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!