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.