Saturday, 31 December 2016

Karl-Erik Taukar - Tähti Täis On Öö (Official Lyric Video)

Here's a good Estonian disco hit to bring in the New Year!

A look inside PiparkoogiMaania / Gingerbread Mania

During my recent trip to Tallinn I made a point of stopping by the PiparkoogiMaania exhibition. This year's theme is 'The Forest' and everything on display is related to the fauna and flora of Estonia's forests. Some of the items have really intricate features and it is amazing to see that it is all made from gingerbread. While there I was pleased to discover that piparkook classes are held regularly so you can have fun making your own creations or buy some from the gift shop. PiparkoogiMaania is definitely worth a visit!

I wonder what the theme will be for next year ...

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

New milestone! 250,000 pageviews!

Yesterday this blog reached a new milestone. 250,000 pageviews! Thank you so much for reading!

Sunday, 25 December 2016

European Christmas Cakes - Estonians love their gingerbread!

The website 'Europe's Not Dead' recently compiled a list of Christmas cakes from around Europe. As you scroll through the list of countries you will see that the list is quite diverse. In Estonia, people absolutely love to eat gingerbread biscuits (piparkoogid) at Christmas time and if they don't have time to make them themselves, they can be bought almost everywhere!

Here's an excerpt from the article:

Christmas and New Year without Piparkoogid just doesn't feel right. Piparkoogid actually translates as pepper cakes, and they’re a must-have in Estonia. Mums and dads across the country are rolling and cutting and baking gingerbread cookies with their delighted offspring. Coffee shops replace the traditional chocolate-with-your-cuppa with piparkook-with-your-cuppa. Piparkoogid are actually made with lots of different spices, cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, orange peel, black pepper. The most important part of the preparation of the dough is burning the sugar. The burnt sugar gives the piparkoogid the brown colour. It is good to let the dough rest for at least 24 hours and it can stay in the fridge even for a month.

To read the full article, please click here: European Christmas Cakes

Christmas Day in Tallinn 2016

I spent a lovely Christmas Day in Tallinn this year. The sky was blue and the weather wasn't too chilly, a perfect day to be out and about.  After last night's Christmas celebrations, Estonians and visitors began to re-emerge in the streets again and were busy enjoying themselves in nearby restaurants and cafes. Yesterday when I visited Maiasmokk Cafe it was virtually empty but today it was hard to find a table. It's such a charming old cafe that it's no wonder why customers keep flowing through its doors. 

Tallinn's Christmas market was buzzing with activity today. At noon children were queuing to visit Santa (Jõuluvana) in his cottage, and on the nearby stage Estonian children dressed in national costumes were dancing to folk songs. It was such a delightful sight with a wonderful atmosphere.

One of the highlights of the day was the Christmas concert held in St. Nicholas Church.  Even though I was staying only metres from the location, I watched the live broadcast on ETV. I particularly liked the traditional songs that are usually sung in English but the lyrics were changed to Estonian. The concert was part of a fundraising event and by 10pm I was delighted to see that the amount raised had climbed to 189,000 €.

Part of the concert can be watched here: Jõulutunnel. Kontsert - ülekanne Nigulistest

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Häid Jõule! Merry Christmas from Estonia!

It's Christmas Eve in Tallinn and although it's not snowing this year, the atmosphere in the Old Town is still amazing with all its sparkling lights and festivities. I really do love the Christmas markets in Tallinn as they offer everything you need - food, drinks, gifts, games, rides and music. The reindeer pen and Santa's house are nice features of the market as well as the stage for live performances.  Few countries in the world have such a complete Christmas market which is no wonder why Tallinn's is often voted as one of the best!  

The Viru Gate always looks stunning at Christmas time. 

The Tallinn Christmas Market.
The world's first Christmas tree was erected here by German merchants in 1441.

Christmas stage

Many delights can be found here!


Each year that I visit the Tallinn Christmas market, I notice all the subtle differences and I must admit, I think the market keeps getting better and better!

Birgit Õigemeel - Laps peab sündima

Friday, 23 December 2016

ESTONIAN VOICES - Popurrii "Saanike"

With Christmas almost upon us, here's a medley to ease you into the festive spirit.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Gingerbread Mania - Forest

Every December Estonian artists come together to create delightful gingerbread masterpieces for the "Gingerbread Mania" exhibition. This year's theme is "The Forest" as forests are close to every Estonian's heart! Gingerbread Mania is a 'must see' if you're in Tallinn during the Christmas season.

Gingerbread Mania is located at the Gallery of Design & Architecture, Pärnu Mnt 6, Tallinn and runs from 9th December 2016 until 4th January 2017. Tickets cost 2€ for adults and 1€ for children.

For more information, please click here: Piparkoogimaania / Gingerbread mania

Friday, 16 December 2016

The Christmas card of Estonia's new President - 'Maa, mis kõlab kokku'

President Kersti Kaljulaid released her official Christmas card today entitled 'Maa, mis kõlab kokku' (we are stronger together).

To watch, please click on the link below.
President Kersti Kaljulaidi jõulukaart kannab pealkirja “Maa, mis kõlab kokku”.

