At least once in your life, you have had to come across a movie in which the plot revolves around an ‘ordinary’ girl and the prince of a small, for the purposes of the film fictitious name, European country. If someone asked me which European country it would be in real life, I would fire without thinking: ESTONIA!
I am personally prone to destinations that are not over-talked about, posh and overcrowded, places that have managed to retain their charm, recognisability, the spirit of the past, the tradition. We must appreciate and preserve what has been left in the legacy, which people before us have created from their visions and passions. The relationship with the environment is also important. One can tell almost immediately who is aware of the value of the natural heritage and who has developed a coexistence fulfilled with respect. Thanks to the time we are currently living in, the digital age, we can discover and gain insights and information more quickly and also connect better. All this would be good to use for development, first personally and then globally by momentum.
All I have mentioned, respect towards cultural and natural heritage, digitalization, coexistence, self-development – Estonia is all that.
10 FUN FACTS ABOUT ESTONIA
- ESTONIAN FLAG As I have already mentioned, Estonia is strongly associated with its natural heritage, so there is no surprise about the colours on the Estonian flag. Blue represents the sky, Baltic Sea and lakes, black represents fertile ground and dark Estonian forests, and white snow, summer white nights, as well as the light that led them through tough times.
- ESTONIA HAS MORE THAN 2000 ISLANDS AND ALMOST 1500 LAKES. It sounds almost unbelievable, right? Of course, not all the islands are inhabited, and those that are has rural characteristics. The Estonian islands are followed by stories of Vikings. Estonian Vikings once hijacked Norwegian queen Astrid and her son, the crown prince. The largest Estonian island is called Saaremaa. The Estonian lake Peipus is the largest 5th in Europe and has the longest sandy beach of 30 km in Estonia.
- MORE THAN 50% OF ESTONIA IS COVERED BY FOREST. Of this, 30% is protected. The largest forests are located in northeastern and central Estonia, stretching from the northern coast to the southern border with the most populated species, such as pine, birch, spruce and jasper. The deep connection of the Estonians with forests is rooted in prehistory thanks to the conditions typical for life in the north. Forests were precious for survival purposes. Some trees were used as firewood and for building, while some were considered sacred and therefore not to be cut down. The forests were also an inspiration that inspired imagination and creating the world of fairies, dwarves, and other beings from fairy tales.
- ESTONIAN LANGUAGE. As I already mention mystical beings, Estonian language reminds me or to be precise, it sounds to me as some kind of fairy language. It’s unusual, beautiful, melodious and completely unintelligible in some manner. Except for one very important word, chocolate is šokolaad which sound very similar to Croatian word for chocolate čokolada! Estonian is part of Finno-Ugric languages.
- ESTONIAN MYTHOLOGY. Of course, the mystical atmosphere of nature and the much more intimate coexistence with it led to the creation of Estonian mythology. On the Estonian Tourist Board page, you can solve the quiz and find out what a mythical being from Estonian mythology you are: https://www.visitestonia.com/en/campaigns/myth-quiz Although I was hoping to be a female figure, I turned out to be Hiid, the hero of the saint forests.
- IT IS ONE OF THE LEAST RELIGIOUS COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD. Besides the whole story about mythology, spirituality resulting from contact with nature, one may conclude that religiousness would be a logical sequence, but it is not. Only 28.3% of Estonians are religious.
- FAIRY TAIL LIKE MAIN CITY OF ESTONIA TALLINN. The Old Town of Tallinn has been on the UNESCO list since 1993. Precisely its two parts, Toompea (or the Cathedral Hill) and the old medieval lower town. It exists as the city since the 13th century. Stone streets, medieval churches and houses, as well as medieval walls and Gothic towers make you feel like you have returned into past time with a time machine.
- THE OLDEST EUROPEAN PHARMACY. Raeapteek is the oldest European pharmacy that has been working continuously since 1422. It is unknown when it has precisely started with work, but in 1422 it already had the third owner. You can find out more about it at the pharmacy website http://raeapteek.ee/en/our-story/
- THE LEAST INHABITED COUNTRY IN EUROPE. Estonia is a Baltic country where only 1.3 million people live, but compered by the size it is larger than Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and that makes Estonia the least inhabited country in Europe.
- THE WONDER OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES! We can put Estonia in the category of informatics miracle. Not only it is a homeland of Skype and electronic voting system, but Estonia also launched e-Residency, digital identity for entrepreneurs from all over the world and online currency exchange service, TransferWise. Among others, Estonians can see their medical charts and vote via the internet at the elections.
During my short visit to Estonia, I visited two cities, Tallinn and Tartu. It was a winter, for me long beck in 2013.
