Nice meditations on the southern Estonian countryside abound right now in the Estonian-American blogosphere. And some other mestizo friends of ours bought a house in Veriora way down by the southern border.
Someday I hope to visit again, too. (With kid #2 coming in..whoa, probably next month...we have been looking for countryside property, too, but without leaving computer.)
Meanwhile, I have a working-reporting trip to Virumaa planned. The eastern part is the "Northeast", which to Estonians does not conjure up winter storms, Pilgrims and densely populated Atlantic seaboard, but rather drab things like cement, oil shale and fur hats.
In this grey expanse there are occasional dots of culture and light like besieged city-states, and the nature is fairly unspoiled. But I won't be hitting the oases such as the "Roman baths" at scenic Toila -- the northeast's most popular commercial tourist location. It'll be a more rough outing to places like Narva. To see if the tchebureki (scallion and meat pastries) are just as good as they were in 1997, see what's going on behind the brick walls at Kreenholm. Sit on a bench and look across the river for signs of military buildup and radioactive clouds from Russia.
I visited Toila in 2004, before it was renovated into a fully Western spa. It was pleasant. But because of an unrelated mishap, we also visited an ER in Kohtla-Järve.
It was days before my wedding. We were walking back up the steep trail from the beach when I stepped on a rusty nail trying to pick some hazelnuts. Kohtla-Järve was the closest place to go for tetanus shot and to make sure I could walk down the aisle without limping. It seemed like a sleepy place. I happened to be wearing a "Cuba" baseball warmup jacket. A guy outside the clinic made a comment in Russian about Fidel. The on-duty doctor was Korean (North?) and neither he nor the nurse spoke any Estonian.
It'll be interesting to see what has changed.
Perhaps more has changed in Cuba. Perhaps the same guy will be sitting outside the doctor's office and say something about Raul.
On the way, I think I will take in Rakvere, where my grandfather was born but which I have never visited, and Jõhvi. New cultural buildings in each of these places to check out.
Sometimes too much work and coffee produce unfortunate literary syntheses in this blog. If you tuned in yesterday afternoon, you might have got a taste of it. D&D creator Gary Gygax died on Tuesday, you might have heard, and it started some pachinko balls rolling in my mind. I took the piece down because it seemed too elaborate and forced.
Still, you should check out Edward Lucas's tight, complex piece on Medvedev which incidentally betrays an intimate knowledge of cinematic narratives. I can't resist the D&D allusions after all, in homage to Gygax -- Lucas, who is a kind of Gandalf to Baltic halflings, seems to have recovered most of his hit points with this piece (it is so open-ended that he seemed true neutral for a second). I had been afriad that the Cold War rhetoric was starting to verge on hyperbole, giving snipers like Ames and Zaitchik too many easy targets to pick off from their Playboy- and cigarette-strewn Moscow dungeon. Their latest piece is hilarious and savagely written as usual but you know, once you go the way of criticizing copy editing, you make a fundamental mistake. Especially if you have sentences like this in your own work: "Lucas assumes none of his readers will know that when he was Poland's deputy foreign minister in the late 1990s..."
I did not know that Ed Lucas had been deputy foreign minister of Poland...