A Travellerspoint blog


Estonia - The Free World!!

sunny 30 °C

No more train but on to a bus and a very elegant bus it was too as we leave Russia and continue west to Tallinn the capital of Estonia. We travelled with a lovely young Uni student who was studying linguistics and journalism in Moscow, he was also keen to talk about Russia and to hear about Australia and like most Russians we speak with he saw that life in Australia was much easier with the benefits that we have access to, hard to hear for some who feel that it is tough at the moment at home, but I think when I listen to them that they are right.

Crossing the boarder was again an ordeal having to get on and off the bus and take our luggage on and off repeatedly with all the instructions issued in Russian, in the midst of one of these a part of my suitcase broke, yes that new one, especially designed for international travel and with a 10 year warranty (and only 5 weeks into 13 weeks) !!! Trying to email Samsonite, will keep you posted
We have left Rubles behind and are now working with Euros and despite changing 1,000 Rubles for about 8 Euros, things in the free world are a lot more expensive. Our air B&B is a lovely little flat just perfect, although John did draw my attention to the absence of air-conIMG_20180801_174405.jpgIMG_20180801_174345.jpg

Tallinn is famous for its world heritage listed 'old town', the most complete intact Medieval town in all of Europe and it is definitely a well deserved listing. It is a port city on the Baltic and has been a very important link in trade routes since the 1300;s whilst in the mean time being ruled by many other national powers with a few attempts at independence along the way. Denmark, Sweden and Russia have been the chief conquerors with also a significant input from the German principalities ( even though Germany was a long way off becoming a nation in its own right at the time).
The Old Town covers a considerable area inside imposing city walls and operates as a regular city with homes, shops, eateries and other attractions whilst at the same time managing a large tourist population, boosted daily by large cruise ships unloading their passengers who have been enjoying their Baltic Sea cruise.e694bbe0-9a6d-11e8-9f9f-f320d5f00e13.jpgIMG_20180801_195752.jpgIMG_20180805_113248.jpgIMG_20180805_113326.jpgP1020329.JPG

After exploring some of the Old town and sampling some yummy food, we headed off on a three hour bike tour, a highlight for John! Exploring the wider area of Tallinn, learning interesting history; so much about their ongoing struggle for independence from so many imposing powers. Estonians are also famous for their love of singing and singing played a powerful role in their struggle for independence from Russia in the late 80's. They have a long history of choral events and while we were in Tallinn there were many people from all over the world wearing lanyards showing that they were all in Tallinn for a singing festival

Estonia has a museum for just about everything and I mean everything, so we launched into a concerted program of immersing ourselves in the history of Estonia and Tallinn. Estonians have a very dry, self deprecating sense of humour which comes through so clearly in the little explanatory notes beside the exhibits. We also picked up a Tallinn Card which gave us access to many of the exhibitions and tram trips.

Peter the Great (remember him from St Petersburg) also loved Tallinn he built a palace as you do in Tallinn, his "holiday house" . We popped in to check it out, grand but on a smaller scale . Back in the old town we climbed up on the old city wall, fantastic views and, guess what, another museum. Great timeIMG_20180805_114347.jpgP1020074.JPGIMG_20180802_120927.jpgP1020139.JPG

Posted by Seniorcitizens 11:11 Archived in Estonia Comments (0)

Tallinn - Museums, Drama more museums

sunny 32 °C

More museums; town hall, bastions under the city wall, towers, KGB interrogation cells!! So much information which all worked together to paint a very comprehensive picture of the Estonian people as independent, resourceful, resilient, creative, tolerant and humorous who value justice, education and the arts and acknowledge the rights of the individual .

In the tunnels under the city we explored the many ways the Estonian people found safety and protection over the last 500 years when the outside world impacted their safety. They have had a difficult journey since independence in 1990 and are still struggling, salaries are low but they have become one of the leading communities in e-technology.

