(ENG only) Before moving to Tallinn, I barely knew what and where Estonia was. The only thing I knew about it was that it used to belong to URSS. That’ s it. For several reasons, at the end of 2014 I found myself in front of a very direct question: will you move to Estonia, yes or no? I said yes. When family members, friends and acquaintances kept on asking me: “why are you moving up there?” I was answering “why not?”. I jumped in freezing cold water. And looking back, I’m so glad I did. Now that I have been visiting Tallinn for a few days, I remember how much I love this place. Was it all rose petals, unicorns and rainbows from the very beginning? Oh dear, not at all. I kind of hated it (dear Estonian reading this, please do not try to kill me… this is my love letter to your country, I swear I have a point). It was damn freezing cold with sunlight showing up for just a bunch of hours every day, I had no friends, everything was so different from what I was used to, my apartment situation at first was…well, bizzarre, and the language seemed something that the average humans were not able to learn or pronounce, ever. The first few weeks were hard as hell. But I wanted to turn it into a good life experience. And I did. In my own way, but I did.
Estonia is a wonderful country, and I truly mean it. It has so much to offer and I wish people knew more about it. Here’s a few reasons why you should visit it at least once and let yourself get lost into its beauty.
- Tallinn. Capital town of Estonia, Tallinn is truly a baltic gem with its magic atmosphere. Its beautiful, stunning Old Town is part of the Unesco heritage since 1997, and the town itself is not huge but still swarming with people and happenings. Tallinn is big enough to offer the amenities, services and experiences that a capital town offers but without making you feel overwhelmed: there’s only about half a million people living here, it is safe and easy to walk around and everything or almost everything is at walking distance. It is a vibrant city, with an artsy, underground vibe of some sort (areas like the Telliskivi Creative City or the new Balti Jaam Market are definitely worth the visit). The architecture is overall a mixture of old and sometimes repurposed buildings, and new modern ones as well, as a sign of a beating economy that is looking towards technology and innovation. Fun fact (maybe a cliche one for anyone who knew it already, but true): did you know that Skype was invented in Tallinn? Internet and technology are running fast here: Estonia is the first country to offer e-Residency, and wifi is available everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Plus, Estonia has a rich history and culture, and coming to Tallinn is a great way to know more about it.
- Handicraft. In a world where everything is mass produced and so poorly, low-quality made that is basically disposable, Estonia has plenty of handicraft and local products to offer. Wool products, textiles, jewelry, fashion, wooden utensils, ceramic, cosmetics… the list is quite long, and there’s lots of delicious food too. Even in the most touristy areas, shops are still offering handicrafts, local food and local design products instead of the crappy, all-the-same-looking stuff. And this shows how the nation itself and its citizens are caring about their traditions and their hand made industry.
- Clean nature and forests. Almost 50% of Estonia is covered in forests. This means: crystal clear water (Estonia’s tap water is the purest, freshest I have ever had), clean fresh air even in the cities, clean streets, no pollution, and delicious tasting food because of good, non processed ingredients. My friend K. once made a joke telling me “Well, we don’t have any money to spend on nasty chemical stuff here”. Whether that’s really a joke or not, Estonia is a very green country and you can easily tell if you spend some time here.
- Estonians. If you’ll ever come to Estonia, you’ll have to deal with, well… surprise surprise, Estonians. They might be a little shy at first, but Estonians are the friendliest, nicest, kindest people I have ever met. Plus, everyone speaks English very fluently, putting foreigners very much at ease.
- Plenty of daylight in the summer. Like all the other “north European” countries, as soon as the time changes from standard to summer, days start to feel like endless. Estonians would probably joke at this point and say “Summer? We don’t even remember what that is, last year was terrible!” or something similar. But even if when I was living here I didn’t exactly experience a warm summer, I was still lucky enough to live for a few months with daylight and sun from 4 am to 11 pm, more or less. And it was awesome. I still remember when my friend K. brought me to a 20km evening bike ride, with sun still shining high and bright at 9pm when the ride started, and the first hints of sunset at 11 pm. When you have to face long cold dark winters, you can appreciate “normal” things like the sun so much more. Having plenty of daylight for a few months made me feel positive and energetic, and there’s something really cool about telling your friends “Well it might not be 30°C here, but sun is going down at 11 pm and for a couple of weeks it never gets completely dark”. Everyone will “wow” you, guaranteed.
Dear Estonia, this is my small love letter to you. A part of me wishes that I could have got the chance to know you more, and to experience you more.. 1 year after all seems a lot at first, but it’s not. I probably haven’t made the absolute most I could have made out of my life experience with you, but I did enjoy it and you made me grow up more than I could ever imagine. So I guess I’ll always have a reason to come back.