Estonia

An intro to Estonia: Estonia, situated in the far north east corner of Europe, is a small, flat, sparsley populated country with a distinctly scandinavian feel. Located on the border with Russia and a stones throw from Finland, Estonia has many forests and beautiful lakes, the biggest of which – the Peipsi – forms the majority of the border between Russia and Estonia. The seasons cause stark contrasts here – with extremely cold winters blanketing the country in snow for several months and often freezing sea, versus endless warm summer days where the sun barely sets. It is during summer where Estonia is at it’s best – especially in the party capital of Parnu, where summer beach parties, with singing, dancing and drinking, go on for many days.

As well as the contrasting seasons, Estonia has dramatically contrasting cityscapes. After regaining it’s independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia quickly set about homogenising itself with the rest of western Europe, restoring the old scandinavian and bavarian architecture, and erecting shiny new office buildings. Tallinn’s beautiful old town around Toompea was restored and big glass banking centres & large shopping malls were erected. This has given Tallinn the feel of perhaps Oxford or Bern in Switzerland. However, alongside these lay grey, square, concrete tower blocks, large factories and abondoned communal farms – a reminder of Estonia’s communist history. This is especially visible in the little-explored eastern part of the country around the town of Narva. The major land border between Europe and Russia is in Narva, and from here, one can watch the Russian and Estonian flags flying across the river between two opposing castles.

Of the three Baltic states, Estonia is the most developed and, whilst not as cheap as it once was – especially with Euro adoption on the horizon, Estonian has largely avoided the ‘stag-do’ feel of Riga in Latvia and Vilnius in Lithuania – leaving Tallinn and Estonia a great place to explore for a long weekend or more during Summer.