Izabella’s Blog: Summer in Estonia
I know that it is only July and we still have one month of summer ahead of us, but I would like to appreciate the Estonian summer before it ends. Since the first rays of sunshine hit this country, it became a totally different place. At least for me. People who have been hiding in their homes finally stepped out of their houses and started interacting with the world. I am exaggerating of course, but still the city is full of life now. Due to the fact that during summer the sun basically doesn’t set, you have the opportunity to really use every hour of every day.
This was actually an amazing experience for me since in Hungary that just does not happen. Of course, the summer nights (in Estonia they’re called white nights) are also longer there but not that long. I remember, around the end of May, when I could really see the difference, I could not stop taking pictures of the sky and told all my friends how lucky I am to be able to see such a thing. However, everyone in Estonia told me that I would be annoyed by it after a week or two but they do not know how fed up I was with the dark nights during winter.
Unfortunately every good thing has to come to an end. I had mixed feelings about the midsummer day because even though this was the longest day in the year, it also meant that nights are going to be shorter from now. Speaking of midsummer day, Jaanipäev is one of the oldest and most important celebrations in Estonia. Originally it marked the beginning of haymaking season but throughout history it’s been connected to the Victory Day when Estonian forces defeated German troops in the War of Independence. Everyone disappeared from the city and went to the countryside for the weekend to celebrate.
Estonians are quite superstitious and have many beliefs related to midsummer, let me tell you my favourite ones. Anything bonfire related is a tradition, like, jumping over it, dancing around it, walking around it or even throwing something into it. Obviously, if you already have a bonfire why not have a barbecue as well? You also have to collect 9 different flowers if you want to see your future love in your dreams. But don’t you dare going to bed before dawn on the shortest night of the year!
Since Estonians have to spend so much time in the dark, cold winter they try to make the most out of summer. They have a lot of events and festivals all across the country. This gave me the opportunity to see a lot of Estonian musicians’ live performances. It is also interesting to see the difference between Hungarian and Estonian festivals and what people find entertaining. Sometimes I like joking about the population of this country because it still feels unbelievable but to be honest it was a true relief not to be pushed and stepped on in a crowd for once. No one spilled their drinks on me, no one was smoking around me and I could actually enjoy the concerts. And huge plus, you don’t have to stand in a line for hours in order to get a drink or use the toilets!
Another cool thing I did for the first time in my life was going to a swamp. I spent four days in Pillapalu with other volunteers from Estonia and the hike was the highlight of our trip. Our tour guide gave us these special boots called ‘räätsad’ that help you walk more easily in the swamp. I would say a guide and these boots are essential for a hike like this if you do not want to get lost or sink in the mud. Around 6-7% of Estonia is covered with bogs, fens and wetlands, the oldest ones are around 9000-10000 years old. If you visit Estonia I suggest this to be one of things you try here. You can easily spend a whole day there just wandering around and swimming in the small lakes.