elagu epu mees

Rongkäik. If I was translating it into English, it would literally mean “train way,” but really it’s a parade, and yesterday the parade to Tallinn’s Lauluväljak (Song Festival Grounds) where Estonia’s famous Laulupidu (Song Festival), held every five years, was set to take place.

Th parade started at 2 pm. We heard the drums beating, and soon it seemed all of Estonia was marching past in folk costume, city by city, parish by parish. There were even singers from Kiev, Ukraine; Stavanger, Norway; and Vancouver, Canada. Other places too. Hungarians, New Zealanders, Latvians. It took a very long time for the big Estonian counties to filter through during the rongkäik. I wasn’t even aware that so many people lived in Ida Virumaa, “where the sun starts to rise over Estonia,” as they declared proudly.

To show ones appreciation for a certain parish or singing group, you have to yell out Elagu ____, or “Long Live ___.” For example, when Tallinn gümnaasium 34 passes by, you must salute them by crying out Elagu Tallinna Gümnaasium Kolmkümmend Neli! I waited patiently for my pet towns and parishes to pass by just so I could salute them with a little Elagu Sürgavere Kool! or Elagu Karksi Lauljad!

Actually, I let others cheer them on. I was too busy trying to keep an eye on my wandering Pippi Longstocking-esque daughter who makes friends and gets into adventures wherever she goes. When Pippi grows up a bit more, she’ll happily cheer every choir that passes her during the rongkäik. But I was a little shy. I am used to that “I’m paying more attention to you because you have a funny accent” look I get from cashiers in Estonian shops. I was afraid that if I belted out “Elagu Meremäe Vald” the wrong way, I might get 25,000 of those stares. So I kept my mouth shut.

Then a funny thing happened. I was keeping one eye on Pippi and one eye on the crowds of lovely flaxen-haired Estonian ladies when one of them saw me and shouted out for all to hear Elagu Epu Mees! — “Long Live Epp’s Husband!” The women in the choir, which was part of the long contingent of Tallinn singers, immediately cheered this husband of Epp’s. Epu mees? It took a moment to register. Noh, mina olen ju Epu mees. I spun around and waved to my admirers. They flashed smiles of warmth in my direction. The sun gleamed in Tallinn harbor. I felt flattered. It’s been awhile since I was cheered. I’m not a nobody with a funny accent anymore, I beamed. I’m Epp’s husband.



13 thoughts on “elagu epu mees”

  1. Good for you, man:)

    By the way, I would translate “rongkäik” as procession, not parade. A parade (“paraad”) is a thing in itself, whereas a procession is a glitzy way of getting to a certain point, in this case the Lauluväljak.


  2. “Walk” is the more appropriate word. But the “train” part leads ones thinking astray. Whenever I see the word “rong” I think “raudtee.”


  3. I thought about using procession, but it lacks the spirit of FUN. Procession makes me think of some solemn rite.

    “Soul train”, maybe?

    Hey, Morgan was hugging strangers at Kadriorg tram stop on the way back (well, around the leg, obviously), and they reciprocated. You don't see that often in EE. Clearly he caught the Pippi spirit.


  4. You make the Estonians sound very welcoming. They say (Northern) Europeans in general tend to be reserved and not given to overt demonstrations of emotionality — your elagu Epu mees must be a quite rare honor! (Judging by the Russian stereotypical Estonians in jokes, Estonians are supposed to react slowly and without much passion. An example is this little satyrical song, Kui raske Eestis olla, which, despite the title, is in Russian — this version is subtitled in Estonian) — a collection of little stereotypes offered in comical style.


  5. Ansip read his speech in Lithuanian in the Song Day of the Lithuanian Song & Dance Celebration today. And he didn't do that any worse than the Latvian President Valdis Zatlers. Yay! The Lithuanian crowds were really surprised by Ansip.


  6. I spun around and waved to my admirers. They flashed smiles of warmth in my direction. The sun gleamed in Tallinn harbor. I felt flattered.

    I just love these lines. Now I have a smile on my face that will last until the morning.


  7. “Rong” meant “procession” way before railway era. A railway “rong” is just a procession of wagons.
    Come to think of it, “train” used to mean something else before the railway came too.


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