Friday, 30 December 2022

Northern lights in Estonia 2022

While many of us have been busy buying fireworks for our New Year's Eve celebrations, here's a reminder of the world's oldest light show. The aurora borealis is a natural phenomenon usually seen between September and April in the northern hemisphere. It's a sight I would love to see for myself one day!

Saturday, 24 December 2022

Häid jõule! Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas. 2022 was a challenging and turbulent year for many, may 2023 bring much needed peace, prosperity and relief. Häid jõule ja head uut aastat!

Friday, 23 December 2022

Our thoughts are with Ukraine this Christmas

This year Christmas cannot be fully enjoyed whilst war is raging in Ukraine. Thoughts of those who have perished in unimaginable circumstances are often in the back of our minds leaving us with a heavy heart. Ukrainians have suffered and endured so much since Russia's brutal invasion began but their courage and determination is inspirational. 

Almost eight million people have fled Ukraine since the war began in February. It's Europe’s largest refugee wave since World War II. Estonia and its Baltic neighbours know full well of the atrocities committed by Soviet Russia during WWII and were amongst the first to come to Ukraine's assistance. I'm so very proud of Estonia's steadfast support for Ukraine, it is unwavering  and will continue until the barbaric aggressor has left Ukraine's land.

The war in Ukraine really is a war of good verses evil. The evil is hellbent on destroying and using propaganda to spread lies and deceit, whilst the good with their kind generous hearts, try to help Ukraine anyway they can. Truckloads of aid has been sent to Ukraine from all over the world and from all walks of life. This is humanity at its best.

Wednesday, 21 December 2022

Festive flavours of Estonia

Christmas is only a few days away now and no doubt we are all busy getting ready for the big day. Estonians like to have a variety of flavours on their Christmas table with lots of fresh ingredients. The most popular dish eaten by Estonians at Christmas time is the traditional verivorst (blood sausage), it's usually served with hapukapsas (sauerkraut) and baked potatoes.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year not only because of the celebration that takes place on December 24, but the lead up to the special day is so full of merriment and good cheer that we often don't want it to end. Many of the foods we eat at Christmas time are not usually consumed all year round therefore they are unique to the ocassion and it's so easy to indulge.

I love Estonian food at Christmas time and whenever I smell the different aromas, it always brings back memories of happy times.

My five favourite Estonian flavours at Christmas time are:

1. Roast pork 

2. Sauerkraut with baked potatoes

3. Freshly baked piparkoogid

4. Warm glögi

5. Kaneelikuklid (cinnamon rolls) 

Black bread, potato salad, dill and sour cream are usually found on every Estonians table at Christmas time. No meal is complete without them!

Monday, 19 December 2022

Estonian Soft Gingerbread Cake Recipe - Pehme Piparkook

A popular cake made at Christmas time in Estonia is pehme piparkook / soft gingerbread cake. What makes this cake so tasty is that its full of spicy flavours and is topped with a smooth cream cheese frosting.  This Christmas I will be making the recipe for the first time and can't wait to try it!


400g plain flour

150g castor sugar

150g molasses or honey

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp ginger

1 tbsp baking soda

2 eggs

500ml (2 cups) buttermilk (or alternatively sour cream)

100ml oil

Pinch of salt

Cream cheese frosting:

200g plain cream cheese

50g unsalted butter, softened

150g icing sugar


Preheat the oven and grease a cake tin measuring approximately 25cm x 30cm. 

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients then add the beaten eggs and other wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly to ensure the spices are blended evenly. Take the batter and pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes at 180°C.

For the frosting, gently combine the butter, cream cheese and icing sugar in a bowl. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. Decorate with red berries or perhaps your favourite nuts.

Sunday, 18 December 2022

Estonian Kirju Koer Recipe

An easy to make sweet treat you might consider adding to your Christmas table this year.

Thursday, 15 December 2022

1000 books for Ukrainian Library in Estonia

If you are like me and want to find ways to help Ukraine as best you can, here is a worthwhile fundraising campaign. There are over 50,000 Ukrainian refugees in Estonia who fled their homeland to escape Russia's brutal invasion. Many left with only a few bags, what they could carry, taking books were not really a priority. Now that many of these refugees have found safety and new homes in Estonia, they are in need of books. The Spilno fundraising campaign '1000 books for Ukrainian Library in Estonia' is a great way for us to get involved and bring a bit of happiness to those in need. You can make a donation from 10€ here

Tuesday, 13 December 2022

What makes Tallinn's Christmas market so unique

In recent years much praise has been poured upon Tallinn's Christmas market which it is now regarded as one of the best in the world. If you are like me and enjoy visiting different Christmas markets during the festive season, no doubt you will have your favourites. Of course Tallinn's is at the top of my list but I have to admit Strasbourg's Christmas market is pretty good too.

