Welcome to interview #12 of Project World Showcase!
Today’s interviewee is Martiina from Estonia!
1. What is your name or PC username, the name of the city you live in, and the name of your country/state?
How long have you lived in your country/state? My name is Martiina and my postcrossing username is naturegirl. I live in Tartu, the second largest town of Estonia. I have lived here all my life.
2. What got you started in postcard collecting?
When I was very small, my granddad, who lived in the capital Tallinn (now he is dead) wrote letters to my mum (his daughter) and almost always included a postcard for me. I liked these cards very much. Sometimes my parents bought me cards I chose from the shop. And when I had pocket money, I bought cards myself, too. So I had a big collection already as a child. When I found out about postcrossing through a magazine, there was no hesitation to join!
3. What are your 3 most favorite postcards and why?
“The Polar Princess” by Josephine Wall. My only Josephine Wall card so far, but I love her art, it’s magical! So if you happen to read this interview and have Josephine Wall cards for trade, please contact naturegirl on postcrossing! The photo doesn’t do the card justice, but there are many mystical details like faces in the northern lights and animals in the princess’ dress. The card is bigger than normal, folded and it glitters. And there is a poem in Russian inside. I love fantasy art, pictures of powerful and mysterious women/fairies, animals, northern lights and blue/purple colour. This card has it all!
“Goodnight time” by Molly Brett. This idyllic scene shows how everyone in the forest is going to sleep. There are many little charming details again, like a fairy hugging rabbits goodnight, a squirrel brushing the teeth, a frog washing in a bath and many more. There are 29 characters altogether!
A Lord of the Rings card. I love those books and movies and this card is my favourite because it represents all the most important characters in an interesting and heroic way.
4. Show us a picture of your mailbox or post office.
The mailbox I usually post my letters into
Inside view of my nearest post office
5. What other hobbies do you enjoy besides collecting postcards?
I like reading, especially fantasy and adventure books and books about nature and animals, also popular science. I love music, especially folk music, singing and dancing. I enjoy dancing traditional dances and going to concerts. I sing in a folk group called Sinimaniseele. I like taking photographs, but also drawing and painting. And of course I love being with my fantastic friends!
6. Is there anything about your city/state/country that makes it special? What is it known for? What do most people associate with it?
I think Estonia has beautiful nature and unique culture, but these topics are covered below. The medieval old town of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a Unesco world heritage sight. It is very popular among tourists. Tallinn also has a very nice and large zoo. But sadly many tourists don’t get any further from Tallinn. Therefore I’d like to concentrate on my hometown Tartu on this interview. The slogan of Tartu is “City of Good Thoughts”. This is because there are many people interested in art and culture in Tartu and also Estonian oldest university is here. It was founded in 1632 by Swedish king Gustav II Adolph. I have graduated from this university.
Tartu is also called the city of youth because many students live and study here. There is a fountain sculpture with kissing students by sculptor Mati Karmin at Tartu town hall square. I think older people are very youthful in Tartu as well. This is the town hall square of Tartu. There are pink balloons tied to the lantern post because a festival of love films takes place in August. The square is full of chairs and films are shown on a huge screen. Tartu town hall square is also a great place for many other festivals, concerts and fairs.
There is a hill called Toomemägi in the middle of Tartu. It is a nice green place to walk at and there are also many monuments. This picture from Toomemägi shows the sculture first Estonian poet Kristjan Jaak Peterson (1801-1822). He studied at Tartu University, and was proud to claim his Estonian origins although all the lectures were in German this time. In his most famous poem he asks if Estonian language can’t “seek for eternity” and be used with pride. Kristjan Jaak travelled between Tartu and Riga on foot. Also his statue seems to be heading for Riga. Kristjan Jaak Peterson died of tuberculosis at the age of only 21. On the background there are ruins of Dome Church. Now there is a history museum in this building.
River Emajõgi (“Mother River”) flows through Tartu. Here is a night scene of this river. There is a special festival dedicated to this river in August.
And this is Tartu Jaani (St John’s) Church. It was built in the 14th century and restored several times later. It is unique for its terracotta figures.
