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Tallinn, Estonia

On the eastern edge of Europe, Estonia is known for its endless but beautiful coastline, cheap beer and technology overload. This is also where Skype and Kazaa originated. (They have huge hoardings in the airport that advertise their immense pride in the success of Skype). The people here are very warm and friendly, very tall (female average height is 6 ft), and laid back.

Brief History

Estonia has a complicated history.It has been ruled by the Swedes, Germans and the Russians. The last 100 years has been full of twists and turns for this country. It went from being a province of the Russian empire to an independent country, then a republic of the Soviet Union, an independent nation once again and now a EU member. Since independence in 1991, Estonia has made rapid strides in erasing the memories of a communist regime and moving towards a progressive society.

Because the Soviet regime oppressed them in the past, I asked locals in what light they see Russians today. Interestingly, the Russians were portrayed as enemies in their history classes in high school, but today it is not uncommon for Estonians and 26% Russian population to mingle freely.

Like most European cities, Tallinn has an old town. But the similarities end there. The old town in Tallinn is an UNESCO preserved site and maintains its charm of old. It has an enchanting jumble of turrets, spires and winding cobblestone streets. A walk in this town will surely make you feel like you were in a different era..

Town Hall


I took a “funky bike tour” that claimed to take us to places even the locals dont know. And it did live up to its promise. The cynicism of the tour guide notwithstanding, we saw the run-down side of Tallinn, a prison now converted into a museum and a submarine. He also took us to a flea market, gave us 5 Estonian Kroons (which is almost no money) and asked us to buy something from the market. It was an interesting idea, since it made us venture into the market and explore it.  

Some interesting trivia I learnt from this tour… 

Look at this picture and answer the question that follows.

Now, put on your sherlock holmes hat and tell me what the marks on the road are? 

About a year ago, a train overran the tracks and went onto the tar, and crashed into the station building. Legend has it that a BMW was parked illegally where the marks are. What are the chances you think he got covered by insurance !

Black Death Trivia

The Estonian folklore is very different from the story in Wikipedia. According to the Estonians, the locals at the time thought that the wells had ghosts in them and threw dead cats into them to get rid of the ghosts. And thus began the epidemic that caused tons of deaths in Europe.

Discovery

This is in central Tallinn. They were digging up an existing parking lot to make a basement parking lot. They found a lot of these old remains/walls. Now they sill plan to make the parking lot around these walls without destroying them. Thats going to be tough….I wanna see how that turns up

An aspect of traveling alone is the chance to run into some interesting people. Here are two I met in Tallinn.

danel pool

Roland, Kite, Me, Danel (squatting)

I met Danel and his friends on the Pirita beach. They were jumping into a river (some even with summersaults). See video below.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bhatta/2713666182/in/set-72157606348711530

They were super friendly and even  invited me to their place for some drinks. I was there till the wee hours of the morning, chatting and getting to know them better. The next day, on their own accord, they brought along a car and took me to Parnu, a resort town about 125 kms away. The drive was picturesque and we had some good times at the beach there.

ben zilker

Mr.Ben

Ben works at the Euphoria hostel I was staying at. He left his homeland Israel at 19 and has spent two years traveling around Europe. He plays the flute and drums really well and those are his means to a living. This guy’s knowledge of Hinduism amazed me. He really likes religion, art and symbols. He has been listening to the Bhagavad Gita since he was nine. He even recited the Gayatri Mantra and told me of a couple of occasions when he chanted the mantra to successfully get out of trouble. I found this really incredible!  We had some interesting conversations on Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, war and conflict in the region. It was good to get his perspective on the conflict in the region. It seems like the younger generation is grieved at having to suffer the consequences of a war that they had no part in. They want out.

Tallinn was a great start to this trip, both in terms of its charm and the experience it offered via the people I met. I am on my way to Riga, Latvia and looking forward to the next adventure !

More estonia photos are on Flickr

Thanks for reading and if you liked it, drop me a line !

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. Tiny Little Corner › Riga, Latvia on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:48 am

    […] communist past and head down the path of progress (as the EU defines progress these days). While Estonia seemed ahead in the race to modernization, Latvia is showing every sign of catching up. There are […]

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