A hobbit’s guide to Estonia


A hobbit’s guide to Estonia

Hey there wanderer!

Ive been waiting for someone… in fact, it might be you.

Yes-yes, I can see it. That curious hunger for adventure in your eyes.

Why dont you get something warm to drink, huddle up and Ill tell you of a place where fantasy meets reality, a tale of my land. 

Estonia – Ive seen you venture there in my dreams.

Theres a fair chance you’ve already heard tales of our gorgeous women, fairy tale cities and IT wizardry. But, whatever you may know now, the angle of this recount is one you’ve yet to hear.

Not to worry, this won’t be a tale of trouble or past hardships, but a present day reflection with little historical jibber-jabber. If you want, I’ll even play you some local music.

So, let’s start unraveling this mystery a from place close to any Estonian heart.

Estonian nature

eesti-kaardil

We have a small piece of land, stretching 240 km from north to south and 350 km from west to east. Mind you, the Shire is said to be 240 km x 320 km. 

Since there are roughly 1.3 million of us inhabiting this land, it makes us the sixth most sparsely populated country in Europe.

About half of our land is covered in forest, a quarter in wetlands and the rest is meadows and lakes. Something of visions, see for yourself.

Our riches are down to earth, since the highest point of our land is Suur Munamägi or Big Egg Mountain. The vast height of it is an unimaginable 317 metres from sea level and a whopping 62 metres higher than its surroundings.

So, youre probably thinking, “A mountain? More like hill!”, well thats where you’re wrong!

Its not even a hill, its a hillock.

Its size is actually better defined by an egg than a mountain, but that won’t dissuade us from adoring it.

So our land may be a little bit flat, but mountains are a nuisance anyways, right?

Right!

Let’s move on.

Estonian swamps, bogs, marshes and fens

uisutaja-rabas-jaanus-ree
Ice skater in the bog – Jaanus Ree

Almost a quarter (22.3%) of our country is covered in these rich wetlands.

Exactly like the ones Frodo loves to swim in!

frodo-swamp

BUT WITH FEWER DEAD ELVES!

In all honestly, there’s no better place for hiking, camping, swimming and enjoying nature at its purest, but you’ll be cursed if you litter. 

Kristjan Lust-rabasuplus
Dip in the marsh – Kristjan Lust

From mid-summer, you’ll find these places packed with natural nutrition in the form of mushrooms and berries. There are many – some poisonous, some delicious, some yuck… So before first venturing get a berry guide and shroombook.

seeneassortii-autor-karl-ander-adami
Assortment of mushrooms – Karl Ander Adami

If you’re thinking that you’ll need a guide or advice, then don’t worry. I’ll even give you an interactive map of our hiking tracks and nature trails. Just select the path most suitable for you.

But remember, there are bold mushroom hunters and there are old mushroom hunters, but there are no old bold mushroom hunters.

But enough about pools of water on land, let’s have a look at the opposite.

Islands

We have a total of 2222 of them, they’re inhabited by 3% of our population. The biggest islands are Saaremaa, Hiiumaa and Muhu, where 97% of all island inhabitants live.

Both mainland and island nature is quite similar as both host a variety of different forests, beaches and swampy bits. However, the islands have more water and beaches, but I guess that goes without saying. About the

Wildlife

remo-savisaar-karu
Bear – Remo Savisaar

Well, we have it. As well as a variety of plants, fungi and endangered species. 

For instance, we’re one of the few countries in Europe with 8 species of woodpeckers – WOW! I know, right!?

If that doesnt get you jumping in excitement, then know that we have many other wild animals: bears, lynx, foxes, elk, beavers, deer, wild boar, wolves and many more. AND

Instead of the dreaded Nazgul,

nazgul

we have endangered Siberian flying squirrels! But the tables are turned, when they fly in packs!

lendoravad
Which rarely happens.

But they’re not the only ones soaring our skies. We even have

Birds

In total, Estonia has over 300 local species and is on the migratory path for millions of birds. On some of the islands there are more than 13 000 nesting couples per square kilometre. Perfect untapped land for birdwatchers.

A good place to start your birdwatching journey is the beautiful coastal town Haapsalu. Since its a quiet town amidst nature with a bird-watching tower on the promenade, you won’t even need to venture out of town to get your first good sighting. The tower is just 700 m from our nice little promenade hotel and restaurant, so if you do come to Haapsalu, drop by. We’re right by the sea side and equipped with everything needed for a good staycation. We guarantee you’ll love it.

promenade-hotel-in-haapsalu
Hotel Promenaadi in Haapsalu

The best time for bird-watching is early spring and autumn. To know more about birds in Estonia read this wildlife tour article.

But I bet you’re wondering:

What’s the weather like in Estonia?

Well, our year round average temperature is +5°C. Summer average from June to September is 15…18°C and winter average from December to February is -4…-5°C.

It doesn’t rain that much as we get about half the global average of rain. Not the Misty mountains, nor Mordor, just about right.

But aside being average in weather, our liveliness is unique to all five seasons. But before elaborate on this “wet dream” worthy fifth season.

I´ll start with something everyone loves.