7. What are at least 3 good places or attractions to visit if someone were to travel to your city/state/country?
In Tartu you should certainly visit AHHAA science center where You can try out all the exhibits, for example make huge bubbles, test how high you jump, lift yourself to the ceiling and back, dine at a giant’s table and many more. You can see the outside of the building (with Snail Tower which is not a part of it on the background)…
…and an inside view with lightning balls.
Tartu botanical garden is always a great place, especially in spring when all the flowers are in bloom.
Tartu Toy Museum shows toys from different times, from the very simple wooden stick farm animals to the modern toys. There is also a room dedicated to dolls and other toys all over the world. The picture shows the entrance of the museum. “Tempus est ludendi” means “Playtime!” in Latin.
8. What are some traditional foods or dishes one should try in your state/country?
I think you just can’t help trying black bread in Estonia. The picture shows different kind of breads, one with seeds.
Estonians eat it next to any other dish and also make sandwiches with it often. It is more than a food, it is a symbol really. Even the phrase “to earn a living” is “leiba teenima” in Estonian, so literally “earn bread”. Potato foods are also very important. It is said that potato is the second bread of Estonians. Some traditional Christmas dishes include sauerkraut and black pudding, but they might be too shocking for foreigners and actually they are borrowed from Germans anyway. But you should certainly try original Estonian chocolate!
9. Show a picture of nature or animals in your city/state/country that is native to where you live.
In Estonia we have four seasons, the winters are really cold (sometimes even -30 degrees Celsius. Summers tend to be not very hot, mostly a bit cloudy and chilly, but occasionally there can also be +30 degrees Celsius. Autumns and springs are in between.
A moose – the biggest mammal in Estonian forests (this photo is actually taken at Elistvere animal park)
The Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) – it is believed that when you see this butterfly first in the spring, Your summer will be as colourful and interesting as its wings. Luckily the chance to see it is quite high, as it is very common in Estonia.
A male mallard duck. Females are brownish. Both males and females have the colours of Estonian flag (blue, black, white) on their wing. But Estonian national bird is barn swallow instead.
Maple leaves in autumn.
10. What are at least 2 major historical events that happened in your country/state and why are they important?
Jüriöö ülestõus (“St George’s Night uprising”) – 23. April 1343-1345. It was an attempt of Estonian peasants to break the rule of the German and Danish landlords. It was successful at first, but finally Estonians still lost. Eduard Bornhöhe has written about this event in his novel “Tasuja” (“The Avenger”).
Vabadussõda (“The Estonian War of Independence”) – 1918-1920. It was a defensive campaign of the Estonian Army and its allies (the White Russian Northwestern Army, Latvia, and the United Kingdom), against the Soviet Western Front offensive and the aggression of the Baltische Landeswehr. It resulted in a victory for the newly established state of Estonia and was concluded in the Treaty of Tartu.
20. August 1991 – Estonia regained independence and announced to be free from the Soviet Union.
11. (Optional Question) Are there any other facts associated with your state/country, such as major festivals, celebrations, unusual happenings, unusual laws, road-side attractions, names of famous people who were born there, etc. that you think someone should know about?
Some famous Estonians are/were athletes Gerd Kanter, Andrus Veerpalu, Kristiina Šmigun and Erki Nool, composers Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis, writers Oskar Luts, Jaan Kaplinski and Jaan Kross, singer Kerli Kõiv and artist Navitrolla (I know many postcrossers like his cards ).
12. What language(s) do you speak or what is the primary language of your country? Can you share 3 words in this language and give their English translation?
I speak Estonian (primary language of Estonia), English, German and Finnish, but as for the last two I understand them well, but can’t form sentences so easily.
Three words in Estonian:
sõber – friend
ilus – beautiful
aitäh – thank you
13. What are some major holidays celebrated in your country, or what are some holidays that are only celebrated in your country and nowhere else? How do you spend these holidays?
From international holidays Estonians celebrate Easter and Christmas. For Easter eggs are coloured. Some traditional ways for colouring eggs are using onion peels, leaves, colourful threads or cloth. People crash eggs together before eating. The one whose egg doesn’t break can make a wish.
