Friday, 28 November 2014

Tere Tallinn! See You Next Week!

My flight is booked, I'm mentally packed now all I have to do is wait for the next seven days to pass until I'm back in Tallinn! Woo-hoo! Can't wait! I'm flying on the evening Baltic Air flight via Riga which means I won't arrive in Tallinn until close to midnight ..... when it's absolutely freezing! But that's okay, I've done it many times before - and survived ;)

Unfortunately it's only going to be a short weekend stay. I'll do a bit of Christmas shopping, check out the Christmas markets and take loads of photographs like I usually do. Something cute like the one below!

Hopefully next summer I'll be able to put my plans into motion and spend a few solid weeks in Estonia. It's been a while since I've done that and I absolutely adore the Estonian countryside! If you want a bit of peace and quiet and be surrounded by a landscape of vast nature beauty - Estonia is the place to be! 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Estonia: The Most Godless Nation on Earth

This is a very interesting article about religion in Estonia written by New Zealand based journalist Scott Yeoman. In this piece he highlights many key facts, namely how Estonia used to be quite a religious country with 80% of the population identifying as Lutheran. That all changed however with the Soviet and German occupations that repressed religion for over half a century.

Looking back on my grandparents' generation in Estonia, religion once played an integral role in society. Most Estonians were baptised, had three godparents and confirmation was a very important day in a young person's life. Preparations were done weeks and months in advance. Today roughly 10% of the population identify as being Lutheran representing a significant reduction in church attendance.

To read Scott Yeoman's full story, please click here: The most godless nation on earth.

University of Tartu celebrates 95th anniversary | News | ERR

It's been 95 years since the University of Tartu commenced tuition in the Estonian language. Celebrations will kick off today in Tartu including seminars, photo exhibitions and concerts. Click here to read more:  University of Tartu celebrates 95th anniversary | News | ERR

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Happy Cake Day!

Happy Cake Day everyone! I had no idea this day existed until today. If you're like me and can't resist a scrumptious cake  then you would appreciate this day. I must admit I have a weakness for Betty Crocker Devils Food Cake - its so delicious! Just thinking about it, I'll probably end up buying one tomorrow! The one below looks pretty good too!

Here's some additional reading about World Cake Day: 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Kadripäev -:- An Annual Tradition in Estonia

Today is the eve of Kadripäev or St. Catherine's Day as it is often known in other countries. Estonians love to celebrate their holidays on the eve of special days and like other holidays such as Christmas, Jannipäev and Mardipäev, Kadripäev is no exception. Traditionally Kadripäev is a women's holiday and Mardipäev (St. Martin's Day) was reserved for men. Both holidays are very similar in nature and see people dress up and go from door to door singing, dancing and playing music in return for small gifts. These days it is children who keep this tradition alive and excitedly go from door to door. 

Here's a cute Kadripäev video I found on YouTube. I always find Estonian choral music so enchanting.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Holodomor Memorial Day - Remembering the Victims of One of the Worst Soviet Atrocities

Today is Holodomor Memorial Day.

The Holodomor (Ukrainian: "murder by starvation") was a famine in Ukraine and adjacent parts of Russia deliberately engineered by the Soviet authorities between 1932 and 1933. Estimates of the number of deaths vary but it is generally accepted that around 7 million Ukrainians perished.  25 countries recognise the Holodomor as a genocide of the Ukrainian people. Moscow still denies it ever happened.

Many minority nations forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union suffered murder, deportation, terror and the loss of their respective countries' independence.  Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania each lost around 25% of their populations when they were invaded, occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union in the Second World War.  Stalin deported the entire Chechen and Crimean Tatar populations from their respective homelands in 1944 and forcibly resettled them in the Kazakh and Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republics. They were only allowed to return home decades later.

However, the scale of the Holodomor with its millions of deaths remains unprecedented.  Soviet forced collectivisation was deeply unpopular among the Ukrainian farming community and had been the cause of many revolts.  All grain produced by Ukrainian farmers was confiscated by the Soviet authorities - anyone found to be hiding any grain or other foodstuffs was punished with death.  So extreme was the situation that over 2,500 people were convicted of cannibalism, and these are just the people who were caught.

The fact that this very event was even possible is staggering in the extreme.  Ukraine's rich, black soil is some of the most fertile in the world,  Its farmers had become experts in cultivating it over the millennia with knowledge being passed down for countless generations.  Ukraine was known as the bread basket of the Soviet Union.  For people like me who grew up in a functioning democracy with the rule of law, such an occurrence seems utterly unfathomable.  Stalin and his henchmen went to extraordinary efforts to ensure this famine occurred, most likely to put down the countless revolts resulting from his collectivisation policies.

We must remain ever vigilant of the scale of suffering which occurs when a state ceases to function and evil people are allowed to take charge of it.  There are Stalins and Hitlers living among us who would take over countries and commit foul murder and genocide all over again if given half the chance.