Summer in Estonia

Estonians truly let loose when the first summer days arrive. Their personalities bloom and they become social animals. The weather is simply too good to enjoy it alone.

Days are hot, nights are warm. Temperatures during the day are usually 20℃ (68℉) degrees, but can go up to 35℃ (95℉) and its light during the day and most of the night.

Our summers start with the biggest party-holiday we have, Midsummer Eve.

bilbo-birthday
On the 23rd of June, or jaanipäev as we call it, bonfires are lit all over Estonia. Every county, village and community has their own. Trust me, some are massive.

reigo-jõe-jaanutuli-ruhnus
Midsummer Eve Bonfire in Ruhnu – Reigo Jõe

On that night every Estonian, young enough to be old, is outside dancing, singing, drinking and swinging on a village swing by a bonfire. Since the sun barely goes down, the party lasts until the people do. Estonians have superhuman capacities to making this night last.

Since summer always seems so short, we have a saying that Estonian summer consists of two weeks of bad skiing weather. But it could’t be further from the truth.

There are a loads reasons why the summer in Estonia is great:

  • We have a summer capital – the city of Pärnu is where the nightlife booms during the summer. Lots of beachside pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants
  • Fresh air, peace and birdsong everywhere
  • You’ll never be far from a place to swim – from the north and west, we’re surrounded by the Baltic Sea, but we also have 1200 freshwater lakes, among them the 4th biggest in Europe, lake Peipus, or Peipsi as we call it
  • There’s lots of beaches – they range from fine singing sands to more harsh rocky types. I’ll tell you of a few, but remember, if you’re not near any of these found here, all you have to do is ask a local for the nearest “rand” and make a swimming gesture with your hands
    • The main beaches on the north coast are Võsu, Käsmu, Andineeme, Kaberneeme. At Võsu you’ll find sporting activities, cooling beverages served on the beach, free Wifi. On the beach-side you have several bars, cafes, shops and a few restaurants
    • The main beaches in Tallinn are Pirita beach, Stroomi beach and Pikakari beach. On a good day they’re all pretty packed, but not uncomfortably so, since Estonians value at least two steps of private space
    • Around lake Peipus there are many smaller secluded beaches and camping sites, the more popular among them Kauksi and Mustvee beach. Here’s a list of accommodations by Peipsi lake you might need.

But a bit more on summer sightseeing later on. I feel a chill coming on, must mean it’s time to talk about

Winter in Estonia

reimo-savisaar-rebane
Fox – Reimo Savisaar

When I say we get the best of both worlds in terms of seasons, I truly do mean it.

Our winter temperatures can be harsh, with degrees dropping down to -25℃ (-13℉), but the freezing cold can also be majestic. That is, if you’re dressed warm enough to feel your feelings. 

Even then, winter Estonians tend to have a cold High-Elf personality. Seeing someone smiling on the street is as likely as drawing blood from a stone. The main goal for most of us in the winter getting from warm place A to warm place B as fast as possible without breaking our back on the ice.

On a good winter, we can get a metre of snow in a day or two, which also makes for some top-notch winter fun.

But only if you don’t forget your finger pants.

finger-pantsOtherwise you’ll miss out on fun activities like:

  • throwing solid balls of water at your friend
  • making a snowman
  • making a snow fortress
  • sledging
  • ice-skating
  • snowboarding
  • and who could forget the most dry-hump fun ever – CROSS COUNTRY SKIING

lõkeAfter you’ve had all the fun you can handle, it’s time to find a nice fireplace, get a cup of cocoa and snuggle your heart out.

And once that’s out of the way and you’re looking for some cool snow driving fun, almost every winter we have Europe’s longest ice road. 27 km of risky business between the mainland and Hiiumaa. 8 out of 10 cars that go have so much fun they don’t ever return. It’s great 🙂

ice_road_vormsi
Vormsi ice road

Just kidding – no cars ever return

A few good places for some winter fun:

Another fun place for semi-extreme team and group activities is Kiviõli adventure tourism centre.

But, let’s move on to the off seasons when things die and are born anew.

Autumn in Estonia

parnu_sygispark_toomas_olev
Pärnu in Autumn – Toomas Olev

As there are very few Estonian cities that don’t have lots of trees and parks, autumn is probably the most romantic season, since the views are majestic everywhere.

It’s the perfect time to refresh your mind amidst nature. Neither too hot nor too cold. Ideal for a day’s walk in the park, forest or wetlands.

Picturesque places to visit in autumn are Narva, our autumn capital, Tartu, Haapsalu and Tallinn.

The amazing fifth season

 You might call it the start of spring, but we know it as “suurvee hooaeg” or the high water season.

As the ice and snow melt, the water levels rise all across Estonia and create a wonderland of floods.

It may not sound that wonderful yet, but just you wait.

We see it as a perfect opportunity to go canoeing in places otherwise only partly accessible on foot. For instance, the wetlands of Soomaa National Park.

ojar- kristal-soomaa
Canoeing in Soomaa forest – Kristal Ojar

Cause “if life gives you lemons”, play it cool. As soon as someone asks about the lemons, seize the opportunity and share.

