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Wish You Were Here: Midsummer in Tallinn, Estonia

July 3, 2012 at 10:02 AM | by | ()

Happy midsummer! (Or midwinter if you happen to be in the southern hemisphere.)

We're spending midsummer in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, with its nearly nineteen hours of sun. Yes, nineteen. At midsummer, the sun rises just after 4am and sets just before quarter-to-eleven at night. We figured out pretty fast that it's difficult to tell what time of day it is just by looking outside.

Estonians—all 1.3 million of them—love midsummer. It's a huge thing here, like the Fourth of July in the US or the late May bank holiday in the UK, where everyone takes time off and goes somewhere fun.

Which is fair enough, since winter at these latitudes is brutal, but we're taken by the tradeoff: sitting with our neighbors at half past ten at night, in the garden of the apartment we rented, sipping a chilled Saku beer, listening to stories of what life was like in the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic and what it's like today.

The Soviet and post-Soviet essence of Tallinn is fascinating, with in-your-face brutalist architecture softened by permitted (even encouraged) graffiti, with crumbling 1980 Olympic sailing venues now a slighly skeezy hotel/casino complex, with the world-changingly historic and UNESCO-listed Hanseatic walled city centre, with the strip clubs and olde tyme themed street restaurants catering to the British stag party crowd.

And then there's modern Estonia: TEDx talks across the road from where we're staying, the place where Skype was invented, the old West-within-the-East and now, to an extent, the East-within-the-West. The ladies in the pood (shop) on our corner who speak no English, but do a pretty good job of understanding our very bad Russian. The people on the tram just down the road, trundling to work or to shop.

It's an awesome place. And we wish you were here.

[Photos: John Walton/Jaunted]

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