Summer’s end and autumn’s news

The short Estonian summer has finally packed its bags and left us in our usual cold state. No minus degrees or snow yet, but I am sure they are not far away.IMG_7651

Our time after David’s parents’ visit has gone by pretty quietly. We’ve gone to Võru nearly every weekend to swim in lakes, bathe in the sun and collect food from grandma’s garden supermarket. This is my yield for the last two weeks:IMG_20140811_184256 IMG_20140817_221039It’s been raining for the past week, so the forests are laden with mushrooms…everything from chanterelles to porcini (I don’t know any other mushroom names in English 🙂 ). So our house now looks like a mini factory. I have also been baking lots of rye bread – a very lengthy two day process, but worth it!IMG_20140817_221143 IMG_20140817_221115

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I’m a rebel. Instead of pickling mushrooms I’m drying them.

There are mushrooms and chillis drying, mountains of potatoes and beans, jams and juices being made and everything that is left over is pickeld. All this is then put in the cellar, which every self-respecting household must have. All this self-sufficiency is another remainder of previous tough times, when supermarket shelves and wallets were empty and people had to make do with what they could grow. After a sudden change in people’s lifestyles after the USSR broke down people are now starting to get back to growing their own food and trying to eat organic. A similar trend to that in the UK, I believe. IMG_8711 IMG_8715 IMG_8719

Life in a Soviet prison

Some time ago I wrote about my grandpa, who was condemned to prison for putting up an Estonian flag at the age of 15. I finally got to visit the said prison, now a museum. It was very far from a conventional museum namely because there weren’t any exhibits, guides or displays. The prisoners and the staff left and the prison was left as it was.IMG_8170

The walls still have photos of naked women and 90s TV starts on them, there are books lying around, mattresses and pieces of clothes and shoes on the floors.IMG_8176Visitors can walk around by themselves in damp cells, climb the very rickety watchtower and wonder about everywhere. The place felt extremely eery and the conditions in which prisoners had to live until as late as 2011 were appalling.IMG_8187 IMG_8179

The lack of information was somewhat frustrating as I really wanted to locate my grandpa’s cell, but at the same time the state of the prison probably helps people get a better picture of what it was like to live in those conditions.
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The prison now hosts parties and modern art exhibitions apart from being a strange museum. And of course, there is a beach at the prison now.IMG_8194

Kuremäe convent

We recently (re)visited Kuremäe convent located in Eastern Estonia. The convent was started when some peasants had a vision from the Mother of God and later found an icon under an oak tree (believed to have been found in the ruins of an old chapel). An orthodox chapel was built at the place and it soon grew into a convent. The convent served as a typhoid hospital in the 20s and was made into a concentration camp during WWII. IMG_8226

It is now a fully-functioning convent complete with a hospital, guest house, a school and these huge and famous stacks of wood:

IMG_8239People visit the place for various reasons, but the locals mainly visit for its holy spring water, which they fill bottles with and submerge themselves into.

I usually go for the submerge when I visit, however this time was different. A little wooden house is built on the spring with an opening in the floor with steps leading into the water. I usually go in there alone, but there were so many visitors this time that people had to go in big groups. It was really a wonderful experience. I went in with about 15 other women, mostly Russian speaking. We all got undressed and as women started to go in the water all the other women started to chant prayers. I was quite dumbfounded at this, but really fascinated at the same time. So I went in the water and said the only prayer in Russian I know – Господи помилуй  – Lord have mercy.

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We then got dried and filled up our water bottles from the basin. IMG_8264Even more extra-curricular activities of the summer

We swam in a waterfall!IMG_8205 IMG_8197We went to a wedding and ate very little sült (meat jelly). However, David had the honor of being the wedding’s ‘kibe’ caller. Kibe means bitter and as soon as the word is called out (and turned into chanting) the bride and groom have to find each other and kiss. David took his job very seriously and kibe was called nearly every 15 minutes. But then David got drunk on vodka and only called kibe every half an hour.IMG_8583 IMG_8590

Camping and sleeping on the beach.IMG_8296 IMG_8290 IMG_8287

I’ve been hanging out with former prime ministers. Due to the smallness of Estonia we are actually able to hold discussions with our leaders and express our opinions. Quite remarkable, I thought. We are trying very hard to be like Scandinavia, where such events are quite normal. IMG_20140817_221235Oh, did I mention my meeting with Barack on Wednesday?

