#Tallinn, an exceptional old town
The Estonian capital is one of the few cities still surrounded today by an authentic medieval surrounding wall. The architectural profusion of the city is impressive; the whole is so well preserved that you would think on every street corner it was a movie set... From Toompea Hill to the plain of City Hall, almost every house is an open-air history museum. There is not only value, but also charm, omnipresent among the cobbled streets, passages, plots, because while being highlighted, nothing seems to be museumized in this dynamic and young city. The old town is full of bars, restaurants, design shops, decoration (everything that Estonia is proud of), often very neat, individual and of high quality. At night, the city lives until very late and the laughter of the youth splashes on the century-old cobblestones. What a great place to party! The next day, at dawn, what a joy to contemplate the rising sun on the red tiled roofs of buildings that date back most of the 15th and 16th centuries, to admire the view of the sea from the top of the Toompea hill, to move between the stalls of the craft market full of life and colour, to participate in the animation of festivals and traditional days in the old city of.... Tallinn, that's all that! The old town is enchanting and a little secret... and what could be more normal for a thousand-year-old city, listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
Design and contemporary architecture :
With a rich heritage, Estonia is far from being a frozen country. On the contrary, the successive "civilizations" that flourished there have each left their mark, often harmoniously integrating it with the older remains. In Tallinn, for example, the industrial architecture of the late 19th century, the communist achievements of the 1950s and the new glass buildings of the 1990s-2000 blend surprisingly harmoniously well with medieval, Renaissance or Baroque ensembles. Depending on the magnificent medieval achievements, you may also be seduced by the modern architecture, comfortable hotels, designer cafés and contemporary art galleries. Fascinated by design, functionality and modern comfort just like their Finnish neighbours, Estonians have developed a taste for contemporary aesthetics based on quality and originality. A country where you can shop for decoration in one of the many designer shops....
An excellent quality of life
One thing strikes the visitor upon arrival in Estonia: the astonishing serenity that reigns there. There are few countries where you can feel safer than in the northernmost of the Baltic countries. Outside the industrial and Russian-speaking cities of the east of the country, around Narva, everywhere reigns an unspeakable tranquility, a remarkable peace and sweetness. Estonians are known for their taste for calm and slowness. Walking through the centre of Tallinn, you don't feel the stress of a metropolis like Paris or Moscow. Estonia continues to be at the top of the best quality of life rankings. Beyond security, this is due to the pleasant layout of cities, green and airy, alive and breathable at the same time. Nature has a special place in the hearts of Estonians, who have allowed it to flourish all the way to the centre of their cities: cities are full of parks, greenery and are bordered by forests. Nevertheless, the cultural offer is excellent, particularly in Tallinn: concerts, exhibitions, museums, events, festivals, Estonia is a country of high culture. Moreover, the level of general education is one of the best in the world in Estonia, making Estonians often fascinating interlocutors...
The coasts of the Baltic Sea
The west coast with its shady forests, sparkling waters, small houses, castles and ruins is a wild beauty. It is a paradise for hikers, cyclists and beach lovers. Hiiumaa, Estonia's second largest island, formerly a pirate's lair, and Saaremaa, Estonia's largest island, are lands of myth and legend.The two islands are becoming a major spa centre, just like Haapsalu, where the Russian nobility was already going to appreciate the healing properties of its mud. All these reasons encourage visitors to explore the fine sandy beaches of the Baltic Sea and admire its unspoilt nature. It should be noted that in summer the water temperature can exceed 20°C and that you can therefore swim in it.
A preserved nature
With one of the lowest population densities in Europe and an intact environment, Estonia, with its 1,500 islands, fauna and flora, is a privileged place to recharge your batteries. Almost a tenth of Estonia's territory is occupied by nature parks, more than half of which are covered by different types of forests. There are plant and animal species that have disappeared elsewhere in Europe. Moose, wolves, bears, lynxes and seals are part of the local fauna. The woods are also there for mushroom and wild berry picking enthusiasts. Rural tourism is developing in Estonia to allow the most nature lovers to come and discover this wealth of Estonian territory.
A welcoming and multilingual people
Like many small peoples, and from a long history of foreign domination, Estonians often speak several languages. Until a few decades ago, German was the language of the bourgeoisie, and the language is still spoken by many Estonians. Russian was the official language of the USSR of which Estonia was a member; moreover, a significant minority of the country's inhabitants are Russian speakers whose families come from all over the Union. In Tallinn, Russian is almost as present as Estonian, and in eastern cities like Narva, it is the vast majority. English is practiced by a hallucinating segment of the population who learn it very well at school (even at the checkout of small provincial supermarkets, don't be surprised that you are spoken in perfect English!). Finnish, a cousin language of Estonian, is very understandable to Estonians, who have learned it more often than not because of the close ties with the great cousin of the north. Not to mention all these students, certainly far fewer in number, but very visible in Tartu or Tallinn, who practice French, Italian or Spanish perfectly. You have understood it: even if you do not speak any language other than your own, you will have little difficulty in making yourself understood in this country used to linguistic gymnastics! As for the kindness of the Estonians, you will probably notice it when they come to you to guide you before you even need to ask for it or when they take the time to accompany you to the station or address you were asking for... With a strong sense of hospitality, people in Estonia will often do their best to make you feel at home in their small country.
© Dominique Auzias & Jean-Paul Labourdette