For an Italian, living at latitude of 59.4 could feel like being “on the top of the world”. During my almost 3 year adventure living and working in Estonia, I have mixed feelings. The biggest downside was the lack of light in winter, but despite that, I recommend a visit.

Tallinn is a charming medieval city. Walking in the city centre you feel like being in a history book. It’s worth a visit for its beauty, but not just for that. I have never seen a cleaner city. Each building has a House Manager who regularly cleans the side-walk, even from the snow and leaves. And everyone use waste bags when walking their dogs.

For an Italian from Bologna like me, a downside is for sure the terrible winter cold. My family and I waited with anxiety for the arrival of our first November in town. Estonians had described it as the “frightening” month of the year. In fact, in almost every European country, November brings shorter days and rain, but in Estonia it was as if the light was switched off!

Then December arrived bringing the first cold. My son and I tried bravely to use the public transport – very efficient despite extreme weather conditions – but waiting for the tram in the cold, snow and wind was too much for us. From then on, we always used the car.

In summer, when the sun shines, it’s pleasant, because it’s never too hot. The average temperature is 20°. Tallinn’s main beach, Pirita, is beautiful and you can go sailing and swimming, although I didn’t dare to put a foot in the sea.

Estonians love singing: more than a hobby, it’s an obsession! Every town has its own choir. I remember once I was stuck in a long procession with thousands Estonians dressed in regional costumes, carrying flags and playing brass instruments, all off to gather for their Song Party.

The country’s unspoilt forests and beaches are beautiful. Nature is respected, being actually considered a divinity. To cut down a tree, public consultations are organized if not true petitions. Some of the most serious public censure has been for crime against trees. This leads to peculiar situations like one in the island of Saaremaa where there is a tree right in the middle of a football pitch. Some friends have seen bears and elks; I was not so lucky.

No Estonian could imagine life without sauna; some even build them in their apartments. Anything less than a weekly session is unthinkable. This is what I miss the most. Here in Belgium, the quality of swimming pools, Turkish baths, saunas and all related to body care is incomparable. I have not yet found in Brussels a place that offers those services all together on the same site. In Tallinn, however, it is the norm.

I am sure that you would enjoy!

Photos (courtesy of Massimo Olenik):