Saturday, 24 February 2018

Happy Independence Day! Happy 100th birthday Estonia!

It was a freezing -12 degrees in Tallinn this morning but I managed to make my way up to Toompea for the flag hoisting ceremony at 7:33am. It was great to see thousands of patriotic Estonians up so early to take part in the 100th birthday celebrations. I saw babies rugged up, people in wheelchairs, people both young and old. They were all cold but happy. It was wonderful to see! 

As a proud Estonian who was born in Australia, I would just like to say Happy Birthday Estonia! You are much loved!

Thursday, 22 February 2018

100 Things I Love About Estonia

With Estonia's centenary just around the corner, I thought I'd take this opportuntiy to list 100 things I love most about Estonia. As a proud and patriotic Estonian I am really looking forward to the EV!00 celebrations and thrilled that this special day will be soon upon us. I hope you like the list!

1. The beautiful colours of the Estonian national flag. Whenever I see something with this colour combination in the shops, I often buy it!

2.  Nature. Vast, unspoilt, beautiful.

3. The well preserved Estonian archives.

4. My Estonian ID card

5. Black bread. (Must leib is my favourite!)

6. The Anton Hansen Tammsaare Museum in Vargamäe.

7. Walking past Pikk Hermann Tower at the right time to hear the Estonian national anthem play.

8. Estonia sayings. Eg.  'A good neighbour is one where you can just barely see the smoke of their chimney from your window.'

9. Digital society.

10. Handwoven belts

11. Piparkook.

12. Küüslauguleib.

13. Tammsaare's Truth & Justice.

14.  Watching a game of kiiking.

15. Country houses.

16. The Estonian Song and Dance Festivals.

17. Tallinn's Christmas market.

18. Walks in the forest.

19. Eating wild berries picked from the forest.

20. The beautiful melodic sound of the Estonian language.

21. Tallinn's stunning 13th century architecture.

22. Vana Tallinn (the drink).

23. The beautiful wooden painted doors in Tallinn.

24. Music by Ott Lepland.

25. The traditional village swing.

26. The Estonian Open Air Museum.

27. Jaanipäev.

28. Hedgehogs.

29. Clean air.

30. Tartu. My grandmother's hometown.

31. The invention of Skype.

32. TransferWise.

33. Tallinn Old Town Days.

34. Pirita.

35. The Raeapteek. The oldest pharmacy in Northern Europe dates back to 1422. The Raeapteek is where my great-great grandfather completed his apprenticeship in 1860. I love visiting old places knowing my ancestors have been there before me.

