Last night’s youtube video “The Two Day Rule” renewed by motivation. So I was pretty happy to wake up to blue skies this morning after the few grey, dreary days we’ve had lately.
Jogging down to the lake I ran into a foreigner-friend from Poland with her furry little friend. A brief morning chat. We head off in different directions. Within the next 2 minutes there’s another friend. Mexican this time with another dog but also his child and wife too. We briefly discuss plans and continue on enjoying this beautiful town we live in. On my way I’m wondering how many pleasant mornings like this I’ve missed by being so lazy lately.
It’s Saturday the 14th of September. Autumn’s upon us. I’m wearing running shorts and a t-shirt. Pretty good weather for this time of year though it rained a little earlier this morning. If I’ve learnt anything from Estonia it’s to make the most of any weather. Don’t wait for the weather to get better – a common reason some expats cite when explaining why they’ve not left Tallinn for the first 5 months of the year.
The grass is green, flowers are still upright and but there’s a few brown leaves on the ground. A sign of what’s to come. I take a moment to appreciate the surroundings. It’s about to get a whole lot colder around here. The most recent forecast predicts 3-5 degrees in the evenings. There’s talk of frost.
I’m back home now to take care of an errand that’s been bugging me for a while. The bicycle. Cyclists know how it goes with cleaning a bicycle and the weather. Clear outside? Clean your bicycle and surely the next day it’ll rain. Seeing as it had already rained, I thought I was safe. Suddenly it starts hailing down. I did not see that coming. The hail isn’t “gulf ball size” like we get in the tropics. I’m able to finish up pretty quickly.
With this weird weather hanging around I jump in the car to run some more errands. But first – “kohvi“.
There’s this place by Viljandi train station I’ve been meaning to visit. The name doesn’t give me much hope for a hipster café establishment. Jaama Söögisaal – literally “station food hall”. A beautiful building though.
It’s raining outside with strong winds when I arrive. The waitress is a tall feminine blonde with braided hair. No furby-inspired eyelash extensions. Nice, but as predicted it’s “must kohv” – proper truck-stop coffee. A basic concoction of black soot and water made with an electronic “coffee machine”.
I look around the building. It’s well kept, clean, not dilapidated in anyway. Probably back in the day this place saw a bit of splendour. I imagine chandeliers… But today the atmosphere (and “coffee”) is lacking.
There’s no music. No coffee grinder. No banter. The television and an old fridge compete for attention. Occasionally the old man reading the newspaper in the corner lets out a wheezing cough.
Already holding knife and fork, his plate of meat and potato arrives. Plonk! A new sound. The 500g meal is placed infront of him. In true peasant style, there’s no “aitäh” here. Immediately he scoffs his “Saksa lobi” down, fixated on the television.
I thank the waiter on my way out and discover the weather’s clear again. Blue skies and sunshine. Summer hasn’t quite left us yet…
An Old Building
Next door is an old stone building with large wooden doors. Vines are growing all over it. It looks so cosy. I imagine it’s something you’d find in the Irish countryside. I take a few shots before heading off to another errand.
Taking out the Trash
In Estonia most people recycle their rubbish. Under a kitchen sink you’ll find a bin for metal, plastic, cardboard and packaging then another for non-recyclables and food waste. Bottles are easily recycled. Automatic machines return 10 euro cents a pop. Almost everyone does it. Some of the homeless “live” off it.
Unlike in Australia, here you have to deposit your recyclable trash into one of these large yellow bins which are usually located by shopping centres. Curb-side rubbish collection is not free. However, it is free to deposit your recyclable rubbish.
Paying for your rubbish removal makes you more attentive to what goes in your bin. There’s a financial incentive to recycle your rubbish and generally reduce waste. I like this about Estonia. If I had more land and a proper garden setup I’d compost too. I’m only learning, don’t judge me!
Keeping with the environmentally friendly activities it’s off to the greenhouse next.
Both a luxury and a burden at the same time. If you’ve ever grown fruit or vegetables successfully you’ll know some plants (like tomatoes) can produce such an abundance it’s actually difficult to get rid of them. I even posted free tomatoes on facebook once, nobody was interested.
The goal here is to turn your tomatoes into something before they rot. Grabbing one or two for an omelette in the morning isn’t going to get you through your crop in time.
Fortunately the tradition of conserving food in jars is well observed here in Estonia. It’s a national pastime. Dill pickled pickles, tomatoes, mushrooms, pumpkin, jams and letšo. Everyone does it. Though us foreigners bring new twists and flavours to these tried and tested Estonian traditions. It’s Italian passata or Mexican inspired salsa dip from me.
But don’t you get carried away with your own ideas just yet. Estonians are freaked out by spices and foreign food. Despite vegan food trending in Estonia and an impressive line of new products available in the shops – ground work is necessary if you want to introduce new things. Go slow.
I know of one other Aussie in Tallinn who had struggled for some time to convince his Estonian relatives that passata is an appropriate use of good tomatoes. The struggle is real.
The Estonians are clever, resourceful people who have thrived in the face of adversity. It’s understandable then why they cling so strongly to what works. I’m lucky to have an Estonian family brave enough to try new things – guacamole, habeñero, hummus and wraps have all been successful. There have been mishaps too, like the time I caused a deafening Jaanituli explosion.
Today’s explosion is salsa dip. I’m trying to recreate the same stuff I used to get from Woolworths – you know those Doritos salsa dips? I’ve now got my own batch of salsa dip in the cupboard. This is what we call “trading stocks”.
I’ve received countless jars of jam, frozen berries and homemade apple juice from my Estonian family. Hopefully the salsa will be well received in what’s become our little co-op. Life in Estonia can sometimes feel like a kibbutz I tell ya!
Happy Birthday Viljandi
Today’s Viljandi’s birthday. The event has been scaled back from DJs and the town’s outside long table – due to the particularly weird weather. Rain especially. Prior year’s have seen better parties in the middle of town with bunting and music to match. I recall Tommy Cash even attended once.
We’re on Turu Tanäv. “Market street” in English. An American friend has invited me Suur Vend pub. I’m told by a few Estonians it’s a rough place but I’ve not seen a Russell Crowe there yet. Besides it’s still in the middle of the day. I have a non-alcoholic cider and we talk for a bit. I’m introduced to another young foreigner. A recent arrival. On talking about our own “why Estonia?” stories the conversation gradually shifts to the rights of Russians (as “a minority people”) in the Baltics. It’s not the first time I’ve heard foreigners speak on this topic.
Still longing for my morning kohvi after that crap I had earlier we stroll over to Layk Stuudiokohvik. Bit of a hipster place with a real coffee machine and an actual barista too.
Outside’s another familiar face. An Australian-British artist and local resident. The three of us guys stand around outside and talk shop. The music from Viljandi’s birthday street performances picks up a notch. It starts to rain and I head home.