The other day I stumbled upon footage from the last big song and dance celebration. 

For those who have no idea (and trust me, I don’t blame you) here is a wiki quote:

The Estonian Song Festival is one of the largest amateur choral events in the world, a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It is held every five years in July in Tallinn simultaneously with the Estonian Dance Festival.

In other words very special, magical folky thing. Always makes me emotional to watch, because I am a softy (not ashamed of it) and this kind of friendly sense of unity gets me to the core.

So there I was, sitting, watery eyes glued to the screen, thinking “God damn! How cool is that?”

Sometimes isolation of a certain element from your life is the only way to realize how precious it is to you.
The grass is always greener on the other side I heard them say, and it’s true- if you are born with the fire in your heart and wind in your hair that constantly sings you lullubies of distant lands, murmurs of adventure, then you will always have your eyes fixed on the horizon, without looking down at the ground beneath your feet.

And that is a crime I am confessing to today.

So here we go, a love letter to this small dot on the map and to the 1.4 million people that call it home.

Dear Estonia,

I love, I love, I love – so many things that I love about you.

Are you the best country in the world- definitely not, but people don’t tend give their heart to what is truly best for them, by far. Hearts don’t seek perfection, they seek something to mend them, heal them, carry them away, to drive them crazy, to break and build them back up again. Anything but simple perfection will do.

Anything but that.

Estonia is flawed, in many ways. Perhaps in as many ways as it is wonderful, and that’s why I like it so much.

There is something almost poetic about it.

When I come home to Tallinn, I will take a long walk along the promenade and look at the sea. It will still be cold for most strollers and the only people I will meet will be the the strong-willed joggers. I will rest my eyes on this simple sight, when sky melts into the sea and icy waves foaming on the shore. Faint smell of salt.

I will go to the Old town, walk medieval, cobble stone lined streets and listen to the echo of my steps. I will walk up to one of the carts where they sell heavenly spiced almonds and ask for a bite, then hide in some cozy cafe, cheeks red from the frost. Order hot chocolate.

You can do almost nothing, but it still feels like you are trapped in a story and with the turn of the page something special will most certainly happen. Charming little place, pinewood forest, bogs and not a single hill in sight.

Always some magic around the corner, no doubt about it.

And Nothing quite like the summer and the white nights, when sunsets drag on for seemingly endless time and sky stays glowing with deep purple, pink, orange, blue. Open air film screenings at midnight, going to the bar when it’s still light and coming out just a few hours later when sun is already rising. If you love sunsets, then this is a place and time to be.

And sauna – never believed I will say it, but I miss a good sauna. When you drive to the countryside to someones house for a weekend. Drinks, snack, fire in the fireplace and sauna where you struggle to stay even 5 minutes, because it is hot like hell. And after that jump into the lake or roll in the snow or just take an ice cold shower. Then repeat, again and again. Feels like you have been reborn.

But what I love the most are the people. The stereotypes are true- Estonians are a bit cold on the outside. There is a big wall and unless you have a jet-pack of friendliness and natural magnetism, you will have to struggle a bit. Befriending an Estonian is like trying to domesticate a wild animal – you will first have to put in the effort to get it to trust you. But once they do, they are the warmest.*
*note: obviously not all Estonians are nice people. I can name a few who are a real pain in the a**.  But I am quite convinced that people I have in my life are total sweethearts. Kind, open-minded, chill and with big dreams. Beautiful people.
And black bread. Black as a charcoal. None of this sissy fluffy white bread that they sell here. I want to taste the soil in every bite, obviously, because I am hardcore like that.

You have to come for a while to see for yourself what is so captivating in this place. With an open heart and mind, and if you do, then I am sure, that it will treat you kindly.

Riina Meldre, EVS volunteer in Zagorje