Monday, 24 February 2014

Happy Estonian Independence Day 2014!

I'm back in Tallinn at the moment. It's always a joy to further my family history research, catch up with relatives and meet unacquianted ones too. This is the third consecutive year I've been in Estonia for Independence Day and to celebrate I started my day by visiting the Estonian Open Air Museum (to watch the 1919 battle re-enactment) then later chilling out in the Old Town. I always like to stop by the Valli Bar for a quick drink whenever I'm in Tallinn. The familar faces, pleasant atmosphere and jolly music always seem to entice me back. It's such welcoming and lively place!

Happy Independence Day everyone! Our ancestors worked hard for this!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Tallinn Airport Library

In May 2013 a unique library was opened at Tallinn Airport giving travellers the opportunity not only to enjoy a good read as they wait for their flight, but allowing them to take the book with them as well. The library, located in the passenger area at Gate 1 works on a trust system allowing travellers to borrow a book then later returning it when they next come back to Tallinn.

The library is free to all. You don't need to be a resident of Estonia to borrow, anyone can pick up a book and take it with them. There are no membership cards, due dates or late fees. You simply borrow a book then return it on your next trip to Tallinn. The library is fully self-service, open 24 hours a day.

One of the things that makes this library so special is the fact that the airport did not pay for a single book on the shelves. The collection of books came purely from the generous donations of Estonian citizens and visitors to the country in the spirit of sharing from one traveller to another.

The library is divided by language into several sections - books in Estonian, English and Russian languages as well as children's books and books written in other languages.

It is encouraged that all books donated to the library have a dedication on the front page, perhaps mentioning where the book has been or any other nice thought for the next reader.

This innovative library has proven to be a great success with its stock list continuing to grow all the time.  

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Estonian Kringle Recipe

It's a custom in Estonia to bake a kringle on your birthday. The easy to make, twisted plaits of bread is a delicious treat that also fills the kitchen with a lovely aroma too! I've been experimenting with a few different recipes lately and consider this recipe to be one of the best.

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cardamon
15 g fresh yeast (1 envelope active dry yeast)
30 g melted butter
1 egg yolk

50 g softened butter
5 tbsp sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp grounded almonds

1.     Dissolve the yeast in a small bowl with the lukewarm milk.

2.     In a large bowl combine the sugar, cardamom, salt and flour then add the milk, butter and egg yolk. Mix well and start kneading the dough until it pulls away from the edges of the bowl.

3.     Shape the dough into a ball then place on a floured board. Let it rise for an hour at room temperature. While the dough rises, whisk together the butter, sugar and cinnamon filling then set aside. Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

4.     On a floured surface, knead the dough for a further 5 minutes then roll it into a square approximately 45cm x 45cm. Spoon the filling mix onto the dough and spread evenly. Keep 1tbsp of the filling mix for later to brush over the top. Sprinkle the almonds over the filling then roll the dough into a log.

5.     Take a sharp knife and cut the log in half length-wise, leaving one edge uncut, roughly ½ an inch. Braid the two pieces together with the open layers exposed to the outside. Pinch the ends together and form a wreath.

6.     Place the wreath onto the baking tray and lightly brush over the egg white and remaining filling mix. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 200C.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Who Will Represent Estonia at the Eurovision Song Contest this Year?

Kõrsikud, Lenna Head for Eesti Laul Final

The annual Eesti Laul competition began on Friday, with the first five finalists picked. The eventual winner, to be decided on March 1, will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, for the Eurovision song contest at the beginning of May.
Ten songs competed for five spots in the final, to be held in two weeks time. Another five songs will qualify for the final from the second semi-final next Friday.
Friday's songs were (winners in bold):
1. “Amazing” by Tanja. Authors: Timo Vendt, Tatjana Mihhailova, listen here
2. “Flame” by the Titles. Authors: Rasmus Lill, Markus Rafael Nylund, listen here
3. “Resignal” by Wilhelm. Author: Lauri Kadalipp, listen here
4. “Solina” by State of Zoe. Authors: Anneliis Kits, Sander Mölder, listen here
5. “Sandra” by NimmerSchmidt. Authors: Fredy Schmidt, Andero Nimmer, Merilyn Merisalu, listenhere
6. “Maailm on hull” (The World is Crazy) by VÖÖRAD. Authors: Priit Uustulnd, Meiko Umal, listenhere
7. “Maybe-Maybe” by Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band. Authors: Mati Sütt, Janno Reim, listen here
8. “Kus on EXIT?” (Where's the EXIT?) by August Hunt. Author: August Hunt, listen here
9. “Tule ja jää” (Come and Stay) by Kõrsikud. Author: Kõrsikud, listen here
10. “Supernoova” (Supernova) by Lenna. Author: Mihkel Raud, listen here
The main page on Eesti Laul (in Estonian) can be found here.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Sõbrapäev - Valentine's Day (The Estonian Way!)