By this I mean. Let’s all enjoy our lem… flood seasons. One of the main attractions is the overflowing witch’s well of Tuhala or “nõiakaev”.

tuhala-nõiakaev-jõepera
Tuhala witch’s well – Jarek Jõepera


Now let’s move on to something warmer and drier:

Spring in Estonia

Kevad-Robin-Veikko-Metsaots
First Spring Crocus – Robin Veikko Metsaots

As the dark winter times end and the days start getting longer, out hobbit-like nature loving personality kicks into overdrive. Once temperatures reach 5℃ and there’s sun outside, you’ll see the first eager beavers trying to catch pneumonia in their shorts and t-shirts.

Love of nature at its purest and I mean it.

This is when you’ll start to see Estonians smiling again. Randomly, for no apparent reason. It’s said that the return of the sun can have this effect on us. 

A good place at this time is our spring capital. A nice small town called Türilocated in Türi parish, also nicknamed the green parish. The garden and flower culture in Türi is truly next level compared to the rest of Estonia.

But don’t get me wrong, we don’t all prance in the grass and live in village huts with wifi. There are several magnificent

Estonian cities

All of which have a long colourful history and are interesting to visit. The major cities are cultural hubs where you’ll have a hard time not falling in love with the gorgeous views and marvellous architecture.

Three of the most noteworthy cities are Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu.

There’s also the lovely seaside town of Haapsalu, which in some sense could be the romance capitol of Estonia.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of other nice cities, towns and villages, but at least two of these four are a MUST, if you plan on visiting Estonia. Let’s start with

Tartu

Tartu is our university city. A place bustling with students quenching their thirst for knowledge in lecture halls, bars, parks, streets and by the river.

It’s a truly beautiful city filled with nature and good smart people. It’s a City of Good Thoughts and the kind of place where Gandalf would go to live if he wanted a tower like Saruman.

Jaak-nilson-tigutorn-ahha-keskus
Snail tower and AHHAA Science Centre – Jaak Nilson

There’s even one waiting for him. 

Tartu, which sits next to the river Emajõgi, or Mother River. has a beautiful old town and town hill, wonderful parks, fun science and art museums, funky bridges, loads of cool cheap bars (student boozers) and good restaurants.

Since there’s more trees than you can shake a stick at, the time of year when Tartu really lights up is autumn.

The whole town becomes a mind melding river of colours ranging from bitter green to cherry red. Extremely picturesque and probably one of the best places for autumn city-photography.

Pärnu

Kaupo Kalda Pärnu
Pärnu – Kaupo Kalda

Pärnu is our summer capitol. It has an amazing beachline densely dotted with bars, cafes, hotels and restaurants.

In the summer you’ll find loads of events, concerts and festivals to be enjoyed in Pärnu.

Anneli-Tandrof-Pärnu-rand
Pärnu beach – Anneli Tandrof

Pärnu also hosts one of THE biggest music festivals in the Baltics – Weekend. Artists from all over the world show up, a few for example: Armin Van Buuren, Deadmau5, Steve Aoki, Netsky, Tiësto, Rudimental, Showtek and loads more. 

But, if you prefer some smooth sailing to dancing drunk to electronic music, then usually at the end of June there’s a week dedicated to sailing in Pärnu. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then maybe you should consider a romantic getaway in

Haapsalu

haapsalu-promenaad-toomas-tuul
Haapsalu Promenade – Toomas Tuul

Most likely one of the nicest seaside towns in Estonia, since it has everything a resting spirit could ever wish for: ideal parks for romantic picnics, curative mud baths and sandy beaches – all of it accompanied by a fresh sea-breeze in soul soothing peace and tranquility.

Since it’s a nice small town, there are always several great restaurants, taverns, bars and cute cafes in easy walking distance.

Our Hotel Promenaadi on the promenade in Haapsalu proudly presents a restaurant, sauna, jacuzzi and conference room. I invite you to have a look at our special offers.

Pssst… our romantic package has received quite a bit of praise and we’re also only a stone’s throw away from several very nice beaches like Paralepa, Aafrika and Roosta.

Hotell-Promenaadi
Hotel Promenaadi in Haapsalu

But enough about places…

I’ll better tell you about who your up against.

Estonian people

and the looks

Carmen-Kass
Carmen Kass

We’re the 5th tallest people in the world and have the most top models per capita.

We’re pretty much the visual equivalent of the High-Elves – Need I say more?

In general

There’s 1.31 million of us living in Estonia. 69% of us Estonian, 25% Russian and 5-7% other nationalities.

We’re a well educated bunch, most of us have a grasp of one or two languages in addition to Estonian, either English, Russian or German.

Estonian pride

however, consists of:

  • our land and its beauty
  • our omnipresent internet access
Wifi-soos -EAS
Wifi in the swamp – EAS
  • our nation’s suffering throughout history and gaining freedom through singing 
  • our language – we have 14 cases for each word but no future tense. It’s said that this is why we lack a future
  • our IT wizardry, since

Even the Estonians who  live abroad in nicer places work towards one day having their own cozy Estonian house they can call home. But, this love for Our Estonian land may come from the beliefs and

Religion in Estonia

Since, we’re a fairly spiritual, but atheistic people. Our indigenous faith is a pagan one with heavy ties to nature and earth. Our god long ago was a local derivative of Thor named Taara or Tharapita.

