A couple of years back, I ran into the opportunity of getting to explore Estonia during a brief port stop. Tallinn, to be precise. It’s a small country famous for hosting one of the world’s largest choral events, the Laulupidu. I was here only for a few hours, however, before getting here – I worked a thorough search on the country’s history and interests. What I found out was that Estonia is a country full of adventures. Although most people speak Estonian or Uralic (related to Finnish) here, so the language could be a slight barrier. Some of the best days to observe national celebrations are Boxing day, Christmas, Independence Day, Pentecost, Whit Monday, Day of Restoration, Victory Day and Midsummer’s Day and Midsummer’s Eve. If your trip is planned during any of these special events, you will have a rare chance of experiencing the nationalism in the first person. One intriguing fact about Estonia is that despite liberally vaunting lions on the coat of arms, the country has no front-runner for the national animal.
The national anthem, however, is “Mu Isamaa, Muõnn Ja Rõõm,” the national flower is“Cornflower,” and the national bird is “Barn Swallow.” Tallinn is one of the most populated along with, Tartu, Narva, Kohtla-Jarve, Parnu, Viljandi, Rakvere, Sillamae, Maardu and Kuressaare. Everywhere in Estonia, the staple food is rye bread, pork, potatoes and dairy products. The favourite beverages are beer and vodka. While here, I learnt that Estonians love games, and take pride in reinventing some of the world’s best sports. For instance, an avid lover of swing-sets invented an incredibly cool version of it that has now become the most popular sport in the country. AND how could I not tell you about Estonia’s famous, “Wife Carrying World Championship.” Despite being an egalitarian country, Estonia insists it still produces expert wife carriers.
I travelled to Estonia on a cruise from Helsinki, Finland. En route, I got into a conversation with one of the crew members who casually mentioned that Estonia borders Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland with roughly 2,222 islands. We crossed many small islands on our way to Estonia from Finland. Outside the waters, the lands of Estonia hold the best-preserved old towns, museums, gothic culture. The roots of Estonia can be traced back to 6,500 BC. When in Tallinn, do visit its TV Tower holding an observation deck. Tallinn is a pollution-free city which is why visiting it is always a delight. To keep Tallinn free from pollution – its Mayor extended free public transportation services to the city’s registered residents. The initial costs were borne by the capital and as expected, the plan worked out brilliantly. Today, most residents use public transport thus a very few cars can be seen on the roads.
Estonia is also one of the most “Tech-Sound” countries in the world. I was surprised to learn that Estonia has been facilitating online voting ever since 2005 when it was not even a real concept for the rest of the world. Mostly for security and political reasons, but still. The Estonian government shuns double-dealings thus making the system dependable. I think Estonia is the only country, where the residents display more faith in their government than God itself. Now I know why Estonia is also the world’s 4th-least religious country. All said and done, I had a lovely time in Tallinn and I would surely like to return to get an elaborate insight into its culture. If visiting Estonia is on your bucket list, then here are a few basic phrases worth learning:
To say “HI,” say, Tere.
For “YES,” say, Jah.
To say “NO,” say, Ei.
For “Excuse Me,” say, Vabandage.
To say “Help,” say, Appi.
For “Good morning” say, Tere Ohtust.
To say “Good night,” say, Head ööd.
For “Thank you,” say, Tänan Sind.
To say “How much is this?” say, Kui Palju See Maksab?
For “Sorry,” say, Anna Andeks.