Ten reasonswhy Estoniastands outfrom thecrowdwww.visitestonia.com
Shell PatternsJust look at the stripes on the skirt the womanleaning against the motorcycle is wearing – howmagical!Each stripe is a code that carries information.The skirt is a data storage medium, just like a CDor a memory stick. And when viewed together,the stripes provide a knowledgeable eye withinformation about the wearer’s life – whereshe is from originally, where she has lived herlife, who she is married to, how satisfied she iswith life etc. These are the Shell Patterns – thevoodoo of the North!There are over 1,500 islands in the sea off theEstonian coast and one of them bears the nameShell Island. The islands are all places with aunique, almost pristine natural environment andan individual cultural atmosphere. And there isalways something to be found there that meritsthe exclamation – “but there’s no way…!”“Normaalne!”Normaalne!Normaalne! (“Cool!” Lit. “Normal!”) That’s whatEstonians say when they have particularly goodluck. Say your Estonian friend wins a million Eurosone Friday night in the casino, gets engagedto the daughter of an Arab oil sheikh and, tomark the occasion, is presented by his prospectivefather-in-law with a Lamborghini… ask yourfriend how his weekend was and he’d reply“Normaalne!”pression of Clint Eastwood, they reply to thegreeting “How are you?” with a “Normaalne!”Outward displays of emotion are not really themost striking thing about Estonians. But thenagain, once you’ve been accepted, you gain aloyal companion with whom you can ride offinto the sunset… or perhaps explore the wildnightlife. Or just pop out with for a bite to eat.Traditional Estonian skirts tell a lot about thewearer!Just a couple of words about the motorcycle andwooden sidecar in the picture. The men of ShellIsland are fishermen. But fishing is one of themost dangerous and masculine trades of all. Forthat reason the wives of Shell Island’s men gatherat the seashore to await their sweethearts’return from the sea. The sidecars are for the fishthe men have caught.Real fishermen also like to drink like real mennow and again and when they do their sweetheartswill heave them into the sidecars alongwith the fish. It makes it really easy to zoom offhome. Normaalne!When the Estonian athlete Gerd Kanter madehis gold-medal-winning discus throw at the BeijingOlympics, thousands of Estonians watchingon TV whooped “Normaalne!”The use of this slang term in no way reflectspoor levels of self-esteem among Estonians. Itis simply a local response to expressions such as:“I just can’t believe how lucky I’ve been!” “I’vewaited so long for this moment and now it’s finallyhere.” “Thank heaven for the miraculouscoincidence that brought us together so unexpectedly,”etc etc.And that’s precisely what Estonians think when,shaking your hand and imitating the stony ex-Exceptional Estonia2 Ten reasons why Estonia stands out from the crowdTen reasons why Estonia stands out from the crowd 3
Estonian fashion artist Reet Aus wearing her own eco-conscious line of clothingThink green!You can become acquainted with Estonia’swholesome, distinctive cuisine in city coffeehouses or gourmet restaurants in historical manor-housestucked away in the depths of primevalforest. The local cuisine uses the world’s finestand most wholesome ingredients and organicfarming – a method which is growing in popularityin Europe, has for many years been thenormal way of life in rural Estonia.Green thinking is held in high regard here. Theuse of renewable sources of energy and ideasfor sustainable consumption come naturally toEstonians as they are a people surrounded bynature. Great strides have been made in establishingwind farms and putting recycling arrangementsin place.Green is in fashion! Literally – the garments createdby the Estonian designer Reet Aus bring anutterly unique chic to the international stage;her elegant collections, born of an ecologicalmindset and recycled materials, have attracted agreat deal of attention across Europe.Estonia is famous for its pristine wilderness andvirgin nature reserves – they are without questionamong the reasons why Estonia welcomesmillions of tourists each year. The fact that atightly packed, diverse community lives alongsideEstonia’s natural environment is the verything that makes it special. Within half an hour’sdrive of the city centre you can suddenly findyourself in the fairy-tale stillness of virgin forest,looking at an animal or mushroom you havenever seen before and feeling the tickle of firneedles and ladybirds on your skin.Gourmet cuisine, Estonian-styleMidsummer DayThe Estonians love their countryside dearly. Especiallyin the summer, a season longingly anticipatedin a country with an otherwise chillyclimate. Summer’s white nights are the mostbeautiful time of year and the longest summer’sday can last up to 19 hours. That day is 23 June– the summer solstice, known as MidsummerDay or St John’s Day. The solstice, when thenight is at its briefest and the day is at its longest,is associated with fertility. It is always celebratedin spectacular fashion and is one of themost important events of the year. Traditionallythere is a huge bonfire in the evening, homebrewedbeer is drunk and customary leaps overthe bonfire are performed. Later, at night, youaccompany an attractive member of the oppositesex on a short stroll into the forest, a customreferred to in popular parlance as “looking forthe fern blossom”.SaunaCertainly on Midsummer Day, but in fact yearround,regardless of the season or the phaseof the moon, Estonians delight in a seeminglysadomasochistic activity: they shut themselves in100 