The history of being forced to accept many other religions has alienated us from them and deepened our trust in ourselves and our surroundings. This aligns with one of the most important truths of our pagan time, “faith in oneself”. This is reaffirmed by one of our main pagan incantations we had: “I believe in tomorrow. I believe, that tomorrow will be better. I believe that tomorrow will be better if I make it so, Taara will help!”.

Through this we’ve learned to have a deep connection with all things natural as well as appreciate peace, quiet and time to think.

We also have strong respect for

Sports in Estonia

Undoubtedly the biggest and most followed sport in Estonia is basketball, followed by football, skiing and cycling. There’s also a big following of e-sports.

We’re fairly good at the Olympics, we hold the all-time 10th position for most medals per capita. Most of them are in weightlifting, wrestling and cross country skiing.

Probably the most unusual sports we have are kiiking and wife-carrying. The last of which fits perfectly into our burden bearing

Personality

We’re a tenacious, practical and realistic people. We keep our nose down and head out of the clouds, even though most of us have been brought up amidst nature in a little town or village in the countryside.

To the spectator we may seem cold and even brutally straightforward but under our winter-hardened crust lays a friendly, curious and acceptance seeking soul like any other.

Although most of us are not very rich, you’ll find that Estonians are kind and giving people. A past of not having a lot of material wealth has led us to appreciating friendship and humans much more. 

Another thing – we think before we act. That’s why we’re sometimes regarded slow since we lack temperament and give almost everything a rational pause to digest. We believe in thinking to ourselves and contributing only when we know that our insight has value. Hence, we don’t like small talk and you’ll rarely catch us spewing words for no reason. However people who have nothing to say and hangovers are an exception.

We lack a shallow superficial self. It takes a lot to get us to express feelings, but when we do, we mean it. You won’t ever catch us jaw-dropped and shrieking “OMG that’s sooooo amazing!”. The most awe inspiring will get our high appraisal of  normal or “normaalne”, as we say.

We have a proper working spirit and the saying “if you’re going to do a job, do it properly” applies to almost all of us. Anything promised shall be done! Just cause we don’t always go around smiling about it, doesn’t mean we’re unhappy.

We’re generally not blatant, banal or in-your face unless we’re currently part of a Friday night party pack. Even then, we’re laid-back.

Let me take you through a year in the life of an Estonian.

Wake up, work hard, eat potato, sleep, repeat, weekend, drink, repeat, summer, drink, smile, swim, drink, grill, pick berries, mushrooms, autumn, apples, work hard, pick potato, snow, winter, drink, Christmas, drink, regret, new year, drink, regret drinking, work hard, spring, sun, smile, repeat.

And the sad part is we know things are supposed to get better, but when they do, we rarely acknowledge it. If they get worse, we simply nod and carry on.

As such, compared to the rest of the world, you’ll see a lot fewer smiling people in customer service. Don’t let it scare you, it’s just the introvertedness of

Estonian socializing

We have a saying about ourselves, which roughly translates to “slow to start, but hard to stop”.

This is the case when getting to know us, since we’re cold at start, but once you get to know us better, you’ll most likely have a friend for life.

As is the case with alcohol. It lets us loose, we become very affectionate, gain the power of singing, dancing and slurred, but improvised speeches.

Most Estonian parties start off slow, shy and quiet, but things loosen up once we get a bit tipsy, after which we proceed to get exponentially more so. Somewhere slightly before being totally trashed we start to reveal our emotions. Often a very overwhelming and regrettable experience for most of us. To help forget, WE MUST proceed to drink until the last brain cell gives up.

gimli
This habit goes well with the Estonian saying “If I can’t remember it, it hasn’t happened”.

Of course there are those of us who manage to limit their consumption. Poor poor souls.

Just joking, terviseks! By the way before you come  you should understand a few things about Estonian 

Humour

Our humour most closely matches that of the British. Mostly dark and maybe a bit childish. We’re not the greatest of jokers, our humour mostly relies on sarcasm, self-deprecation, state ridicule, satire and absurdity.

A few Estonian-like jokes:

  • What is the difference between an Estonian introvert and an Estonian extrovert? When an introvert speaks he looks down at his shoes. When the extrovert speaks he looks down at your shoes.
  • How to befriend an Estonian?

    Drink with him for two years and he’ll start opening up.
  • The slogan of the Estonian ambulance is ‘time heals all wounds’.
  • An Estonian finds a genie’s lamp, rubs it. The genie pops out and exclaims “What are your three wishes?”. The Estonian thinks for a while and then says, “I want a re-filling vodka shot glass”. and poof, there it is.

    The Estonian, in absolute awe, proceeds to test the shot glass for half an hour, when the genie asks “what are your other two wishes?” to which the Estonian takes a rational pause to think and replies “Do you have two more?.
  • A fast Estonian and a slow Estonian and god sit around a table drinking and playing poker. All of a sudden the power goes out and then returns, but all the money on the table is gone. Who took it?

