My Estonia: Land of the singing revolution

Lake Ulemiste, Tallinn, Estonia

Russian Orthodox church, Tartu, Estonia

Kissing students sculpture, Tartu main square.

Birch trees, Tartu Botanical Gardens

Over Easter we flew over to Estonia to see Hiie's family, one of the best places to visit in Europe. The Estonians are really passionate about their country. With such a small population- 1.36 million- they managed to reclaim their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 in what is known as the Singing Revolution. The Singing Revolution is a commonly used name for events that occured between 1987 and 1990 that led to the restoration of independence for Estonia.
The term was coined in 1988 by an Estonian activist and artist Heinz Valk, after the spontaneous mass night-singing demonstrations against the Soviets at the Tallinn Song festival grounds (Tallinn is the capital of Estonia).
In another amazing demonstration for more independence in 1989 a human chain of more than two million people was formed which stretched through Estonia to Latvia and Lithuania. All three nations had similar desires to restore their independence. And so they became. Incredible.

Pine trees through the window of the bus, Estonia

Birch trees in a blur, Estonia

Farm, Estonia

I recieved my own private performance of the passionate intensity of the Estonian people when Hiie's mum Mare and partner Lembit entertained us with a couple of Estonian songs and a poem she had written about the Baltic sea. They accompanied themselves with accordion and guitar and we had our own loungeroom singing revolution! It was a moving and hypnotic performance and the melodies really resonated in your heart.

Landscape 1, Estonia

 Visiting, Tartu, Estonia

 Landscape 2, Estonia

We mainly visited Tartu this time. The rest of Estonia was taken in through the windows of the bus on the way there. Main features- flat, birch/pine filled landscape punctuated by old wooden farms and boggy watery paddocks with snowy highlights. A lot of new freeway construction going on. We managed to see a couple of storks returning to their enormous stick nests perched on the tops of electricity poles, though we didn't see many birds overall.

Landscape 3, Estonia

 Landscape 4, Estonia

Stork in it's nest, Estonia

Tartu has an emotional intensity because of the buildings and the history like other European towns, but unlike Paris nearly everyone could speak a few words of english and the young people in particular are really fluent making it easy for seriously monolingual people like me to get about and discover the place. Of course I had the perfect guide in Hiie.

Wall painting of Tartu University, Tartu, Estonia

Kissing students cafe, Tartu, Estonia

Tartu University, Estonia

Intensity was the keyword in the contemporary art exhibition at the Art Museum of Tartu. I was surprised to see so much political art, though it's not a surprise really if you think about it. The printmaking is quite distinctive. Dark, and intricate with political and fantastical overtones. Estonian tv was a surprise too, broadcasting an animated series satirising politicians during primetime. Funny and interesting. Considering the size of the population it's amazing the high quality and openness of the creativity and the amount of artists Estonia's produced. The great Estonian composer Arvo Part is one of my favourite contemporary composers.

Tartu's university, founded in 1632, is a major attraction in Tartu and it dominates the old part of the town.  They're a serious intellectual mob with a great history of scholars. Hiie's children are studying there. Tartu is so compact you can walk around the whole thing in a day, which we did having the usual hot chocolates and coffees and cakes on the way. The food and drinks in Estonia are seriously sweet. I'm getting fatter by the minute.
Exhibition at Art Museum of Tartu, Estonia

One of the newly painted original houses, Tartu

City Square, Tartu

Many buildings are awaiting renovation, Tartu, Estonia

'Father and Son' statue by Ulo Oun that regularly gets adornments from students. 

The magical Botanical Gardens, Tartu, Estonia

Tartu's main river, the Emajogi.

Take a look at: My Estonia 2: Land of the late night party

A good website for information on Estonia is


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