With its nature, legends, architecture and self-contained atmosphere, Estonia really leaves the impression of a fairytale country
The capital city of Estonia is a charming and diverse city and there is a lot to see. I will mention just a few of the many possibilities and locations.
The main entrance to the old town is the town gate Viru, placed between two Gothic towers. There is another tower with an interesting name “Kiek in de Kök”, coming from the German language and meaning “to peek in the kitchen”. The legend says that the towers have got its name because of soldiers who used to be in the tower and liked to peek from the top to the kitchens in the town below. The museum of the same name is placed in the cannon tower and bastion passages through Toompea hill.
As in the Middle Ages when it was a large marketplace, today the Town Hall square is the heart of the old part of Tallinn, the most famous of the Christmas Fair. It was named after a town hall housed in a Gothic building from the 15th century.
The castle of Toompea was built in the 13th century and is located on the same hill. Today it’s home to the Parliament, a beautiful, pink palace built in baroque style. On the eastern corner of Toompea is Kohtuotsa, a place with a magnificent view of the city. Here you just have to take a selfie and then indulge in the enjoyment of the view on the roofs and towers of Tallinn.
On top of the Toompea Hill is the luxurious Orthodox cathedral Alexander Nevsky, built-in 1900 while Estonia was under the rule of the Russian Empire.
Near the famous sandy beach and the Pirita River can be found the remains of St. Brigitta convent from the 15th century, destroyed by the army of John Grosny, a century later. Besides the monastery, there is also the old farm cemetery from 17th c.
As for the offer of food and beverages, Tallinn is abundant with restaurants, pubs and wine bars. There are two typical tourist places, the medieval style restaurants Old Hansa and Peppersak. The whole atmosphere is in the spirit of the 14th and 15th centuries. I have nothing against such ‘baits’ for tourists because it would be much harder to get into the spirit of, in this case, medieval times. Thanks to the ‘living history’ interpretation of the past, the experience was transferred from the first hand.
While in Estonia, do not forget to try Vana Tallinn, a liqueur created by the famous Estonian liqueur artist Ilse Maar in 1962. The exact recipe of Van Tallinn is a strictly kept secret.
And when I mentioned the offer customized for tourists, from all the souvenirs, I was thrilled with traditional Estonian products, clothing, hats and other accessories handmade made of wool and linen.
Tartu is a city in which Estonians come to study, a city university, a city of students, intellectuals and creatives, an Estonian centre of creative and scientific culture, the second-largest city in Estonia.
It is located on the river Emajõgi, which is the only fully navigable river in Estonia. In the Middle Ages, it was the main trade route between the eastern towns of Pihvar and Novgorod and the Hanzeat towns in the west. It also connects two lakes Võrtsjärv and Peipsi.
Tartu is one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe, and thanks to its role, the city abounds with museums from the Estonian National Museum, Toy Museum, Estonian Sports and Olympics to various university museums. As a real student city, at night it becomes a lively place of restaurants, wine bars, cafes and nightclubs.
The most famous symbol of Tartu is the sculpture and fountain of the Kissing students, located in the middle of a large classicist square. The fountain has been there since 1948 when new-born bridegrooms were happening for happiness. The sculpture was created by Mati Karmin and completed in 1998. Since 2006, the fountain is surrounded by tile names of 16 sister cities of Tartu, located on the fountains in the direction of these cities, indicating distances. The leaning house of Tartu also called the Pisa Tower of Tartuis is pretty cool, it was built near the medieval city wall in 1793.
Finally, he added that Tartu and the city were bridges. Bridges such as Vabaduse Bridge, Kaarsild, Turu, Kroonuaia, Võidu and Sõpruse are located across the river, while the Angel Bridge and Vragov Bridge are located in the town on Toom Hill and are the oldest Estonian bridges. Legend says that whoever wishes will be caught, kept silent and holding it until the bridge passes, the desire to fill.
Even though it was winter, I managed to take a look at one of the Estonian beaches as well. Laulasmaa Beach, located in Lahepere Bay, is named after the so-called local singing sands. The beach is made of white sand and is surrounded by a beautiful pine forest. In addition to the many opportunities that the beach offers during the warm months, in the winter months you can also relax and enjoy the benefits of the nearby Laulasmaa Spa Hotel.
There is so much more to write and discover about Estonia. I would love to visit it again, maybe in the slightly warmer months because it’s a lot easier to navigate the streets and drive around to visit everything from the ‘must-see’ list. I failed to experience the Estonian sauna which in turn is different from the Finnish. Not walking in the swamp so-called. bog walking. Estonian forests and islands, numerous museums and cities, all this is still to be explored and thrilled even more.
Estonia, see you again one day!