    The slow Estonian, since all the other characters are fictional.

Drinking alone with no faith, but that’s just one of our

Quirks

Speaking of:

  • If you ask us where Estonia is, you’ll get our position related to Finland and Latvia first, never Russia.
  • If we see someone smiling wide, we presume there’s most likely something very wrong with them.
  • We have no interest in nonsense unless it’s purposefully absurd.
  • We’re baffled when we find other Estonians abroad, we’re most likely to become friends with them. Though chances are that if we crossed paths in Estonia, we wouldn’t exchange a second glance. This happens quite often, since we like to travel quite a bit. To quote Hemingway, “In every port in the world, at least two Estonians can be found”
  • One of the main goals in life is to own a house and land (not just a back garden, but real land)
  • We don’t like complaining to our government about them screwing us, we’d rather tell foreigners. See what I mean?
  • An Estonian joke is that Latvians have 6 toes, 4 in front and 2 in the back. This stems from their licence plate having the denotation LV, which we take as an abbreviation for “Lisa Varvas” or extra toe.
  • Our nickname for the Finnish is elk or “põdrad”. Good thing is that they’re completely fine with it. Bless them.

More quirks about us, some of which you’ll get, some not, on a scroll titled “100 ways to know that you are from Estonia“.

To sum it up, we’re good looking, rational, more quiet than not, sincere, serious, more spiritual than religious, curious and courteous.

Let me show you some

Personas

Our Gandalf

This reincarnation of him is called Igor Mang.

igor-mang
Igor Mang – Sven Arbet

Here he is riding his one headed cerberus Sulfa, which he insists is a dog. We don’t buy it Igor. Not one bit.

As far as we know he’s a legitimate wizard and healer, but modern day “science people” would call him an astrologist.

He has the power of foresight, but only until the razor aisle. Something seems to be blocking his powers there…

Another one is

Our Legolas

Instead of being a bow master, our elf prince is a rocking bard who wields a pen, guitar and sings in both Estonian and English.

tanel-padar
Tanel Padar

Tanel Padar, a popular Estonian rock artist and public figure who, with Dave Benton, won the Eurovision Song contest for Estonia in 2001.

One of his English songs, The Sun – I Don’t Care

And finally

Our Sam and Frodo

Ott-Sepp-ja-Märt-Avandi
Ott Sepp and Märt Avandi

Ott Sepp and Märt Avandi, two guys who have an avid fancy to take your humour straight to Mordor. Their comedic act is best known as “Tujurikkuja” or “Mood killer” and it consists of very humorous and dark takes on some of the most horrific things known to Estonians.

I highly suggest you check them out as most of their sketches have English subtitles. For subtitles press the CC button on the bottom right of the vision window.

But I’ll start off with something lighter, like their take on fitness enthusiasts:


A bit more roughm te song about the world not taking the time to understand our Estonian suffering.

Another good example is the mass deportation the Estonians suffered at the hands of the Soviet Union:

Now, enough about our Sam and Frodo.

But speaking of Mordor:

Estonian sauna

We have a hot sauna culture – we laugh at 70, something like 90℃ gets us going, but for true fun we sometimes roast in 110.

It’s also a tradition to whip each other in the sauna with wet leafy birch branches. Call it a national fancy for masochism, but we call it purification by beating the dirt out.

estonian-sauna
Enjoying an Estonian sauna

All in all, there’s no general rule for nudity in sauna. Just follow the example of others around you. If everyone is nude, feel free to join, if not, we won’t mind either way.

But if noone is nude, it’s best to ask others if they won’t mind your birthday suit.

Also, drinking beer in the sauna is not frowned upon. But don’t have a sauna when you’re drunk beyond perfect balance. Scalding rocks and skin don’t mix very well.

But before getting into the hot stuff, you should know something about our customs.

Estonian etiquette

It’s common to

  • take your shoes off when you visit someone’s home
  • shake hands when you meet someone (2 shakes)
  • nod head for agreement
  • shake head for disapproval
  • wait for everyone to sit down and say “head isu” before starting to eat
  • tip for good service (10-20%)
  • round up taxi fares (taxis are cheap, getting from one side of the capital to the other will cost about 10€. Local taxi apps are Taxify, Taxofon and Uber)
  • pay for your own drinks/food at the bar/restaurant (buy a round if you want to make a gesture)

Don’t

  • litter
  • invade personal space i.e. stand too close when talking to someone – arm’s length is good
  • raise your voice unless you really mean it, or speak too loudly/shout
  • spit indiscreetly
  • feel at home, until someone tells you to (e.g. the fridge is off limits, until told otherwise)
  • mistake us for Russians or presume we speak Russian (we may, but we don’t appreciate the presumption)
  • mistake us for Finns
  • be hands-on unless you mean something serious, both affectionate and aggressive
  • tell us what to do when we’re really drunk, since we’ll do the exact opposite)
  • drive after having “just one beer”
  • try to bribe the police

What to know

  • Prices are low-moderate. The most important examples:
    • Local beer in pub: 2 – 3.5€; in store around 1€
    • Potatoes: 0.20 – 0.50€/kg
  • Stores are open every day, no holidays (smaller stores close early at Christmas and Midsummer Eve)
  • Alcohol is not sold in stores before 10:00 in the morning or after 22:00
  • You can be fined if you don’t wear a reflector after dark
  • You can be fined for riding a bicycle drunk
  • Drinking and smoking age is 18
  • Drinking in public is not legal
  • Cannabis is not legal

A few common phrases in Estonian

I’ll be honest, foreigners trying to pronounce Estonian through text sounds pretty much like audible butchery of our beautiful language.