We have read and heard so many stories of the oppression experienced under a range of totalitarian regimes but there was one account in the KGB cells of Tallinn I found really moving. It was recounted by a grandson to whom the story had be told him by his mother. A family living in Tallinn in 1950 with two sons and a daughter, father was a lecturer at the Tallinn university, a student who was the son of a Soviet official denounced him because he was failed by him. The lecturer was taken off in the night as an 'enemy of the people' taken to a gulag in Siberia with a long sentence. His wife wrote constantly to him (they found out later that he never received any of the mail). She tried to get work to support her family but was denied consistently as she was married to an 'enemy of the people'. She was told that the only way she could get work was to divorce her husband so left with a choice of her family starving she had little option. she wrote a long letter to her husband explaining that she still loved him but that she had no other choice, this letter of course never reached him but the divorce papers did with a biting comment from the powers that be that 'even his wife no longer wanted him' As time went on he married a woman from the local area and was ultimately repatriated to Tallinn where the tangled mess was revealed, but by then too much had occurred for life to return to the way it was before.
There are countless stories just like this and the weight of hearing them and reading them sits heavily.

We decided to purchase a GPS in anticipation of hiring a car, THEN John lost his phone!!!!!!!!!EEEEK!!!! AND we got the day wrong for collecting our car so we had to take another one (more expensive of course!!) Tallinn was holding its annual Iron Man contest so all the roads were blocked off.
John picked up the car and guess what it had its own GPS!!!! It took an hour to travel a distance that should have been 10 minutes because of all the road closures and we couldn't gain access to our accommodation (we were told it would continue til midnight) BUT we did receive a message from our Air B&B host who had been contacted by the people who had found John's phone YEAH!!!

Tallinn has been a real highlight of our trip.

Posted by Seniorcitizens 07:17 Archived in Estonia Comments (0)

Tartu and driving on the right!!!

August 5th -7th

semi-overcast 26 °C

Tartu is the second largest city in Estonia which sill makes it pretty small! Drove through the Estonian countryside which is fairly flat, very green and a mixture of farm land where all we could see was hay bailed and wooded areas mostly birch. We were led by the "impeccable" guidance of our sat. nav. christianed Patience although I do suspect she may be a little bit blond! .....and I think that Patience buried her head in her proverbial hands as we negotiated some less than appropriate left hand turns. Oops!

Along the way we stopped at a medieval castle (approx 1500's), Rakvere, which has been partially restored and has a full compliment of enthusiastic young actors. Great fun if not exactly 'kosher' but it has been designed to engage young people and has lots of great ideas for that. IMG_20180805_150822.jpgIMG_20180805_153237.jpgP1020378.JPGP1020439.JPGP1020422.JPG
From there to Tartu a lovely town with an Old town area although no where near as sizable as Tallinn. Consistent with Estonia it also has an amazing range of museums, where to go? We are beginning to find similar stories retold from different perspectives in a number of different places, so are attempting to become more discerning. As it was Monday many of the places we had hoped to visit were closed but we did manage to see the Ice Age museum which dealt with climate shifts through out our long history, one fairly controversial comment suggested that man has as much impact on changes in the climate as would an ant in a forest!!! Of course there were the obligatory taxidermy mammoths and other prehistoric animals.IMG_20180806_134231.jpgP1020461.JPGIMG_20180806_143457.jpgIMG_20180806_133511.jpg

We explored the town and found some really quaint elements, an old bridge, kissing hill, a soaring cathedral which looks like either it was never completed or was damaged during the war.

Off to another couple of museums!
First one, the the Estonian History Museum, a very new structure built on a site which was a Soviet Defence Base and which led to a ban on all visitors to the whole Tartu region. It continued to tell the inspiring story of their fight for independence whilst setting it in the context of broader history. One interesting feature was that we were given cards when we bought our tickets and by holding them over the text of an item we were looking at it would convert the text into English, an example of their cutting edge e-technology.

From there to the KGB cells, a recurring theme in liberated eastern block countries, this again repeated the same tragic stories and recounted the injustices that an occupied country had to bear.
There was a passionate but ultimately doomed group of partisans who lived rough, called the Forest Brothers who attempted to undermine the Soviet dictatorship but most were captured and either sent on to the gulags or executed. We found there a significant connection to Alexsandre Solzhenitsyn the Russian author of "One day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" fame. this novel set in the Soviet Gulags where Solzhenitsyn had spent time as a political prisoner told every man's story there as Denisovich negotiates the tricky job of managing day to day. While we in the west were reaping the benefits of a comfortable consumer fed lifestyle those behind the 'Iron Curtain' experienced quite a different reality. Whilst they have had independence for almost 30 years it will take a lot longer to ameliorate the physical, material, emotional and spiritual costs in their history.

Posted by Seniorcitizens 09:59 Archived in Estonia Comments (0)

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