Cultural Learnings of… The Small Things About Estonia

I come from a big island. We have a big ass rock in the middle of it, big beaches, big deserts, big forests, big rivers, big spiders, big numbers of fairy penguins who come up the beach each night, big beer guts, big personalities, we even have a big banana. Mate, if you want me to come and check out your tourist attraction, it better be big and impressive or I’m going to see one of the 20 other amazing natural wonders I can see within a 5 minute walk.

Big_bananaThis is a thing in Australia. It is so big you can walk through it and learn banana related facts. Yes everyone takes a photo from a distance pretending it is either going into their mouth or out of their crotch.

Estonia is not big. It is a small country with a small population and a small mountain in the south. Today I am on the island of Muhu and it is not even the smallest habitable island but I just lapped it in the Volvo in about 45 minutes.

At first the attractions of Estonia seem kind of quaint. Today I saw some limestone bluffs. It was marked on the map but it was really just a few rocks sort of, but not really, close to the water. On a sunny spring Sunday my friend and I visited the “Witch’s Well”. This amazing tourist magnet consists of some water flowing out of an old well fed by an underground river. Yup. It’s just water coming up out of the ground. Makes a sort of muddy brown pond. No golden sands, no crystal blue lake. The two of us and scores of families all gathered around to witness the spectacle and afterwards walk through some traditional Estonian habitat, otherwise known as a “bog”. Estonia does great bogs.

witcheswellThis is the Witches’ Well. Bring the family! The river is a bit of a hipster though. It is underground.

It seems everyone has a countryside place in Estonia. As a rule, all Estonian grandparents live somewhere south of Võru. In the city we go to grill parties and eat supermarket potato salad while everyone swears their grandma has a much better recipe. It is like there is a hidden army of elderly 5 star potato salad chefs scattered across Estonia, to none of which it has ever occured to pass the time by getting a part time job at the local Rimi Supermarket.

kartuliMayonaise AND sour cream?? A bargain at twice the price!!

The countryside place is typically a humble affair. A wooden house which is older than Stalin and used to house farm workers in the old days. Maybe the roof is higher in the center because the grain used to be stored and dried in the rafters. There probably a vegetable patch out the back (note: this may be the secret to grandma’s potato salad), flowers growing, a dog running around, maybe grandpa has a few bees and makes honey for the whole family. I think this is where Estonia is at. It’s not a flashy place, it’s not a beach house looking over golden sands with a million dollar view. It is a small wooden house, some green grass and something for the kids to argue over when the old buggers falls off the perch.

Estonia is not the biggest, most impressive country on earth. I mean seriously, they like their fucken bogs?? However once you are there, hearing the way Estonians speak of that muddy mess with the small river which has less water flow than the average Australian shower faucet, it starts to hit you that this isn’t so bad. The way we all gather around a defective well which confused locals hundreds of years ago and went down in folklore is quite captivating. The bluffs may only be 14 meters above sea level but dammit, these are our bluffs and we will force tourists to come see it. Even if it only one Australian and two old Russian ladies made it there, I am sure they still got a grant from Enterprise Estonia.

bluffThe Üügu Bluff on Muhu. I believe named after an infamous poker game held here.

The other day my girlfriend made honey. Like from scratch. Like smacked the shit out of some bees or something (note: I have no idea how honey is made), got it out of the bee keeping thing, strained it and delivered to me two large jars of all natural honey which each morning I put on top of some fake-Greek-also-made-in-Estonia yoghurt. The honey is all part of a day in the Estonian countryside. I think I like it.

Oh and grandma’s potato salad is amazing.

By Louis Zezeran

Louis Zezeran is an Australian Stand Up comedian and comedy promoter based in Tallinn, Estonia. He was the co-founder of Comedy Estonia, Comedy Finland and Comedy Latvia. Louis writes, does gigs and performs at private events through the Baltics and Finland

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