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Magic of Christmas has Begun in Tallinn!

The Tallinn Christmas Market has been voted as one of the best in the world and its easy to see why. What could be more spectacular than a beautiful mediaeval city covered in snow and floodlit by festive lights? It's like a fairytale, a winter wonderland. From now until the 10th January 2015 Tallinn's Town Hall Square (Raekoja plats) will be a hive of activity, crammed with daily events, concerts and the scent of traditional food and mulled wine permeating the air. Every Sunday an Advent candle will be lit.

The Christmas Market sells a wide range of goods including hats, scarves, gloves, Christmas decorations, gingerbread and other handicrafts made from leather, metal and wood. There is so much to explore and each year the market gets better and better.

If you are looking for a unique gift for Christmas this year - go to Tallinn!
I can't wait to go! I'll be there in a few weeks!

You can find more information about the Tallinn Christmas Market here: Christmas Market

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Summer Craft Camp 4th - 10th July 2015 in Viljandi

As someone who loves Estonian  folk art and handicrafts this interests me very much! Maybe I should start planning my next summer holiday now!

Click here for more information:
Craft Camp | Viljandi Culture Academy

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Joy of Finding Arthur Lestal's Photographs

I woke up feeling a bit tired and grumpy this morning, displaying symptoms of coming down with a cold then after liaising with Marju at Harjumaa Museum, a burst of happiness made me feel well again! Marju very kindly emailed me two high quality scanned photographs taken by my great-grandfather that are now preserved in the museum.  Thank you so much Marju! You made my day!

Naturally I have added these photographs to Arthur's Flickr collection!

WATCH: Youth Short Film Competition 'Once in Our Village, Vol. 2' | News | ERR

Estonian youngsters focused on country life  in 38 short videos submitted to the 'Once in Our Village, Vol.2' film competition. EER News has selected five of their favourites for you to view.

WATCH: Youth short film competition 'Once in our village, vol. 2' | News | ERR

Estonia Least Selfie-ish Nation in the Region | News | ERR

Click here to read more:
Estonia Least Selfie-ish Nation in the Region | News | ERR

I must admit I have never taken a selfie!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Allegedly Oldest Estonian Film Found in Russian Archive

A film discovered in the archives of Gosfilmofond in Russia, believed to be shot in 1913, is set to take the title  of Estonia's oldest non-documentary film once the production date has been verified. The film features many recognisable old landmarks in Tallinn such as Toompea Castle, Fat Margaret and Snelli ponds.

To read more about this fascinating story, please click here:

Friday, 14 November 2014

Christmas is on its Way to Tallinn!

Yesterday the centrepiece of Tallinn's Christmas markets was erected in Tallinn's Town Hall Square. The 68 year old spruce tree is 23 metres high and will delight onlookers when the Christmas markets open next week. For gift ideas and event information, please refer to the official website:

Challenging - Kiiking in Estonia | Euromaxx

I love the old traditional Estonian swings but not sure if I am game enough to try kiiking!

First Estonian Bobsled Team Gets a License | News | ERR

Good luck to them! You can read the full story here:
First Estonian Bobsled Team Gets a License | News | ERR

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Estonia's Unique School Caps Custom

I've always liked the tradition associated with starting school in Estonia. On the first day, known as 'tarkusepäev' (day of wisdom) children are given a copy of  'Aabits', an alphabet book, and wear their school caps with pride for the very first time.

Wearing school uniforms in Estonia was phased out in the majority of schools by the late 1980s but one item of apparel that remained, still worn by all today, is the school cap. It's a symbol of identity, unity and belonging.  Caps were first worn at educational institutions during the period of Estonia's national awakening, a custom influenced by Baltic German traditions.

During school years it is considered very important to own a student cap, or 'tekkel' as its known in Estonian. Each school has its own unique design which differentiates itself from other schools hence fostering that sense of identity and belonging. The purpose of wearing the school cap is to impart a sense of community and to increase the visibility of the school, particularly during external events.

The tekkel is no ordinary hat and there are rules associated with wearing one.
1. The cap must be kept clean at all times.
2. It must always be worn in the straight position but when welcoming someone it should be lifted up.
3. When singing the national anthem the cap must be taken off.
4. If a student is expelled from the school it is expected that the cap be returned.
5. The cap is forbidden to be worn by another person.
6. After graduation students keep their caps as remembrance.

Some examples of student caps.

Rapla Ühisgümnaasium

Tallinna Reaalkool / Tallinn Secondary Science School

Most of the boys in my family attended Tallinn's Reaal School which was formerly known as Peter's Reaalkool. The cap was originally black and orange in colour. The design changed in 1921.

Viljandi Gümnaasium

School caps are not only worn by schoolchildren but by university students as well.

