About a year ago, I started looking into conferences that would be appropriate for my thesis research and I came across ESSSB. It sounded excellent and so I decided to head to the Baltic region for the very first time. But when I decided to go, many of my friends seemed baffled at my choice. They would give me a quizzacle glance and ask “Estonia?” to which I would reply “ESTONIA!” with much blanket enthusiasm, masking my complete ignorance about the country.
And to be perfectly honest, I did not know very much about this little nation before I landed a week ago, other than seeing the “postcard-style” advertisement, that looked something like this:
I “prepped” by breezing through bits of a travel guide the night I arrived. I have long been an admirer of the elaborate prose and extensive hyperbole used by travel book writers. A memorable one from Argentina was that you would hear the “thunderous roar of the [bits of ice falling off glaciers into the water] reverberate into your soul. So, naturally, I was excited to read what the tour books had to stay about the mysterious land of Estonia. And the Lonely Planet did not disappoint – informative and written with humour:
Estonia doesn’t have to struggle to find a point of difference; it’s completely unique. It shares similar geography to Latvia and Lithuania, but its culturally very different. Its closest ethnic and linguistic buddy is Finland, and although they may love to get naked together in the sauna, fifty years of Soviet rule in Estonia have separated the two. For the last 300 years, Estonia’s been linked to Russia, but the two states have as much in common as a barn swallow and a bear (their respective national symbols). With newfound confidence, singular Estonia has crept from under the Soviet blanket and lept into the arms of Europe.
Terrific, right? In addition to leaping into the arms of Europe, Estonia pretty quickly jumped into my heart. The “barn swallow” bit also explained why the go-to concrete barrier is shaped like this :
Or, even more interestingly, sometimes like this:
It is not just the concrete barriers that are charming! While I had arrived with no idea what to expect, Tallinn surprised me in the most wonderful of ways at every turn. Tallinn boasts a beguiling walled city with a wealth of history and a charming feel – the “Old City.” Rather than try to fumble through my loose understanding of the socio-political history, I thought I would just share some pretty pictures (If I get more ambitious, I might add better descriptions when in a Facebook album):
Once you leave the Old City, you will see that Tallinn has a very interesting mix of building styles and architecture, that has been shaped from their unique political history. The “modern skyscrapers” stand next to wooden houses and Russian-era buildings. It makes for a very interesting city to explore.
That’s all for now.