Yep, I’m in Estonia. Anyone know where that is?
I’m in one of the smallest capitals in Europe, Tallinn. Before coming here, all I knew about Estonia was that it had once won the Eurovision Song Contest and Tallinn is home to English stag nights. Can’t say that that knowledge really does the place justice.
I don’t even know of any Estonians. I could only think of one Finn and she wasn’t even real – Ravi, the girlfriend of the guy that allegedly stole the statue from Jerry’s apartment.
Tallinn is like Prague but nicer – less crowds, lower prices and the most gorgeous Old Town you could ever hope to find. Sure, it rained cats and dogs the last two days, but today the sun came out and so did the rest of Estonia.
One of the things I love doing in new countries is checking out the supermarket. Now, I hate grocery shopping but in Europe you never know what to expect – in Tallinn I found two litre soft drink bottles of beer (one dollar), eighty-cent Red Bull, Granny Smith apples and the closest thing I’ve seen to dim sims – dumplings. I was so excited I bought a bag even though I couldn’t read the instructions (all in Russian – half of Tallinn’s residents are Russian) and made myself a yummo meal that night – a nice change from pasta.
So what have I been up to in the former USSR. I’ve haggled my way through a Russian market (people actually wear those silly hats in summer), eaten Russian soup (I have no idea what was in it), spent half a day in the Museum of Occupations, watched an Estonian soap opera (where the women basically wear only their underwear), visited an Orthodox Cathedral and contemplated purchasing a pair of those stupid woolen mittens that make you look like you’ve just come from Siberia.
But the highlight was definitely my sauna experience today. I had to try a sauna, despite not knowing any of the protocol. I was the only one holding her towel around her for dear life. I made a friend in there, who wasn’t nearly as prudish as me. I was like Elaine when she tried not looking at the woman with the goiter. She was very worried about my hair burning so she made me a little newspaper hat to match hers.
It was the hottest sauna ever, I was convinced I was going to die. But I couldn’t get a word in to say, ‘well, it’s been a pleasure’ so I sat there, melting, in my little newspaper hat.
Finally I escaped, and headed for the shower. The shower with no curtains, of course. Quickly I disposed of the towel and went straight in, only to feel a tap on my shoulder. There was Natalia, who simply wanted to tell me, ‘welcome to Estonia!’
There I was, dressed like this little old Estonian woman, in my birthday suit and a newspaper hat. I really was turning European.