The Tallinn Christmas market (Jõuluturg) is special in many ways. Unlike other markets which are long strips of stalls along the main street, Tallinn's Christmas market stands cosily on the Town Hall Square and is pulsing with atmosphere. Two of the Jõuluturg's best features are the stage for live entertainment and Santa's house where children can go inside and meet Santa. Some of the things I love most about the Tallinn Christmas market is that it is very visually alluring, particularly at night and the aromas that fill the air are so very Estonian. You can't experience that anywhere else. 

What makes Tallinn's Christmas market truly special is its centrepiece - the Christmas tree. The world's first Christmas tree stood here in 1441, erected by the local merchants known as The Brotherhood of the Blackhead. These men created a tradition that was originally intended for the local townspeople of Tallinn to enjoy but is now practised all over the world. Great things start in Estonia! 

Thursday, 8 December 2022

Markus Villig: Europe's youngest self-made billionaire

If you've ever wondered who is Europe's youngest self-made billionaire then the answer is Estonia's Markus Villig. Markus was born in Tallinn in 1978 and is the founder of Bolt Technologies. This short documentary tells the inspirational story of Markus Villig's work. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

Estonia creating new World War Two refugee database

The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory is in the process of establishing a new database of people who fled Estonia during the Second World War. It is estimated that over 80,000 Estonians fled their homeland in 1944 to escape the advancing Soviet Army and sought shelter in nearby countries. 

During the past decades there has been great public interest on this subject but there's still not a clear overview of the number of refugees, their origin, or their social background. The institute is gathering information from existing archives and also asking members of the public to contribute as well. In particular the institute needs help in collecting the names of those refugees who went missing during the journey.

Initially, the project is focusing on refugees' first destinations – Sweden and Germany. It is hoped the first stage will be completed by September 2024. The database will create a necessary foundation for further research, and tells the story of our previous generations.

The Second World War had a devastating impact on Estonia's population. It has been estimated that Estonia lost 25% of its population due to the Soviet and German occupations.  

More information can be found here.

Saturday, 3 December 2022

My weekend in Tallinn

Last weekend I flew to Tallinn to do a bit of Christmas shopping and visited the Christmas market. It's been just over a year since I was last in Estonia so I was eager to return. It snowed while I was there and at night the city looked absolutely stunning!

Like every year, the Tallinn Christmas market had a great selection of gifts available as well as food and the traditional glögi. Estonian glögi comes in a variety of flavours and strengths and I took the opportunty to try a few.

As I walked around the Old Town I heard a lot of English spoken in the streets. There were quite a few American accents and others which were not so obvious to detect where they were from. When I picked up a few brochures from the tourism information office, I noticed that most of the English pamplets were empty but there were plenty of Finnish ones available, so there mustn't have been many Finns in town that weekend.

The Tallinn Christmas market really came alive at night time. I watched the light show and a dance performance and really enjoyed the festive atmosphere. It got quite crowded around 7pm but it was nice to see people having a good time whilst the snow gently fell from above.

During this trip I decided to stay at Hotel Baron. My new goal is to try a different hotel with each visit. The location of Hotel Baron is excellent, it's very close to the Olde Hansa restaurant and the rooms are nicely furnished and comfortable.

I had a wonderful time in Tallinn but sadly the weekend passed too quickly. Until next time!

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

A look at Uralic languages

Today, almost 25 million people belong to the Uralic language family. These languages can be heard spoken in areas that extends from Norway (Sami) Estonia and Finland in the West to the Ob River region (Russia) in the East, to the lower reaches of the Danube (Hungary) in the South. This video takes a look at the Uralic language family.

Friday, 25 November 2022

The Tallinn Christmas Market Opens Today!

Tallinn is a very special place when it comes to Christmas. Not only does it have one of the best Christmas markets in the world but it is also the place where the very first public Christmas tree was erected. The tradition began in the year 1441, when the Brotherhood of the Blackheads (local merchants) put up a Christmas tree on Tallinn's Town Hall Square and decorated it with fruits, nuts and small objects. Decades later the tradition was adopted by Latvia then spread to the rest of the world. Each year a tree is specially chosen to be the centrepiece of the Christmas market. This year the spruce tree comes from Anija.

Monday, 21 November 2022

Tallinn artworks

Tallinn's cityscape has long provided inspiration for painters. Throughout the centuries artists from foreign lands have visited or lived in Tallinn, capturing moments in time in their artworks. Most of these paintings are now housed in various museums, for us and future generations to enjoy. Here are a few of my favourites.

