Why Estonia?

EstYES 31.01.2018

My name is Sabrina Gollmer. I am a volunteer from Germany and I am currently making an EVS in the Youth Center and Culture Center in Abja-Paluoja. To record the amazing things that I am experiencing here I decided to write a blog online. The name of the blog is „Tere tulemast Eestis“, so if you are interested you can check it out. This article is also from my blog and it’s a small homage to Estonia. It’s about why I came to Estonia in the first place and why I would always come back. So you are curious now? Then start reading!

As I already mentioned in a previous post I was asked very often before I departed to Estonia and even here: „Why to Estonia?“ And where is that?“ Now, I have already answered the „Where?“ and „What?“, I will talk about the „Why?“.

Why should anybody want to travel to Estonia and spend a year there? This question was even asked by some Estonians here. The answer is simple: Estonia is undiscovered territory. I don’t mean that in general, since people are living here and there is an airport in Tallinn. However, I didn’t know very much about the country, its history, the culture and also the people that live here. This lack of knowledge motivated me to find out more about the country. I already had the chance to travel to quite many countries in my young life, including the typical travel destinations like England, Spain, France, Turkey, and Greece. But I was never longer than two weeks in this countries and most of the time is was in the tourist regions. Despite that I knew more about these countries than about the Baltic States. That’s why I decided to look for projects in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. There where many different offers, but in the end I applied for three projects in Estonia. One reason more why I decided for Estonia is, because most of the young people nowadays go to Australia, New Zealand, England, Spain or France, but I wanted to experience something totally new.

At the beginning these where the only reasons to come here, but now there are much more. Therefore I collected some of the reasons in a list to show you why you should come to Estonia! (The order of the items has nothing to do with rankings)

1. Estonia has a unutterable beautiful nature! Since Estonia is made of 50 % forest you don’t have to go very far to be in the woods. In every season it is beautiful. If shining green in sunlight, vivid red and orange tones in autumn or the thick snow covers in winter, Estonia can convince you in all phases of its beauty. Yet you should always be prepared for the weather with suitable clothes!

2. The Estonians are one of the most dearly peoples I have ever met! Even though you hear very often that Estonians are relatively cold and a bit reserved I can’t confirm that. Indeed, at the beginning they are more reserved and not as open-hearted as maybe the Spanish, but therefore even more when you know them better. I was greeted very friendly, but it needed some time until the people got used to me and took the courage to talk to me. After this obstacle was overcome I had a lot of new lovely friends, who greeted me on the streets, had a little chit-chat, invited me for parties, offered me food and hugged me warmly.

3. Tallinn is an exiting city, where you can explore a lot! In the capital Estonia’s, Tallinn, you definitely can have an interesting city trip. The old town is amazing! The old contorted side streets, the cobblestone pavement and the city walls give you the feeling of being in a different time. Directly next to it is the city center with its many malls and shops. At the train station Balti Jaam you will find the former industrial part of Tallinn Telliskivi, which is nowadays full of great graffitis, small cafés and extraordinary shops. Furthermore you can travel from Tallinn also to Helsinki and Stockholm for a short trip. All this and much more waits for you in Tallinn.

4. Estonia’s extraordinary culture! The Estonians take the preservation of their own culture very seriously, that’s why they have many museums. But not only like this the culture is kept alive, also by festivals like the song festival in Tallinn, where Estonian folk songs are sung. Or festivals where you dance the old traditional dances together. In the South of Estonia, where I am living, the Mulgi culture is preserved. Here are Mulgi museums, Mulgi clothes, the Mulgi language and much more. Moreover in Estonia’s golden ages there were about thousand mansions from which nowadays many are still there. These old mansions and ruins from a different time are also worth a visit.

5. You can experience a real winter! One of my highlight here in Estonia is definitely the snow! It is very nice to finally have a white winter. In Germany we didn’t have a real winter for a long time. The past years all we had were mostly sludge and some small flakes. Usually the snow was gone as fast as it came. Here I have since the middle of October snow from time to time. And with that I mean real snow. The lakes are frozen and you can walk with boots through 10 cm deep snow. Estonia is my winter wonderland.

