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Estonia travel guide - Travel S helper

Estonia

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Estonia, formally the Republic of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti Vabariik), is a nation in Northern Europe’s Baltic area. It is bounded on the north by the Gulf of Finland, on the west by the Baltic Sea, on the south by Latvia (343 kilometers), and on the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). Sweden is to the west of the Baltic Sea, while Finland is to the north. Estonia’s landmass consists of a mainland and 2,222 islands and islets in the Baltic Sea, with a total land area of 45,339 km2 (17,505 sq mi) with a humid continental climate.

Estonia has been inhabited since at least 6500 BCE, with Finno-Ugric speakers — the linguistic forebears of contemporary Estonians – coming as recently as 1800 BCE. Following centuries of Teutonic, Danish, Swedish, and Russian domination, Estonians underwent a national awakening, culminating in independence from the Russian Empire towards the conclusion of World War I. During WWII, Estonia was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1940, then by Nazi Germany a year later, and taken by the Soviets again in 1944, when it was reconstructed as the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. The Estonian SSR published the Estonian Sovereignty Declaration in defiance of Soviet authority in 1988, during the Singing Revolution, and independence was restored on the night of August 20, 1991, during the Soviet attempted coup.

Tallinn, the capital and biggest city of modern Estonia, is a democratic parliamentary republic split into fifteen counties. It is one of the least populated member nations of the European Union, Eurozone, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), OECD, and Schengen Area, with a population of 1.3 million.

Estonians are a Finnic people with strong cultural connections to their northern neighbor, Finland, and Estonian, the official language, is a Finno-Ugric language closely related to Finnish and the Sami languages, as well as distantly to Hungarian.

Estonia is a developed nation with a sophisticated, high-income economy that is one of the EU’s fastest expanding. It has a high Human Development Index and scores well on measures of economic freedom, civil rights, education, and press freedom (3rd in the world in 2012 and 2007). Estonians have universal health care, free education, and the world’s longest paid maternity leave of any OECD nation. Since its independence, the nation has quickly expanded its information technology industry, becoming one of the world’s most technologically sophisticated civilizations. Estonia was the first country to conduct elections via the Internet in 2005, and the first to provide E-residency in 2014.

Estonia is a Baltic jewel that offers tourists the opportunity to view a small dynamic country on the Baltic Sea’s coasts. Although the swimming season is brief, the coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches. After all, the Baltics are not known for their pleasant weather, which every tourist to Estonia should be aware of; the summer is brief and the winter is harsh.

Tallinn’s medieval old town was constructed by the Germans during the Middle Ages and is in excellent shape, with the medieval city walls and towers nearly entirely intact, ranking as one of Europe’s finest medieval old cities. Visitors may also see an ex-Soviet occupied nation that is now a member of the European Union. Traces of the Soviet period may still be observed, for example, Paldiski, an abandoned Soviet army camp that was previously off-limits to Estonians, can be readily visited on a day trip from Tallinn. Estonia is well-known for its idyllic islands and vast bogs, which have been turned into national parks with easy access for visitors.

Geography

Estonia is located on the flat northwestern portion of the rising East European platform between 57.3° and 59.5° N and 21.5° and 28.1° E, on the eastern coasts of the Baltic Sea, just across the Gulf of Finland from Finland. The average height is just 50 metres (164 feet), while the highest point in the nation is the Suur Munamägi in the southeast at 318 metres (1,043 ft). The coastline is 3,794 kilometers (2,357 miles) long, with many bays, straits, and inlets. The total number of islands and islets is believed to be about 2,355. (including those in lakes). Two of them are big enough to be considered counties in their own right: Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. On Saaremaa, Estonia, there is a small, recent cluster of meteorite craters, the biggest of which is named Kaali.

Estonia is located in the northern temperate climatic zone, on the border between marine and continental climates. Estonia has four seasons that are almost equal in duration. In July, the hottest month, average temperatures vary from 16.3 °C (61.3 °F) on the Baltic islands to 18.1 °C (64.6 °F) inland, while in February, the coldest month, average temperatures range from 3.5 °C (25.7 °F) on the Baltic islands to 7.6 °C (18.3 °F) inland. The average annual temperature in Estonia is 5.2 degrees Celsius (41.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The average annual precipitation varied from 535 to 727 mm (21.1 to 28.6 in) from 1961 to 1990.

