I will never forget my first visit there. It was the beginning of January, wintertime;we worked on some project there that turned out to be one of my greatest works. I was told from my friends there that the temperature can drop below -30 sometimes in this period of the year.On the other hand some of the girls I know in my circles they constantly spoke about Estonia and Tallinn as one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe, the city of Love. And what could a guy possibly do that comes from a sunny Mediterranean country, mostly with mountains and a lot of high peaks, going into flat, freezing and cloudy north within a 3 hours flight away from home? Bombed with practical info, torn between the impulse of the heart that follows and the cold decision making rigid mind but still very keen on living the best of whatever comes…
I packed my bag with more warm clothes and set up my mind, configured my attitude that nothing`s going to spoil my 12 day stay with friends, to live these days like there`s no tomorrow, turned the maximum joy mode on.
And it happened! Breaking the ice and the stereotypes through the snow in the streets of Tallinn, minus 28 degrees that evening for a welcome and picking up some useful tips and tricks of the locals how to stay warm. One week of training in the place called Vanaõue, in the middle of nowhere in Central Estonia, with traditional sauna every night and hot tube outside, tracks of wild animals in the snow, pure magic, with a sunny periods during the day and the trees in the night shining like decorated with crystals on the Moon light coming out from that dark, pure sky from above and so vast wherever you look. Of course, the average temperature was minus 15-20 degrees but nobody paid attention on that. Yes…if you want to fall in love with the winter, the cold and the snow-Estonia is the perfect place to do it.
And again, a short visit of the city of Viljandi, trapped in the snow in that period but still the shining Sun turned it into a fairy tale place. There is an old city and a castle in Viljandi with a historical museum and a magnificent view, looking down from to ruins to the nearby frozen lake where youngsters skate on the ice until late in the evening.
Since my first visit to Estonia I still have their national flag on my working desk at home, compliments of a blue-eyed Estonian girl and a personally taken photo as wallpaper on my desktop,showing frozen river and sunset behind snow-covered trees.
Almost two years later I was excited again to plan my second visit. I already knew where to go, what to see and friends to visit. And again touchdown from the very sky to Lennart Meri airport in Tallinn that turned out to be one of my favorites, small but very stylish, unique, warm welcoming. I`ll be going again out in the nature, Altmõisa guest-house, around 100 km south-west from Tallinn, Haapsalu region, close to the sea and the National park Matsalu. Still winter, a little bit of snow, not so cold, the now familiar vast horizon, you might think the sunset lasts forever. A week spent there with new group of people, my favorite non formal education approach, informal conversations and networking during outside walks or evenings in the sauna and the best of Estonian food, so good that I have personally brought back home some recipes to be a part of my daily diet. Just 20 minutes of walk to the sea and some lonely moose friendly staring at you during daytime and late in the evenings, under the clear starry sky howling wolves in the distance.
On the way back another short tour through Tallinn with the new friends to bring back home fresh impressions of the beauty of this city and we are gone till the next time. Yes, for me there will be again, next time.
And I would like to share just a few facts from Estonia that I have learned and heard. The very famous Estonian rye black bread became my favorite as well as the dark chocolate, maybe the best I`ve ever tried. They use aronia very much or so called Siberian blueberry, the best antioxidant fruit. They put it in jug with water, together with herbs, lemon or orange and you get amazing detox drink throughout the whole day. Estonia is around 50% in forest and great part of the Europe`s breathable oxygen is coming out of there. The Wi-Fi coverage is amazing; they have it even in some of the forests. They are a pretty IT country, the Skype as a communication tool is invented here, from the Estonians. Estonia has over 2000 islands and during the winter very low temperatures, when the sea is frozen they open ice roads where you can drive your way to the islands. As a safety measure the seat belt must be off. Also by the law the citizens have to put little safety reflectors on the clothes to stay safe and visible during the dark, winter days.
And Tallinn, the city of Love…If you visit it bear in mind that it is only 80 km from Helsinki, there`s a cheap bus transport to Riga, Latvia from here and also organized tours to Sankt Petersburg, Russia, that you don`t need visa to enter. Yes, Estonia is really the place to be…