Valentine's Day is celebrated a little bit differently in Estonia. While it can be celebrated romantically between couples, it's mainly a celebration of love and friendship between family and friends. Children make cards and gifts for those they care about and adults exchange gifts too. It's a really nice way to celebrate this ocassion so that everyone is included and made to feel special.

Translation - "Thanks for great friends"

Monday, 10 February 2014

Estonia at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi

It was great seeing the Blue, Black and White Estonian flag raised high with pride at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi on Friday night. A total of 25 Estonian athletes are completing at the games including Amercian born Warren Cummings Smith. It's great to see Estonians come together and unite in the spirit of sport. Hopefully they will have a medal on the tally soon!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Origins of the Estonia Society & Estonian Song Festival

I was given some very interesting information this morning. I discovered that my 4th great uncle Johannes Carl Assmuth (1845-1916) was one of the founding members of the Estonia Society which later led to the growth of the Estonian Song Festival.

How did this all come about? I will explain.

On the 7th of October 1865 merchant Johann Trummer invited some of his friends around to his house in Viru Street for a meeting.  Among them was my great uncle who was the Sacristan and cantor of St. John's Church (Jaani Kirik) on Vabaduse Väljak.  (My great uncle later married one of Trummer's daughters.)

During the meeting it was discussed that there were no Estonian music societies in existence - they were all German. They then decided to form their own society for Estonian people and on the 10th of October 1865 the "Estonia Society" was born. Johann Trummer was elected the first society president and Johannes Assmuth was one it's first members. Both men were well respected in the community and played an integral part in Estonia's National Awakening.

Whilst working for the church Johannes Assmuth gained a lot of experience organising singing concerts; he was the head of the men's choir at St. John's and took part in other singing events in Tallinn. In 1869 when he heard the news that the 1st Song Festival was going to take place in Tartu, he pursuaded the Estonia Scoiety to send their choir. There was no railway at the time so the journey to Tartu took four days using borrowed horse wagons. The trip was well worth it for the choir won first place!

In 1880 the 3rd Estonian Song Festival took place in Tallinn. Johannes Assmuth, along with several other Estonia Society members became organsing committee members of the festival.

The Estonia Society steadily grew in popularity and in 1913 they built the Estonia Theatre which is an opera house and concert hall. At the time it was built, it was the largest building in Tallinn.

Today, the Estonian National Opera House is an epicentre of culture. Last year it celebrated its 100th birthday. To mark the occasion many indoor and outdoor music events took place as well as open days that allowed the general public to wander around the building, go back stage and try on costumes etc. I attended one of these open days last September and discovered just how beautiful this building is.


On display was a miniture version of the Estonian National Opera House made completely from marzipan.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Estonian Music Awards 2014 - The Winners

Congratulations to all the winners at this year's Estonian Music Awards. Kõrsikud won Best Band, Birgit Õigemeel, who represented Estonia at last year's Eurovision Song Contest won Best Female Artist and Lenna was awarded Best Album.

The complete list of 2014 winners:
Best Album – Lenna “Teine”
Best Band – Kõrsikud “Heli jälgedes”
Best Debut Album – Facelift Deer “Facelift Deer”
Best Male Artist – Leslie Da Bass “Times New Roman”
Best Female Artist – Birgit Õigemeel “Uus algus”
Best Ethno/Folk Album – Zetod “Lätsi kõrtsu”
Best Classical Music Album – Vivit! “Max Regeri ja Rudolf Tobiase koorimuusika”
Best Jazz Album – Hedvig Hanson “Esmahetked”
Best Electronica Album – Leslie Da Bass “Times New Roman”
Best Alternative/Indie Album – Kali Briis “Say Whaat?”
Best Metal Album – Talbot “Scaled”
Best Rock Album – Facelift Deer “Facelift Deer”
Best Pop Album – HU? “Bermuda”
Best Hip-Hop/Rap/R'n'b Album – Põhja-Tallinn “Maailm meid saadab”
Best Music Video – Iiris “Tigerhead”
Best Album Design – Pastacas “Yaki-Läki”
Best Folksy Album – Kõrsikud “Sinu südames”
Best Song – Winny Puhh “Meiecundimees üks Korsakov läks eile Lätti”
Contribution to Estonian Music Award – Anne Veski