Estonia: A Small Country but Big in Culture, History, and Natural Beauty, pt. 1

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

I peek out my window and see the gray light of dawn enveloping the calm harbor of Tallinn, Estonia. It is a good sign. After a night of some turbulence at sea, feeling stationary is a welcome relief to my slightly upset stomach. I smile, knowing that it will be a good day to explore Tallinn, Estonia. It is my first destination with the Oceania Cruise Line’s 10 days Baltic cruise, part of my gig as a cruise ship lecturer.

I quickly dress for the morning activities, since my choice of clothing amount to a rumpled “outfit” (jeans and T-shirt) that had been stashed in my carry on. The ship sailed out of Stockholm with my luggage hidden away somewhere within the huge suitcase-sorting apparatus of the KLM baggage department in Amsterdam. The ship’s helpful concierge assures me and my friend that our luggage will arrive in the next couple of days. At least, I had the presence of mind to pack all my notes and computer for the lectures in my carry-on.

Estonia, coat of arms

Estonia is a small, charming, European country that many of us may know very little about. That is too bad, since it offers a lot of culture, history, and natural beauty in one small package. It borders the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea situated in northern Europe. For centuries it has held a tactical geographic position as a crossroads between Eastern and Western Europe. Russia dominates its eastern border, Scandinavia to the north and west and the other two Baltic States (Latvia and Lithuania) to its south. Estonia was considered a prize strategic-asset among the regional powers through the centuries.

Soviet army entering Estonia in 1939

Estonia may be best known for its forced inclusion into the former empire of the Soviet Union in 1939 and its subsequent dramatic road to independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Despite its torturous and tumultuous history, in the 20th century it has now rebuilt itself into a distinct cultural identity in a globalized world. In fact, during its long slog towards NATO and EU (European Union) membership throughout the 1990s, Estonia was often held up by Eastern Europe as an example of how to rapidly modernize while preserving its national heritage and improving living conditions. Looking back at my visit and research, I would say it accomplished its goal.

My one day stop in Estonia is not nearly enough time to see everything I want, but at least I am able to visit the Old Town section of Tallinn, the capital and largest city of Estonia. Tallinn is a treasure trove of well-preserved medieval buildings just waiting to be explored and, despite my jet lag and lost luggage, explore I did.

Dr. Denise Ames at gate tower in Tallinn, Estonia

Old Town Tallinn was once surrounded by walls, gates, and towers to keep marauding bands of bandits and others at bay. Many still stand as sentinels to the past. Instead of keeping people out, the walls now beckon tourists, artists, and musicians to see what the Old Town has to offer.

Friday, December 11, Estonia pt. 2

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 8 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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