Saturday, 24 June 2017

10 fascinating facts about Estonia - how many did you know?



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Estonia is a country full of surprises. Did you know these 10 fascinating facts about Estonia?

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While only home to some 1,3 million inhabitants, Estonia welcomes annually about twice as many tourists into the country. Last year 3.32 million tourists stayed in the country - around half of them my countrymen (Finnish).

Estonia, located just across the Gulf of Finland, is #1 foreign destination for a Finnish tourist; year in, year out. In Estonia we're the single largest market, the second one being the Russians. 


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Several daily ferries from Finnish capital Helsinki will take you across the gulf  - quickest ones will get you to Tallinn in 45 minutes; cheapest ones will only set you back around €9 for a return ticket. 

(For more information please see Eckerö Line (cheapest), Linda Line (quickest) and my favourite Viking Line ).


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For those, who've ever had the opportunity to visit Estonia, the country has pretty much become synonymous with its charming Medieval Old Town - one of the best preserved ones in Europe.

Luckily most of it was saved from total destruction during WWII by the fact that the Russians turned their attention to Finland and bombed down most of Helsinki instead.

(You're welcome.)


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Over the recent years people have started to discover Estonia beyond the capital and Saarenmaa and Pärnu are among destinations definitely worth exploring.

Surrounded by the quaint cuteness of the Old Town (yes, every bit as picturesque you'd expect from a UNESCO World Heritage Site!) it's easy to forget what a modern and progressive city Estonia actually is.

What makes all this even more impressive is pace the country has leapt forward in the past couple of decades.

Here are 10 fascinating facts about Estonia, our Southern neighbour.


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1. In Estonia women rule


Estonia is exceptionally female - men only constitute around 46% of the country's population. That means for every 100 women there are 84 men. 

The only country ahead Estonia in these statistics is North Mariana Islands (an US territory located in Pacific Ocean). 

The life expectacy for an Estonian woman is a whopping decade longer than that of a man. Perhaps all that vodka won't make you live forever, after all...?

Country's current  (and fifth ever) president is also a woman: Kersti Kaljulaid was elected for the job at the end of last year.

In proportion to their small population, Estonia has also apparently also given the world more supermodels than any other country in the world. 



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2. Estonia is one of the most literate countries in the world (yes, literally)


In global comparison of 200 odd countries Estonia is one of the most literate countries in the world. 

The literacy rate among the adult population is an impressive 99.8% - second only to Latvia or (dependig on who you're going to believe) North Korea (?)


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3. Estonia is as international as they come


Estonia is geography's equivalent of George Clooney - everybody seems to want a piece of it.

Throughout her history Estonia has been part of Denmark (1227-), Sweden (1560-) and Russia (1710-).


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One of the things dating back to the Swedish reign is the underground network of tunnels located underneath The Old Town.  According to tradition some of these hundreds of secret passageways are yet to be discovered, but almost 400 are now open to public (for more information please see here ). 

Russia granted Estonia autonomy in April 1917, though Lenin & Co. never expected Estonia to harbour any dreams of independence in the manner of Finland. 

Following Finland's suite, however, Estonia declared their independence in February of 1918... and did manage to hold on to it for the next 22 years. 

In 1940 Russia got their greedy claws on her again and Estonia's fate was sealed for the next half a century.


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4.  Estonia - twice as independent


As a result of the previously mentioned events Estonia gets to celebrate their Independence Day twice. 

The first one (February 24th) marks the declaration of independence back in 1918, the second (August 20th) honours the day when they finally managed to reclaim it after the fall of the Soviet in 1991.


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5. Estonia - the little IT giant 


Skype is only one of the things invented in Estonia (as, actually was the space food!).

The country's big on technology: computer programming is being taught even in primary schools and free Wi-Fi is availabe in most parts of the capital Tallinn.


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6. Estonia - home to first e-lection in the world


Estonia was also the first country in the world to adopt electronic voting (no, not when casting votes at Eurovision Song Contest but actual political elections).

The progressive coalition government that came to power back in 2001 first explored this option at municipal elections of 2005. 

Only 2 years later same method was adopted for the parliamentary elections, too. 


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7. Estonians feel they are a Nordic country, not a Baltic one


Owing to their history Estonians have perceived themselves as culturally closer to Nordic countries than to the Baltics. 

So, as the country was getting ready to adopt their new flag back in 1918-1919, some of the contenders featured the same blue, black and white colours as the current flag, but in the cross-design familiar from the Nordic countries' flags.

The thought of reinventing the flag has still not entirely died out: last time the idea was introduced in the country was in 2001.


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8. Tallinners go for free

In January 2013 Tallinn became the first EU capital to provide free public transport to her residents. 

In order to qualify for this, one has to be an officially registered resident of Tallinn and not so surprisingly the population of capital has grown significantly over the past years.

Then again, so have city's tax revenues and the well-being of local businesses. Way to go Tallinn!


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9. Estonia is all about sport

Estonia has invented a new and rather courageous sport of their own called kiiking, which means standing in a massive swing and then swinging around full 360 degrees. In addition to this they've also proved their prowess in traditional sports as well.

For instance country's Olympic success has been nothing short of phenomenal considering its tiny population.

The flatness of Estonia (highest peak is a mere 318 metres from the sea level) makes it a popular training terrain for cross-country skiers also from outside the country's own team, though boy, do they cheer for their own. 

The day after Kristina Šmigun-Vähi won two gold medals at Turin Winter Olympics of 2006, every single pair of skis in the country sold out. 


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10. Estonia - land of meteorites


In proportion to its tiny size, Estonia is the has more meteoric craters than any other country in the world. 

The biggest one can be found at Kaali crater field in Saarenmaa and measures 110 metres wide and 22 metres deep. 


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+ One for the road


While Estonia has won Eurovision Song Contest only once (2001)  you can leave it to them to make it a historic one.

The other half of their entry, Dave Benton, was the first ever black artist to win the contest. 



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How's that for trivia? Any of you familiar with Estonia? Where did you go and what were your favourite places?


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