36. Music by Curly Strings.

37. Trad.Attack!

38. Traditional wooden weaving machine.

39. Nordic snowflake designs.

40. National costume.

41. Drinking Glögi at Christmas time.

42. Estonian proverbs. 'Old love does not rust'.

43. Jaan Kross novels.

44. Kalev chocolates.

45. Beautiful old wooden houses.

46. Patterns from Estonian mittens.

47. The film Vehkleja (The Fencer).

48. Setumaa.

49. The Song Mother tradition.

50. Estonian national costume fabrics.

51. Estonians reverence for old traditions as well as new technologies.

52. Kuressaare Castle.

53. Estonia's vibrant start-up scene.

54. Maiasmokk Cafe. Famous for its mazipan, it has been a great place to eat out for generations.

55. Estonian Folk art.

56. Old Estonian manor houses.

57. Tallinn's Bastion passages.

58. Wandering around Tallinn's Old Town and discovering new things.

59. Beautiful Estonian home with large gardens, cute wooden fences and apple trees.

60. Tartu University. One the finest in the region.

61. Estonian initatives such as World Cleanup Day.

62. Kasmu - a lovely place where the the forest meets the Baltic Sea.

63. Cornflowers and all the cute things you can make with them.

64. Tartu's Gunpowder Cellar Restaurant.

65. Spending time outdoors in the countryside.

66. Lemon pepper.

67. Seeing storks perched high in their nests (mainly in South Estonia).

68.  Homewares featuring traditional Estonian patterns/designs.

69. Folk hero Kalevipoeg.

70. The village of Nõo. It may be a small place but it's where my family are from.

71. The fabric of Nõo parish.

72. Kadriorg.

73. The Estonian History Museum.

74. St. Martin's Day Fair held at Tallinn's Saku Suurhall.

75. School caps.

76. Traditional recipes.

77. Estonian song - Isamaa Ilu Hoieldes.

78. Eating Kaneelirullid (cinnamon rolls).

79. The Eesti Pank Museum.

80.  Luke manor.

81. Climbing up St. Olaf church to gain an excellent view of the city.

82. Estonian proverb - 'Hommik on õhtust targem' (morning is wiser than the evening).

83. Cute Estoniab girls names containing double vowels. Eg. Luula, Liisi, Tiia and Juulia.

84. Estonian National Museum. (Eesti Rahva Muuseum)

85.  Muhu handicrafts.

86. Estonians shared desire to go back to their roots. Genealogy is very popular today.

87. Reading historic novels with familar place names and discovering how life was in Estonia centuries ago.

88. Tallinn Airport. It may be small but it's full of innovations and interesting things to keep you occupied while you wait for your flight.

89. The peacefulness  of driving through the Estonian countryside and not seeing another living soul for miles.

90. Saaremaa.

91. Fields with countless bales of hay.

92. My complete set of Estonian kroon banknotes.  It was sad switching to the Euro but necessary.

93. Tallinn's airport library. I don't often borrow books but I always donate a few whenever I pass through the terminal.

94. Browsing the shelves at Rahva Raamat and Apollo to see the latest books, DVDs and CDs.

95. Estonian stamps.

96. Visiting Estonian villages and seeing old practises in everyday life. Eg. A woman sweeping with a broom made out of sticks, or a door mat made from tree branches. Authenic!

97. Open Farm Day.

98. Visiting old taverns with interesting history like the one in Viitna. Catherine the Great used to pass through Viitna Tavern (Viitna Kõrts) on her way from Russia and there is a famous story about a mirror.

99. Reading old Estonian folktales.

100. Photographs by my great-grandfather Arthur Lestal. He captured life in Estonia during its first period of independence.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Events to take place in Tallinn for EV100

If you are planning to be in Tallinn for the jubliee celebrations, you may be wondering what has been organised. Here is the schedule of the most important events to take place on Saturday for Estonia's Independence Day. 

7:33 am: (sunrise) The flag-hoisting ceremony will take place in the park next to Toompea Castle.

11.00 am: The Defence Forces’ parade on Freedom Square. Vabaduse väljak

1 pm: A concert by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra Tickets

At 1 p.m there will also be a country-wide campaign called ''Estonian minute''. Everyone is invited to send their photos during one minute (from 1:00 - 1:01pm) and upload them to the website. The photos will later be preserved at the Estonian National Museum. More information can be found here: Eesti Minut

The Estonian Open Air Museum will also celebrate the day with festive events starting from 11am. There will be a concert, festively laid anniversary table inspired by 1930s cuisine and a weekend exhibition called ''My home'' located at Kolu Inn. For more information, please click here: EV100 events

Tallinn's Seaplane Harbour Museum will also be celebrating with an exhibution called  ''Hundred Years on Water. The Ships of Estonia 1918-2018''.

Sunday 25th February 2018
At 10 a.m a ceremony will take place at Tallinn's Secondary School of Science (Reaalkool) to commemorate the first meeting of a Temporary Government of the Republic of Estonia. At 11:30 a.m. the Declaration of Independence will be read in front of the school building.

More information about centennial events can be found here: Estonia 100 Centenary Week

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Estonians across the globe prepare for EV100 celebrations

The 100th birthday of the Republic of Estonia is less than a week away and it's great to see all the Estonian communities getting ready to party! Whether you're in London, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver or somewhere in America - there is sure to be a party near you! 

Monday, 19 February 2018

Estonian National Anthem - Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm (My Fatherland, my happiness, my joy)

I'm feeling very patrotic and excited tonight. Just been looking on Facebook to see who I know is coming to Tallinn for EV100. Looks like my Canadian cousins will be there. Great! It's wonderful to see Estonians from across the globe, return to the homeland for such an important event! Can't wait to celebrate!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

The day I met Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid

In Munich today the local Estonian community gathered for an early EV100 celebration. No doubt many of us will be in Tallinn next week for Estonia's official 100th birthday celebrations.  Unfortunately there is no Eesti Maja in Munich so most Estonian events take place at the Haus des Deutschen Ostens.

