has won four - 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2018. 

The winner of the 2019 Estonian Chess championship is Aleksandr Volodin. His FIDE rating is 2497, placing him third overall in Estonia behind Kulaots (2524) and Ladva (2513).

Aleksandr Volodin. Winner of the 2019 Estonian Chess Chmapionship.