degrees Celsius – and still pleasantLeaping over the bonfire is all part ofMidsummer’s Dayairless rooms heated by hot stones to over onehundred degrees Celsius and sit in the heat untiltheir pores open and the sweat starts to drip.They then pick up a whisk of birch or junipertwigs and strike themselves all over until theirskin is red. Then, where possible, they hurry intothe nearest body of cold water and declare theactivity “most pleasant”.The hot room is called a sauna and it is verypopular in Estonia and the Nordic countries ingeneral. It’s popular because it has a cleansing,restorative action on the body. Even today folkmedicine, herbs and nature-based therapies areheld in high regard in Estonia. Shamans, healersand even witches were the people who treatedthe sick in the olden days. Most medical procedurestook place in the sauna, not just becausethe action of the sauna prompted the excretionof toxins, but also because in winter temperaturesin Estonia can in places fall below -30ºC.Watch carefully – behind an intent gaze theremay be a shaman’s descendant or even a witch.Fortunately, there are only good witches in Estonia.4 Ten reasons why Estonia stands out from the crowdTen reasons why Estonia stands out from the crowd 5
WiFi you!Evidently the Shaman blood in Estonians’ veinsmakes it is easy for them to communicate overlarge distances without opening their mouths.Even if there’s a vast expanse of virgin forest oran Estonian limestone crag between the individualsconcerned.I’m not talking about jungle drums here, butwireless internet. Perhaps you’ve heard rumoursabout a small country where you can use Wikipediato identify plants even when you’re out inthe wilds? Yep, they’re true. Virtually the wholecountry has wireless internet coverage, mostlyfor free.Estonians are renowned for being workaholicsand because of it are sometimes referred to as“the Japanese of Europe”. The WiFi-thingumabobis a good side to all this. It stands to reasonthat a seemingly intractable problem should unravelitself more easily on a park bench or seashorethan behind office walls. In summer it feelsgood to get out of the office for a while, strollto the nearest park and write up a report thathas juddered to a halt in a confined space. Orin winter visit the nearest coffee house, have anLog on in the forest,espresso and send a mail to your boss saying, “Iwon’t be back in today. I’m off on a round-theworldtrip!”WiFi allows you to work anywhere in Estonia.Even if, for example, you should wake up onMonday morning on a limestone seashore, yourhead resting on your laptop, or in the embraceof a brown bear in its den.or in townInternational EstoniansDid you know that Skype was the invention ofsome ordinary Estonian guys? Yep, it’s true. Theyknew how to make life sweeter. Respect!But did you also know that Estonia is one of theworld’s leading countries in terms of innovativeinternet-based infrastructure development? It’smore than just the fact that in Estonia you canpay to park your car by sending an SMS messagefrom your mobile phone or sign things electronicallyon the internet. Estonians can even vote byinternet in the Presidential elections! It’s not fornothing that Estonia is called the e-Country.It may well be that Estonia’s computer geekshave helped establish a better data protectionsystem in your country or provided know-how tointegrate mobile telephone or day-to-day internet-basedservices into the public arena.So if you think that the future of mankind mightbe with a flash-memory stick that slots into aUSB port in your ear, you will like Estonia!or by the seaThe explosive development and coverage ofelectronic media sparked by the national computerisationproject “Tiigrihüpe” (Tiger-leap) hasmade Estonia a computer-dependent paradise.Any time, any pose, anywhere – you are wired,man! And I don’t just mean logging in to Facebookin the city park. I’m talking about electronicmuscles that make the life of tourists in Estoniasuper-straightforward – they don’t have to relyon locals who speak English with a weird accentin order to communicate and can take care ofthings with computerised precision.Mobile parking made simple6 Ten reasons why Estonia stands out from the crowdTen reasons why Estonia stands out from the crowd 7
Old Town meets New CityIt’s not exactly the standard thing to step out ofan ultra-modern hotel in the heart of the capitalcity of a European country and walk past acharming wooden cottage with stove-fired heatingand a smoking chimney, then turn a corneronly to suddenly find yourself in an old city, forexample, standing in front of the tallest churchin Mediaeval Europe. The Old Town of Tallinnis not very large, but it is unique in its intimacy.While drinking wine in a coffee house that hasbeen in business continuously for two hundredyears you may mull over the timeless and thetransient and the following morning purchasesome Alka-Seltzer from the Raeapteek – theTown Hall Pharmacy – which is one of the oldestpharmacies in Europe to operate from thesame premises. The earliest reference to theRaeapteek in historical documents is in 1422.But the essential thing is not so much a buildingor an unexpected contrast, it is the fact that allthese aspects have been assimilated to form athoroughly original environment in which to liveand work, where the expression “it’s round thecorner” really can be taken literally. All it takes toget you from bar to hotel is your legs and a fewsteps over the mediaeval cobbles. EverythingOld and new rub shouldersyou need is clustered together in the Old Townand its immediate surroundings – coffee houses,hotels, cinemas, theatres and spas. It