For Christmas a spruce tree (or spruce branches) are brought inside and decorated. But this tradition is borrowed from Germans again. Originally straws were brought on the floor of the farm house and children played games of strength and agility on them. Presents are brought by Santa Claus nowadays, but in original Estonian Christmas tradition a Christmas buck went from home to home. The buck was wearing horns and a fur coat. He didn’t give presents, but asked for food himself. He scared the children a bit, checked, if they can read properly and played tricks.
In November, mardipäev (St Martin’s day, 10th of November) and kadripäev (St Catherine’s day, 25th of November). On the night before these days masked mummers go from home to home, asking for goodies. This is somewhat similar to Halloween (which is now also breaking into Estonia), but on Halloween they only ask “Trick or treat?”, but St Martin’s and St Catherine’s mummers sing, dance and ask riddles. They wish the family good luck if they are let in an curse if they are not. St Martin’s mummers are usually dark and ugly men and St Catherine’s mummers are light and beautiful women. Girls can dress up as boys and vice versa. Sometimes the mummers form a whole family. Originally this tradition was for adults, but nowadays most mummers are children.
Midsummer night is the night before June 24th. It is celebrated with a big bonfire and singing and dancing around it. It is believed that jumping over the bonfire makes you strong and cleans from all the bad things. On Midsummer night people look for the flower of the fern, although actually ferns don’t have flowers. They look like this:
The one who finds the fern flower, becomes rich and happy, it is also associated with love. If a girl gathers 7 or 9 different flowers on Midsummer night and puts them under the pillow, she can see her future husband in her dream.
14. Is there any type of folklore associated with your state/country?
Estonia has very a very special ancient folk singing tradition called “regilaul”. These are often very long songs based on the repetition of eight syllable verses. These songs might seem monotonous, but they are very powerful. There are mythical songs, working songs, songs about everyday life and nature. Swiss director Ulrike Koch made a film called “Regilaul – Songs of the Ancient Sea,” observing how the tradition is kept alive today. This film also shows a lot of beautiful Estonian nature.
As for Estonian mythology it was believed that all the nature is full of spirits. Every tree, stone or body of water has its own guardian spirit. People had to live in peace with them, to avoid trouble. Special places to interact with the spirits and bring them sacrifices (money, ribbons, sometimes also animals were killed) were called “hiis”. Usually hiis was a sacred wood, but it could also be a spring or another special place in nature. Kind spirits could help people, for example an orphan gets help from a Mother of Water or Mother of Wind. But there were also vicious spirits like nyxes who tempted children near water and then drowned them. A nyx could take several forms, for example a beautiful horse. When children sat on its back, it galloped into the water with them.
It was also believed that some people can turn them into werewolves. A werewolf becomes back to human if someone gives it bread from the tip of the knife.
One more mythical creature is kratt. It was believed that some people made kratts from useless things in the household and if they went to the crossing of seven roads on the full moon Thursday night and took a black rooster along, they could meet the devil and make a deal to bring kratt to life. The devil gave life to kratt, but in return he wanted three drops of blood from the person. This meant that this person’s soul goes to the devil when he dies. Kratt brought money and other stuff to its owner, but it could never be left without work, otherwise it could set his house on fire or choke him dead. The solution was to give kratt an impossible job, like making a rope out of sand. When kratt couldn’t cope with the job given, it also meant that the deal with devil is over and the person’s soul is free.
There are many fairy-tales about talking animals. A fox is cunning, but bear and wolf are strong, but stupid. There are also many interpretations of bird songs into human language. It was believed that the one who eats flesh from a white snake understands the language of birds.
Estonian national epic is called “Kalevipoeg”. Kalevipoeg (“Kalev’s Son”) is a giant hero and stories about his adventures were found all over Estonia. The author of the epic, Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald gathered these stories together and formed into an epic in eight-syllable verses similar to “regilaul”. The epic was first published in 1853.
15. Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to share about your state or country that you didn’t get to mention before?
Estonians are considered dull, harsh, and reserved. Maybe we don’t open easily at the first meeting. But when you get to know as, we are very kind and nice people. Welcome to Estonia!
Thanks to Martiina for a great interview! If you liked this interview, please click the “like” button below, rate the post above, leave a comment, or share this post with a friend. Check in next week for another interview!