I have been thinking of Estonia recently. Lately, the few times I’ve mentioned it, I’ve been faced with bemused replies of “Estonia?” My disappointment is misplaced. They are the ones who are missing out.
I’ve only spent one day in Estonia, in Tallinn. I took a ferry from Helsinki, where I was visiting a host of friends for spring break during my semester abroad in Russia. Not entirely content to spend all my time in one country, I squeezed Estonia into my schedule—not at all difficult given the ample amount of ferries shuttling back and forth between these two glorious cities.
Perhaps I’ve been thinking of Tallinn because it has been a bit cold here. Once again, an episode of Leah’s Left Arm Turns Blue occurred. I was really quite chilled, wandering around the old town, up the hill to Toompea and back down to All-linn. But no matter, I cast the shivering aside and look back fondly.
Tallinn’s old town really is one of the most charming I’ve wandered through. And that’s all we did, really—meander about, peek in shops, steal into cafés to warm up, check out the cathedrals we came across, take silly pictures. My friend later compared Tallinn to a fairytale town and I won’t disagree. At one point we found ourselves wandering down an alley and emerging in a courtyard that seemed laced with magic but I couldn’t tell you why. A door in the corner led us down stairs to a subterranean art studio. I couldn’t tell you how we found ourselves here, since we followed random streets, hardly glancing at a map.
Maybe what enchanted me was that Tallinn was a clash of familiar cultures, but is altogether very much its own. I could speak Russian and do whatever I needed in this way, given that nearly half of Tallinn’s residents count Russian as their native language. Yet, the signposts, menus, and graffiti in Estonian were discernible due to my basic knowledge of related Finnish. Still, Tallinn did not seem Russian. It did not seem Finnish. This small country’s capital is a reminder that the world holds a million wonderfully diverse places that are their own distinct products of fascinating histories and cultures.
I would like to return to Estonia and explore beyond Tallinn, and then into the other Baltic states. Don’t remain unsure of where they are, or what language they speak (answer: multiple). Little pockets of the earth, oft overlooked and sadly even unheard of by many, are just as fascinating as any other. A day was not enough, never enough. But next time, if I visit in the lingering winter, I’ll wear a warmer jacket.
Beautiful photos. The door looks almost fairy-tale like with such vivid colors. Have you been to PL yet?
Thank you! Yes, that door really stands out. And by PL, do you mean Poland? Unfortunately I haven’t been there yet, but it is on the list. I’ve heard good things!
No, sorry. I meant the Punchy Lands. Sometimes I can be so dadblame confusing.
Hi Leah, I love all your posts. This is my second favorite after the beautiful photos of Bolivia. — Tara
Thanks so much, Tara! I appreciate that. My mom sent me a link to your blog as well and I read through some of it. Really interesting stuff–you do important work!
Maybe the reason Estonia is so unspoiled is precisely because it is off the radar of touristy destinations! Food for thought there….I love your posts and wonderful pictures!
I agree that is likely the case for many places, but I am not so sure about Tallinn. Lots of Finns go since it is so accessible, and because alcohol is cheaper there! There are certainly tourists, but I think mainly from the surrounding region. I’m not an expert though!
Thanks for reading, Jan! It’s appreciated.