Imagine things dying in nightmares and double 

But do familiarize yourself with a few phrases before you come, since it’s funny and we do feel honoured when foreigners speak a few words of our language. Have a look here for a full list of basic Estonian phrases with pronunciation audio.

Though don’t worry, if you can’t get a grasp of it, since 66% of Estonians speak Russian, 48% English, 22% German. Most of the younger generation speaks English on a good to very good level and almost every Estonian will jump at the chance to sharpen their foreign language skills. So if you speak even a little bit of English, Russian or German it’s very unlikely you’ll have a hard time making friends or asking for directions if you get lost.

With Estonian cultural events, scenes and hot topics

 there’s something for every taste. Let’s start with the most universal. Beer.

Just kidding.

But, the microbrew scene is booming though

Loads of hoppy goodness awaiting any beer lover looking for unexplored brews. From 2011-2017 over 60+ microbreweries have popped up in Estonia, before that we had at least 60 microbreweries less, I swear. The other big thing is our

Mini Silicon Valley

We’ve been touted the mini silicon valley of Europe, which in some sense is true, since our startup hub is booming, but in truth, it’s a bit like calling our biggest hillock Big Egg Mountain.

To read more about the IT-scene check out Garage48, Startup Estonia and Study In Estonia. Also a few scrolls on the topic from the BBC, Forbes, The Telegraph and Bloomberg.

Music

Almost all Estonian artists in are online, so if you’re interested in more, just search those visions I gave you.

Youth Song and Dance Celebration’s like nowhere else

We host one of the biggest song and dance festivals in the world. This is an event of national pride as people from all over Estonia gather to sing and listen to classic Estonian folk songs. The Estonian Song Festival takes place every 5 years, as does the Youth Song and Dance Festival. So if you plan on seeing this marvellous cultural gathering I suggest you plan your stay years ahead.

On the picture you can see over 100 000 people gathered at Tallinn Song Festival Grounds. The most Estonians ever gathered in one place is at our Song Festival Grounds

inimlaine-laulupeol-lembit-michelson
Inimlaine Laulupeol – Lembit Michelson

Folk

Folk  in Estonia is not at all regarded as old-people music, since Estonians have a very close connection to folk. We even have the biggest folk music collection in the world with over 133 000 written songs. Some folk artists to give you an understanding – TRAD.ATTACK!, Urmas AlenderJäääär, Zetod.

  • Viru folk festival is an absolutely delightful folk music festival in a seaside village called Käsmu. All the music is in tune with nature. There are beachside concerts from morning till night, artists reciting poetry outside, entrancing drumbeats in the forest during sunset, good local food and much more. Have a look at previous year’s picture gallery. Also
  • Viljandi folk festival and
  • Seto Folk Festival

Among lots of other local music endeavours is Mailaul, which is a Tartu based fest for local authors and artists to recite their own creations.

Positivus is also worth the artists. It’s a big 3-day festival just off the Estonian border in Latvia. With several stages playing pretty much every genre, this event, crowded as it is, has something for everyone.

Rock

Through history we’ve had a lively rock culture. Some of the more modern rock artists you should check out are: Ewert and the Two Dragons. Leegitsev Sidrun, Põhja Konn

The main Rock festivals are:

Among lots of other rockin’ events we have:

Jazz

Jazz has had a fairly strong foothold in Estonia for a long time. Some of the more prominent local jazz artists are: Tõnu Naissoo, Jaan Kuman, and Maria Faust.

  • Jazzkaar is one of the biggest jazz festivals in the Baltics. It’s a 10-day festival where over 3000 foreign artists play all around Estonia, both indoors and outdoors. This festival is sure to soothe any jazz-loving soul.

Theres also many other jazz festivals.

Classical

Though not so popular lately, Estonians have had a long love for classical music. Some of our more prominent artists are Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis and Heino Eller.

Generally there are some classical concerts happening everywhere and all year round, but a more known classical music festival is the Lihula Music Festival.

EDM – Electronic Dance Music

Theres also quite a big scene for EDM in Estonia, some Estonian artists are Cartoon, Mord Fustang, Planeet and Lu:k.

  • Weekend is probably the most recent and already the biggest and hottest Electronic Dance Music event in the Baltics. Its a massive festival in Pärnu. Tons of world class artists show up and turn the whole of Pärnu into a 3-day party zone. For example – Armin Van Buuren, Deadmau5, Steve Aoki, Netsky, Tiësto, Rudimental, Showtek and loads more.
  • In to the valley is an electronic music festival in the backdrop of a deserted limestone quarry. Great artists in an amazingly unique place, what more could you want for?

