Estonia

Holidays

Estonia celebrates a national holiday:

Independence Day
iseseisvuspäev: 24 February; it is celebrated on the first date of independence in 1918, when Estonia declared independence from Soviet Russia. Estonia also declared independence from the Soviet Union on 20 August 1991, which is celebrated as a public holiday. There is always a military parade somewhere in the country on 24 February, although the weather can be too cold for some to come and watch.

Estonia also celebrates several public holidays:

New Year's Day
uusaasta: 1 January; New Year's celebrations were promoted during the Soviet times, while Christmas was forbidden. After the restoration of independence, the significance of the New Year decreased, but it is still a celebrated as in the rest of the World.
Good Friday
suur reede: moves from 17 March to 20 April always on Friday.
Easter Sunday
ülestõusmispüha: moves from 22 March to 26 April first full moon Sunday after the spring equinox.
May Day
kevadpüha: 1 May; first a Soviet-imposed Labour Day, when students and public employees were forced to take part in political processions, the importance of the May Day has moved to the preceding night on 30 April. Many Estonians then celebrate the Germanic Walpurgis Night volbriöö and dress up as witches and roam the streets. In the university town of Tartu, the mayor gives the power symbolically over to the students, who then gather to student organizations for the following night.
Pentecost
nelipühad: moving from 10 May to 14 June.
Victory Day
võidupüha: 23 June; celebration of the Estonian victory over the Baltic German Landeswehr in the Battle of Paju in 1919. There is usually a smaller military parade somewhere in the country on 23 June.
Midsummer Day
or jaanipäev: 24 June; the summer solstice, which is however celebrated on the previous night on 23 June, on St. John's Eve jaaniõhtu or jaaniöö. It is recommended to attend the semi-public celebrations in any Estonian village. Most villages and many residents themselves organize large bonfires for the evening. There is also a tradition to jump over the bonfire. In the West Estonian islands, there are sometimes old fishing boats burnt within the bonfires. The sun only sets for a few hours on that night and it never really goes completely dark and many Estonians have the tradition to stay awake at least until sunrise.
Day of Restoration of Independence
taasiseseisvumispäev: 20 August; celebration of the restoration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Christmas
jõulud: from 24 to 26 December; Christmas in Estonia is a mix of Estonian and Western traditions. Celebrating Lutheran Christmas in December instead of Orthodox Christmas in January was forbidden during the Soviet Occupation and Christmas were celebrated in secret. Today it has remained a strictly family holiday.

All national and public holidays are a day off for workers in general, but most convenience stores remain open during regular hours.

Understand

Estonia is a Baltic gem offering visitors the chance to see a tiny dynamic land on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Glorious beaches pepper the extensive coastline, although the swimming season is short. After all, the Baltics are not renowned for warm weather - something that any visitor to Estonia must be aware of — the summer is short and the winter is severe.

Tallinn's medieval old town was built by German crusaders in the Late Middle Ages and is in magnificent condition, with the medieval city walls and towers almost completely intact and it rates as one of Europe's best preserved medieval old towns. Visitors can also experience an ex-Soviet occupied country that is now part of the European Union. Traces of the Soviet era are still there to be seen — e.g. Paldiski, a deserted Soviet army base that was once off-limits to Estonians themselves, can easily be visited on a day trip from the capital, Tallinn.

History

After 7 centuries of German, Danish, Swedish, Polish and Russian rule, Estonia attained independence in 1918. Forcefully annexed into the USSR in 1940, it re-gained independence in 1991 through its Singing Revolution (http://www.singingrevolut...), a non-violent revolution that overthrew an initially violent occupation.

Since the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia moved to promote economic and political ties with Western Europe. It is now one of the more-prosperous former communist states, enjoying a high-tech environment, an open and liberal economy and a transparent government system. On the other hand, it is faced with a fairly low but growing GDP per capita in a European Union context, as well as a very low birth rate, which is creating a slight population decline. Between 1991-2007, the country saw rapid economic expansion, leading it to be among one of the wealthiest and the most developed of the former Soviet Republics. However, its economy was badly damaged during the ongoing global recession, although more recently, it has been recovering quickly. In 2011, the Euro was adopted as the official currency.

Since its accession to the EU, Estonia is becoming one of the most popular destinations in North-Eastern Europe with EU highest 30% growth in the number of visitors in 2004, according to Eurostat.

Geography

Climate  maritime, wet, moderate winters, cool summers Terrain  marshy, lowlands; flat in the north, hilly in the south Elevation extremes  lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m highest point: Suur Munamägi 318m in the south east of Estonia, 20km north of the main highway that runs from Riga to Russia close to the borders of Estonia with both countries. Geography - note  the mainland terrain is flat, boggy, and partly wooded; offshore lie more than 1,500 islands and isletsNature  World War 2 and the subsequent occupation were devastating on humans, but the destruction and the closure of large areas for military use actually increased Estonia's forest coverage from about 25% before the war to more than 50% by 1991. Wolves, bears, lynx, elks, deer as well as some rare bird and plant species are abundant in Estonia. The wild animals from Estonia are exported to some EU countries for forest re-population programmes. Most animals can be hunted - according to yearly quotas.