Why I fell in love with Estonia.
This post is part of a new series called ‘Love Me and Bee’, it’s a series where my mum and I experience the same things and write about it from our different perspectives. This is my mum’s perspective on our trip to Estonia.
This is written about a press trip I took with @frombeewithlove for @ibistallincentre . I was the plus one.
I came home from a long day in London and put my bag on the table. “Do you want to go to Estonia?” asked Bronte. I stopped for a minute while wracking my brain about Estonia and nothing came up. Cursing my lack of geographical knowledge I instantly said yes and figured that I’d look later and see where it was. It turned out to be close to Russia, next to in fact and a quick Wikipedia told me ‘Estonia is a country on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. Estonia is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy that has been among the fastest-growing in the EU. The country ranks very high in the Human Development Index, and does well in measures of economic freedom, civil liberties, education, and press freedom.’ A Google image search made me feel it might be Fairyland and that was all I knew when I boarded the plane. I’ve never been so unprepared for a trip in my life.
The journey was long with a change at Frankfurt as direct flights to Estonia seem few and far between. We arrived in the dark and went straight to the hotel, ate and went to bed.
On the first day, we were taken on a tour of the hotel (more in another post) and then off to Tallinn old town where we visited St Catherine’s passage, a fascinating ancient Merchants street dating back to medieval times. We then had some time to look around the old town and the Christmas market.
I have to tell you, Tallinn felt like I was walking around in a Fairytale; everywhere I looked, a cross between Disneyland and Wes Anderson. The place was pretty deserted and a picture was waiting around every corner; I was overwhelmed. I felt in awe, safe, and completely at home.
We then had lunch at the Swissotel, which has a great view over Tallinn, but not in the fog, and a visit to the presidential suite (Obama and Lady Gaga have stayed there) that not only had me pining for a stay but also grateful that I couldn’t see anything out of the window as my fear of heights would have literally had me frozen to the spot.
The evening was spent in the hotel experiencing their new concept and more will come about this in another blog post.
The next day we went for an escorted walking tour around Tallinn and it was clear, which meant it was cold, a cold I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced. However, seeing more of the town was amazing and it didn’t disappoint; the buildings just got better and better and even the presidential building was beautiful. We learnt some of the history of the town, which seems to have changed hands a lot and went through a lot of internal conflicts. But Tallinn steals your heart piece by piece, from the sayings written on the walls; the statues indicating that something is haunted to the views that take your breath away, all mixed together with fairytale sculptures. What’s not to love?
Our lunchtime was spent at the Lei restaurant, a traditionally-styled Estonian restaurant, which apart from being beautiful serves delicious, locally-sourced food, matching it with excellent wines. They really do love their food in this country.
We then went axe-throwing, the highlight for me because who wouldn’t want to go axe-throwing? It turns out though that I’m quite bad at it, but it’s the taking part that counts, right?
Dinner was set at the Manna La Rosa restaurant, an eclectic restaurant that I could have spent all day in. The food was wonderful and the atmosphere out of this world.
We came out the restaurant to a blanket of snow; it was as if the fairy tale had just upped its game for us. We then moved on to the Parrot Bar, a speakeasy that was just amazing.
I had the most amazing trip to a place I knew nothing about and fell in love with, and I’m dying to go back.
What I did learn is that all Estonians learn English in school, coding is considered another language and they are a techie country, even voting online. Skype was actually invented by an Estonian. The country is clean and ordered and the Estonians often refer to themselves as unfriendly, which I didn’t find; they were certainly serious in nature and not into small talk but I didn’t see that as unfriendly, in fact, it was a pleasant relief after all my visits to the States. It also seems that Estonia is very proud of its beer as it should be; a beer tasting at the hotel was a joy and they are clearly passionate about what they produce.
All in all, it felt like a country that didn’t have to announce itself loudly but just let itself unfold before you.
The people are happy to be there if needed but don’t push themselves upon you, proud of their heritage, county, achievements, and black bread (which was mentioned to me many times and was also delicious). I fell in love with this introverted, beautiful, and noble country and it has made me realise that perhaps Europe has more to offer than I first thought.