Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I miss Estonia; it's been over two years since my last visit. Starting in 1993 and continuing through 2003, I made many business trips to this little country. Two different companies I worked for had software development teams there, and I met with them fairly frequently.

On most of those trips, I managed to get a weekend or two to go exploring on my own. My habit was to rent a car (in the early years, this was an adventure unto itself!), and take off on a solo expedition with only a map as my guide. On a few memorable occasions, friends from work traveled with me as guides.

My solo expeditions were always interesting and fun. Enough people spoke English so that I never had very much trouble getting answers to my (many) questions.
On many occasions, a child acted as a translator for us -- they all get English in school, whereas many adults (especially outside of the three main cities) never did. Despite their reputation for reticence, the Estonians I met were never reluctant to help me. On a couple of occasions, I was invited into someone's home for a dinner and talk.

Those who know me won't be surprised that the main attractions for me were off the beaten track. I chased down famous trees, meteorite craters, the Takhuna moment to the children lost in the SS Estonia ferry sinking, remote islands, all the national parks, the "erratic boulders" of red granite from Finland dropped by the retreating glaciers on Estonia's limestone, ancient castles, wildflowers and birds. The photo above is of a tiny spit of land projecting a kilometer into the Baltic Sea from the island of Hiiumaa. Estonia has all these things in great abundance; for a traveler like me, it is a heavenly place.

In the most recent years I visited, I could see the beginning of the end of some of rural Estonia's charm. The coastal areas are being "invaded" by wealthy people (often foreigners, mostly Finns) who block off access to the coast and build a private home. Talking with some of the farmers on the northwest coast, I discovered that this was an windfall for them; some of Estonia's most impoverished people now have newfound wealth. This is easy to sympathize with, but still it is indisputable that something beautiful and peaceful is disappearing. I am glad I was able to see it before it disappeared.

On my visits after 1996, I carried a digital camera with me. I have taken thousands of photographs from all over Estonia. Many of them were previously published on a web site which I no longer have running. Some of them have been published by various government and tourist web sites in Estonia (usually, but not always, with my permission <smile>). In recent months, several people have written to ask that I publish those photos again -- so in this album I published a selection of them.


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