(Eesti Vabariik, Republic of Estonia)
- Location : Europe (Baltic Region)
- Capital: Tallinn
- Language: Estonian, Finnish
- Population: 1.34 million
- Total Area: 45,227 km2
- Currency: Euro
- Annual average liquor consumption per capita: 10.2 liters per year
- Annual Beer Consumption Per Capita: 80 liters per year
- The Most Popular Drink: Vodka, Kvas, Vana Tallinn
The settlement of modern day Estonia began around 8500 BC, but over the centuries, Estonians have endured rule of other nations: Danish, Polish, Swedish and most recently Russian. Estonia finally gained independence in 1991 and have emerged as a very nationalistic yet poor country. Estonian is an official language and Tallinn is the capital. Tartu is the second largest city and reins as the educational center. At the time of Soviet Union, Tartu University attracted the brightest talent from all over the country, especially Jews, Armenians, and Georgians who have been unable to enter the Universities in other parts of the Soviet Union. This talent inflow created a spirit of constant academic exploration and discovery that can still be felt in the air walking through cobblestone streets of the cities.
Estonia has yet another very unique distinction. It is the only country in the world comprised of mostly atheists. More than 70% of the people aged 15 years or older have stated that they are not affiliated with any religion or religious faith. This pragmatism paired with extreme wireless capabilities in Estonia has produced the world communication phenomenon, Skype. Not many are aware that Skype was in fact created in this obscure country by Estonians who called themselves Jaan Tallinn.
What To Do:
Tallinn is best explored by walking. An absolute must see includes one of the most controversial churches in Europe, St. Olav’s. This 13th century church used to be the tallest and doubled as a watch tower for approaching ships. However, it was also such an attraction for lightning that it has been struck multiple times over the years and burned down completely three times. In light of this, pun intended, no wonder so many Estonians are atheists. You might also dare and try to get some money out of a cash machine as you are exploring the city. Recently, a mouse made a cozy home out of a bed of note in one and chewed its way through hundreds of bills.
Estonians would probably resent this comparison, but just like their neighbors the Finns and the Russians, they do know their alcohol. Favorites include the local beer Sake or A. Le Coq, the local vodka Viru Valge and the surprisingly smooth and tasty rum-like herbal liquor Vana Tallinn (Old Tallinn). Be especially careful as you try to order A.Le Coq, sounds just like “I’d like a coke”, so you might be starting to drink earlier than you have intended. There is also a local soft drink is "Kali" (the Estonian equivalent of "kvass"), made from fermented brown bread. It can be described as an acquired taste.
No trip to Estonia would be complete without sampling a wide array of chocolates produced by the Kalev confectionery. My favorite is the dark bittersweet chocolate. Although not as famous as Swiss made, it is a smooth perfect blend of sweetness with just a touch of bitterness. An Estonian “must eat”!
Story By Marina Balzac
©2011 World By Shotglass. All Rights Reserved
Special thanks to our contributors:
Irina Lapteva (Dublin, Ireland)
Alex P.(New Jersey)
Alexey (Moscow, Russia)