As that’s a bit of culture covered, I’ll tell you about where you’ll probably start when you visit us.

Tallinn, our capital

Jõuluturg
Old town winter market

It’s a sea-side city with a modern medieval-ish feel. The city with it’s outskirts is home to about 400 000 people.

The history of Tallinn dates back to the crusades of the Teutonic Order, and was an outpost for the Hanseatic League. The buildings in the old town of Tallinn date back to the medieval time and are very well preserved. The heart of the town is surrounded by a medieval wall built towards the end of the 12th century and the buildings also date from that era. The old town of Tallinn is a UNESCO world heritage conservation area.

Here, try some eagle vision:



Tallinn truly is beautiful, it’s a fairy tale city and if you want to know more, you’ll go enjoy one of our many guided tours.

Sightseeing in Tallinn

Tallinn
Tallinn

Tallinn has tons to offer, you could spend a week just sightseeing around the old town and it’s outskirts.

Our hotel in the old town offers a “Get to know Tallinn” deal, where we’ve included a ticket to one the three sights we think you should definitely see during your stay here.

We’ve compiled a list of good parks, restaurants, cafes, bars and museums to see when in Tallinn. But on the way anywhere you have 

Walk-by sightseeing

toompea-EAS
Patkuli viewing platform – EAS
  • Danish King’s Garden – a beautiful flower garden right beside the city wall on Toompea. Next to it you’ll find the Maiden’s Tower Museum-Cafe
  • Culture kilometre – a half paved, half gravel path that takes you from Linnahall to the Seaplane Harbour. A very nice walk to see architecture ranging from the Soviet era to today
  • Kadrioru park – a very nice big park surrounding the presidential residence. Only 20 minutes walk from the old town. Definitely the most popular place for a romantic stroll
Pirita-klooster
Pirita Convent Ruins
  • Pirita Convent ruins – old remnants of the Pirita Convent dating back to the 15th century. Definitely a nice place to be among nature and history
  • Linnahall – Since there was no inland venue suitable for the sailing events of the 22nd summer Olympics hosted in Moscow, the event was held in Estonia. Linnahall was built for that occasion. Considering the time it was built, it is pretty much a Soviet architectural miracle. However, due to the poor structural state the complex is no longer in use, but it’s a worthwhile walk-around even just for the view from the top

Museums and sightseeing

  • Tallinn TV tower – at 314 meters, it’s the highest tower in Estonia. The 22nd floor hosts a revolving restaurant with a gorgeous view. One of the sightseeing options in our “Get to know Tallinn” deal
  • Tallinn zoo – A nice walk-around zoo in a natural sparse forest. The most visited zoo in the Baltic states and definitely half a day’s fun on a sunny day. One of the sightseeing options in our “Get to know Tallinn” deal
tallinna-loomaaed-kitsed-eveli-pung
Tallinn zoo goats – Eveli Pung
  • Patarei sea fortress-prison is an abandoned prison turned into a museum and waterfront pub
  • Energy museum – fun place to visit if you have children with you. Lots of interesting, cool and educational physics. Trust me when I say cool – it’s difficult even for a grown up to get bored there
  • Seaplane harbour – most modern and visited museum in Estonia. Lots of interesting maritime exhibitions and a submarine indoors. Definitely one of the places worth going to if you visit Tallinn. Also one of the sightseeing options in our “Get to know Tallinn” deal
  • Kumu Art Museum – one of the largest contemporary art museums in Northern Europe and most impressive exhibition venue in Estonia. Any art fan will feel right at home in Kumu
kumu-ohust-jaak-nilson
Kumu museum aerial view – Jaak Nilson
    • Kiek in de Kök – a restored bastion tower from the 15th century. It’s guided tour takes you through the well preserved secret tunnels under Tallinn. Definitely a worthwhile visit if a bit of history is up your alley
    • Open air museum – a museum dedicated to introducing rural Estonian life, architecture and culture. It consists of over 80 buildings from the past two hundred years
    • Kadriorg Palace Art museum – a museum in a baroque-era palace in Kadriorg park. The only museum in Estonia devoted to foreign art collection exhibition and preservation

Churches

Cafes

  • Cafe-Bakery Rukis – a wonderful little cafe/bakery/confectionery connected to our hotel in the old town. It has a fantastic fairytale atmosphere with heavenly sweets and savouries.

rukis

cafe-rukis
Cafe-Bakery Rukis
Modern-Estonian-cuisine-Rukis
Modern Estonian dish at Cafe Rukis – sauna-smoked ham orsotto
Farmer’s-dessert-made-of-rye-kama-and-cream-cheese
Farmer’s dessert made of rye kama and cream cheese

For more gorgeous pictures of their selection I suggest you have a look at their Instagram.