If you now want to start your journey to Estonia I can only advise you to visit these places (only places where I have already been):

Tallinn
Of course, the capital is always worth a look. As I already said in the text above Tallinn is one of the most diverse cities I have ever seen and it is full of amazing places and mysteries, which I haven’t seen myself for sure.

Tartu
The university- citiy of Estonia. Tartu is full of Erasmus students and young people. (Erasmus students are students who are from other countries and are making a year abroad in Tartu) Interesting museums, theaters, parks, malls and more is awaiting you there. I myself haven’t been very long in Tartu and only saw a very small part, but what I saw made hunger to see more.

Valga/Valka
Valga, a truly special city. This city is located in the South of Estonia and on the first glance she doesn’t look very extraordinary. But as you may have guessed from the name the city is different than others. Valga belongs to one half to Estonia and one half to Latvia. Back then there was a conflict about the belonging of Valga and that’s why they just separated it into two pieces so that it belongs to both countries partly. Like this you can visit Valga and just have a small stroll into Latvia and back. Moreover most goods are much cheaper in Valka than they are in Valga, especially cigarettes and alcohol.

Viljandi
Viljandi is the next biggest city near Abja and the home of many festivals. In summer many big music- and dance festivals take place in Viljandi and make it therefore to a popular summer destination. My favorite place in Viljandi are the, often mentioned, ruins of the old castle. From the ruins you have a great view over the big lake, a part of the town and the forest.

Tõrva
Tõrva is a small town not far from Abja. There you will find, not far from the school, the highest jumping tower in Estonia. The small lake is very popular in summer, but also in autumn I liked to spend some time there. Around the lake is a beach with benches and a playground. But apart from that there are many trees surrounding the lake. The leaves of the trees can be found in the most beautiful colors at any times, but they will never be more beautiful than in autumn. Furthermore Tõrva has some other things to offer. There is a water-ski facility, a small cinema, some markets, a weird pub and more.

Rõuge
Ahh well Rõuge… My trip in September through Võrumaa, which I already presented in my blog, brought me to Rõuge. The place itself is not particularly big an also very widely spread. There is no big city center everything spreads over the hills of Võrumaa. This region is also one of the most „hilliest“ regions in the country and hosts the „Suur Munamägi“ the highest „mountain“ in Estonia. Everybody who comes to Rõuge will encounter pure nature, beautiful small hiking tracks, a great watch tower and the deepest lake in Estonia (with 38 meters). I was lucky to be able to admire Rõuge in sunlight and I can just hope that everybody else will have the same luck, because then the landscape is just beaming full of color and live.

Pärnu
Pärnu is the summer capital of Estonia. With its many malls, the theater and the cinema Pärnu is not only a good destination in summer. In Pärnu you can go shopping, enjoy the culture, stroll through the small old town and also have a walk on the beach. Moreover the restaurant with the best pizza in Estonia is also located in Pärnu: Steffani! I can only advise you to go there and try the pizza when you are in town. But it could be that you have to wait a bit until you will get a table.

Rakvere
Rakvere is, not far from Tallinn, in the north-east of the country. Also here you can spend a lot of time. If you go into the theater, the spa, visit the castle „Wesenberg“ or just have a walk through the city center, also here you can experience a lot. As everywhere in Estonia there are many very good and interesting restaurants to try out.

Abja-Paluoja (of course)
Abja-Paluoja definitely doesn’t belong to the biggest cities in Estonia, but if you want to have some calmer country sided life, then you are right here. You have here everything you need starting from a pharmacy until a small pub. You can spend time in the nature or take part in events in the Culture house or the Day Care Center. Moreover Abja possesses a swimming pool and attracts therefore many residents from the surrounding areas. Abja is the capital of Mulgimaa and a important place for the preservation of the Mulgi culture. But I want to be honest, if you want to experience adventures here, then you are at the wrong place. Abja is for German standards a village and if you want to party you should rather get on the bus to Viljandi. Nevertheless you can observe the life of the Estonian population here and even become a part of it.

I hope that I could make you a bit curious and you are at least considering to come here. There is so much to explore, even for me. And to discover the true Estonia you have to be here and see it with your own eyes. I think everybody who was already here can confirm that.

More about my EVS you can find here: http://saksainestonia.blogspot.com.ee/

Sabrina stays in Estonia for 12 months within the project ”Boost the Mind ” which is funded by Erasmus+ European Voluntary Service program.