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Exciting Estonia

A major event each year is the Estonian Dance Festival where dancers, dressed in colourful traditional costumes, honour a part of their culture which has been kept alive, even during Soviet occupation. These pictures are from the 2009 Festival.


Singing is also very important to Estonians. The Estonian Song Festival is one of the largest amateur choral events in the world, held every five years in July in Tallinn. In 2009, there were more than 30,000 participants performing to an audience of 80,000.

This festival is a poignant reminder of the 1989 Singing Revolution, a landmark demonstration for more independence, called The Baltic Way, a human chain of more than two million people was formed, stretching through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. All three nations had similar experiences of occupation and similar aspirations for regaining independence.

There are still strong memories of the time under Soviet occupation. Many are painful and this re-enactment is one way that visitors to the country can gain a little understanding of what it must have been like to live through this period.
Our group was accosted on the street by a uniformed 'policeman' and this tourist (OK, it's Gordon, F&Ts fearless photographer) at first wasn't too sure of his citizen's rights. Fortunately it ended reasonably well. We were all 'detained' on the bus, driven around the city for half an hour, made to drink rough vodka, and ordered to sing Party songs, before release.

Estonian food has many influence, mainly from adjoining countries, and while not everything may appeal to other palates, it is wholesome, filling, and suits the sometimes chilly climate.

Pastries and baked goods have a Scandinavian influence, while breads tend towards black and dark rye breads.

In summer, like people anywhere, the locals like to sit outside to dine, enjoying the summer sun which can sometimes be surprisingly hot.

Tallinn is a medieval city founded possibly over a thousand years ago. There are many reminders of its age throughout the Old City and from Toompea, the upper town or Cathedral Hill, there are lovely views across the spires and towers of the town.

People in the town love to remember the past with old signs, carefully preserved buildings and re-enactments and festivals.

The Town Hall Square is the hub of the Old City. Today this square is quiet and a good meeting place for coffee, but once it was the site of an execution resulting (so the story goes) from a dispute over a bad omelette!

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an orthodox cathedral in the Old Town, built in a typical Russian Revival style during the time of the Russian Empire. It crowns the hill of Toompea but was so disliked by many Estonians as a symbol of oppression that the Estonian authorities scheduled the cathedral for demolition in 1924. Lacking funds this was not carried out, and since Estonia regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 the church has been meticulously restored.

Amber is often found on the beaches of all areas around the Baltic. It is fossilised tree (often pine) resin and many shops in Tallinnn sell beautifully crafted pieces of amber jewellery, often inexpensive by world standards.

St Mary's Cathedral is  known by locals as the 'Toomkirik' (the Dome Church) and was established sometime before 1233 and repeatedly rebuilt since. The interior contains the burial sites of many great German nobles. For a small fee, visitors can climb the 69m baroque bell- tower for amazing views of the city.

The town's 14th-century walls are especially strong and almost two kilometres of them remain. The squat tower, 'Fat Margaret', is well-known.

Take a walk with us through the streets of the old town. Note the narrow cobbled streets, much as they would have been hundreds of years ago.

Today people wear jeans and dine in the streets. Those much-photographed towers once guarded the entrance to the Old City which was in a strategic position at the crossroads of trade between Western and Northern Europe and Russia. The city, with a population of 8,000, was very well fortified with city walls and 66 defence towers.


Gracious buildings, elegant spires, coffee and cake and cobbled streets - these are the components of today's Tallinn as it faces the future with confidence - plus singing and dancing, of course!




See more about Tallinn....

Have you ever visited Estonia? What did you like best about this country? Share your experiences here:


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