I think after two months in Tallinn we’re coming close to the point where we can almost call this city a home. We are already handing in assignments for choruses, know which lecturers we don’t like, know what clubs and restaurants we do like, and already have some everyday homie routines. But besides that, I can imagine that you too are getting to do some things you wouldn’t necessarily do at home, like maybe trying new foods or listening to new genres of music. This Erasmus experience allows us all to learn more about our wide spectrum of likes and dislikes, expanding our horizons in many ways. Lately, I’ve realized that walking down the streets of Tallinn is one of my new favorite things to do. This everyday hobby of mine is kind of shocking to me since honestly, I suck at orientations and have a bad sense of direction.
I can be at the same place 3 times or even more, and still won’t remember the way to get there and back home. Too many times I’ve gotten out of a restaurant with friends, and in full confidence I would start walking like I know the way and everyone should follow me, when actually it was the completely opposite direction of where we had come from. It’s pretty bad in my case, and I do get lost often. And because of this, usually when I need to walk somewhere, I’ll have to dedicate my full attention to the navigation app on my phone, and that I absolutely hate. Not only because it totally makes me look like a tourist, but mostly because it forces me to ignore the actual way towards my destination, and miss out on seeing all it has to offer. But fortunately Tallinn is a small city, almost everything is in walking distance so life here kind of forces me to deal with this scattered quality of mine.
The way I see it, whether it’s going to EBS, to a friend’s house, to the gym (oh, who am I kidding?) or to the Old Town; every day I get a few moments when it’s only me, my headphones, my thoughts, a cigarette (‘cause I’m a smoker), and the beautiful Tallinn city scenery. So after living here for about two months (AKA I can consider myself a local), the “walking around with my eyes stuck to my phone” has definitely reduced, and I am now able to walk from place to place freely and notice my surroundings much more. Like the sun, for example, when its kind enough to show itself, of course, is so bright and white (rather than the usual yellow). It feels good to just stop and stare at it for a few seconds, to absorb the vitamin D it sends out. Although in Israel we would call this sun a “lying sun” since it only makes you think it’s not cold outside. And it is, so cold. BTW, for those of you like me who came from a sunny country, I was recommended to take vitamin D pills during the winter days. Apparently the cold and cloudy weather can get us pretty depressed.
Another thing I noticed when walking in the streets here, are the many Estonian couples walking around and talking to each other while holding hands. Not that this is too unusual, but it’s kind of heartwarming to see that this is something that’s done a lot, and not only by 10 year old girls. Now that I pointed this out maybe you’ll also begin to notice how common this friendly gesture is in here. Oh, and of course, one of the most noticeable things in Tallinn are the local women. They are absolutely beautiful! It didn’t surprise me when I found out that Estonia is the top nation for the number of international top models per capita in Europe. I have to note, though, that another fact I learned recently which did surprise me was that Estonia is also considered one of the top countries in Europe when it comes to HIV and Aids patients. So girls and guys, always be smart, if you know what I mean
Which way should I go?
Like many of you, I also went the ESN “Around Estonia” trip, and during these days I got to see beautiful sights and learn some interesting facts about Estonia and its history and culture. One of my favorite revelations was learning the word they use here for “cheese”, when smiling to the camera. “Hernesupp”! It means green pea soup. This was a little funny in my opinion since I couldn’t quite understand the connection between the phrase and its intention, plus you don’t finish the word with a smile on your lips, but more of an “O” shaped expression. Our trip group pictures look like we were all surprised from the flash or something. I really did enjoy the trip, especially because I got to know a lot of new people. Our bus had 45 students from 17 different countries, very multi-cultural! But having said that, traveling with such a tight schedule is not the way I usually like to do it. I’d rather have the free time to just wander around and explore. And, as an expert in having a bad sense of directions, I admit that I actually see some benefits in getting lost sometimes. I find that walking, without knowing where you are headed, often leads to the best places.
For example, I went with a few of my Israeli friends to the Lahemaa National Park (the Bog) a few weeks ago (if you haven’t been you should go, it’s beautiful). When we started walking in the park we didn’t have much knowledge of what way we should go. Most of the time it was ok, since the trail was pretty clear and we also saw some people along the way that assured us we weren’t just randomly walking in the woods. But after about 3 hours of wandering through the mesmerizing nature, we all realized that we didn’t really know where exactly we were, which way we should go next, and even which way leads us back to the starting point. So we continued walking. Eventually we got to a street road and figured that was a pretty good sign. When we saw a car passing by, we stopped him to ask for some directions. Luckily for us he was the local forest ranger, so he had quite a few suggestions. And after a nice talk with him, we asked if he can maybe give us a ride to a place he thinks we will enjoy, and ended up driving at the back of his SUV, getting a personal tour of the park. It might sound a bit strange we did that, but in Israel it is considered rather normal to simply ask, even if the answer might be no. And he seemed happy to assist. He even took us to a different area, close to the sea shore, and dropped us off at this legendary “make a wish” pile of stones, near a dock on the see that looked like a boat. This is the kind of trip I like, when things happen by coincidence but somehow work out for the best.
What’s the hurry?
One of the best trips I did up until now was to Riga. I was the only non-German speaker in our group, so I got to listen to their language a lot, and even learned quite a few words. We rented a car for the weekend, did a nice road trip and stayed at an Airbnb apartment. On our second day, after eating a good breakfast at a place called “Big Bad Bagel” (we all recommend it), we stopped to have a smoke on a bench near the love locks bridge in Vermanes Garden, and wounded up staying on that bench for about an hour. Although we were supposed to head back home shortly after and originally planned on doing a walking trail we had read about in Lonely Planet, I guess sitting and enjoying the green-yellow-red and sky blue scenery felt like a better thing to do instead. Plus, the sun was fully out and shining that afternoon, on the contrary to the day before which was rainy as hell! I think this hour was my favorite part of the Riga trip. It reminded me that sometimes you don’t have to be in a rush to get anywhere. Sometimes it’s fun to just allow ourselves to stop and enjoy the moment.
In conclusion of this article, and these two great months that passed by so quickly, I think I accept the fact that a good sense of direction is not one of my strong qualities because it’s ok to let yourself lose the way a few times before reaching your destination. Like the French say- c’est la vie! And even when it comes to the professional aspect; I’m learning in EBS a lot of new subjects and don’t know yet in which way they will promote me in the future. But it doesn’t matter now. I’m here, still a student, and still in the learning process. I find most choruses to be interesting, and of course, am really enjoying sharing this discovery experience with all the other Erasmus students. I only hope the cold weather here won’t prevent me too much from my new hobby of wandering around the streets and exploring. I’m really not used to these low temperatures because in Israel it rarely goes under 5 degrees. So, when looking out my window now and seeing the white snow taking over the Tallinn scenery, staying home and curling up under a blanket while drinking a warm cup of tea seems to be a very good idea too. Till the next time, have a great winter!
Editor: Kärt Mättikas
Photos: Aviya Attas