After the initial welcome we all sang the national anthem followed by a rather humorous speech from General Riho Terras, Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces. Whoever said Estonians don't have a sense of humour? They certainly do behinds closed doors! After a series of muscial performances we were all pleasantly surprised when President Kaljulaid made an apperance. I was speaking with a few Estonian friends at the time when I heard gasps in the crowd then turned to see the President in the room. There was so much excitement! 

I knew President Kaljulaid was in town for the Munich Security Conference but I never expected to see her at our small gathering. It was so nice of her to stop by. Naturally I wanted to say hello so Karin, the head of the Estonian Society in Munich introduced us and we had quick chat. President Kaljuliad said she has relatives in Australia but has never been there. One day she would like to take a month off so she can. It was so nice meeting her, it made the celebration even more memorable!

My one big regret of the day - I forgot to bring my camera!

Creating a digital society: Can Australia learn something from Estonia?

Here's an interesting article I came across this morning.  The answer to the question is a big definite YES!

To read the full CIO article, please click here:
Creating a digital society: Can Australia learn something from Estonia?

Monday, 12 February 2018

The role of armoured trains during the Estonian War of Independence

Today I am going to write about Estonia's armoured trains as they played a significant role in the Estonian War of Independence. I am proud to say that my great-great uncle Paul Lesthal was a machine gunner in the armoured train division and was promoted to the rank of sub-captain by the end of the war. In February 1920 Paul gave a lecture in Tallinn on the armoured trains used during the war. 

The first broad-gauge armoured train was "Captain Irw” (1919).

Armoured trains were used from the very beginning of the Estonian War of Independence. They were previously used during World War I, demonstrating that they could move troops around quickly and get them to safety if required. 

The first Estonian armoured train set off for the front in late November 1918, the next two in December. In 1919 another ten Estonian trains reached the front. During the war, a total of 6 broad-gauge and 7 narrow-gauge armoured trains were built in Estonia.  The advantages of armoured trains were not just their speed compared to road transport, but also their fire power. They transported large-calibre, long-range fieldguns together with essential supplies.

Initially the design of the armoured trains was very simple. The designs were based on goods carriages and, until spring 1919, their ‘armour’ consisted of just wood and sand.  The carriages were later covered with steel and equipped with artillery and machine guns.

Leading the armoured train divsion was Captain Anton Irv and Karl Parts. Both men were highly driven and had gained military experience during World War I. Irv and Parts led a highly motivated team and the efficiency of the armoured trains formed the backbone of the front during the war.

In early January 1919 the Red Army managed to conquer about half of mainland Estonia. Only about 30 km separated them from Tallinn. Fortunately things suddenly changed for the better on January 7 when the restructued Estonian Army and Finnish volunteers launched a counteroffensive. In about three weeks all of Estonia's territory was liberated from the Bolsheviks. The highly motivated armoured train crews and the battalion of Julius Kuperjanov played a significant role in this success.

The first armoured trains and the Kuperjanov battalion can certainly be considered the best Estonian army units during the Estonian War of Independence.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Estonian War of Independence Hero: Julius Kuperjanov (Kupper)

The Estonian War of Independence (1918 - 1920) saw many patriotic young men band together and take up arms to liberate their beloved Estonia. The Estonian Army consisted purely of volunteers and also received assistance from Finland and the United Kingdom.  Many brave boys also fought in the war, often following in their older brothers' footsteps, wanting to prove they could make a difference. As the war progressed, the number of Estonian volunteers steadily grew. In early 1919 the Estonian Army had approximately 15,000 men. That number rose to 75,000 and then 90,000 by the year's end. 

Men from all walks of life fought in the Estonian War of Independence and many heroes emerged among them. One such man was schoolteacher Julius Kuperjanov.

Julius Kuperjanov
29 September 1894 – 2 February 1919

Julius Kuperjanov was born in the Pskov Governorate in 1894. His Estonian parents were working in Russia at the time of his birth and had Russified their surname from Kupper to Kuperjanov. When they returned to Estonia, they decided to keep the name.

Kuperjanov graduated from the Teachers’ College in Tartu in 1914 and taught in the village of Kambja. In 1915 he was conscripted into the Russian army and completed the School of Ensigns. During World War I Kuperjanov served as head of the infantry regiment’s scout commando. In November 1918 he was appointed as head of the Defence League in Tartu county.

