Sunday, March 13, 2011

Estonia: Fairytales, Soup, and Snow. OH MY!

While I was in Finland, my friend and I decided that we should make the best of my stay and visit some surrounding countries. I mean come on, travelling is my biggest enjoyment in life and I love a good tour/adventure any moment of any day! We decided that first we would take a look at Estonia, now mind you, it has a population of a whole 1.5 million people, about half of the population of Izmir, Turkey. I was quite skeptical and intrigued, that an entire country could be so small.

I took a ferry/cruise ship to Tallinn, Estonia which lasted about 3 hours. The ship was huge and filled with Russians, Finns, and some Estonians. Now you may wonder why people choose to go to Estonia for a weekend. I mean really what is there that is so awe inspiring? I may warmly say that the landscape is gorgeous, but it is not the scenery as stated by the people I had talked to. It is the money! Finland is a very expensive place to live, and the Estonians live quite cheaply. Let me put it into retrospective:

Note: 1 euro is about $1.40
A piece of cake from a cafe: Finland: 5-8 euros Estonia: 1euro!
Souvenirs(any): Finland: 5 euros Estonia: 0.5-1 euro.
Cider at the bar: Finland: 5-7 euros Estonia: 2-3 euros
Soup: Finland: 8 euros Estonia: 2 euros

Standing around in Old Towne, Tallinn, Estonia.

As you can see there is a HUGE difference in the prices, which leads people from finland to take a mini vacation; spas, fancy restaurants, sight seeing, stocking up on their monthly alcohol(for Finnish individuals, this is a must, as I have observed). Another thing that caused these low prices was that as of January 1st of this year they changed their currency to the euro from the Estonian kroon. With the change they are attempting to change country-wide. While the kroon was quite cheap the prices were cheap, so whilst using the euro, they will most likely need to adjust accordingly.

Worlds Best Soup!
The countries most popular foods are black bread, pork and soups. And I have to say, I have never had soup so delicious as in Estonia. My favorite would have to be the salmon and shrimp cream soup! It was like the greatest sensation that cant be described, as well as very fulfilling.

The customer service, everywhere, was quite lacking and cold. At the cafe it took 5 minutes just to get acknowledgement from the waiter, the waiters in restaurants were also cold, very direct with answers and had a lack of humor. The Estonians in general from my perspective were cold and uninviting, as with any place with the cold weather, I'm sure. A huge difference from the warm and inviting Turkish culture!

The hostel, the end of the hall was our room.
This was the first time experiencing a hostel, for some of my readers, they might ponder what a hostel is. The idea is set up for youth or frequent travelers, which provides them with a very cheap stay in a hotel setting. However the main difference is everything is community shared, the room, the bathroom, and the common areas. This can strike some skepticism in an Americans eyes I am sure. Immediately you say: "Strangers, WHAT?" "Will my things be stolen?" "Can I sleep in the same room as a stranger?" "How are the bathrooms, dirty?" I'm here to say that as my first experience, it was good. The room and bathroom were both very clean, the service was .... Ok I guess. I felt secure with my things being left with the public being able to get them. The thing that I/you have to remember is, everyone else in the hostel is going through the same scenario, travelling in a foreign country, taking the bare minimum; this is why everyone typically respects everyone else's privacy and possessions. There was however a very creepy guy that was sitting on the edge of his bed just staring at me while I was "sleeping" for about 10-15 minutes. Other than the creeper, I would recommend the adventure and opportunity to anyone who is looking for a cheap stay(15-20 euro). It leaves you with much more money to spend on other fun adventures!

I love the colors of the Estonian Flag!
Estonia in overview was a fairy tale land from the scenery that lacked enthusiasm from its people. 2 days is enough to see everything there is needed to see. I am very glad I had the opportunity to visit and experience it. While the temperature was negative 30 degrees and the people were cold, we stayed warm during the breaks in cafes and buildings and shrugged off the cold individuals. Visiting and travelling places are of top concern, and this is just another place to put in "Traveled/Accomplished" list.
This is Mcdonalds even! Yumminess for 4 euros TOTAL!
I was not happy about the cold, AT ALL!
Just the usual pose! ;)
Of course I had to try some Estonian hookah/nargile! :D

1 comment:

Nadir said...

Thanks Dustin! Your writing is guiding not only exchange students but also other visitors to Estonia. Especially, advices of the prices and the customer service are the most useful ones for me :-)