Where is Estonia? you might well ask. Just as NZ is frequently confused with Australia, so Estonia is coupled with Sweden, Finland and ‘all those funny little Baltic countries’
Well we have ended up in this country for a few days – and we are really enjoying it. Population is just 1.3 million and even though the country is tiny, it has one of the lowest population densities in the world. We are staying at a ‘Drop-in centre’ in the capital, Tallinn.
This town is clean, neat and tidy and has excellent bus and trolley-bus services. It also has a fascinating Old Town center which dates back to the 14th century. It’s fascinating to see buildings this old, not preserved in a museum setting, but in daily, normal use as shops and commercial premises.
The Old Town has a real charm and character, and despite a temperature which has been hovering around the 5C with a strong cold wind, we have spent a bunch of time exploring its narrow streets and interesting architecture
Today a few of us went back to check out a glass-blowing studio and we were treated to a display of an artist creating a beautiful goblet. The process was not a quick show for the tourists but we saw a serious artist at work, creating a thing of beauty, It was well worth the 4km walk in the bitter wind!
The place we are staying is really another story of its own. This is a ‘Community Centre” fully approved by the town council and recipient of all sorts of grants from various EU bodies. It is run by a group of young Estonian Idealists (“Greenies’ to the core) and they say they have the active support of the neighbourhood.
All sorts of people drop in here (including 11 Kiwis) and they are an interesting assortment. There are Australians and a variety of Estonians and other Europeans. The other day we met a Rip-van-Winkle character with a beard that put Jamie Nicholls’ to shame. He claimed (to the children) to be Santa’s Helper but in conversation with him, it became evident that he moved in fairly exalted political circles and was passionately involved in promoting Conservation and National Cleanup days, to beautify the land. It seems he is in demand as a speaker in various countries. He looked like a Swagman, with his bundle of belongings over his shoulder, but he was a man of impressive intellect. However we were not too swayed by his philosophies which included being everywhere while he was asleep and being able to commune with others just by our thoughts!)
This place is bizarre! In the back yard is an Indian Tepee; in the cellar a group are running a bicycle repair business; inside, the walls are peeling and un-papered, but hanging on them are some excellent photographic prints (an exhibition is in progress we are told) When we cooked dinner the other evening (as is the norm in a Couch-surfing place) people came out of the woodwork from all directions and I counted at least 22 bodies loading up their plates!
The building is wood and must be over 100 years old. It has a cellar, two floors and a huge attic which we are occupying. They threw down sheets of particle board on the day we arrived, and then came up with a pile of mattresses which has meant that we are all very comfortable. You can see daylight through the roof and the end gables, but surprisingly it is not that cold.
It has a toilet, a shower and a washing machine, so we are certainly not complaining! Within the next week or so we hope to be living in a couple of motor homes, which should start a new era in our wanderings.
Watch this space.Tags: Digs, Oddities, People, Travel, Tag Index