Estonia Travel Guide

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Estonia Information

Population: 1.41 million

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +2

Driving side: Driving is on the right hand side of the road

Languages: Estonian

Religion: 23% Christian (Lutheranism and Orthodoxy)

Emergency #: All Emergencies 112

Estonia Culture

The native folklore of Estonians has survived centuries of foreign domination and this is due to a rich oral tradition of songs, verses and chants. Estonians oldest song a runic chant goes back to the first millennium BC. Their national epic poem was written in the mid -19th century by Freidrich Reinhold Kreutzwald and called Kalevipeog (Son of Kalev). The Estonian language is Finno-Ugric and like Finnish is different to the Indo-European languages such as Latvian, Lithuanian and Russian. They use a lot of deep 'oos' and 'uus' and it is very Nordic sounding language. Although only a minority of Estonians acknowledge any religious belief; the main religions are Lutheranism and Orthodoxy.

Estonia Popular Destinations

Tallinn There are few places still left in Europe that have survived with the aura of the 14th and 15th centuries still pervading like Tallinn's Old Town has. Here in the Old Town you will find medieval walls and turrets, long needle sharp spires and winding, cobbled streets. However, Tallinn, itself has become a modernised city and has been dubbed 'a suburb of Helsinki'. It is important to book ahead as this is a very popular destination for tourists, with plenty to see and do. Visit the 19th century Russian Orthodox Cathedral; Toompea Castle, where Estonia's parliament meet; the Lutheran cathedral built in 1233 and the art museum which is located near Toomkirik in an 18th century nobleman's house. There is also Kiek in de Kok, the tall, stout, round tower built in 1475 and said to be one of the most powerful cannon towers of the 16th century.

Kadriorg Palace The Kadriorg Art Museum The building of the palace began in 1718 by Peter l and was called Ekaterinenthal in honour of Catherine l. It is said that the first foundation stone for the palace was laid by the tsar himself. The palace is currently housing the foreign art collection of the Estonian Art Museum. There are over 900 Western European and Russian paintings dating from the 16th to the 20th century; there are also more than 3,000 sculptures and gems and much more including historic furniture, porcelain and glass. There is a beautiful upper garden behind the palace that is open in the summer to visitors. Concerts and theatre performances are also held at the palace. Please note that all museums are closed on public holidays and also close 3 hours earlier on the day before the public holiday.

Puhtitsa Convent This beautiful convent built in the 19th century on top of an ancient pagan worship site can be found in north-eastern Estonia in the village of Kuremae. This nunnery is home to about 80 nuns and novices and visitors can stay overnight in the convent dormitories. The nuns and novices still living at the convent are very strict vegetarians. Each year thousand of pilgrims trek to the Russian Orthodox convent.

Soomaa National Park This Park can be found in the south-west of Estonia and if you are looking to do something completely different this is definitely the place. The park can only be explored in a canoe or haabia (a boat made out of a single aspen tree). If you feel really daring you can build your own haabia and test it in the bog, as there are building courses available in the Park. Fishing and camping is also permitted. The highlight is probably paddling through the bog trying to find any witches, as according to local folklore witches have for centuries enjoyed the isolation of the bogs.

Moving Around Estonia

The best way to get around Estonia is to drive; the roads are good with light traffic, and most places are not too far away. You will need an International Driving permit, unless a European citizen then a regular licence will be required.

If you don't feel like driving yourself and are in no great hurry the bus and train services are very good. Another mode of transport is to cycle where ever you which to go. This is a great way to see the countryside especially in the summer and has the terrain is flat it can be a leisurely trip to your destination.

In the larger towns there is a variety of trams and buses, but they can get very crowded. If you are not comfortable with overcrowded buses and trams there are plenty of taxis and they are cheap.

National festival and holidays

Estonia has two major festivals which are celebrated every few years.

Baltika Folk Festival This festival is held in Tallinn and is celebrated in July. It is a week of folk music, dance and parades. The festival has many exhibitions and focuses mainly on Baltic and other folk traditions.

All-Estonian song Festival This festival is celebrated every five years and has a choir of 30,000 people singing traditional Estonian songs. It is held on a huge open-air stage and is attended by over a 100,000 people.

Jaanipaev This is the climax of the midsummer events. June 23 is considered the night of magical powers and is the eve of Jaanipaev. The traditional way to celebrate this event is to head out to the countryside. Here the citizens of Estonia will light bonfires and dance and sing around the fires; they will also look for the mystical fern flower which is supposed to bloom only on this night and will bring luck to those who find it.

White Lady Festival This festival is held in August and it is said that Haapsalu, Estonia's most famous ghost, appears during this festival

1 January New Year's Day
24 February Independence Day: the 84th anniversary of the declaration founding the Rebuplic of Estonia (1918)
9 April Good Friday
11 April Easter Sunday
1 May Spring Day
30 May Whitsunday
23 June Victory Day
24 June St. John's Day
20 August Day of Restoration of Independence: Estonia regains independence after Soviet times
25 December Christmas Day
26 December Second Day of Christmas

Useful Estonia Links

Information about tourist services in Soomaa national park
Soomaa (trans: Land of Bogs) National Park in south-western Estonia, certainly lives up to its name. It is a large complex (390 km2) of four extensive bogs, located in the catchment of one of the longest rivers in the country - the Pärnu River. Soomaa was included in the important nature protection areas of Europe in 1997 becoming a CORINE biotope area. Since June 17, 1997 it is also in the RAMSAR list of international wetlands and in 1998 it was suggested that the Soomaa National Park should be included in the world natural heritage listed by UNESCO.

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