Shortly after the Estonian War of Independence began, Kuperjanov assembled a battalion which took his name – the Kuperjanov Partisan Battalion. Students were among the first to join.  He led many successful campaigns and stood out for his bravery and energetic spirit. As a leader he demanded strict discipline from his men, not even allowing them to drink alcohol or play cards.

On the 14th of January 1919, Julius Kuperjanov was among the liberators of Tartu. Unfortunately he was fatally wounded a few weeks later after leading an attack during the decisive Battle of Paju. At the war's end Kuperjanov was declared a national hero for his bravery and self-sacrifice. He was posthumously awarded the Cross of Liberty (VR II/2 and II/3).and has a battalion of the Estonian Army named after him.

Grave of Julius Kuperjanov in Raadi cemetery

Julius Kuperjanov's tomb at Raadi cemetery in Tartu was one of the few War of Independence monuments to survive the Soviet occupation. It still stands today.

In 2009 a postage stamp was released in Kuperjanov's honour, marking the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Paju.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

A Hundred Years of the Republic of Estonia - Time to Celebrate!

Not long to go now until Estonia celebrates its 100th birthday.  There has never been a better time to visit Estonia than now. The big day is on February 24th!

Friday, 2 February 2018

Be part of the EV100 birthday invitation

A new initative has been launched to encourage people to visit Estonia during the centennial celebrations. The project asks for all Estonians at home and abroad, and e-Residents, to submit joyful portrait photos that will then be made into an extremely long videostream – the online birthday invitation.

At the beginning of the video, people will be invited to visit the Republic of Estonia on the occasion of its 100th anniversary, followed by photos of the Estonian people according to their counties. The invitation ends with photos of e-Residents. Between the portraits, Estonian tourism sights will be shown and achievements of the country mentioned. Estonian music will play in the background.

Estonians can submit their photographs now and the birthday invitation will be live on the Internet from 24th of February 2018.  The video will be later given to the Estonian National Museum, so that future generations can search for our photos there. It is kind of a historical portrait of the Estonian nation.

You can upload your photo with your Estonian ID card here: EV100 Birthday Invitation

And did I contributed a photograph to the invitation? Of course! I am a very patriotic Estonian! I can't wait to celebrate EV100! Elagu Eesti!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Abram Petrovich Gannibal - The Black Governor of Tallinn

There are many fascinating stories that fill the history pages of Tallinn.  Perhaps one of the most interesting is the life of Abram Petrovich Gannibal. He was an African boy who escaped a life of slavery and went on to live a priviledged existence in the Russian court. Whilst most Estonians were bound to lords of their manor at this time, Gannibal enjoyed freedoms that most Estonians did not.

Born in Central Africa some time between  1696–1698, Abram was kidnapped as a child and taken to Russia to serve in the royal household. He was presented as a 'gift' to Peter the Great who took a liking to his intelligence and had him freed. Peter the Great then adopted Abram and had him raised in the Russian Court as his godson. Abram was baptized in 1705, in St. Paraskeva Church in Vilnius. The date of Abram’s baptism was used as his birthday because he did not know his actual date of birth.

Abram valued his relationship with his godfather, as well as that of Peter’s daughter Elizabeth, and was loyal to them as if they were family. Starting at a young age Abram would travel alongside the Tzar during his military campaigns, serving as his godfather’s valet.

Abram received a good education He was fluent in several languages and excelled in mathematics and geometry. In 1718 Abram joined the French Army with hopes of pleasing his godfather by expanding his learning in military engineering. He enrolled in the royal artillery academy at La Fère in 1720. It was during his time in France that Abram adopted the surname "Gannibal" in honour of the Carthaginian general Hannibal (Gannibal being the traditional transliteration of the name in Russian).

After the death of Peter the Great in 1725, Prince Menshikov gained power in Russia. Menshikov was not fond of Gannibal and had him exiled to Siberia in 1727. In 1730 Gannibal  was pardoned and his technical skills were put to use. He worked on many construction projects in Siberia and became a master engineer.

