Estonia: Reflections and Practicalities

Trip Start Aug 31, 2007
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Trip End Apr 19, 2008


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Flag of Estonia  ,
Monday, September 10, 2007

It is my best intention to write entries such as this after every
country I visit. While the reflections might be of interest to the
casual reader, the practicalities probably will not, but I hope they
might be of use to someone planning a trip to the country I have just
visited.



Reflections: I have wanted to come to Estonia since I was 12 and saw
their cool ice sculpture at the Quebec City Winter Festival. Having
finally made it to the country, I must say I found it interesting, but
it didn't knock my socks off. Aside perhaps from Tallinn's Old Town,
the country has no must-see attractions, and you get the impression
that most of the cool stuff was destoryed in the wars over the
centuries. If you come to the country, you have to come with the
intention of seeing Estonians and their way of life. Outside of
Tallinn, the real Estonia is never hard to find, though real Estonians
may be hard to meet. As a people, they are reserved, polite, and keep
to themselves. Even the students running the hostel in Tartu only
managed to ask where I was from before disappearing behind closed
doors. Additionally, there are no tourists outside of Tallinn. Granted,
September is the start of low season, but in the last six days, I've
seen three other travellers and one tour group. Most people see
Tallinn's old town, check off the Estonia box, and head for Latvia or
back to Helsinki. And perhaps that's part of Estonia's beauty - you run
no risk of seeing anything but the real.



Practicalities: Estonia is delightfully easy to travel in and in that
respect, I couldn't have been happier to start my trip here. Maps
abound and the main cities have signs in strategic locations, directing
you to points of interest. Streets are better marked and buildings much
better numbered than in North America. Tanav means street, plats is
square, and mnt denotes a longer street that probably becomes a
highway. Buses are comfortable and run on time (it's slightly eerie
just how punctual they are) and a three-hour trip will cost less than
10 Euros. Bussijaam means bus station and www.bussireisid.ee has
schedules with prices for the whole country. There is generally a 25
cent charge for using the restroom at a bus terminal, but they are
clean and all I visited had toilet paper. The main cities also have
public transit systems, but city buses have always intimidated me, so I
just chose to walk. Estonia would also be an easy country to navigate
in a rental car. I drank tap water all over the country and experienced
no side effects. Travelling as a solo woman, I encountered no problems
or undo attention. On average, I paid $20-30/night for basic rooms and
less than $15 for food, though I don't eat much.
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