Being back in Viljandi, I was struck by how European it is. My first impression was of a cartoon when I saw was younger, where Charlie Brown goes to France and winds up sleeping in an abandoned chateau (and plenty of Viljandi still has that “abandoned chateau” look). And Snoopy, dressed as the World War I Flying Ace, goes to the pub every night and has a root beer.
Here’s the film, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!) (1980) I guess I am dating myself!
In Kuressaare, too, I kept having that itchy, “Where am I? Europe?” feeling. Something about the crooked lanes, colorful facades. This was driven home by the fact that the hotel in which we stayed was largely designed for Russian tourists. I wonder how they even get to Kuressaare. By private plane to Arnold Rüütel International Airport? The first 10 or so channels on the TV were Russian channels, loud boisterous, lots of snappy dance numbers and game shows with flashing lights and masses of people. Very interesting to watch, especially when you stepped outside into the quiet order of Kuressaare in November. Maybe it was the lengthy Danish rule. Dunno.
Besides the Russians, the city is dense with Swedish and Finnish pensioners. In fact, my impression of Russians is now based on sexy pop groups and chaotic game shows, and my impression of Finns and Swedes is now based on old people who enjoy mud treatments. I know it isn’t so, but seeing is believing!
Now to the maps. There’s been some persistent chatter on this blog and others about to whom Estonians are most related to genetically, as if this has some bearing on politics, preference in soft drink, fondness for repetitive accordion numbers. Here is a review of a study from a year ago. In it you can see that the Finns (and the southern Italians) truly are the genetic weirdos of Europe.
When it comes to relatives in Europe, the Finns’ closest cousins really are the Estonians and the Swedes. Enlarge the map above, and you will see the Swedes and Estonians drifting away from the genetic arch of Europe towards the Finnish oddballs. However, they have different starting points. The Estonians starting position is closer to the Russians, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Poles, while the Swedes are closer to the Germans and Austrians. But here you can see that the Estonians are not as closely related to the Baltic and Slavic populations as those populations are to one another. I am not sure why this should interest us. Geneticists make these maps to trace the heritability of human disease, not to make political arguments or comment on emotional disposition. But, anyway, look at all those shapes, blue circles, red triangles. Eye candy!