Estonia's capital, Tallinn, dates back to the Middle Ages and is still in pristine condition. Spectacular city walls and towers make Estonia one of Europe's finest examples of medieval architecture. Its coastline is full of immaculate, glistening beaches like Parnu, and severe winters and short summers only enhance its historical and geographic beauty.
Throughout its history, Estonia has used music to preserve and re-affirm its identity. And today, modern classical music spearheaded by Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis is at the forefront of its culture. In 2010 cities across Estonia held concerts in their honour, and song festivals date back to the 19th century. Estonian theatre has strong traditions and is treasured by its public. Huge numbers enjoy summer theatre and in the last decade Estonia has also burst on to the world film stage. In 2007 Veiko Õunpuu's film "Autumn Ball" won the Venice Film Festival's Orizzonti Prize and the same year Kadri Kõusaar's "Magnus" made history by becoming the first Estonian film to make it into the competition programme at the Cannes Film Festival.
Food and Drink
Throughout its history, Estonia's cuisine has had bestowed on it the ideas of many countries. But this has also been the reason for Estonia's desire to continue its unique traditions. Spring blesses the country with beautiful veal and lamb, wild freshly-caught perch and crayfish, as well as an array of vegetables. Fresh herbs and berries are the signatures of an Estonian summer, while pheasant and boar mark the onset of autumn. In winter, the very short days are filled by the smell and taste of smoked meats, sauerkraut and traditional black pudding. Estonia's national drink, Vana Tallinn, is popular across the entire Baltic region. Its complex mix of sweet flavours, including vanilla and cinnamon, softens its high alcoholic content. Normally it is taken on the rocks, although it is also added to Russian champagne, a cocktail known as 'Hammer and Sickle'.
Estonian history stretches back over five thousand years. By the early Middle-Ages, most people owned small plots of land and its population had risen to more than 150,000 people by the first century A.D. Estonia progressed under German rule from the 12th to the middle of the 15th century. As the 1905 revolution in Russia swept through Estonia, the Estonians called for national autonomy. German troops withdrew in 1918, and social and economic reform was advanced in 1919. February 2 1920 was marked by the signing of the Treaty of Tartu. Estonia was handed back to its people but could not rid itself of heavy Russia influences that lasted for decades. Even though Estonia once again declared its independence on August 20, 1991, it was not until August 31, 1994, that armed forces of the Russian Federation finally withdrew. A decade later, in 2004, Estonia became a member of the European Union and, at the beginning of 2011, it adopted the Euro as its national currency.