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Living on the Road - Stage 5: Estonia

Updated on October 17, 2012


In the 1990s and 2000s I had visited the smallest of the three Baltic countries several times to attend the jazz festival in Pärnu, or I stopped by many times in the capital Tallinn, on my way to or from Finland. But that were short visits, no longer than three or four days, sometimes only hours. This time I had other things in mind, I wanted to stay for several weeks to work in volunteer projects. And it was my first visit to Estonia in winter, I arrived in the longest night of the year.

Sänna Culturemanor

My first destination was Sänna, a small village somewhere in the snow-covered Estonian forest where a project called Sänna Culturemanor is located. The aim of Culturemanor is to create a fertile ground for creative cultural activities and keep it alive and well. There are two equally important directions in the activities of the Manor - keeping peaceful and inspiring environment for continuous creative work of residents and exhibiting it´s fruits as well as hosting any kind of guest performances. Manor is open to all kind of activities such as freeform ateliers, workshops, courses, seminars and workshops as well as concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and parties. Other activities of this cultural institution are meditation and spiritual development.

I spent there more than two weeks learning some new skills like milking goats but there was not so much work to do in winter time, and so I left this institution to go to another project in Tartu, the second biggest city in Estonia.



In Tartu I found a volunteer job in a cultural institution called Creative Center Carnation. It is an independent organisation for culture and crafts, with a strong focus on creative industry. This organisation is located in a historic building from 1910, with several stages of construction up to 2003. Today the building is home to various artists and craftsman, including a letterset printing museum, a paper museum, a hostel, a kindergarten, a workshop for fashion designers, a furniture renovation workshop and many others. The organisation works internally to create joint events and products and market then under a common name, and is also actively working with partners outside the building, including local partners and international ones, such as Trans Europe Halles, a network of independent cultural centers from around Europe.

In the 1990s I had worked in a similar cultural institution in Germany, so I could use some of my experiences which I had from that job. It was winter time, and one of my jobs was to remove the snow from the streets around the building but I also learned some new skills during my time in Tartu. I spent almost three months in this creative environment, a good place to overwinter. I enjoyed my time in this beautiful small country, and when I left Tartu, there where the first signs of spring already, and I decided to open the new hitchhiking season, looking for new challenges.

Stay tuned - there is more to come ...


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    • rjsadowski profile image

      rjsadowski 5 years ago

      Your travels are very interesting. How did you manage to get by with the many different languages that you encountered? Estonian is quite difficult comming from the same Finno-Ugric family as Finnish and Hungarian although their vocabularies are all different. Bulgarian is a Slavic language written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Did some of these people also speak English?

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Arrived on the longest night of winter? Bummer. Though, your hub REALLY makes me want to visit this little country. I've always wanted to - I had a friend when I was younger from there and she always told such interesting stories. I'm so glad you got to experience this. :)

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

      l´ve never been anywhere like this. !!

      Rated up and awesome.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 6 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      I've done a lot of traveling out of the country, but never to this region. Thanks for the trip.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 6 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Great info about Estonia. They're our neighbors but haven't had a chance to go there yet.