Theodor Albert Sprengel (1875)

Theodor Gelhaar (1835)

Julius Friedrich Tempeltey (1850)

Aleksei Bogoljubov (1853)

Johannes Hau (1830)

Pjotr Vereštšagin (1864)

Sunday, 20 November 2022

Estonia tops PISA for Reading Performance

Estonia once again tops the PISA list, this time in reading. Perhaps snuggling up with good books during the long cold winter months have something to do with this? Well done Estonia!

Friday, 18 November 2022

Estonia's oldest known human settlement

If you have ever wondered where the first Estonians lived then the answer is Pulli. The Pulli settlement is the oldest known human settlement in Estonia, located on the right bank of the Pärnu River. According to carbon dating, Pulli was settled over 11,000 years ago and people would have arrived there from the south after the ice had melted. 

Archaeologists have unearthed over 1175 items from area including tools made mainly from flint, used for hunting and fishing. 

A dog tooth found at the Pulli settlement is the first evidence for the existence of the domesticated dog in Estonia. In October this year a new memorial sculpture was erected in Pulli to mark the significance of the finding. Dogs have long been man's best friends.

The new Pulli statue

Monday, 14 November 2022

Tallinn Named Most Desirable European City

Tallinn recently took home the Silver Award for Most Desirable European City at the Wanderlust Magazine Travel Awards. Wanderlust is the UK’s longest running travel magazine. Congratulations Tallinn -  you are amazing!

At the end of the month, the Tallinn Christmas Market will open. It's one of the best Christmas markets in the world!

Sunday, 13 November 2022

Head Isadepäeva! Happy Father's Day!

Today is Father's Day in Estonia. On this day we give thanks to our fathers who have given us endless love and support. I have a wonderful father who is a very noble, honest and down-to-earth man. He has taught me so much over the years, including learning to tie my shoelaces, riding a bike and to never give up on something just because it appears difficult. Perseverance usually pays off. I can never win an argument with my father when he speaks common sense!

Here I am with my father outside the Sydney Opera House in 1978. Happy Father's Day Dad!

Thursday, 10 November 2022

The beauty of Estonia in winter

It won't be long now until winter is upon us and even though people travel less during winter, Estonia should not be forgotten, it is a splendid place to visit all year round. All you need to do is rug up and stay warm. As the Germans say - Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, nur die falsche Kleidung (there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing). Estonia is simply stunning during the winter months and these photos will show you why.

A true paradise of the north!

Monday, 7 November 2022

An Estonian in Crete

Last week I did something I rarely do, I went on an autumn holiday. I wanted to go some place warm, somewhere to enjoy a last bit of sunshine before winter arrives. To do this I had to head south and after consulting the map I decided upon Crete, one of the most southern points in Europe and also Europe's oldest civilization. I've never been to Greece before so everyday was an adventure.

I flew into Chania, Crete's second largest city and stayed in a villa not far from Kissamos. To my surprise, autumn had not even begun here yet, flowers were still in full bloom and the weather was lovely and warm, everyday the temperature was 22-24 degrees celsius. 

Elafonisi Beach

Crete is very mountainous and often you have to drive through narrow winding roads in the mountains to reach the best beaches. Elafonisi is famous for its pink sand on some of its shore. It's a bit of a trek to get there but absolutely wonderful once you arrive. 

One of the best things about travelling to Crete in late October - great weather and no crowds. 

Another beach I visited was Falassarna, it had beautiful crystal clear water.

Greece's second most popular tourist site is The Palace of Knossos. It is located near Heraklion, Crete's capital city. 

The Palace of Knossos was built by the Minoans and is approximately 4000 years old. It covers an area of 20,000 square metres and contained more than 1000 rooms.

One of the throne rooms remains fairly intact.

Artwork from the Bronze Age. It takes approximately 30-45 minutes to explore the palace ruins.

One thing I enjoyed about Crete was the landscape. It was very different from home with its abundance of  olive trees, cactuses and even gum trees.

Every church I saw in Crete looked immaculate.

Stavros Beach

The 1964 film Zorba the Greek was filmed in Crete and the theme song is still popular to this day. A famous scene from the movie was filmed at Stavros Beach so I went there to take a look at the area.

Many things impressed me about Crete but two things that really stood out were the reasonable prices and the quality of the gift shops. Unlike souvenir shops elsewhere that often sell cheap tacky items made in China, I found most souvenirs in Crete were locally produced and good quality. Shop owners took pride in what they sold. There were so many delightful things to choose from.

It was really good to get away for a week and explore Crete. I really loved the fact that there is less light population on the island of Crete and so you can see the stars clearer in the sky at night. Simply wonderful!.