Aug 29, 2007
|The photos tell some of the story of Tallinn, capital of Estonia, one of the three Baltic countries that were part of the Soviet Union (the others being Latvia and Lithuania). The pictures illustrate how we approached this beautiful (and, until now, mostly unknown) country. We sailed on a ferry across the Bay of Finland, part of the Baltic Sea. It took 100 minutes to arrive in the port of Tallinn from Helsinki.
After centuries of being invaded by other countries (Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Germany), Estonia proclaimed its independence in 1918, only to be taken over by the Soviet Union 22 years later. Independance was attained once again in 1991, hopefully forever. It's amazing what has been accomplished in just 16 years. Our hotel is a good example. The 24 story Radisson SAS is only a few years old and modern in every way. There's wireless internet in every room. In fact, the whole country is pretty much wireless. President Bush and other dignitaries have stayed here as announced on their "Wall of Fame" in the lobby (my favorite fellow visitor is Andrea Bocelli). We have a great view of the Old Town as you can see in the photos.
Here are some facts about Estonia that are probably more than you've ever needed to know:
the national flower is the cornflower,
national bird is the swallow,
national tree, the oak,
national stone is limestone,
and last but not least, the national fish is the Baltic Herring.
Estonia experiences a very short summer. This is best illustrated by a joke told by Denis, our local guide: "One man says to another, 'How was your summer?' The other man says, 'Wonderful! But I had to work that day'." We've had some rain, but, as you can see in the photos, the cloud formations have been spectacular - a photographer's dream.
We especially loved St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox Church named after the man who repelled invaders in the 13th century, leading them across a frozen lake which gave way under them, thus saving the town. This miracle secured his popularity as well as his sainthood.
We visited an Estonian dairy farm and enjoyed a typical meal. The farm produces cheese (gouda and mascarpone), curds and yoghurt (flavored with "kama," ground grains). The shelves of gouda cheese were already promised to clients, but we were able to buy one of the few for sale. We're hoping there won't be a problem getting it through customs.
Estonian words to add to your vocabulary list: "tere" is "hello," "tervasex" is "to your health" or "cheers" and "ma armastan sind" is "I love you." Personally, I prefer "yellowbluebus." Or, as Celeste wrote to us, "greenpurpletrains."
Tomorrow we head to the Russian border at Narva where we have been warned to be very PATIENT and to put anything the dogs can sniff in our hand luggage (guess that's where the gouda goes). Some things, I guess, haven't changed since the cold war.