Old town in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, Part 3

By the time I reached Tallinn, Estonia, having driven from Poland through Lithuania, Latvia, and part of Estonia, I had developed a nice feeling about the Baltic Countries. The countries are beginning to prosper and there is so much history. According to my guide, the Baltic States were the last to be “barbaric.” Estonia is the smallest state, and Tallinn, on the Baltic Sea, is the capital. I enjoyed seeing the friendly people, busy with their daily lives. Some were farmers, some were craftsmen, others were professionals; all seemed happy with life in their Baltic States.

From the time I left Vilnius, Lithuania until I reached Tallinn, Estonia, I kept being reminded of the historic Baltic Chain of Freedom. It was a peaceful demonstration, held on August 23, 1989, against the rule of the Soviet Union. Approximately two million people joined hands to form a human chain spanning 419.7 miles across three Baltic States. In 1989, this human chain drew global attention for the independence and solidarity of the three countries. Can you imagine the emotionally captivating and visually stunning scene? Within seven months after this demonstration, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet Republics to declare independence. August 23rd is now an official remembrance day in the Baltic Countries and the European Union for victims of Stalinism and Nazism.

In Tallinn, I stayed in the tallest building, a restored former KGB headquarters. There is a trendy three-story mall attached to this high-rise. Across the street was the entrance to Upper Town and Old Town, with ancient walls, narrow cobblestone streets, and buildings with great character. There were museums to visit, cafes with great hot chocolate, and tiny shops with many souvenirs.

For dinner one evening, our guide arranged for us to go to an interesting place, as he called it.  That night, we decided, was the time to dress more elegantly.  The ladies had on open-toed shoes and even stilettos, with their silk scarves on bare shoulders, and the men were in dress shoes and ties. To our surprise, our driver drove us far out into the country and parked at the end of a muddy dirt road.  We walked to this little farm with a few chickens, a pig pen, and a few cows out in the pasture.  We went into a quaint rustic building and sat down on old wooden benches and were served a humble, so-called Viking dinner. After a while we began to laugh about this unexplained situation. And as we swatted flies and sat with muddied feet, we created our own entertainment. It was an evening to remember.

Soon it was time to leave the Baltic Countries and say good-bye (Head-aega in Estonia) and thank you (Tänan).

(posted January 23, 2017)