Sunday, December 09, 2007

from Tallinn, Estonia: generations

It really is blustery out by the sea. I’m prepared. Hearty breakfast,

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…warm outerwear, an umbrella… But it’s tough going. The wind inverts my umbrella, rain pellets spray my photo lens.

I walk to the shore, to see another face of Tallinn. A factory, an old theater with a sadly neglected open space leading toward the water. A group of girls, out for a Saturday morning away from family. They don’t mind the weather. Indeed, no one here seems to mind it. It could be so much worse.

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In the distance I see the ferry boats. There’s a frequent run to Helsinki and a somewhat less frequent run to Stockholm.

Run to Stockholm. How could you not choke on that one? In 1994, the huge ferry ship, the Estonia, sank off shore, on her way to Stockholm. More than 850 died. There is a memorial to this tragedy. He is lost in thought as he looks the “broken line” monument. Did he know someone? Does he remember?

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I walk back toward the old town. Colorful. That's its joy -- the brightness, even on a gray, wet day.

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The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral went up during a period of intense "Russification" of this country. I try the door. Closed. They say Russians come here in packs. If they do, they may be the last of the church goers. Estonia is one of the least religious contries in Europe. Fewer than a third claim any religious affiliation at all.

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It's quiet in these hilly parts of old Tallinn. You can think about this city from up here. The roofs spill out to the sea on one end (yes, the ferries are in, collecting passangers for Finland and Sweden)...

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...and onto new Tallinn at the other end. Recent buildings. The higher the better.

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Down the hill again. I'm drawn to the commercial heart of the old town. That's where you pick up the fragments of daily life. In the rose this guy buys for his wife:

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At the Christmas market I watch a group of children getting ready to go on a small stage.

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And now, finally, I hear laughter. Parents, looking at the precious young things, adjusting a cap, pulling up a mitten, waving, taking pictures. The sweet faces of young families. Children born in Estonia. They'll hear stories of past invadors. History lessons. Its not the story of their generation.

They climb on stage and give in to the joy of music. No Russian songs -- all Estonian. With an American thrown in. Hip-hop Christmas. Watch the show for a dfew seconds through this handful of photos:

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This is the kind of stuff that makes my eyes spill over. Kids, happy kids, cared for, fussed over, but just a little. A pat on the shoulder, a chuckle and a treat of a cookie at Santa's (though for the Estonian Santa, a kid has to recite or sing something before spilling out a wish or asking for a cookie).

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Families. Tourists. Hot wine and hot pea soup. Roasted chocolate covered almonds. And to really warm up, go in to the coffee shops. I do. Over my cappucino and pound cake, I watch the others. A mixture. Young and old.

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Back at my hotel, the fireplace is heating me from the outside. A glass of rosé does the trick on the inside.

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Leave this to search for dinner? Not a chance. I eat at the hotel: fish soup and duck meat in lingonberry (!)sauce. Hearty and very good. Only the price of it will push me out in search of other foods tomorrow.

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