International Youth Association EstYES is a non-profit, non-political, non-governmental organisation. It was established in 1991 with the purpose of promoting youth and cultural exchanges for learning and better mutual understanding. EstYES was a pioneer organisation in the field of international youth voluntary service in Estonia.
Amazing Facts About Estonia
Would you like to embark on an adventure to a fairytale destination, one you’ve never been to before? A place where they speak a unique language and hug trees as a part of their traditions? If so, let us tell you more about Estonia, a small but very unique country located in Northern Europe, along the shores of the Baltic Sea. This country has pretty much everything that a passionate traveler might be looking for!
You’ll surprised because for a tiny country like Estonia it has some pretty impressive claims to fame. Here are top 10 interesting facts about our motherland that will amaze you:
It’s the Land of Nature
We are well-known for our rich nature. In fact, 52% of the country is covered with forests, which makes it one of the greenest countries in the world according to Environmental Performance Index published by Yale University in 2016. The report covers areas such as agriculture, forests, biodiversity, climate and energy, sanitation and water resources.
Hiking trails criss-cross the forests, many of which are protected or a part of National Parks. There you can easily encounter wild bears, wolves, rabbits, deers, flying squirrels, and over 380 species of birds throughout the year. The wildlife lovers will surely be fascinated with the many bogs in and around Tallinn, such as those of Pääsküla and Viru, and three nature reserves Pirita jõeoru, Nõmme-Mustamäe and Aegna.
Fun fact: there’s a 5th season. During Spring you can witness a natural phenomenon in Soomaa: the whole area floods and people have to travel around by boat.
Landscape and Islands
There are more than 1500 islands: most of them are tiny but the inhabited ones offer beautiful, peaceful and friendly atmospheres and a traditional culture that gives you an insight on how Estonians used to live.
Islands Aegna, Naissaar and Prangli are known for their beautiful beaches and pine forests. So they are truly worth visiting.
Moreover, Estonia has the highest amount of meteorite craters per land area in the world. The the most spectacular of which is the Kaali crater field on the island of Saaremaa. The largest crater, measuring 110 m across and 22 m deep, was an ancient sacrificial site.
There’s Enough Space for Everyone
Estonia is small. Distances are short and travel is cheap. It means you can squeeze in lots of sightseeing and activities in a relatively short period of time. But that’s not all. Estonia is one of the the least populous of all the EU member states (just 1.3 million), with a population density of 28.4 people per square kilometre. The country’s coastline has hundreds of deserted beaches. Even in the height of summer you can find private space for yourself.
Each City is a Capital
There are three most popular cities in Estonia―Tallinn, Tartu and Narva. And while Tallinn is the official capital of Estonia, there are several other “capitals.” Tartu became a long-standing Capital of Culture; Pärnu is the Capital of Summer thanks to its sandy beaches and health spas; Kuressaare is all about weddings; Jõgeva is well-known for frost while Türi represents flowers and Spring.
It’s a Digital Paradise
We’ve fully embraced technology and transformed our country into one of the world’s most advanced digital societies. Can you imagine having internet connection while you’re exploring the forest? Well, Estonia has one of the world’s best internet connections and even something like this is possible and not only that, you could even get 4g in the forest! Besides, you’re never far from free public WiFi.
Everyone here gets an ID card, which means you can also use it for digital signatures. So, imagine being outside of the country and having to deal with urgent matters like signing a document and quickly sending it to your business partner. All you have to do is plug your ID-card into your computer. You don’t even have to go anywhere to start your own company, just set it up online. It will probably take you only 5 minutes! Yes you heard it right. Also, starting a company here is cheap.
Since 2000 income tax returns can be submitted electronically, and what’s more, the system automatically calculates everything you need to know about your taxes. Now 95% of tax returns are submitted electronically. That makes Estonia the fastest country to fill out income tax return.
Most bank transfers are done electronically as well, either on a mobile phone or on a computer. You just need your ID-card or Mobile- ID – it’s as easy as that. So it’s safe to say that the bank is always in your pocket.
Today over 100 public services are available for use and 300 forms can be filled in online. Businesses can change their file reports and addresses. People can pay fines online, make a doctor appointment, check the expiry date of their licences and many more.
So whether we’re filing tax returns, booking travel tickets or voting, our ID cards are secure and easy to use. This secure system also explains why Estonia was the first country in the world to hold election online.
We’re a Singing Nation
Estonia has the largest collection of folk songs in the world, 133,000 recorded tunes― and we proudly bear the title of the “singing nation”. Estonian Song and Dance Celebration takes place every five years, gathering up to 200,000 performers and spectators. It is recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Historical fact: the events that led to the restoration of Estonian independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 are commonly referred to as the Singing Revolution. The term was coined following a series of mass demonstrations during which Estonians sang national songs and patriotic hymns that were strictly forbidden.
It’s impossible to deny one of the main reasons most people first come to Estonia―to admire the beauty of the Old Town, the best preserved medieval city in Northern Europe boasting Gothic spires, winding cobblestone streets, and enchanting architecture.
Tallinn’s historic centre is a dream for any adventurous visitor. It has been extremely well preserved― even the buildings destroyed by war or fire over the years have been reconstructed. You can walk through the small streets of colourful houses, enjoy the fairytale atmosphere, enjoy the view of town hall, or visit the churches throughout the town.
Of course, there’s lots more to see. Luxurious manor houses, built over the centuries, are now open for visitors and many of them have been converted to high-class hotels. Castles both restored and those in ruins are scattered across the country.
But what’s especially fascinating are the urban legends and ghost stories. Estonia has its fair share of spooky and supernatural happenings. The Old Town of Tallinn, for example, is full of stories and strange experiences.
It’s mostly Female
The country has distinctly more women than men. In 2015, male to female ratio for Estonia was 87.88 males per 100 females. Estonian women live 10 years longer, on average. Women’s work options in small villages are limited, which motivates them to move to the city and get education.
A very high Literacy rate
According to Unesco, Estonia has one of the highest adult literacy rates in the world – 99.8%!
The results of the 2018 PISA study rank Estonian basic education as the best in Europe. Estonia’s 15-year-olds rank 1st in reading, science and mathematics in Europe while in the world, Estonia’s students rank 5th in reading, 8th in mathematics and 4th in sciences. Consequently, Estonia also has a literacy rate of 100%.
It’s the Least Religious in Europe
This one might come as a surprise, but according to a Gallup Poll, Estonia is one of the world’s least religious countries. Just 14% of respondents said religion was an important part of their life. The vast majority of people call themselves atheists or feel no concern for religion at all. That does not mean that Estonians do not believe in anything at all. For example, over 50% of the locals say that they believe in spirit or life force. This type of unorganised religion is called Maausk, and it’s a form of Estonian nature spirituality.
However, Estonians are still very passionate about their country and place great importance on respecting traditions as well as saving any architectural monuments. There are only very few villages which do not have any churches at all, while cities have several of them.