What a trip!



What a trip! This is how I went from hitchhiking to a spa hotel. “You can hitchhike and still be a lady” said my friend Emma.
So after all the hitchhiking in the Faroes I am couchsurfing in Copenhagen and Tallinn and then I’m off to Pärnu, Estonia’s summer capital.
Staying in a Spa hotel may be high up on the list of weird things I have done. I mean, imagine that dreadhead in those rainbow-colored pants take off her backpack and check in to that hotel.
So what if the receptionist called me a “girl” when she made my spa appointment with her colleague. So what if the average age dropped considerably as I entered the breakfast room at seven. And so what that I had no idea what I was doing when I got a body peeling and how to relax and when to close my eyes.
This massage therapist definitely thought I wasn’t too normal. Why did I come here alone? Apparently I was supposed to bring friends. And not do a mud treatment; that is to be done in Haapsalu.
Ok, thanks, I’ll go for a walk now. With my backpack. Barefoot. And I’ll sleep on another couch tonight.
My mother is right. We are not suited for this kind of holiday.
I liked it better roaming around in Copenhagen. And the worst experiences make the best stories, as we all know.
 
Pärnu in not so nice weather

As many of you are aware, my phone is not the most reliable one.
In Copenhagen I still made the mistake of trusting it. I mean, come on, my host’s phone number is in my contact list, his address in our messages, and I have Google maps, right?
Let’s just say: good thing I looked at the map beforehand, too.
When my battery died and it would charge neither from the plug on the train nor the powerbank, I realized that I had been very stupid.
Well, there was another couchsurfer to meet, so I went to Klampenborg, just a little bit to the North of Copenhagen, we took a little walk on the beach, there were fireworks for Jaanipäev (as I call it, being used to the Estonian way) in the background, we sat by the big bonfire and listened to the waves.
It’s St. John's Eve, sankthansaften, the longest day of the year, but I am further South now than before, so the sun sets sometime between ten and eleven and it does get completely dark for a few hours.

And it’s only midnight as I am on that train. I try everything to charge the phone, but I know that I’m, pardon me, screwed. At least remember what station to get off. Now what? The name of the street is long and starts with a B. That’s west of the train station – or is it?
There is no map of the area at the station. My phone is dead as it could be. And it’s dark now. So what to do? Why do we rely so much on our phones nowadays and are completely helpless without them?
Fortunately, there are three women my age about to cross the street. “Excuse me, sorry! My phone died…”
They look at me suspiciously.
“Could you please, please show me a map? I’m not sure in which direction to walk.”
They relax. I don’t seem dangerous, and I don’t want to make any phone calls or money from them.
“Sure, what is the street called?” One of them takes out her phone.
Well.
“I’m not sure…it starts with a B… and it’s somewhere here…” She zooms into the area where I might be staying tonight.
Like I said in a previous post, people are generally nice and helpful. We have a little chat on the part of the way that we share, then they show me where to walk the rest of the way, and I manage to find the right house, where my wonderful host lives. And charge my phone. 

Three days later I’m back in Tartu, still fighting with my phone, but now it doesn’t matter.
This is my summer vacation, I guess.

True, I did go to dehorn some calves and check some cows for pregnancy, because I’m here and there are some great vets around who are always willing to teach.
But basically, I’m on no schedule for an entire week. It doesn’t matter whether people can reach me, why would they need to call? I doesn’t matter that I can’t check Instagram or Facebook. Turns out, it never does.
And it doesn’t really matter what time it is. If I get hungry, I’ll eat.
If the sun shines, I’ll sit by the river and read. If it rains, I’ll go inside and watch a movie. When the sun has set, I might go out and meet people, old friends and new acquaintances.
I have a key to a house, I have a place to sleep. I don’t need my phone.
I am beginning to understand the pleasure of a staycation.
It doesn’t mean hanging around on your couch all day, although that can be a big part of it, too.
It means to unplug and relax. No thoughts of all the tasks that need to be done. Because when you already know your way around a place, you don’t have to worry about the same stuff as in a foreign place: when is the bus going, which stop was it, where can I find a supermarket and at what time does the post office close?



"Ise tehtud Eesti" - from the exhibition "Self-made Estonia"

Don’t look at the time, enjoy your hometown. Sit in a café and watch the people. Those who belong here and those who don’t. Go to that restaurant that you always look at but never actually went in. Walk a street you’ve never walked before. Go to an event you wouldn’t go to if you had to work the next day. No matter how well you think you know a place, there is always something exciting going on. Maybe there is a museum you didn’t know about. A new art exhibition. And have you ever been to that place where all the tourists go? No? Well, now is a good time.
For me, it is a boat trip on the Emajõgi, all the way from Tartu to the Peipsi lake, where I get to spend some time on the little island of Piirissaar very close to the Russian border and get horribly sunburnt, the Literary and the song festival museum, and lots of time spend reading in the sun, feet dangling in the river.

When there is no bridge for miles...


And very soon, I’m back in Tallinn, picking up my mom from the airport. Another place, another couch to sleep on.
And the biggest Estonian event.

I do not have the words to describe this festival.





This feeling when thousands of people sing together and are so proud to be a free nation and wave the flags. They sit on picnic blankets, flowers in their hair, wearing the traditional costumes. I am fascinated by the sheer number of professional singers, lay choirs, and how well everything works. One conductor for so many choirs who are on stage at the same time. The massive lines for the toilets that move so fast you would think there were only four people in front of you. The vegan food stalls. The woman doing crosswords while listening to the music. The fire burning on top of the tower that has been brought here by foot from Tartu, passing all Estonian counties (maakonnad) on a 4200 km journey. The procession all the way through Estonia’s capital.
All the people, all the songs, all this music, the dancing, the feeling of community, the emotions.
I really can’t tell you about this. If you haven’t been there yourself, you wouldn’t understand.
This is the 150th anniversary of laulupidu, the big Estonian song festival that had been a main part of the independence movement in the late 80s and early 90s, too, and has always preserved the Estonian culture.


1020 choirs and orchestras, more than 35,000 singers and musicians, 11,500 dancers. In total somewhere around 92,000 spectators. 15,000 singers can be on stage at the same time. Imagine that: 3.5% of Estonia’s population are participating in this festival. And well, around 5% of the Ethnic Estonians, if I may throw around some statistics here. If you took that percentage for the USA, you would have 11.5 million singers!
This really is a spectacular end for my travel year.


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