Estonia as reflected by foreign media
- Estonian fairytale attracts tourists
- Looking for Magic in Tallinn
- Sunbathing in Pärnu
- Hikes in Forests or Bogs, Walks in Historic Nature Parks
- Islands – Estonia’s very own Bullerbys
Estonia is a beguiling land which back in the 1980s was still peeping out at the Western World from behind the Iron Curtain, hiding plenty of new delights to discover. Estonia is a land of remarkable contrasts, a relatively small nation just below Scandinavia which has successfully made the transformation from a former Soviet bloc country to a modern, forward-thinking 21st century state. It has wasted little time after 1991 in adapting cheerfully to the ways of the West. This is a land which has both embraced the modern world and, at the same time, kept it at bay, some achievement considering the centuries of struggle for its own identity. (Birmingham Post, 09.07)
There have not been for years such distinct trends in the tourism industry as there are now. One prominent feature at the Helsinki trade fair, Matka 2010, was the wealth of regional tourism – holiday options for enthusiasts and theme holidays. Toomas Tärk of Enterprise Estonia in Finland says that Estonia continues to be a popular travel destination for Finns – Finns accounted for more than half of the total 2.6 million overnight stays in Estonia. This number has been gradually growing. The most popular destination is Tallinn, although the Finns are starting to realise there is also an Estonia outside Tallinn. “Tourism in Estonia in 2010 was marked by nature tourism and active holidays. Excellent facilities exist in Estonia for playing golf and horse riding. You can ride bikes or enjoy Nordic walking, bird watching or any number of water sports,” explains Toomas, thinking of Finns planning to visit Estonia. (Turun Sanomat, 27.01)
Daily thousands of Finns head across the Gulf of Finland to Estonia. Estonia will adopt the euro on 1 January 2011, and so the Finns are expected to flock to Estonia even more actively next autumn, though many tourists fear that prices will rise. Nevertheless, life will be easier for travellers as there will be no need to convert prices from kroons into euros. (Kaleva, 04.08)
Russians have always regarded Estonia, a former Soviet Republic, as something out of the ordinary, cosy, lovely, tidy and polite. They still do. The small population of Estonia may be the reason why everything is treated with such love and care. Eating out is no problem in Estonia either. Apparently, Tallinn is nothing but restaurants, cafes and hotels. It’s not overwhelmingly exotic, but every hope for a delicious meal can be fulfilled. Nobody will go hungry in this tiny Nordic country. Welcome to Estonia – a small country with great culinary diversity! (Кулинарный Эдем, 18.01)
Tens of Finnish, Swedish, Estonian and Latvian golf clubs have put their heads together to promote golf tourism. "Good ferry and flight connections enable us to extend the network to the Baltic States," enthuses Håkan Nordström, director at Agio Oy, one of the prominent players in golf tourism.
The sale of package deals has already started and by next spring, golf tourism with a touch of culture and cuisine should run at full speed. The Estonian club, Niitvälja Golf, now joins the network bringing together almost 40 golf clubs. (Kauppalehti, 20.09)
Take a stroll around Tallinn and you will enjoy all the attractions of a modern, progressive European city, from bustling bars and restaurants to gleaming shops and hotels.