is a delightfor working people to be able to step away fromthe bustle of the city and in a few paces find aspot in a small, shaded park to read emails andthen join the revellers ready for the fashionablefuturetro time machine to transport them intoboth the past and the future in the Old Town’scoffee houses and nightclubs.Musical giants Eri Klas and Arvo PärtEstohype!Skype is not Estonia’s only object of superstarhype: Estonia is the birthplace of legendary supermodelCarmen Kass and the young up-andcomingKarmen Pedaru and Tiiu Kuik, as well asof the world-famous stars of classical music ArvoPärt, Veljo Tormis and Erki-Sven Tüür, whosetimeless works always figure in self-respectingmusic shops’ collections.good band! Oasis!” The (now defunct) pulp magfrom which Estonia’s Röövel Ööbik indie musiciansmade money at the time, was the first publicationin the world to print a picture of NoelGallagher. It’s true – they talked about it on ashow presented by the late John Peel.Kerli Kõiv – a rising star in the pop world, is anotherEstonian – I’m from a land called secretEstonia; nobody knows where it’s at – surely yourecognise it…? Tim Burton certainly does – andit was not for nothing that Kerli was asked towrite for the soundtrack of his much-anticipated3D animated film “Alice in Wonderland”.The view of Tallinn Old Town from a roof-top cafeIn 1992 Noel Gallagher, later of the world famousband Oasis, attended the Estonian musicfestival “Rock Summer” as a roadie for InspiralCarpets. The Carpets hung out in town withmembers of Röövel Ööbik, Estonia’s pioneeringindie band at the time. When they asked theManchester musicians what good, new bandsthey knew of, Inspiral Carpets pointed to thequiet roadie at the table, “This guy’s in a reallyThe legendary supermodel Carmen Kass8 Ten reasons why Estonia stands out from the crowdTen reasons why Estonia stands out from the crowd 9
The superstar Kerli Kõiv, who is also featured on the coverEstonia’s pop and underground scene is wellknownEurope-wide. Estonia’s clubs and DJs arefamed in London and other hard-partying cities.Estonians always want to be in the vanguard,especially in matters in which they take pride,such as fashionable music. You could even beso bold as to say that what’s beating or buzzingin an underground club in Tallinn today will bemainstream in Europe tomorrow.I’m not saying all this to name-drop, I’m justhighlighting one aspect of the spirit that is partof the Estonian inheritance – you can be exactlywhat you want to be!Estonians have a loveof their own culture andfestivals.In Estonia it has become the norm to hold festivalsof high culture in rural beauty-spots awayfrom city centres. There are over 50 fairly majormusic festivals in Estonia every year, cateringfor every musical form from opera to theavant-garde. The Leigo Lake music concerts, theNargen Opera festival on the Island of Naissaar,theatre productions in summertime amid thebeauties of Mother Nature all over Estonia –and that is only one aspect of the contemporarycultural scene. The international Black NightsFilm Festival has become extensive and influential.The fringe horror festival HÕFF offers morechilling experiences in one of the more beautifulspa towns, Haapsalu, a town which also boasts amore interesting history than most.Concerts at the Leigo LakesAnd it is precisely out of tradition and popularculture that the essential symbol of Estonian culturehas grown – the festival of song and dance;a national festival that brings together tens ofthousands of performers from all over the countryand an even larger number of spectators. Thetradition dates back to 1869 when the first nationalfestival of song was held in the universitytown of Tartu. The year 2009 saw 913 choirsand orchestras gather in Tallinn for the nationalfestival of song to perform in the Tallinn SongArena specially built for song and dance festivals.Precisely 28,166 singers’ voices rang outtogether in the largest ever combined choir! Thefestivals of song and dance are a bridge betweenthe culture of yesterday and today, the ancientand the contemporary. The high calibre of performancehere paints a portrait of Estonia’s essence,its sorrows, its joys and its aspirations!The positive stubbornness of the Estonians isespecially evident in sports – Estonia has itsown representative even in exotic sports suchas sumo – Baruto. Real name Kaido Höövelson,who wrestles monumental samurai in Japan.Mart Poom is known to all football hooligansand armchair fans. It would take the fingers ofseveral hands to tot up Estonia’s Olympic champions.And did you know that wife-carrying is asport devised by Estonian men?Baruto, Estonia’s biggest name in sumo wrestlingParticipants in a dance festival form a map of Estonia10 Ten reasons why Estonia stands out from the crowdTen reasons why Estonia stands out from the crowd 11
ENGwww.visitestonia.comORWAYDENMARKGERMANYSWEDEN12POLANDFINLANDEESTIESTONIALATVIALITHUANIARUSSIABELARUSUKRAINETen reasons why Estonia stands out from the crowdEstonia in BriefOfficial name:Area 45,227 km 2InhabitantsCapitalOfficial languageRepublic of Estonia(Eesti Vabariik in Estonian)1.36 millionTallinn (405,000 inhabitants)EstonianForm of government: parliamentary democracyNational holidayNational bird:24 February (Independence Day)barn swallowNational flower: cornflowerThe Republic of Estonia is a member of theEuropean Union; Schengen area and NATO.Estonia is in the East European time zone(GMT/BST +02:00).Estonia’s country code is +372. To placean International call start by dialling 00.Enterprise Estonia, Estonian Tourist Board © 2010Text by Taavi Eelmaa. Data as of June 2010.