Leaving Saint Petersburg meant leaving Russia, it’s only 160km to go in order to reach country #23 on our journey. Hitchhiking is going easy and on the last kilometers we get a ride from a nice Estonian couple that lives in St.Petersburg. They (try to) teach us a couple of words in Estonian and drop us right at the border. Eesti as it’s called in Estonian is the first post-soviet country on our journey that joined the EU, so we’re pretty excited to see how it is different from its big neighbour Russia.
Crossing over a construction site just outside the Russian border post and entering a nice facility on the other side. I was greeted by a friendly (noticably friendlier) border patrol officer who, after looking at my passport for 5 minutes asked if I had ever seen a nuclear explosion mushroom cloud in my life. My hometown Kurchatov brings up questions like that occasionally 🙂
After enjoying a civilized toilet facility we step out and are in the EU again. Feels very different yet all known. Nice streets with pavement and sidewalks, polite drivers, parks, benches, trash bins 😀 Seems very calm and quiet. Signs everywhere in yet another incomprehensible language though to our surprise everyone speaks Russian. We come to a cafe at the University and try to order something typical Estonian, but they have only Russian food and assure us that we would not find anything Estonian in Narva which is a 98% Russian populated city.
Estonia seems to be ahead of the rest of the EU that we know in many things. Electric car charging stations countrywide (implemented just before the EU decided to change the plug a tiny bit so in need of rebuilding), e-government everywhere, online elections, high-tech education facilities, free public transport in Tallinn, electronic IDs that store all important information, like a prescription from a doctor that can be “read” at the pharmacy when you go to pick your medicine and of course WiFi networks that work perfectly even in a forest and are easily accessible, fishermen for example, can purchase their fishing licenses while sitting at the lake 🙂 Oh and everyone seems to speak at least three languages here.
Estonia became for us a meet point with friends from India. We were visiting the TEDx Narva conference where we were invited by our host and Sascha posted about it on facebook. A few minutes later we got a message from Angus and Holly that they are also in Narva. What a coincidence! We met the guys close to Rishikesh where we were volunteering together at an Ayurvedic farm. Holly and Angus were now on their Scandinavia tour with their dog in a beautiful self-built travel-van. An upgrade from bicycles that we consider 😉
The other freinds we met in Tallinn. Sam and Sheena, a Brithis-Irish couple that we met at our CSing host in Mysore. Back then they cycled across Sri-Lanka and India which is absolutely admirable as it is not even easy to walk there 🙂 They have a lot of incredible stories from their India cycling time including meeting a tiger while camping in the jungle. Now the guys found a temporary home in Tallinn and it seems they enjoy it a lot. Sam and Sheena also cycled across Scandinavian countries prior settling in Tallinn. Wow! What an experience!
We spent a few evenings with the guys in Tallinn tasting different Estonian beers. And Estonians seem to be good not only at technology. A country of surprises and discoveries, with untouched medieval architecture, beautiful forests, the Baltic sea coast, numerous islands and maybe best of all very few people :).