  • Cafe Komeet – a nice cafe on the fourth story of Solaris shopping mall. 5 minutes from the old town. Great cakes, good food and nice view
  • Maiden’s Tower Museum-Cafe – a nice museum-cafe in a defence tower of the Danish King’s Garden

Restaurants

  • FARM – The restaurant that is connected to our hotel. Probably the best place to get an understanding of Estonian modern cuisine. The restaurant won the Silverspoon Gastronomy award “Best Estonian Cuisine 2016” and their brand-chef won 14th place at the chef’s Olympics Bocuse d’Or, so it’s definitely a world class place. A 4-course dinner here is part of our “Get to know Tallinn” deal. 
restoran-farm-avatud-köök
Open kitchen at restaurant FARM
Restoran-farm-kamin
Sitting area with fireplace in restraurant FARM

Other restaurants worth visiting:

  • Korsaar – a very entertaining and convincing pirate themed restaurant with excellent food
  • Beerhouse – an Austrian beerhouse themed restaurant and brewery in the old town. They have a good atmosphere and big selection of great beers

Bars

  • F-hoone – a nice spacious bar in Telliskivi Creative City with good food and a big selection of good craft beers
  • Pööbel – a cozy bar 10 minutes walk from the old town with good food and a fine selection of beers and strong drinks
  • Red Emperor – a unique and stylish more youthful place next to the old town where there’s an even split of locals and travelers. Live rock music, quizzes and good reasonably priced drinks await at Red Emperors

Clubs

  • Studio – a 2 story 2 stage club in old town Tallinn. Top floor for Tech/House/Dub Step/D’n’B/Minimal and bottom floor for R’n’B/Hip Hop/Tribal/Soul. Funktion-one sound system. Ages around 18-29. For more look here
  • Prive – spacious club in the old town with a finer touch. Quite fancy and attracts a similar sort of crowd. Big stage and good sound system. Ages around 35-45. For more look here. 
  • Venus – one of the bigger clubs just on the side of Tallinn old town. Classy, roomy place with retro vibes. Average age about 35-50. For more look here

As with anything, things can change. So before visiting these places I suggest looking them up on TripAdvisor, Yelp or Facebook to see their latest reviews.

But as there’s much more to Tallinn than can be put in one list I suggest you have a look at Visit Tallinn.

This is what one of our visitors meant when he said “What I Learned”.

If you’re looking for stuff to do not too far from Tallinn, here are a few suggestions:

    • Quad Bike Safari – You will be guided through challenging terrain on a former Soviet army base, which varies from pine forests to sandy slopes. Can be done almost all year round
estoniaexperience quad bike safari winter
Quad bike safari in the winter – estoniaexperience
    • Rummu underwater prisona light-blue lagoon flooded old prison site. You can go diving, snorkeling and much more.
Maksim Nikiforov-rummu-karjäär
Rummu quarry – Maksim Nikiforov

For more activities near Tallinn, have a gander at visit Harju webpage.

In summation

Estonia is a lovely place.

Since there are few places in this world so rich in culture and diverse in both natural and technological aspects, you’d be a fool to not visit us someday.

We’re one of the few places in the world where you can feel a near-perfect harmony between humans, nature and technology.

Although we’ve faced our fair share of hardships in the past, we harbour no hate. As a forward thinking people, we know that dwelling in the past should be a thing of the past. We’d rather forgive and forget burnt bridges and focus on building new ones.

We’re always welcoming, since we’re as eager to hear about the world as we hope the world is about us. If you think you’d be a stranger here, I’ll lend you my glasses and you’ll see that – You’re a friend we don’t know yet and the sooner we get to know you, the happier we’ll all be.

Of course there’s much more to it all than meets the eye, but discovery is an adventure and I’ve done my best to leave you fuel and a good map to start with.

Maybe you’ll visit us for a week or a month, fall in love with the seasons, land or a certain someone. Decide to come back for more and end up staying. Just saying. It’s happened many a time before.

But whatever ends up happening, we’ll do you the courtesy of meeting you more than half way.

When you do make your way to Tallinn, we’ll gladly offer our friendly hotel as the first stepping stone on your adventure through Estonia. Our hotel is located at the very heart of the medieval old town, sided by cobblestone streets and next to the half millennia old city wall.

Everything in this vision is a mere minute or two from our front door.

At our hotel we have a wide variety of accommodations and services available. For instance, some of our rooms come with a sauna or jacuzzi and we have a separate private sauna with a large jacuzzi and cozy sitting room. We also have a 45 person capacity conference room as well as massage treatments provided in the hotel. Perfect for a business-holiday getaway.

Aside that we have one of, if not the best modern Estonian cuisine restaurants in Estonia in the same building as us. This along with the marvelous cafe-bakery and confectionery we have just outside our hotel lobby makes for pretty much everything you ever wished for under one roof. And take only 1 step outside and you’ll be greeted by gorgeous centuries old architecture.

VanaWiru-hotel
Our green roofed Hotel VanaWiru in the heart of Tallinn

And if you go exploring Estonia and happen to visit the west coast or one of the islands, be sure to pop by our hotel Promenaadi in Haapsalu. We guarantee you’ll fall in love with the place. But until then.

A bucket of mithril to you and until we meet, mellon!


Photos from Visit Estonia photo library

Tallinn 4K aerial tour – vagabrothers

Turbo Sex in Estonia/Tallinn tour – What I Learned

Gifs from the Lord Of The Rings movies