The city is one of the oldest capitals in northern Europe. The Old Town is one of Europe’s best preserved walled medieval cities and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Looking over the skyline at the narrow winding streets and the archways, you can almost smell the history and sense the legacy of the long centuries of the struggle for independence that shaped the city’s destiny. Today Tallinn stands at the cutting edge of the information super-highway which has changed the world beyond all recognition. One of the oldest capitals on the planet is also one of the most hi-tech-friendly. (Birmingham Post, 09.07)
The old town of Tallinn in its quaintness is as if Walt Disney’s wonderland. As if it were taken out from the 16th century and placed neatly in the middle of a grey North European city. Local tourism industry has by now undergone changes, it is more tasteful and offers delights to absolutely everyone. (The Times, 05.11)
Tallinn, with the temperatures falling as low as 30 degrees below zero, is holding the 8th place on the list of the lowest temperatures recorded in capital cities around the world. Tallinn is like a winter wonderland, offering a genuine travel experience to its visitor. Glide around the outdoor ice rink in the Old Town before warming up with a hot drink at one of Tallinn’s cosy cafes. (The Independent, 12.01)
For most, a visit to Estonia means a day on the charming streets of Tallinn’s Old Town, but the city, as well as the entire country has plenty of other places worth wandering about on your summer holiday. Visiting sub-terranian bastion passages running under Tallinn may be a whole new experience for many, while the Patarei Prison shakes its visitors with quite different emotions. Left virtually untouched since the early 21st century, the complex is open to the public in summer and a reminder of its grim recent history. (Kauppalehti, 07.06)
The seaside capital of Estonia, Tallinn, is small and full of surprises. Tallinn’s Old Town is the legacy of a glamorous and prosperous past within the Hanseatic League. Inside its walls you’ll stumble across a magical kingdom of twisting cobbled streets, medieval guildhalls and lofty spires. It is hard describe the Old Town without using the word “fairytale”, yet there is real life here, too. This is a city growing out of its grim Soviet past and long history of suppression. And it is the real thing, alluringly intact. Beyond all this you can make out the arc of the song stage. This is the venue of the Estonian Song Festival, held every five years. The stage looms out of Kadriorg Park, which gives Tallinn a delightful oasis, wooded with horse chestnut, lilac and oak trees. The Italian architect Niccolo Michetti designed the gardens, including the Baroque Kadriorg Palace, for Peter the Great, soon after the Great Northern War.
When medieval Tallinn starts to feel too quaint, one unusual museum provides a perfect antidote. Kalev is the Baltic’s largest chocolate maker, and its museum displays chocolate-box covers and sweet wrappers from the past, ranging from 1920s to 1990s.
Tallinn has plenty of cutting-edge dining options, but you might like to sample some local treats. Estonia’s cuisine is derived from Germany and Russia. Meat and game are staples, and potatoes are served with everything. You’ll also come across the black bread, leib, usually eaten with jellied meats. (The Irish Times, 20.03)
Get past the tourist traps and you can actually have a delicious meal at a reasonable price in Tallinn. Exotic cuisine is also available. There are numerous Caucasian restaurants, specialising in superb shashliks. There is also an African Restaurant and another offering contemporary Estonian cuisine on the edge of the Old Town. And, of course, places popular with the locals are also worth a visit. (Helsingin Sanomat, 20.05)
The price-quality relationship has never been better at Tallinn hotels. Feliks Mägus, chairman of the Estonian Hotel and Restaurant Association, estimates that prices at Tallinn hotels have fallen by 30% on average, compared to the boom. The number of hotel rooms has increased rapidly over the past few years, further fuelling the fall in prices. Mägus says that as Estonia became an EU member in 2004, the demand for hotel rooms rose. The construction of several new hotels was initiated over the following years, and the lending policy of the banks only added to the growth. (Talouselämä, 20.02)
Pärnu has a long tradition as a world-class summer resort. Today welcoming holiday makers from almost 50 countries. The number of Russian tourists is also on the up; they too come for their beauty and health. Local spas offer both relaxation and recuperation. (RATA-News, 25.06)
Pärnu – capital of sailing tourism, is considered the best place on the Baltic Sea for windsurfing and other water sports. Pärnu has been a popular holiday town among the intelligentsia both in the 19th century and during the Soviet years. The old hanseatic town secures its status as the summer capital with numerous cultural events. The town’s absolute jewel is the beach that is several kilometres long. (RATA-News, 23.06)
