I must say that I certainly had not expected going to Estonia anywhere in the near future of my existence, but going to Estonia was certainly an educational experience.
James’ dad decided to walk into town in Estonia because it was only a mile off from the port. I would have done that, too, but my parents are the touring type and they’d never let me go on my own, so that’s that.
Upper Town of Tallinn.
The tour basically took us on a spin around the forests of Tallinn and then to its Old Town, which is basically the only thing to see there. It’s certainly a nice-looking Old Town, though, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I do believe.
View into Lower Town.
There’s an Upper Town and a Lower Town in Old Town, and all of the roads are cobblestone. Busses are not allowed through. There is limited vehicle access. And frankly, there’s not that much to look at other than interesting scenery. As a town, Tallinn is very old, dating as far back as 5,000 years ago, supposedly. The things we saw in the town itself obviously were not that old, although some of the buildings dated back as far as 1400 or so, which is pretty crazy.
View into Lower Town.
Essentially the whole stay in Tallinn consisted of looking at the Old Town and shopping. Pretty boring, but it was a unique setting with cone-roofed buildings. Lots of brick. Haven’t quite seen architecture like what was in Tallinn, so that alone made it worth visiting, I reckon.
Other parents bitched about the cost of the tour since it was only a mile off from the port, but the part that we paid for was basically the tour guide’s description of Estonia, which was a unique take. Estonia has had quite the rocky history through its lifespan, being conquered by other countries again and again and again. It was owned by Germans, Swedes, Russians, etc. Yet, funnily enough, its closest neighbors and language cousins are the Finnish… in fact, between Helsinki and Tallinn runs a ferry that comes every couple hours, and as mentioned by both the Finnish guide and the Estonian guide, about every 1 out of 3 Finnish people head to Estonia every year, and that it is almost a hip and relaxing thing to do to head over to Tallinn to get a haircut or shop, where things are notably cheaper. Now, if Estonia ever catches up to Helsinki in price, I’m not sure that these new cruiseliners will be able to sustain themselves quite as well, but who knows.
So basically, Estonia was ruled by other people up until the 1920s. During 1918 through 1920, they fought Russia for independence and held their ground. So Russia signed a treaty that they would never occupy Estonia again. Estonia saw a couple decades of free rule in the 1920s and 30s. At that time, they were on par economically (supposedly) with their Scandinavian neighbors. They were a democracy. But then Russians broke their agreement and again occupied Estonia. Estonia came under Communist rule.
The Nazis also occupied Estonia sometime during WWII, but compared to the Soviets, the Estonians do not seem to consider the Nazis AS bad. Our guide was very much trashing on Russians and Communism. After Estonia became a free nation, he said that people started asking the Estonians, “Well, how are you treating the Russians?” because under Communism, Russians had treated Estonians badly, suppressing their national flag and bringing in as many Russians as they could to Tallinn. The idea for bringing in Russians was that if they brought in enough Russians, the Russians would be the majority, and it would be more difficult for the Estonian people to fight for independence from Russia when most of their inhabitants were Russian. Quite the diabolical plan, although it never happened because the Soviets were forced to leave before that was fully accomplished. Tallinn does certainly still have a prevalent Russian population, but Estonian is the sole national language now and the guide claims that due to school segregations and allowing Russians to keep their Orthodox church, it’s obvious that the Estonian people treat the Russians in Estonia just fine… and that their only problems with Russians come from Russians in Moscow. Due to human nature and the fact that our guide is Estonian (which he also mentioned might contribute to his take on the matter), I can’t believe that Estonian people would absolutely be tolerant of Russians, but who knows, maybe?
There was a lot of talk about how terrible life was under Russian rule… long lines, little food, etc. Classic. But he said people like from his grandparents’ generation remembered what it was like to live under a democracy, and that that kept their hope alive.
Our first stop in Estonia was also this little stadium where they hold a Song Festival every 3 years or something. They sing traditional folk songs, which are significant to Estonian history because those events were still held when Estonians were under Communist rule. Communist leaders liked large group events, and as a result, they let the Estonians have their events. They looked over the lyrics for the songs that needed to be sung, and the lyrics seemed kosher, so they let them sing the songs. Supposedly, though, under the surface, the songs held a deeper meaning for the Estonian people… and it kept hope alive? Shit, I don’t know.
The Estonian flag is blue, black, and white, with the colors representing sky, soil, and purity, respectively. It’s a fairly rare color combination, so during Soviet rule, the color combo was completely banned. Imagine not being able to wear a black shirt with blue pants!!
The sun comes out early in the day, after a whole lotta rain.
CAUGHT RED-HANDED SUCKA!!
Some tall stilted people on the cruise.