My latest trip to Estonia made me realize how little I know about this country and how interesting yet not well known it is. Then, after reading your comments and messages, it turned out I’m not the only one who is not very familiar with the facts about this Baltic country. Hence here are some random facts about Estonia that I found and thought you might want to know them too!Some of this might be well known to you but I hope you will find these facts intersting anyway
*The capital of Estonia is Tallinn, not Riga or Vilnius as many people think. Tallinn is also the biggest city and the financial and political center of the country. Since it’s located right on the Baltic shore, with a very good ferry connections to Finland (that is just 80kms away across the Gulf of Finland) it gets a lot of visitors each year. People love Tallinn which is not surprising as it’s a beautiful city with an incredibly beautiful medieval Old Town and lots of alternative places to explore just outside of it. Even if Estonia is considered a part of Baltics in every aspects it’s closer to Nordic countries.
*Other bigger Estonian cities are: Tartu, Parnu and Narva. But even if they are big in Estonian standards they’re not huge. Tartu has a little bit over 100.000 inhabitants, Parnu not even half of that.
* While Tallinn is a political center and Parnu a summer capital, Tartu is the intellectual capital of Estonia. The best and most popular of Estonian universities is located in this second biggest city. It was founded in 1632 by the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus. Thanks to the university Tartu is often called “Heidelberg of the North”. These days almost 20.000 students go to that school.
* Over the centuries Estonia was under German, Swedish, Polish or Russian rule. It got its independence in 1918 only to lose it shortly to Soviet USSR. Estonia regained the freedom in 1991 in so called “Singing Revolution” when thousands of people gathered to sing together. Also then the human chain of more than 2 milion people was created, connecting Tallinn with Vilnius via Riga (I saw an exhibition about that in Lithuania and it brought so many emotions I was almost crying). Anyway, due to the troublesome history Estonia celebrates two independence days – on 24th February and 20th August.
*Speaking of singing – Estonians are crazy about folk songs and have a collection of over 130.000 traditional folk songs. There are also numerous songs and dance festivals all over the country. In 2003 UNESCO recognized these traditions as the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
*Even if Estonia seems to look very small on the map it’s actually bigger than Denmark or the Netherlands. Almost 50% of the country is covered. There are also over 1400 lakes and 1500 islands. The highest peak is only 318 meters (but Estonia is known as a perfect destination for cross-country skiing).
*Of all the USSR countries Estonia was the first one that got Euro as its national currency, on January 1st 2011.
*Did you know that Skype, Hotmail and Kazaa were founded and developed in Estonia? Wi-fi is widely available in the public spaces and all Estonian schools are connected to the internet.
*Estonia was the first country in the world to use online political voting.
*Estonian language is nothing like Latvian or Russian. It’s however the same group as Finnish, they belong to the Finno-Ugric languages. Hungarian is also part of that group but while Finnish and Estonian people can communicate (even if they make fun of each other), Hungarians have no idea what they’re talking about. Estonia celebrate the day of its language on 14th March – a birthday of Kristjan Jaak Petersen, a writer and poet that died at the age of 21. His statue can be found in Tartu, next to the cathedral ruins.
*speaking of monuments – also in Tartu there’s one of Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde chatting friendly. Technically these two writers could have met but never did. Exactly the same statues can be found in Galway, Ireland.
*Estonia is the least religious country in the world – only 14% of inhabitants claim any religious beliefs.
*A literacy rate is really high there – 99,8%, second place in the world
*When chess master Paul Keres died in 1975 over 100,000 people attended his funeral, 10% of the Estonia’s population.
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If you think of visiting Estonia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- Breathtaking autumn in Estonia
- Cafe culture in Estonia
- Tartu – an intellectual heart of Estonia
- and more!
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