Head Uut Aastat! Ringing in the New Year 2018 in Estonia

Over the past 4 years, I have ensured that I have celebrated ringing in the New Year not sat on the couch watching a movie. In my fortunate position, I have spent it on an empty snow-covered mountainside, in Montréal with a long distance friend, at home with good friends dancing in Revolución de Cuba. For the New Year of 2018, Danny and I decided to accept Bety’s offer to see her home country: Estonia. Bety studied Economics with Danny at the University of Nottingham, they both went to the China campus for six months and she was our housemate in our final year of studies. Bety is a true international. Although she’s from Estonia, her boyfriend lives near Boston and attends Harvard University, she studied in the UK and now has moved to the other side of the American coast to study a Masters in the state of Washington. After graduating, she moved to Seattle to pursue a Masters Degree at the University of Washington. 

To ring in the New Year of 2018, Bety kindly invited Danny and me to Estonia for five days to see her whilst she was back from the US. As Tallinn isn’t the cheapest place to fly to from the UK, Danny and I decided to choose a flight with a twenty-two layover in Warsaw on our way to the Estonian capital.

On December 29th 2017, we landed in Poland’s capital city late in the evening and headed to our accommodation. The first and only blip of our trip happened at this point. We had booked the wrong night for the hostel. Fudge. Fortunately, the Caffe Nero across the road was open to 11pm so we bought hot chocolates and searched through Booking.com for another place to stay! We found an apartment at a reasonable price, meandered through the streets following google maps, and we were grateful to collapse into a bed by midnight. Despite the shower almost scolding us the following morning and two cleaning ladies trying to clear us out, it was a good place to stay.

We woke to a blue sky and winter chill in the air. The centre of Warsaw isn’t very big considering it is the largest city in Poland. Nevertheless, we adventured through to the main square, the old square and admired the Eastern European architecture. It is a great city for a stopover as could easily be somewhere to explore for a day and a half. In the eight hours we had to see the sights, we ate perogies (which is always a must in Poland (and you must always ask for them to be fried!!!)) and visited the Palace of Culture and Science (originally known as Joseph Stalin’s Palace etc.) in the more commercial district of the city.

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In no time we were back on a bus to the airport for an evening flight to Tallinn, both excited to be reunited with Bety and to see her homeland.

New Year’s Eve was all too quickly upon us as we prepared for a day of exploring rural Estonian sights ahead of the evening of celebrations Bety and Tim (her boyfriend) had organised. We trespassed visited an abandoned prison camp in Rummu (more details found here). The buildings were mostly wreckage and we didn’t stand in them for very long as we didn’t trust that the floors would hold us. From one historic site, we then ventured to the Estonian coastline to find another piece of Estonian history. We meandered and ambled through woodland to see abandoned defence towers that were used to defend the coastline.

The day flew by and soon enough we walked through Bety’s front door to find a feast waiting for the whole family. Bety’s mum is such a good cook! It is a tradition in Estonia that the families don’t clear the table after dinner on New Year’s Eve. Once full of delicious food, the four of us made our way to Bety’s friends’ house to spend the rest of the evening. It was closer to the city centre where we were going to see the firework display at midnight. 

The New Year celebrations were due to be held in Freedom Square south of the Old Town in Tallinn. There was a large stage with screens for subtitles for everyone to sing along to the live music and it is one of the energetic and enjoyable crowd experiences I have ever experienced. Even though Danny and I knew none of the songs or the lyrics, we tried our best to chant/sing/mumble along with everyone. The fireworks at midnight were fantastic and the clearest memory in my mind of our New Years Eve was the noise of fireworks that followed. For most of our walk back to the house we heard fireworks constantly being set off across the city and the echo of the bangs and crackles were so mesmerising.

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The final event of the evening was to celebrate the New Year in a sauna! Most to all Estonian houses have a sauna built within the main house as it is such a tradition and everyday activity for Estonians. 😛

Thank you to Bety and Tim for hosting us in Estonia, and to Gerda and Oliver for hosting such a fantastic evening to ring in 2018. ❤

It was a New Year I will never forget and will be hard to beat to ring in 2019!

GL xxx

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