Hygge 2: The Baltic Version


As I don’t ski and I have a book to write this winter (‘Hall of Mirrors’) with another to finishing editing (‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ comes out from Quercus next year), I fancy a break from refurbishing the flat, so we’ll be going back to beautiful Tallinn in Estonia for a few days, then on to Barcelona (-20C to +18C = tricky packing). The flight to Estonia is around 20 quid, which makes it half the price of going to Yorkshire, and the food is superb, so I’ll be hunkering down here…


I went a couple of years back and liked it best of the Baltic countries I visited. Largely forgotten by the world, Soviet-occupied Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania hit the headlines in the late 1980s with a near-bloodless (“Singing”) revolution that led to the restoration of their independence in 1991. Since giving Communism the boot, this energetic trio have seen their economic fortunes soar. They’re in the EU, so they’re better off than us.

Estonia has nearly 1,500 islands and islets, and its boulder-strewn coastline is wild. It has beautiful beaches, and treasure-hunters still comb the coast in search of amber. Estonia has the dubious honour of being the first former Communist country to win the Eurovision Song Contest, has the grandest Old Town and you can eat bears (controlled hunting, not like that dentist who shot the lion).

Two things you don’t do there. Mention the Russians, or try the language. Estonian is a vowel-heavy Finno-Ugric tongue related to Finnish, has 14 cases and is incomprehensible to English-speakers. You can go to Helsinki on a day trip, but I wouldn’t advise the train to St Petersburg, which is apparently a pain in the arse.

In the spring I’ll be heading as close to the North Pole as you can humanly get. Plus, with my laptop in my backpack, I’ll still be working. In the unlikely event that I have any Estonian readers, let me know and we’ll meet up!

9 comments on “Hygge 2: The Baltic Version”

  1. Brian Evans says:

    According to my partner, the third thing you don’t do in Tallinn is speak to the locals. He loves the place, but the people are terribly unfriendly. They must be bad for him to notice as he’s not the friendliest person himself (as I keep having to point out to him, almost on a daily basis)

    They do a very nice liqueur which goes well on ice cream.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    Which North Pole? Geographic, Magnetic, Santa Claus’ (the postal code is H0H 0H0) or Alaska?

  3. Brooke says:

    When you post pieces like this, telling us about all the great places you’re going, I really start to dislike you.

  4. Ian Schofield says:

    “Since giving Communism the boot, this energetic trio have seen their economic fortunes soar. They’re in the EU, so they’re better off than us.”

    In the interests of balance, all three countries have been significant net beneficiaries (receipts from the EU have exceeded their contributions) for many years. So of course they will be better off.

  5. Jan says:

    Where you going near the north pole Chris? Svalbard? Are you still connecting with the Pullman novels? Been skiing a couple of times up at Levi and Yllas in Finnish Lapland. It’s cheap to go in January into early Feb. At that time of year there’s,a term to describe the conditions called the Kalmos or Calmos( can’t remember how you spell it! ) but,essentially it’s the time of deep peace when the sun is low,in the,sky and the nights are very long. They floodlight the pistes all the time which gives a weird vibe. But some days the sky is beautiful turquoise twilight throughout the daylight hours on other days the snow is dipped sunset pink all the time.the sky is lit up by pink sunset throughout the daylight hours like a six or seven hour sunset. Skiing up there is like,skiing the Pennines easy but fast. From the tops of some runs in Levi you can just about make out Murmansk .

  6. Jan says:

    Perhaps I meant six or seven hour sunrises.

  7. admin says:

    That’s right Jan – I set out from Svalbard, but with the rate of global warming I may be taking swim trunks!

    Sorry Brooke, but it’s one of the best things about London – cheap travel to anywhere in Europe.

  8. Jan says:

    You w8 till they issue you with the keep nice and warm gear. You’ll just rock that look!!

  9. Helen Martin says:

    So Svalbard is it? That means the geographic North Pole. Just be careful ’cause we claim most of the North Poles & are the only ones to issue a postal code. (If you send a letter there it will actually be answered by Santa & or his elves.)
    I cannot read Svalbard without thinking of armoured bears.

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