Tallinn University of Technology

Tallinn University

University of Tartu

The Estonian Academy of Security Sciences

Here are my grandparents with their school caps. I'm not sure which secondary schools they attended. My grandfather Alexander did not follow in the family footsteps and study at the Reaal school like his father, uncles and cousin, he attended school elsewhere. My grandmother went to school in Tartu.


Estonian Photographer Birgit Püve Wins Prize in London

The National Portrait Gallery in London has awarded Birgit Püve third place in the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. The photograph of nine year old twins Ryan and Braian holding a chicken was taken outside their grandmother's home in Saue, near Tallinn. This award winning photograph is part of Püve's book of twins and triplets living in Estonia.

First prize went to fashion photographer David Titlow's photo of his infant son being introduced to a dog and second prize was awarded to Jessica Fulford-Dobson for her image of an Afghan schoolgirl.

A total of 4,193 submissions were received from 1,793 photographers worldwide. The top 60 photographs will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery until February 2015.

Electric Taxis Make Debut in Tallinn

Click here to read the full ERR story; Electric Taxis Make Capital Debut | News | ERR

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Head Isadepäeva! Happy Father's Day!

Today in Estonia and in other Nordic countries such as Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden people will be celebrating Father's Day - 'Isadepäeva'.  To all the fathers out there I hope you have an absolutely wonderful day!

In honour of Father's Day, here is an Estonian article that was published this morning by Delfi.
12 Qualities That Make a Man a Good Father

This is one of my favourite childhood photographs of me with my father. It was taken in the late 1970s - which should explain his hair! He has always been such a fantastic father. The very best! Ma armastan sind! 

Children are going to be quite busy in Estonia today as it's not only Father's Day but Mardilaupäev, the eve of Mardipäev (St.Martin's Day). In the evening children will dress up, carry lanterns then go door knocking and sing songs in return for sweets. It slightly resembles what  children do on Halloween in other countries. Traditionally, the children are known to bring good luck on this day but if you refuse them don't be surprised if your cattle or animals get sick! More information about Mardipäev can be found here.

Friday, 7 November 2014

New Book 'The Ordinary Estonian' Provides a Snapshot of Modern Day Estonians

A fascinating new book was released today capturing the pulse of modern Estonian life through the eyes of over 300 Estonians who contributed their own stories.  Estonian authors Helen Ree and Karin Nemec collected these stories through crowdsourcing and social media channels to explore the Estonian psyche and what makes the nation tick.  From reading this book, readers will gain a better understanding of what Estonians like, what they do in their spare time and what's important to them.  The book carries its message with hundreds of high quality pictures and is laced with humour.  Foreigners will learn much about this unique nation in northern Europe and Estonians will laugh out loud as they recognise themselves in the pages.

Through researching this book, the authors discovered just how steeped in nature Estonian culture still is, the richness of life in rural areas and the longing Estonians have to get back to their roots.

This book is definitely one to add to your Christmas list. It's already on mine!

A copy of The Ordinary Estonian can be purchased here.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Baltic Presidents to Receive the 'European of the Year' Award in Berlin

The presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be presented with the Verband Deutscher Zeitschriftenverleger's 'Golden Victoria' / 'European of the Year' Award in Berlin tonight on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Click here to read more of this story -

Proud leaders!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Estonian Film 'Flowers From the Mount of Olives' Features in the European Union Film Festival

Heilika Pikkov's documentary 'Flowers from the Mount of Olives' will be screening at the European Union Film Festival in Toronto on Monday 24 November 2014 at 6pm.

Right alongside Jerusalem, in a Russian Orthodox Convent in Mount of Olives, lives the 82 year-old Estonian nun Mother Ksenya. Although inside the convent's cement walls the clock is never set and life still follows the Julius calendar, the 20 years that Mother Ksenya has spent there have passed by in a flash. In the hierarchy of the nunnery she has now achieved the second-to-last level. She is heading towards complete silence, the Great Schema. But before that she has been given permission to tell the story of her life for the very last time.


The European Union Film Festival will be held in Toronto, 15-30 November 2014. This year marks the 10th anniversary. You can download the programme here: European Union Film Festival

Further information about Flowers from the Mount of Olives can be found at:

Rõivas Presents Vision For Estonia in 2018 | News | ERR

Click below to read the full story.
Rõivas Presents Vision For Estonia in 2018 | News | ERR

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Hingedepäev / All Souls' Day

Today is All Souls' Day or 'Hingedepäev' in Estonian. It is said to be the day where the veil between the world of the living and that of the dead is thin. I quite like the spirit of this day as we pay tribute to our ancestors, visit the cemetery and light candles in their honour. For dinner, the tradition is to place an extra plate of food on the table in the hope that the deceased will be drawn near.

Some people also place candles on their windowsills to guide the spirits home.