Northern-Estonia is full of wonderful experiences. In Lahemaa National Park, founded on the coast of the Finnish Gulf in 1971, you can enjoy rich flora in addition to breathtakingly beautiful manor houses surrounded by magnificent parks, ancient strongholds and authentic old fishing villages. Even if you spend the day being pampered at an eco spa, or splash away in a water park, you can still sense history practically everywhere. The heyday of manors arrived in the 18th century and continued to the beginning of the 19th century. The manor complexes were magnificent with the main building often surrounded by parks dozens of hectares in size complete with smaller residences, lakes and bridges. Palmse offers a glimpse into the culture of the manor houses typical in Estonia. At Vihula Manor, the past is mingled with the present – aristocratic buildings oozing with history, conceal the latest technology within. But history is not only found in the manors. Rakvere Castle is a great destination for the whole family, and the town of Rakvere includes many more attractions. So while Estonians are known as a singing nation, the Estonian men express themselves through dance as well. (Seura, 31/2010)
In the parish of Vihula, a beautiful summer paradise, you can find three unique manor beauties – Palmse, Sagadi and Vihula. The best known is perhaps Palmse, built in the Baroque style and completely restored. “Almost a century ago there were more than 1100 manors in Estonia, but gradually they fell into disrepair. An enthusiastic wave of restoration in the 1970s began with Palmse, but by that time, many of the manors were already laying in ruins,” explains Toomas Tärk of Enterprise Estonia in Finland. The adorable pink buildings of Sagadi manor are situated asymmetrically. This is one of the few buildings in Estonia built in the Rococo style, and its history can be traced back to the middle of the 15th century. At the end of the 1970s, Sagadi manor was acquired by the State Forest Management Centre, which has reconstructed and restored 18 buildings altogether. The former gardens and carriage house today accommodate the country’s only forest museum. (Turun Sanomat, 02.06)
The village of Tipu is situated in the middle of Soomaa National Park. Tipu Nature School hosts projects that promote environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyles. The association known as für Estland e.V from Minden-Lübbecke County in Germany was one of the contributors that made the Tipu Nature School a reality. Cooperation between Minden-Lübbecke and the county of Viljandi has existed for almost 20 years, and will continue on into the future. Further plans to develop the school foresee the restoration of the old school house and the cellar and the construction of a wood workshop. The goal is to help people bond with nature and prevent them from becoming estranged from nature, by introducing them to alternative life styles. (Wochenanzeiger-herford.de, 11.08)
Lazy breeze, piney scents, distant chirping. A decent place for an afternoon stroll with the family. The ground wobbled like soft pudding, as if we were in a fun house attraction. Let other hikes stake their claims on rapturous beauty or rare animals. For sheer wacky family fun, it is hard to top a trek in the peat bogs of Estonia, where nature has bequeathed a waterlogged landscape that makes every stride a mini-adventure.
In Lahemaa National Park, The peat bogs here are essentially a huge mass of decayed vegetable matter that is saturated with water. Often, the peat goes many feet deep. Parts of the park are threaded with walkways that allow you to wander through without actually setting foot on the bogs, but that would be missing the point.
Estonians have long had a spiritual bond with their bogs, coming here to take in the solitude, as well as to collect the wild cranberries. Animals, including turkey, boar and roe deer, inhabit the area. Ms. Ivandi, whose environmentally oriented adventure travel company offers bog tours much of the year, said autumn was the best time to visit because the land offers up a palette of reds, browns and yellows, and the water has not frozen, so the bog remains springy. (New York Times, 19.08)
Finland and Estonia have launched a development project for historic parks, with the aim of identifying the current condition of the parks and planning their long-term maintenance from the research. Project manager Antti Karlin from the University of Turku says: “The goal is to develop the parks in Varsinais-Suomi, Häme and Tartu, Saare, and Jõgeva. Cross-border regional cooperation adds synergy to the project work and helps to preserve the values of the several-hundred-year-old historic parks for future generations”. A route will be put together through the most interesting parks in Finland and Estonia, which will hopefully become a part of a chain of historic parks in the Baltic region. (Turun Sanomat 17.01)
