Author Archive

Hanging out in Haapsalu, Hiiumaa and Saaremaa

Hanging out in Haapsalu, Hiiumaa and Saaremaa

When I woke up, the sounds of some distant party were still ringing in my ears. I heard laughter, music, loud toasts, the clinking of glasses, the run of silverwear on plates, but all the time far away, far, far, far away, and yet close, just downstairs, but some place else. Where was it? When […]

Estonia and Russia’s forgotten backyard

Estonia and Russia’s forgotten backyard

I am an adaptive type, but when in Setomaa, I sometimes feel like I am being pushed and pulled, squeezed back and forth like a local musician’s karmoška. I don’t know what I am doing, I don’t know where I am going, and I have absolutely no idea what they are saying. Setomaa. It’s a […]

It’s not just the winters that are cold

It’s not just the winters that are cold

Much has been made of Estonian customer service skills or lack thereof. My encounter with the receptionist at the polyclinic the other day could be seen as a typical one of my daily adventures. To set the stage, I am a bit of an odd bird. I am a foreigner who is mostly functional in […]

The Estonian folk festival experience

The Estonian folk festival experience

Who knew Estonia had so many “dirty hippies?” At least that’s what my curmudgeonly punk-rocking friends would call them. From some unknown well in the mists of Estonia’s bogs spurted forth this month enough natty dreads and nose rings to fill a small city. And of all Estonian cities they chose this one, Viljandi, in […]

Comparing the Baltic states

Comparing the Baltic states

At 10 p.m. on Friday night, I finally got the chance to explore Kaunas. Lithuania’s second largest city — its onetime capital in the 1920s and 30s — left a bad first impression. I walked to my hotel across a city that seemed underpopulated. There were so many buildings and so few people. Where could […]

Reflecting on life abroad in Viljandi

Reflecting on life abroad in Viljandi

Sometimes I can’t believe I am only 30-years-old. Thirty. It sounds so young. But I don’t feel young and I also don’t feel old. I feel timeless, placeless. I feel like one of the UFO-like molecules that go zipping by your plane window over the cloud cover in the North Atlantic. Something catches your eye. […]

Taking a trip across Estonia

Taking a trip across Estonia

How to get between points A and B in Estonia? If you are going from Tartu to Tallinn or vice versa, it’s easy; just take the Tallinna-Tartu maantee, that heavy-traffic ridden, accident-inviting highway to hell. But if you are traveling from Tartu to, say, Haapsalu, you must be more creative. As driver and lead navigator […]

The hunt for the brown belt

The hunt for the brown belt

I was looking for a belt. A brown one. Your regular old brown belt. I needed one to hold up my trousers. You need a belt there. It’s like Jerry Seinfeld says, you feel naked without a belt. I couldn’t find my regular rihm, so I went searching for one in Tartu. A replacement. But […]

The legacy of the Soviet occupation

The legacy of the Soviet occupation

Neeme Ruus, Johannes Lauristin, Karl Säre, and Andrei Zhdanov. The month is June, the year is 1940, and these four enthralled men are watching a demonstration of workers pleading for the formation of a new government. Estonia dates its occupation from June 1940, 70 years from this week, when uninvited Soviet troops poured across the […]

Ligi: we speak the best English

Ligi: we speak the best English

Estonian finance minister Jürgen Ligi is exemplary of the Estonian political class: a Reform Party loyalist, Ligi formerly served as minister of defense and easily glided into the finance minister’s seat when Reform and IRL booted SDE out of the coalition last year. Ligi was of interest last week for an interview with journalist Justin […]

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