Estonia: A Small Country but Big in Culture, History, and Natural Beauty, pt. 2

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

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.

A patchwork of brick-laid streets testify to a medieval past, when most commerce took place in stalls and stores bordering its roadways. Now quaint shops serve tourists arts and crafts replicating Estonia’s traditional culture, all tucked away in corners of centuries old buildings.

Streets in Old Town Tallinn, Estonia, photo Denise Ames

From its communist past, Estonia has emerged as a parliamentary, representative, democratic republic in which the Prime Minister is head of a multi-party, stable government. Quite an accomplishment. The seat of the Parliament is in Toompea Castle, an ancient stronghold in use since at least the 9th century. A colorful Baroque addition to the castle in the 18th century that is under renovation.

One of the grandest sites in Old Town is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox Cathedral built in typical Russian style between 1894 and 1900, when Estonia was part of the Russian Empire. I love the “onion” shaped domes that distinguish Russian architecture, often covered in a thin gold leaf that gives it added elegance. This cathedral is particularly popular as large crowds make their way through, even though it is also undergoing restoration.

If you are ever afraid of not being connected while visiting Estonia, rest assured that the country is sometimes called e-Estonia due to its reputation for technological innovation. It has almost complete Wi-Fi coverage and one of the highest rates of mobile phone usage in the world. In fact, the software for Skype was invented by Estonians. 

Estonia prides itself in its conservation of nature. And what a perfect place for nature lovers. Once again, I wasn’t able to venture outside of Tallinn but if you love nature it appears that it is a wonderful destination. More than 18% of the country’s land and 30% of the sea territory is made up of protected areas, which include five national parks, nature reserves, landscape reserves, and other smaller areas.

Eco-tourism is a big industry in Estonia, and they have all the ingredients to be successful. Bogs, meadows, forests, and little lakes give each visitor an opportunity to enjoy the silence and peaceful nature.

Tourism has been instrumental in transforming Estonia from a former Soviet state into a thriving nation. Presenting a heady mix of medieval heritage and technological advancement, along with its rich historic architecture, natural landscapes, and dynamic culture, the country makes a significant impression on the ever-growing number of visitors that it attracts. Estonia has grown into a major travel destination. Towns throughout the country have seen a steady increase in tourism related investment. Tourism has stimulated a social renaissance.

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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