The scenery of Estonian islands resembles that of Astrid Lindgren’s village of Bullerby. Those unable to let their hair down here should perhaps seek professional help. The view is divine: luscious pastures filled with fluffy sheep; colourful meadows, pine forests, sand dunes, secluded sandy beaches and the Baltic Sea embracing all this beauty. Haste is unknown on the islands of western Estonia. About a half of the inhabitants of Hiiumaa live in Kärdla, the rest are scattered around villages and isolated farmhouses. Kõpu lighthouse on the westernmost peninsula of the island is the island’s landmark. A ferry leaves from the south of the island to the neighbouring Saaremaa. A dam connects the islands of Saaremaa and Muhu. Muhu captivates with its ancient fishing village and the thatched roofed houses, while the local Future Music Festival attracts more and more visitors every year. (Die Presse, 20.03)
The tiny island of Muhu goes not unnoticed by the world. The Times of Malta has come up with a list of the world’s top 10 beautiful islands. On the ninth position we can find Muhu. With a population of 2,000, the island still has a working windmill, folk traditions, as well as a small luxury hotel and spa. (Times of Malta, 08.01)
If the beautiful heart of Tallinn has turned into a kind of tourist toytown, seducing the cruise ship parties, then the islands out to the west seem the keepers of Estonia’s rebellious pagan flame. It hits you that Christianity was late coming to these northerly parts. When revolutionaries assassinated the Baron of Pädaste, imperial hunting master to Tsar Nicholas II, in 1919 it froze in time the manor house that was his summer home. Axel von Buxhoeveden’s heartbroken widow left to live in Germany, never to return to Pädaste. And as a turbulent 20th century saw Estonia crushed by war and Soviet domination, Pädaste Manor sank slowly into decay. But like the sleeping beauty in the fairytale it has been magically reawakened. (Manchester Confidential, 20.07)
Kihnu island may be a dot on the Estonia’s map, but it’s the biggest island in the Gulf of Riga and the seventh biggest in Estonia. The island stretches 7 kilometres from north to south and 10 kilometres from east to west. The population of this remote piece of land is about 600 people, but it’s remarkable for its well-preserved cultural heritage. As of 2003 Kihnu is inscribed as a Masterpiece on the Representative List of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Nowhere else in Estonia do women wear national costumes daily and people cherish the national songs dating back over hundred years. There are four villages, each with a village store. Those lovely shops are not just for stocking up on groceries – they are also meeting places, where the villagers can socialise. It takes you back to the good old days, if you choose to ignore the modern options, such as Wi-Fi and credit card terminals. (travel.ru 07.06)
The islands off the west coast, firmly off limits during Soviet times, have a special appeal to Estonians. Saaremaa is the largest and best known island, though still unspoilt. The main town, Kuressaare, has a ruined castle and several modern spa hotels. Otherwise, it’s all about nature: quiet beaches, rare wildflowers and forests. (The Independent, 15.08)
71 Estonian lighthouses tower by the shores of the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. The very fist was initially commissioned by the Hanseatic League. The lighthouse on Kõpu peninsula was completed in 1531. Chronicles reveal that operating the lighthouse was quite a sacrifice for Estonia. Just the amount of wood required annually to light the beacon was enormous. Such beacons were built on the islands and peninsulas for safer navigation, often to remote inaccessible locations. Lighthouse keepers and their families lived in isolation all year round, taking care of the lighthouse. Once the beacons were automated, the keepers left and the majority of the Estonian lighthouses started to fall apart. Besides Kõpu, only the lighthouses in Ristna and Tahkuna are renovated and open for visitors on the island. The structure of Ristna lighthouse was designed in the Eiffel factory in 1873. Likewise, the Tahkuna framework is made by Eiffel and purchased from the Paris World Exhibition. (Helsingin Sanomat 14.05)
Hiiumaa, an island hidden away behind the iron curtain during the Soviet years, is on the map of European hiking trails, offering everything a passionate wanderer can wish for: isolation, breathtaking landscape and well marked routes. Tahkuna lighthouse on the northern cape of the island is worth a visit. On your way there you see some World War Two structures. The memorial to the worst post-war maritime disaster is only a few meters from the lighthouse. On September 28 1994 the passenger ship Estonia sank on its way to Stockholm. The route then takes you towards Kõpu peninsula and the grand Kõpu lighthouse. It’s the oldest lighthouse in the Baltic Sea region. The hiker’s island of Hiiumaa with its magnificent nature and the remote hiking routes is a definite must. ( RP-online 19.12)