Snow cover typically lasts from mid-December to late March, with the heaviest coverage in the south-eastern portion of Estonia. There are approximately 1400 lakes in Estonia. Most are relatively tiny, with Lake Peipus being the biggest at 3,555 km2 (1,373 sq mi). The country is riddled with rivers. The longest are Vhandu (162 km or 101 mi), Pärnu (144 km or 89 mi), and Pltsamaa (144 km or 89 km) (135 km or 84 mi). Estonia contains a lot of fens and bogs. Estonia is covered by forests about 61 percent of its total area. Pine, spruce, and birch are the most prevalent tree species.

Estonia is shared phylogeographically by the Circumboreal Region’s Central European and Eastern European provinces within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, Estonia’s land is part of the Sarmatic mixed forest ecoregion.

Demographics

Prior to WWII, ethnic Estonians made up 88 percent of the population, with national minorities accounting for the remaining 12 percent. Russians, Germans, Swedes, Latvians, Jews, Poles, Finns, and Ingrians were the biggest minority groups in 1934.

The proportion of Baltic Germans in Estonia had decreased from 5.3 percent (46,700) in 1881 to 1.3 percent (16,346) by 1934, owing mostly to emigration to Germany in the aftermath of widespread Russification at the end of the nineteenth century and Estonia’s independence in the twentieth.

Between 1945 and 1989, the proportion of ethnic Estonians living within Estonia’s current borders fell to 61 percent, owing primarily to the Soviet program promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as wartime emigration and Joseph Stalin’s mass deportations and executions. Minorities comprised more than one-third of the population by 1989, as the number of non-Estonians had almost fivefold increased.

At the end of the 1980s, Estonians saw demographic change as a national disaster. This was the consequence of migratory policies crucial to the Soviet Nationalisation Programme aimed at russifying Estonia — administrative and military immigration of non-Estonians from the USSR, along with deportation of Estonians to the USSR. Large-scale emigration by ethnic Russians and the evacuation of Russian military posts in 1994 increased the percentage of ethnic Estonians in Estonia from 61 percent to 69 percent in 2006.

Modern Estonia is a highly ethnically diverse nation, although this diversity is not visible in most of the country since the non-Estonian population is concentrated in two counties. Thirteen of Estonia’s fifteen counties are above 80 percent ethnic Estonian, with Hiiumaa being the most homogenous, with Estonians accounting for 98.4 percent of the population. However, ethnic Estonians make approximately 60% and 20% of the population in the counties of Harju (containing the capital city of Tallinn) and Ida-Viru, respectively. Russians account up 25.6 percent of the overall population, but 36 percent of the population in Harju county and 70 percent of the population in Ida-Viru county.

The Estonian Cultural Autonomy Act of 1925 was unique in Europe at the time. More than 3,000 individuals from minorities with long-standing connections to the Republic of Estonia may be awarded cultural autonomy. Prior to the Soviet takeover, German and Jewish minority were able to elect a cultural council. In 1993, the Law on Cultural Autonomy for National Minorities was reintroduced. Historically, indigenous ethnically Rannarootslased people have inhabited vast portions of Estonia’s northern coast and islands (Coastal Swedes).

Due to property changes in the early 1990s, the number of Coastal Swedes has increased in recent years, reaching almost 500 individuals in 2008. In 2005, Estonia’s Ingrian Finnish minority elected a cultural council and received cultural autonomy. In 2007, the Estonian Swedish minority gained cultural autonomy in the same way.

Religion

The Teutonic Knights converted Estonia to Christianity in the 13th century. Protestantism expanded throughout the Reformation, and the Lutheran church was formally founded in Estonia in 1686. Many Estonians claim to be atheists since religion was linked with German feudalism in the nineteenth century. Another minority religion, Russian Old-believers, has historically existed around Lake Peipus in Tartu County.

Today, Estonia’s constitution protects religious freedom, separation of church and state, and individual rights to religious and believe privacy. Estonia, according to the Dentsu Communication Institute Inc, is one of the world’s least religious nations, with 75.7 percent of the population professing to be irreligious. According to the Eurobarometer Poll 2005, just 16% of Estonians believe in God, the lowest percentage of any country examined. The ancient Lutheran denomination has a significant presence, with 180,000 registered members, according to the Lutheran World Federation.

