Thursday, 28 October 2021

Estonian Halloween ghost stories

Estonians don’t traditionally celebrate Halloween however the custom has become more popular in recent years. It's always fun to dress up, decorate the home and throw a party!

In celebration of Halloween, the VisitTallinn website has compiled a collection of eight ghost stories, all set in Tallinn. The most famous scary story from the Old Town is called 'The Devil's Window at Rataskaevu 16' and I also quite like 'The ladies of Toomkooli 13'

The Devil's Window at Rataskaevu 16
Once, long ago, the then-owner of the house at Rataskaevu 16 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 extremely 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 people 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, 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 and the entire 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 wanted and so the following owners walled the whole room in.

The ladies of Toomkooli 13
Two ghosts haunt this house: 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 grey 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 with the lord's son and he with her. They were going to get married, but before 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.

To read more Estonian ghost stories, please click here Top 8 ghost stories of Tallinn

Sunday, 24 October 2021

A look at the coronavirus pandemic in Estonia

It's concerning to see the coronavirus infection rate steadily on the rise again in Estonia. During recent weeks there have been multiple deaths each day and hospitals are feeling the strain of trying to find additional intensive care beds. There still appears to be some resistance towards wearing masks in public and being vaccinated in Estonia despite the success seen in other countries (e.g. Germany). Only 55% of the Estonian population are fully vaccinated yet the vaccine has been freely available for some time now. Whether it's fear, lack of knowledge or ignorance that affects their judgement, the fact of the matter is, vaccination saves lives and significantly reduces the chance of ending up in intensive care if you contract COVID-19. As of today 1,461 people have died in Estonia after contracting the virus, two of the youngest victims were an eleven year-old girl who died in March and a newborn. In the last 24 hours Estonia has lost seven more senior Estonian citizens.

When I visited Estonia in August I was amazed to find the majority of people I passed in shopping centres and restuarants were not wearing masks and adhering to the two metre social distancing rule. People appeared unconcerned that a deadly virus was lurking and did little or nothing to protect themselves. We have been living with this pandemic for almost two years now and have seen the death toll, it's nearing five million worldwide now. The count is updated everyday, country by country, on worldometer: covid live update. Just because we are tired of the situation and the restrictions placed upon our lives, it doesn't mean we should stop being viligant. The virus is still here and until we have reached herd immunity we should all be wearing masks in all indoor areas and keeping a safe distance. 

There are estimated to be 15,510 active cases in Estonia.
Most of the cases are in Harju, Tartu, Pärnu, Viljandi and Võru counties.

Estonia is using the Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen vaccines. 
AstraZenca is being used for the over 50s.

It is not get fully known how long immunity lasts after vaccination, there are multiple ways of determining immunity level including but not limited to antibody levels, therefore some experts recommend booster shots.

Why wearing masks is important.

A crisis phone line has been created to answer any coronavirus-related questions and for psychological first aid. The free number to call is 1247 (wíthin Estonia).

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Estonian film Vee Peal (On the the Water) submitted to the Academy Awards

Peeter Simm's film Vee Peal is up for consideration for Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Oscars. Vee Peal (On the Water) is a coming of age film set during the Soviet occupation and is based on the book with the same name.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Estonian innovation: Creating energy from bogs

Researchers from the University of Tartu have developed a way of making sodium-ion batteries from peat.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Alar Karis becomes the sixth President of Estonia

Today we say farewell to Kersti Kaljulaid as President of Estonia and welcome Alar Karis who was sworn into office today. Kaljulaid served five years as Head of State, she was the country's first female president. Alar Karis is a former University of Tartu rector, auditor general and head of the Estonian National Museum. I wish him every success.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Learn some Estonian during Estonian language week

There are approximately 1.1 million people who speak Estonian as their native language. Around 922,000 of them live in Estonia and another 160,000 can be found scattered throughout the world. Estonian is a southern Finic language, most similar to Finnish and has been influenced by German over the centuries. Estonian is a beautiful sounding language, often difficult for English speakers to learn but once you become familiar with its 14 grammatical cases and unique vowel sounds (Õ,Ä,Ö,Ü) all you need to do is practice, practice, practice.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

October 4 marks the start of Estonian Language Week

The third Worldwide Estonian Language Week will take place from 4 -10 October 2021. Language enthusiasts are encouraged to participate via the KeelEST website to increase their knowledge of the Estonian language. Many tutorials, games and quizzes can be found on the website. 

Why not test yourself? More information about Estonian Language Week can be found here.