Cross Country Heroics – Andrus Veerpalu took the gold medal in men’s 15km cross country skiing at Salt Lake City in 2002, followed by Jaak Mae who took the bronze. Veerpalu also took the silver in the 50km at Salt Lake, and took the gold in Turin this year in the 15km men’s cross country. Kristina Šmigun (pictured) won two gold medals in Turin this year in cross county skiing.
Vanilla Ninja – The Estonian pop quartet, then trio, then quartet, then trio again scored their own kohuke, their own ice cream, made it huge in their own country and then went onto become the hottest musical act in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland since Wagner.
Carmen Kass – I am not one to be caught watching programs on models and/or modeling, but even I know who Carmen Kass is. What most Americans don’t know is that she was a candidate for European Parliament and that she starred in a film with Buratino himself, Priit Võigemast called Täna Öösel Me Ei Maga (Tonight we don’t sleep)in 2004.
Skype – True, Skype is based these days in Luxembourg, but its primary code was written in Tallinn, where one of its main offices is located. I didn’t take Skype seriously until it seemed like just about every human being I knew was using it as a verb as in “Just Skype Me.”
Mart Laar – Yeah, Isamaa may have just four seats in parliament, but Mart Laar is still a favorite global dinner guest from Chicago to T’bilisi. In the year 2006, a year he could have spent on his butt in Viljandimaa, Laar split his time between Estonia, accepting prizes and writing op-eds in the the US and UK, and advising Georgia’s president on economic reform.
Flat tax – There’s no photo that can describe how much credit Estonia has given to instituting a flat tax. The way right-leaning newspapers gush over Estonian economic reforms you’d think that Estonia was no longer a land of old ladies who’ve been wearing the same clothes (and looking at the same wallpaper) for 30+ years. Just check out the news this month. Read about Estonia in the Global Politician, Voice of America, or L’Express. From Mauritius to Manhattan they’ve all heard of the Estonian flat tax revolution.
Nice Beaches – That’s why everyone comes. It’s not the deep harbors. It’s not even the attractive women. Danes, Swedes, Germans, Russians, Poles. They all came – and are still coming – for the nice beaches. Even if summer only lasts two weeks.
It seems silly, but when you consider that Sweden and Finland harbor mostly rocks and little sand, you can understand why they are more eager to go across the sea to Estonia than to take a plane to Thailand.
Markko Märtin – If you follow off-road racing, you’ve heard of this gentleman. Märtin sadly lost his partner, Michael Park, last year, but Estonia erected a monument to Park in his honor in Tallinn. Even the prime minister showed up to express his sympathies.
British Stag Parties – from Red Seven, the “World’s Leaning Hen and Stag Company” –
What a difference the collapse of Communism has made! Some things may have stayed the same – the narrow, cobbled winding streets and medieval walls remain from centuries ago, making this capital of Estonia an undeniably beautiful city. Yet what was once a sleepy Baltic backwater is now one of the most vibrant Stag party destinations in Europe.
Free from the masses that have descended upon Prague, Tallinn is now rightly cultivating a reputation for offering those essential Stag weekend ingredients: plenty to see, plenty to do, plenty of gorgeous women, cheap food and drink, fantastic daytime activities and amazing nightlife. What more do you want?!
Wife Carrying Record Holders – Estonia has won every single Wife Carrying Championship held in Sonkajärvi, Finland since 1998.
In 2003, Margo Uusorg and Egle Soll set a world record of one minute and 0,7 seconds.
The Estonian Genome Project –
The Estonian Genome project hasn’t spun out its own DeCode Genetics just yet, but it still put a very small country on the map for anyone interested in genetics/genomics.
Cheap (and skilled) Labor – From New York to London to Sydney, Estonian workers are painting ships, remodeling apartments, waiting tables, and babysitting the children of privilege.
Before 1991, they had to flee a repressive political system. These days they just have to buy some tickets ahead of time on RyanAir.
Juhan Parts – Cockheaded and cocksure, Peaminister Juhan must have felt swell when he got to run the Estonian government, shake hands with Tony Blair, join the EU, and join NATO – all before his 40th birthday.
Sure, he’s out of the spotlight now, but rest assured, Juhan will be back.
Flustered Putin – There was nothing better than watching Vladimir Putin’s brow wrinkle and his voice grow tighter every time the Balts mentioned the word “occupation” in the runup to his big Communist party in Moscow in 2005.
Plentiful Booze – Being a nation of functional alcoholics, Estonia has established itself as the place to get drunk. Finns come to load up and then bring some home. And most others’ tales of Tallinn usually include hazy memories, finding secluded places to pee, and perhaps, even getting sick in Old Town.
And that’s just fifteen things. We left out Lennart Meri, Edgar Savisaar, Kalev chocolates, and Rakvere meats. If you have anything else to add, please do!