According to Eurobarometer’s 2012 surveys on religiosity in the European Union, Christianity is the most popular religion in Estonia, accounting for 28.06 percent of Estonians. Eastern Orthodox are the biggest Christian group in Estonia, accounting for 17% of the population, followed by Protestants at 6% and Other Christians at 22%. Nonbeliever/Agnostic account for 22%, Atheist account for 15%, and undeclared account for 15%.

The biggest religious denomination in the country is Lutheranism, which is practiced by 160,000 Estonians (or 13% of the population), mostly ethnic Estonians. According to other groups, such as the World Council of Churches, there are as many as 265,700 Estonian Lutherans. Furthermore, there are between 8,000 and 9,000 subscribers worldwide.

Another significant group is those who practice Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which is mostly practiced by the Russian minority, and the Russian Orthodox Church is the second biggest denomination with 150,000 adherents. Another 20,000 people are members of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, which is affiliated with the Greek-Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate. Thus, regardless of citizenship or ethnicity, the number of Lutherans and Orthodox followers is nearly equal. Catholics in Estonia have their own Latin Apostolic Administration.

According to the 2000 census (data in the table on the right), there were about 1,000 followers of the Taara religion or Maausk in Estonia (see Maavalla Koda). The Jewish community has a population of about 1,900 people. Around 68,000 individuals identify as atheists.

Economy

The World Bank classifies Estonia as a high-income economy since it is a member of the European Union. According to the IMF, the country’s GDP (PPP) per capita in 2015 was $28,781, placing it between the Slovak Republic and Lithuania, but behind other long-standing EU members such as Italy and Spain. The nation is rated eighth in the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, and its economy is the fourth freest in Europe. Estonia, along with Lithuania and Latvia, has been dubbed the Baltic Tigers due to its fast development. Estonia joined the euro on January 1, 2011, becoming the 17th eurozone member state.

According to Eurostat, Estonia had the lowest ratio of government debt to GDP among EU nations at the end of 2010, at 6.7 percent.

Estonia’s market economy is distinguished by a balanced budget, virtually non-existent public debt, a flat-rate income tax, a free trade environment, a competitive commercial banking sector, innovative e-Services, and even mobile-based services.

Estonia generates about 75% of the power it consumes. In 2011, about 85 percent of it was produced using locally mined oil shale. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass account for around 9% of primary energy output. In 2009, renewable wind energy accounted for about 6% of total consumption. Petroleum products are imported into Estonia from Western Europe and Russia. Key areas of the economy include oil shale energy, telecommunications, textiles, chemical goods, banking, services, food and fishing, wood, shipbuilding, electronics, and transportation. Muuga, near Tallinn, is an ice-free port with excellent transshipment capability, a high-capacity grain elevator, chill/frozen storage, and new oil tanker off-loading facilities. The railroad connects the West with Russia and other places to the East.

Because of the worldwide economic crisis that started in 2007, Estonia’s GDP fell by 1.4 percent in the second quarter of 2008, more than 3 percent in the third quarter of 2008, and more than 9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. The Estonian government enacted a supplemental negative budget, which the Riigikogu approved. The budget’s income was reduced by EEK 6.1 billion in 2008, while spending was reduced by EEK 3.2 billion. In 2010, the economy stabilized and began to expand on the back of robust exports. In the fourth quarter of 2010, Estonian industrial production rose by 23% over the previous year. Since then, the nation has seen economic development.

In 2008, Estonian PPS GDP per capita was 67 percent of the EU average, according to Eurostat statistics. The average monthly gross wage in Estonia in March 2016 was €1105.

However, there are large differences in GDP across various regions of Estonia; presently, Tallinn generates more than half of the country’s GDP. Tallinn’s GDP per capita was 172 percent of the Estonian average in 2008, making Tallinn’s per capita GDP as high as 115 percent of the European Union average, surpassing the typical levels of other countries.

In March 2016, the unemployment rate was 6.4 percent, which was lower than the EU average, but real GDP growth in 2011 was 8.0 percent, which was five times the eurozone average. Estonia remained the only eurozone member with a budget surplus in 2012, and with a national debt of just 6% of GDP, it is one of Europe’s least indebted nations.

How To Travel To Estonia

By planeTallinn serves as Estonia's primary international gateway. Aside from direct daily flights to/from all main Scandinavian (Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Oslo) and Baltic cities (Riga and Vilnius), there are direct flights from all major European hubs such as London, Frankfurt, Munich, Brussels, and Amsterdam, as well as regional hubs...

