Growing up with Estonian friends, I was fascinated with their folktales, their history, the countryside and their futuristic ways. They’ve made e-citizenship and voting for politicians online work – how could I not see a place where history and the future co-exist? I ended up going to Estonia twice and I found enough things to do in Tallinn in winter and summer to fill a four-day stay in the capital.
Four hours. No more, and, thanks to Lux Express’s punctuality, no less. That’s all the time I had to visit Pärnu in February. Visiting a beach resort town in winter was probably one of the craziest things that I’ve done but I didn’t know if I was going to pass that way again. Hence, I broke the bus ride from Riga to Tallinn up for an additional two euros to stretch my legs.
If you feel like taking just a short break from sunbathing in the summer, however, you can easily complete this in half a day. I found that when you take away the sun and the sun-seeking tourists, you’re left with just a handful of sights. However, they also happen to be some of Estonia’s most important historical places.
It pains me that some of my friends and even my own mother struggled to find enough things to do in just one day in Helsinki. If only they’d asked me; I’ve been to Finland’s capital thrice (four times now, as of December 2017) and it has a special place in my heart. As my itinerary below will show, 4 days in Helsinki is enough to take in the city sights, as well as those sights just beyond the city limits and even an international border.
Our group had been walking into the dense spruce forest for fifteen minutes, but the Viru bog (Viru raba), the last item on our tour of Estonia’s Lahemaa National Park, was still nowhere to be seen. The motorway, the noise and our minivan were far behind us; the air was fresh, and the thread-like moss that our driver Tarmo pointed out confirmed that. Along the way, he entertained us with anecdotes of Estonians escaping invaders in these parts before dropping the little bombshell.
“Keep walking, and I’ll pick you up on the other side.” [Read on]
By the second afternoon in the city, I have walked the centre’s streets in both directions. Being midsummer, there is still plenty of daylight left even at 8 in the evening, so I stroll along the Emajõgi towards Supilinn, hoping to observe a little everyday life.
At the end of the tree-lined track that hugs the river bank, I come across a kiik in a clearing, and a group of teenagers are playing on it. The kids on each side take turns to drive the swing while they converse excitedly in Estonian, uninterrupted by their exertions. It’s like second nature to them, just as it was with Tarmo a week ago.
‘I have a little something to show you,’ the young lad says. His face fails to betray any excitement within though.
He leads us – me, a German couple and three Americans – up a slope to the quiet green. When I reach the top, I see what he’s referring to, and it’s not little by any means.
‘This is an Estonian swing,’ he informs us. It dwarfs anything else that could be called a swing. A few mature trees had been sacrificed to provide the timber for this giant kiik but it fits in with the rustic surroundings. Seats chained to metal frames in playgrounds look sterile compared to this.’You can get six, eight, all the village kids to stand on it. Who wants to have a go?’ [Read on]