Estonia: A Beautiful (and strange) Frozen Kingdom

 

Besides learning how to be a better principal from the CEESA conference, I am also learning much about the host city, Tallinn, Estonia.

I wonder how many Americans have heard of Estonia, know where it is located, and a little of its history? I bet it would be about 1/3 of Americans who could answer those questions correctly.

It is the smallest and furthest north of the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania being the other two) with a population of 1.4 million. Tallinn, the capital, has a population of slightly over 400,000. It is slightly larger than Vermont and New Hampshire combined. As you can see from the snow above, Estonia is located 59 degrees north latitude. The Estonian ethnic group is not related to the two other Baltic states. The language and the looks of the people, make them very similar to the Finns. Finland is a two-hour ferry ride away, across the Baltic Sea.

For most of its history, Estonia has been under the control of a larger and more powerful country. The Swedes, Danes, Livonians, Germans, They have only been an independent country for 38 years. A short period between WWI and WWII and then again in 1992 after the Russians left. I am surprised that the Estonians kept their language and culture and ethnic identity alive during all of those years under the control of other nations. They did leave their marks however, and I see the beautiful Old Town arrchitecture of the Germans and the ugly block apartments left by the Russians.

The Narrow Streets of Old Town

It is an odd little place.For example, in the fridge in the hotel, there is a “good morning pickle.” Do Estonians eat pickles for breakfast? Two nights ago for St. Patricks day, we went out to an Irish Pub to celebrte the day. The band playing that night featured a lead singer that sang like Alvin and the Chipmunks and with a lead violinist with wild, hairspray, hair. For their last set, they brought out three girls playing white violins. I think they would be huge celebrities in the US. It was an original idea, I think they would be immensely popular world wide.

We spoke to the waitress last night at dinner. She was around 20 and was thinking of going to university. She said Estonia was a bad place for young people as there was not much opportunity to develop a career. She was looking to make a move to a larger city in Norway, Sweeden, or Finland.

The city is buried in snow which makes it even more beatuiful The Old Town is incredible. I’ll blog more about my impressions of Estonia.

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