October 13

Our second to last day saw the group split in two, half of us visiting Skype, whilst the other half enjoyed an extra three hours (and by this stage, much needed) respite, with the two groups switching for our final day. Thankfully, the stars aligned and I was one of the sleepers and so had the distinct pleasure of watching our exhausted, bleary-eyed new friends wander through the doors of Transferwise at 1pm. We were seated and given the company spiel; Transferwise is an Estonian start up launched in 2011 that enables users to bypass the fees imposed by banks on international money transfers. It’s the brainchild of two ex-Skype employees, and today is responsible for £800 million pounds being exchanged per month. More importantly though, at least for most of us present, it just seemed a really engaging and vibrant atmosphere to be a part of, and led to a number of us considering applying for internships. I’d like to say the desire to apply wasn’t based, in part, on the fact they had a ball pit in their office, but I’d be lying.

transferwise

After Transferwise we stopped off for a quick lunch before travelling to visit the Bastion tunnels under “Kiek in de Kok,” (15th century) which translates to “Peeking into the kitchen” as the lofty heights afforded by this tower lead to soldiers peering into neighbours kitchens. Below, a labyrinth of tunnels constructed along with the Bastions in the late 17th century allowed soldiers to reposition against enemy attacks, spy on the enemy and fire on their flanks. From 1936, the tunnels were used as air raid shelters, whilst during the Soviet occupation, the hill above the tunnels was used by youths selling Beatles albums, who then ran into the now dilapidated tunnels to take refuge from Soviet police. Nowadays, most of the tunnels are too run down/infested with spiders for tourist visitation, however, there is a small segment available, which our group explored. There were a series of videos designed to help us appreciate firstly, the difficulty of building the tunnels and secondly, the fear of people hiding inside them during WWII.

Following this, we had some free time to wander the city. With the project coming to a close, for many of us it was our last chance to soak in the sights of Tallinn’s gorgeous Old Town or get our tourist on and purchase some typical Estonian souvenirs, like bongos.

We finished the night sprawled across cushions watching 1944, an Estonian film about soldiers having to choose between the Red and German armies during the war, resulting in Estonians fighting against each other. Then it was off for yet another sauna and bed before our final day of tearful farewells and distinctly un-Estonian public displays of group affection.

October 9 – to the South!

Today is Sunday, October 9. This morning we said goodbye to Käsmu and travelled for 3 hours by bus to Taevaskoja. Taevaskoja is just 10 minutes outside Põlva, the centre of Põlva County in southeast Estonia.

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We spent all morning travelling, so everyone was looking forward to some free time to explore Põlva in the late afternoon. Põlva gave us a feel for what it is like to live in a smaller town in Estonia, with a population of only 6,500 compared to Tallinn’s 440,000. The native Estonians in our group continued to coach the overseas Estonian descendants on the language skills we studied in Käsmu.

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The highlight of our day was in the evening, when we met at a community centre in Põlva to learn some traditional Estonian dancing. Our local instructor taught us almost a dozen national dances, and even the members of our group born and raised in Estonian had trouble keeping up at some points. However by the end of the dance lessons everyone was warm and laughing.

We returned to Taevaskoja after dancing for dinner. Many of our group was tired from the long day and went to rest, while a few others took advantage of clear country weather to count shooting stars in the night sky.

Let’s begin!

Hello!

Today, 4th of october, was the beginning of our exchange program Back to Our Roots. We came together from all over the world, but we all have something in common – Estonian roots. First couple of days we are gonna stay in capital, Tallinn. Our first meeting place, so say home at Villardi is amazing – 3 spacious flats and even saunas!

Even if the weather was very windy and quite cold, we decided to take a walk to the old city to have dinner  in the leeeeeegendary pancake pub called Kompressor .. because who doesn’t love pancakes? 🙂

After dinner stayed most of us to the old city to get to know the night life and also celebrate Samuel’s birthday! 🙂

It also looks like love against singing is really in every Estonian blood – night ended in karaoke pub!

Can’t wait what tomorrow brings! xx

Helen

paxp-deije