Well we just got back from Laulasmaa today. Laulasmaa is a swanky Nordic spa and resort about 35 kilometers west from Tallinn, and it seeks to combine modern convenience (wifi) with kitschy references. For example, the first song I heard when I walked in the door was Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love". Later, I was soothed by the sounds of Sade, and even an Andean pan flute rendition of Whitney Houston's 1992 hit, "I Will Always Love You."
As far as food goes, it was excellent Estonian fare -- fish, potatoes, more fish, more potatoes. Estonians are in love with root vegetables and dairy products in general. If the local kaubamaja only sold leib, potatoes, pork, yogurt, and beer, I think that Estonians wouldn't complain too much. The catering at Laulasmaa was in this tradition.
However, we didn't go to Laulasmaa to relax. We were there to eavesdrop on a meeting of select Estonian citizens discussing issues facing the European Union today. I'll save that reporting for a real news story, but at night I managed to drink (a lot) of wine with regular Estonians and practice my Estonian skills, which are getting better with each passing day.
Somehow during the evening meal we got sucked into a dance by a dance instructor from Viljandi who has that rare gift of being macho and a very expressive dancer at the same time. Suddenly I was face to face with many middle-aged ladies named Pille and Malle and Ruth and I was doing the Estonian tango forward and backwards while Härra Viljandi yelled out "üks, kaks, kolm, neli!" I was shocked to learn that as modest as Estonian ladies seem on the street, if you get a few glasses of wine in them, they have no reservations about dancing the tango with you.
On occasion, my dancing partners looked at my name tag and noticed that I wasn't Estonian. I had to do the whole song and dance about who I am and how I learned Estonian, to which I was told I am tubli, et cetera. And, as always in Europe, I am not really American, I am Italian, even though I can't really speak Italian and I've only been there once. I don't mind it though. I am very proud of my Italian blood and I can't honestly say that I am not Italian, especially while looking at my nose in the mirror.
Anyway, your countrymen insisted that I drink more and so I drank more and more and more. And by the time I crawled into bed (1:30 am) I was trying to figure out how some Estonian guys manage to do this every night and still reach that magic age of 66, when they promptly drop dead. And they were still going strong when I left. These are some talented drinkers we're talking about. Luckily I had a few glasses of water before I tucked myself in to sleep, so the hangover today was relatively mild.