How To Travel Around Estonia

Because the local Eastern European style driving culture may be hazardous for the untrained, it is recommended to walk, bike, or use public transportation in Estonia.By busEstonia has a well-developed bus system that runs across the nation. A direct bus from Tallinn may take you to almost any place....

Visa & Passport Requirements for Estonia

The Schengen Agreement includes Estonia.Between nations that have signed and implemented the pact, there are usually no border restrictions. This covers the majority of the European Union as well as a few additional nations.Before boarding foreign planes or vessels, identification checks are typically performed. At land boundaries, there are...

Destinations in Estonia

Regions in EstoniaThe country of Estonia is split into 15 counties (or maakonnad, singular - maakond). In this guide, we utilize four different areas to highlight Estonia's unique features. Because Estonia is a tiny country, most places can be visited in a few hours from Tallinn.North EstoniaWith almost a...

Accommodation & Hotels in Estonia

Following the restoration of Estonian independence, the number of hotels has grown from a few to tens of thousands. Tallinn was top among Baltic Sea cities in terms of hotel overnight stays in 2004, although it was still behind Stockholm and Helsinki in terms of overall overnight stays.Following the...

Things To See in Estonia

Medieval history and manorsTallinn's Old Town is Europe's most preserved and well-protected medieval city and Estonia's top tourist destination. Its unique significance stems from its well-preserved (intact) medieval atmosphere and structure, which has been lost in other northern European cities. The Old Town has been on the UNESCO World...

Things To Do in Estonia

Film festivalsTallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF). November/December. The festival includes a feature film festival as well as animation, student film, and children/youth film sub-festivals.Music festivalsTallinn Music Week, Tallinn. Spring. Showcase festival with the goal of showcasing the finest and most remarkable Estonian artists over two nights in Tallinn's most dynamic live venues, as...

Food & Drinks in Estonia

Food in EstoniaEstonian cuisine is strongly influenced by German and Nordic cuisine. Verivorst, or black pudding, is the closest thing to a national meal, and it's paired with mulgikapsad, or sauerkraut stew.Many foods, such as hapukoor (smetana in Russian), a sour 20 percent-fat milk dressing for salads, particularly "kartulisalat"...

Money & Shopping in Estonia

CurrencyThe Estonian currency is the euro. It is one of many European nations that utilize the Euro. All euro banknotes and coins are legal tender across the EU.One euro is made up of 100 cents.The euro's official sign is €, and its ISO code is EUR. The cent does...

Festivals & Holidays in Estonia

HolidaysNational holiday : Independence Day, February 24th; on this day in 1918, the United States declared independence from Soviet Russia (20 August 1991 was the date of re-independence from the Soviet Union). The president hosts a big gala on February 24th for famous and significant members of society as well...

Traditions & Customs in Estonia

When meeting a stranger, Estonians in general are surprisingly reticent to begin with. They don't speak much in the way of social pleasantries or small chat; they just say what's appropriate. Once you've broken the ice, you'll find them to be open and honest.Estonians maintain a physical distance from...

Internet & Communications in Estonia

InternetTallinn and Tartu have extensive access to wireless, free internet.On the open road, you will often come across gas stations that also provide wireless internet connection.If you do not own a laptop, public libraries have free computers.The number of internet cafés is decreasing, although many are open nearly all...

Language & Phrasebook in Estonia

Estonian is the official language, which is linguistically extremely similar to Finnish and therefore unconnected to other neighboring languages including English. Many individuals in cities (particularly young ones) are fluent in English. According to a Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2005, 66% of Estonians can speak some Russian; nevertheless, fewer...

Culture Of Estonia

Estonian culture combines indigenous roots, as shown by the Estonian language and the sauna, with mainstream Nordic and European cultural elements. Estonian culture has been affected by the traditions of the surrounding area's diverse Finnic, Baltic, Slavic, and Germanic peoples, as well as cultural changes in the previous dominating...

History Of Estonia

PrehistoryWhen the ice from the previous glacial period receded, human habitation in Estonia became conceivable 13,000 to 11,000 years ago. The Pulli village, located on the banks of the river Pärnu near the town of Sindi in south-western Estonia, is the country's earliest known habitation. It was settled about...

Stay Safe & Healthy in Estonia

Stay Safe in ArmeniaFollowing the introduction of democratic freedoms in 1991-1994, the reported crime rate rose significantly. This is due, in large part, to the fact that crime was a taboo topic before to 1991, since Soviet propaganda sought to demonstrate how safe and generally wonderful it was. The...

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