teisipäev, juuli 05, 2005

Future Destinations: Pärnu

Though Estonia is a fairly small country - about the size of Denmark - there are still many places I have never been to. This post is the first in a line of posts I plan to do about future destinations in Eestimaa. The first in line is Pärnu, a city of about 45,000 in the southwestern edge of Estonia, known to all Estonian's as "the summer capital of Estonia." Estonians will recite this fact the same way Danes will tell you that Danish sounds like speaking with a "hot potato in your mouth."
What makes Pärnu the summer capital is its long sandy beach, which Finns, Swedes, Russians, and, yes, Estonians, will tell you is bodaciously rad. It is the beach that draws bathers here from Stockholm and Turku, where they are fed up with rocky beaches and want some white powder between their toes. It is also assumed that because Pärnu is the summer capital one might catch a glimpse of former PM Juhan Parts playing beach volleyball with Tõnis Palts, or Kristiina Ojuland sunbathing with Ene Ergma. Pärnu, I am told, is a place to be seen.
Pärnu is an old Hanseatic town whose history goes back to 1251 when it was founded by Bishop Henrik I. Another important date is 1837, when the first mud baths were opened up. Ahh mud.

In a 1979 edition of National Geographic on Estonia, Priit Vesilind had some photos about the mud spas which were a favorite of all Soviet vacationers. I am not sure I am into submerging my torso in mud, but, while in Pärnu, do as the Pärnlased dictate.

A final cool thing about Päarnu is its awesome flag (at left). In some ways I think that Pärnu's flag is superior to Estonia's flag.

This is fitting because Pärnu was the city where the Republic of Estonia was proclaimed in 1918.
So if there is a t-shirt with that flag on it, I'm snatching it up. To sum up, Pärnu has a bit of a reputation. I will be visiting it in just a few weeks, and I hope it lives up to all I have heard.

esmaspäev, juuli 04, 2005

The Next Estonian President

In some countries, the head of state is a BS position - tailored for those who like to lunch with the sultan of Brunei, but have little power over anything else. Who, for example, is the president of Italy? We all know the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but the president (Carlo Ciampi), is irrelevant. Other countries, though, have quite strong executives. South of Estonia, in Latvia, lives Vaira Vike Freiberga, an internationally-known and semi-capable executive. North of the Gulf of Finland, is Tarja Halonen, who isn't the most famous woman in the world, but is an able-bodied executive as well. In Estonia, however, it appears as if President Ruutel is more of a Ciampi, than a Chirac. "Meie Arnold" has a certain grandfatherly grace that makes him a fit executive. But as things get more complicated sometimes it makes one pine for the days when the president was Lennart Meri, a filmmaker, writer, and English-speaking leader who could connect with any listener, from San Francisco to Johannesburg.
That's why when Arnold steps down and retires to study agriculture on his home island of Saaremaa, Estonia will need a new executive who isn't a shy, old grandfather, but a self-promoting lion of the republic that will be able to share the stage with Vlad Putin, and represent the people of Estonia.
Drawing up a short list some names came to mind of who will succeed Arnold when he finishes his term. It could be Mart Laar, of Isamaalit, but maybe he's too controversial and not diplomatic enough. It could be Toomas Hendrick Ilves, because he is a fairly good diplomat and is well-connected. Plus he likes to wear a bow-tie, which will distinguish him to the West as a sort of Baltic Tucker Carlson.
But my pick for the next president of Estonia is an athlete. Someone who can communicate well in English and who woudl win the election hands down. He is only 30 years old, but he would be the perfect representative of Noor Eesti.While it may appear funny now, if Estonian race car driver Markko Martin was to hang up his helmet and try his hand at politics, he might be the perfect candidate. So when Putin goes on the national stage and says something idiotic, Martin would be right behind him with a quick comeback. Estonia needs a youthful fighter to lead the republic. And I am sure that there's plenty of room at Kadriorg for Martin's sports cars.

reede, juuli 01, 2005

The Swedes Show Some Backbone...

According to Eesti Päevaleht online, the Swedish foreign ministry is the latest to take Estonia's side in the border dispute. In an article published today, a Swedish ministry spokesperson is quoted as saying:
"Rootsi hinnangul puuduvad igasugused takistused...mis ei voimaldaks kokkulepetel joustuda."

Translation: "In assessment of Sweden, obstacles of all sorts are absent from permitting the agreement to come into force."

It should be noted that Sweden's foreign minister is Laila Freivalds, who was born in Riga in 1942, and fled to Sweden to escape the Soviet occupation of Latvia.