Inspiring Estonian homes for 2016

I love Estonian design, houses in particular.  Here's a Delfi write-up about the best Estonian houses for 2016. The article is written in Estonian so to view the gallery, you need to click on 'SIIT' under each photo.

Top Estonian homes for 2016: AASTA TOP: Inspireerivad Eesti kodud 2016 — vali oma lemmik!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Latvia claims original Christmas tree but all Estonians know we did it first in 1441!

Every proper Estonian knows that the world's first Christmas tree was erected in Tallinn, but that the nation's Grinch-of-a-neighbour, Latvia, is trying to steal the claim to fame.

Whether it is blaming each other for exceeding fishing quotas or laying claims for a bear that caught international media attention when it forged the Baltic sea and scared island inhabitants - it is always the important things that Estonians and Latvians contest over. Now, the seasonal dispute considers archives that historians say were devoured by mice centuries ago. 

"Riga, Latvia – home of the first Christmas tree, anno 1510,“ the southern neighbour advertises on its billboards.

Yet a merchants' guild in Tallinn erected Estonia's first tree in 1441 - 69 years before Riga, by expert calculations. "I believe we can confidently use that date as the world's first Christmas tree," said historian Jüri Kuuskemaa on ETV.

It is known that after merchants and single women had danced around the first Christmas tree (in Tallinn, naturally), it was set on fire and all evidence was disposed of. According to records, the Riga Christmas tree wasn't even a real tree, just a wooden pyramid decorated with flowers, fruits and toys. 

Latvia recently gave Estonia a Christmas present. Tallinn's mayor kindly returned the favour. "He congratulated us on the 500th anniversary of the Riga Christmas tree and reminded us that Tallinn is celebrating the 569th anniversary," Mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs told AFP. "It's good that the sole topic of disagreement between Riga and Tallinn is who has the oldest Christmas tree."

Now the ingenious Latvians point to the fact that Estonia and Latvia both made up a united Livonia during the time of the first Christmas trees. 

Decorating Christmas trees was for a long time considered a pagan tradition that did not reach the West until hundreds of years later. "Thus, we and the Latvians [...] can be proud to have introduced the Western Christianity with a fun tradition that is now celebrated everywhere. But the story began here in Old Livonia," said Kuuskemaa.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Best jokes about Estonians

This video is hilarious and gets even funnier as it goes along. Enjoy!

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Guardian: 10 of the best winter city breaks in Europe picked by readers

Great to see Tallinn on the list! It comes as no surprise however, Tallinn is absolutely stunning during the winter months. In a few short weeks I'll be there myself, enjoying the winter splendour! Can't wait!

To read the full Guardian list of the best places to visit this Christmas, please click here:
10 of the best winter city breaks in Europe: readers’ travel tips

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

2017 Grammy nominees include multiple Estonians I ERR News

Estonian conductor Tõnu Kaljuste

The nominees for the 59. Grammy Awards were published on Tuesday, and upon closer inspection the list included both better- and lesser-known Estonian names and involved an Estonian music label, a number of Estonian musical ensembles and works by an Estonian composer as well.

Nominated in both the Album of the Year and Best Country Album categories is "A Sailor's Guide to Earth" by Sturgill Simpson, whose guitarist is Estonian Laur Joamets.

Nominated in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category is Christopher Theofanidis' "Bassoon Concerto," performed by Martin Kuuskmann, Barry Jekowsky and the Northwest Sinfonia, from the album "Bassoon Concertos - Theofanidis, Hummel, Mozart," released by Estonian Record Productions.

Nominated in the Best Classical Compendium category is conductor Tõnu Kaljuste's "Gesualdo," performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and including two works by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür.

Nominated in the Best Orchestral Performance is "Ibert: Orchestral Works," performed by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under the conduction of Neeme Järvi.

A full list of the categories and their 2017 nominees can be found here. The 59. Grammy Awards will take place on Feb. 12, 2017.

Source: ERR News 2017 Grammy nominees include multiple Estonians

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Estonia ranked 3rd in the world in the latest OECD PISA education survey

Estonian education is among the best in the world, up to 3rd place globally and ranked No.1 in Europe. The OECD’s PISA 2015 tested around 540,000 15-year-old students in 72 countries and economies on science, reading, maths and collaborative problem-solving. The main focus was on science, an increasingly important part of today’s economy and society.

The top OECD countries are Singapore, Japan, Estonia, Finland and Canada.

This is an excellent result for Estonia!  To find out more, please click here.

Monday, 5 December 2016

It's always great to hear from readers!

Last week I received a lovely email from Joanne Mullen who wrote to say how much she enjoyed reading my blog.  I always really appreciate it when readers take the time to get in touch and give me feedback. It always makes my day!

Thank you so much Joanne for you kind words!

Joanne: -
'I love your wonderful blog!

I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful work you put into your blog on Estonia.  It's consistently well written, interesting and your passion for the country shines through in every word.  You probably don't get enough thanks for it, so I just wanted to say a personal thank you!'