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Due to our similar history and geographical position the Ukrainian events are very heavily broadcast and discussed in Estonia. The analysis of the events is at times unnecessarily unnerving and many people are truly worried about our beloved Eastern neighbour’s impudence. So Obama is coming to pay us a visit show America’s solidarity.

And finally…some news

I have a new study table, which I worked on for two whole days to make it look good. Why I need a study table, I hear you ask? Well, as of tomorrow I am going to be an MA student, reading international relations at the University of Tartu. The course lasts for two years and then I shall be clever. I am looking forward to studying very much and think it’s really nice to finally study something I am interested in. Education, including higher education, in Estonia is free and very good quality as well. I will keep my full-time job and will study full-time, so there are surely busy and stressful times ahead.

However….David is moving to the UK, where he has a new job. So once again we are living the life of long-distance marriage. But not to worry, this is only temporary and we will make a new plan once I have got my MA. Luckily England is only 2,5 hours’ flight away and the time difference is only 2 hours. Nothing we haven’t done before.

Remember strange things from China, here are some strange Estonian things

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A milk jug made in Eastern Germany. Found it on my mum’s shelf.

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A soviet time kinder garten pavilion mural mixed with some horrible graffiti. The tyres are for jumping over

That is all for now. I hope to hear from some of you soon.

Sarai zvakanaka!

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5 thoughts on “Summer’s end and autumn’s news

  1. Kati,
    It was so long ago that we last saw each other and I really enjoy reading these and finding out what wonderful things you are doing.
    Good luck with your MA, have wonderful travels and keep being awesome!
    Tom x

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  2. Hi Katrin – I just want to tell you thank you for keeping up your wonderful blog. I’m not sure how I found it, but I came across it I think a couple years ago. My father (now deceased) was born in Tartu and left Estonia before the occupation. I was born much later in his life, after he had lived in North America for 20+ years. I rarely heard him speak Estonian and was not exposed to the culture at all. I visited Estonia shortly after he died 5 years ago which was my real first glimpse at my heritage. I so appreciate you including all the cultural tidbits of Estonia. It satisfies my soul in some way, if that makes sense. Also, I worked in Zimbabwe about 10 years ago so I also appreciate the smatterings of Shona in your blogs. Congratulations on the new educational endeavor. I hope you’re able to find time to keep the blog up in the future. Many blessings – Jessica

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      1. hi Katrin – I just noticed your reply. Too bad I never went to Estonia while you were there. I see you are in Dubai now. I was there once but spent most of my time in Al Ain (inside by the a/c) one summer. Enjoy. I am moving to India – to Amritsar. If you two are ever in the area be in touch. 🙂 I get your blogs to my email and always read them. I feel like I know you 2 really well now 🙂

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  3. Dear Katie and David, sorry long time no communicate! As usual your blogs are so informative and the photos are great. But your news about David’s English job and you working and studying at the same time. How are you going to do it all? Though knowing you both you will achieve it . Your ability to live the adventurous life is fantastic! So when do you start your job David ? Presumably you have already begun Kati ? So when are you coming up here? Cherry, chickens, bees, raspberries, big kitchen, little fishes, family, friends and Jesus continue to fill my life. Jon and Tina are hoping to move to a bigger house, negotiations have just begun. So I have been doing a bit of a clear out here. This Thursday the hospice furniture people are picking up some bits from here, are you ok about the table being given to them? I have offered it to various people but no takers. Let me know what you want to do with it. Blessings to you both, it would be lovely to see you. Maybe we could ‘face time’ ? Much love. Dot xxxx

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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