June 24-26, 2000
While on the over night bus from Poland to Estonia, I chatted through the night with the two older Finish women in front of me. They have been friends since they were little girls and last year started doing yearly travels together.
One of them was a teacher who lives in Helsinki, the other is an artist who lives on her own island near the mainland. Actually, she’s an interesting one. She doesn’t sleep in her house since she is preparing to spend six Winter months in Siberia! She’s also one of those people who go swimming in the ocean during the coldest months, so I think she’ll be fine.
By the end of the ride, they had given me their addresses and the door codes to their places should I visit Finland! They had been greeted with some amazing hospitality on their travels and were in the spirit to return it. Lucky me!
They fed me on the trip and gave me a taxi ride to my hostel when we got to Tallinn.
Expecting an exotic place not so many people visit in Eastern Europe, I was a bit disappointed to find that this was a top tourist location for the Finns. And with good reason. The weather is great, the old city is fun to explore and even the new parts of town aren’t bad. Estonia has been independent from Russia for less than 10 years and it has rapidly turned away from that towards their Western future and further socio-economic mergence with Finland.
A few Russians motion me to join me at their table and I find an interesting answer to some questions: “it is tradition.” With that, there is nothing left to argue.
They ask me about the weather in America. I tell them it’s probably too hot this time of the year, but the Spring and Fall are pleasant where I’m from. One of the girls goes on to explain how the weather here is rotten, “It rained one day this week.” Russian pessimism that I know well and is famous in some Western countries, particularly France.
The social and economic future of Estonia looks bright; however, it is filled with different emotions. While being a part of the EC and adopting the Euro(dollar) would generally be seen as a great opportunity for a reborn Eastern country, 40% of the population would like to keep the currency they just got used to (Estonian Kroon). Every 50 years Estonia has had a new leading nation and now it’s independent for the second time in history.
Since privatisation, you’ll find some interesting real estate characteristics: some great historical buildings are now owned by older families that can’t afford the upkeep. The younger generation has a decent income; however, not enough to buy out these larger older buildings yet.
A few points to pass on here: if you are looking to get into Russia, there are companies here that will take care of all the leg work on this side for less than half of what it would cost in the US and can do it in a day rather than a month. Remaining contacts on the other side, I’m sure, move things along quite well in a culture that has an underlying drive of power being who you know.