In 1741 Peter's daughter Elizabeth became the new monarch of Russia. Abram became a prominent member of her court during her reign and rose to the rank of major-general.  Empress Elizabeth placed much faith in Abram and made him mayor of Tallinn in 1742. He held that position until 1752. A letter signed on 22 March 1744 by "A. Ganibal" is held at the Tallinn City Archives. In 1742, the Empress Elizabeth gave Abram the Mikhailovskoye estate in Pskov Oblast with hundreds of serfs. He retired to this estate in 1762.

Letter signed by A. Ganibal on 22 March 1744. Tallinn City Archives.

Abram married twice. His first marriage was an arranged one and was quite volatile. His Greek wife Evdokia Dioper despised her husband and had a string of affairs from the onset of  the marriage.  When Abram found out that she had been unfaithful to him (Dioper gave birth to her lovers' white child), he had her arrested and thrown into prison, where she spent eleven years. After they divorced Dioper was sent to a convent for the rest of her life.

Abram's second marriage was a much happier one. He married Christina Regina Siöberg in Tallinn in 1736 and they had ten children together.  Abram appreciated Christina's fidelity and affection towards him and they lived a happy existence. Many of Abram's descendants can still be found in aristocratic circles today. In England,  Natalia Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster and her sister, Alexandra Hamilton, Duchess of Abercorn. George Mountbatten, 4th Marquess of Milford Haven, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II are all desceded from him.

Perhaps one of his most famous descendants is his great-grandson, Russian author and poet Alexander Pushkin.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The next Estonian Song & Dance Festival has been named 'Minu arm'

2019 will see two major jubilees take place in Estonia. The Estonian Song Festival will celebrate its 150th birthday and the Dance Celebration will take place for the twentieth time. The name given to the 2019 celebration, 'Minu arm' (my love), was released today and refers to the love of the Estonian homeland. The event will take place from 4th -7th July 2019. 

The first Estonian Song Festival took place in 1869 during the nascent Estonian national awakening. The Song Festival was also a great musical event which created the Song Celebration tradition. The first Song Festival was organised by Johann Voldemar Jannsen and ran from 18-20 June 1869. 51 male choirs and brass bands gathered for the first Song Festival in Tartu. Today it is a rich tradition that takes place every five years.

Registration to participate in the coming event is now open.

For more information, please refer to the official Estonian Song Festival website:

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Estonia 100 online and pop-up store now open

It's not long to go now until Estonians across the globe officially celebrate the 100th birthday of the Republic of Estonia. No doubt homes and offices will be patriotically decorated with the beloved blue, black and white colours of the national flag. If you are in need of some EV100 merchandise then you'll be pleased to know that the EV100 online store is now open as well as the pop-up store in Tallinn. The store is located at Mere pst 8, Tallinn.

To buy online, please click here: EV100 webstore

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Lonely Planet: Estonia gears up for worldwide centenary celebrations

Estonia is to celebrate a very special anniversary this year. Festivities will take place across the world to mark the centenary anniversary of the independence of the country. The official programme of commemorations from ESTONIA 100 will feature a wide range of events that cover everything from heritage to design, music, and nature.

“The centenary is celebrated around the world and the Estonia 100 international programme is Estonia’s greatest cultural export project so far,” Jaanus Rohumaa told Lonely Planet. “In addition to the domestic programme, the celebrations will bring around 200 events to 30 countries around the world, introducing Estonia and its culture globally. Undoubtedly one of the greatest events will be World Cleanup Day on September 15, 2018, which will be a gift from Estonians to the world.”

Estonia’s capital Tallinn was named as one of the best value destinations in 2018 by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel. Half of the country is populated by forest and encompasses over 2000 islands.

To read the full article, please click here: Estonia gears up for worldwide centenary celebrations

Monday, 1 January 2018

VIDEO: NYE fireworks across Estonia

Brilliant displays of colour lite up the sky above Estonia on New Year's Eve. With a full moon aglow and mild weather, people were out to party! If you weren't in Estonia to celebrate on New Year's Eve, don't worry, this video released by Delfi TV captures all the highlights!

To watch the video, click here: VIDEO | Ilutulestiku-gurmaanid, see on teile: Tallinna, Kuressaare, Viimsi, Pärnu, Narva ja Tartu valgusmängud kõik ühes videos!

Head uut aastat / Happy New Year !

Happy New Year everyone! Here's to 2018! May the coming year be full of many new adventures, joyous times and prosperity! Now that it's January it means that EV100 is only a month away and I will be back in Tallinn once more. Can't wait!