esmaspäev, detsember 01, 2008


15:30, or 3:30 in American parlance. That's the time in recent days I have decided to close the curtains in our home. It's not that it ever really got "light" outside, but by half past three, it's dark enough that our neighbors can easily see inside, and we'll have none of that.

I am somewhat proud of myself this year, because that overwhelming desire to have a glass of wine or bottle of beer every evening has yet to set in.

Last year, I easily found out why alcoholism reins supreme in northern Europe. The pressure of light deprivation makes alcohol consumption an easy out. It's not that I became a drunk in anyway; it's that I consumed more during the winter and then, as soon as the snow melted away and the sun came back out, the consumption noticeably stopped.

If Estonian summer, with its infinite possibilities of endless daylight and open terrain, embodies opportunity for self-realization and enjoyment, winter is the opposite. Instead of wanting to be outside, you find yourself asking, what's the point of leaving the house at all, unless it's to buy some more food and ... alcohol? The days of late November and early December pass by into a fog of grayness that brings to mind the smokey moors of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I begin to wonder if my generation's lust for extreme experiences has manifested itself in some peculiar way by my choice to domicile in a northern country. Some guys bungee jump off bridges; some ladies pierce their tongues and eyebrows; I currently live in the environmental equivalent of a submarine.

At the moment, I am not exactly happy in the, "warm up the feijoada and grease me up, it's time for Carnaval!", kind of way, but I am also not depressed in the, "I wanna listen to the Depeche Mode album alone!" kind of way, which seems to be a common condition among many Estonians. I feel pretty normal. Normaalne. See. I have adjusted, and with limited need for alcohol or chocolate to balance my outlook.

In fact, I feel more creative than usual. I feel like writing and reading and making mixes of my favorite tunes. Maybe we will even steal away some time to go to Pöff, the Black Night's Film Festival. This year it is taking place also in Tartu and in such far flung Estonian locales as Kärdla and Jõhvi.

Yes, in a time of endless darkness, the dividing line between sleeping and waking is even more blurry. Films taking on superior meaning. If it feels like you should be tucked in and in bed by 7.30 pm, then how exactly do you feel at 9.30 or 11.30 pm? I'll tell you how you feel, you feel like eating gingerbread, drinking glögg, and watching Singing with the Stars [Laulud Tähtedega]. Oh wait, Glögg has some alcohol in it.

Well, while Itching for Eestimaa does not condone alcoholism, it does condone the judicious use of glögg, movies, and other guilty pleasures to see you through the darkest time of the year. What special recipes do you have for making it through what can be a trying time?

24 kommentaari:

Louis ütles ...

"by my choosing to domicile in a northern country." Very very well put. In these dark days Ive also been wondering what the hell Im doing here and why anyone would choose this, but I am always left with a strange satisfaction that this is something worthwhile :)

Unknown ütles ...

Well, every modern Estonian's best friend comes to your rescure here - THE INTERWEB!

Unknown ütles ...

rescue of course...

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

I was running through Tartu when I was there during winter. From Annelinn to the stadium and back and it was dark.

Elin ütles ...

I've taken to baking loaves of bread. The smell really is fantastic and the satisfaction makes the dark cease to matter, really.

Doris ütles ...

coffee. A month or so ago I came across this study that connected coffee consumption to how polar (read: depressing) the country is, and found that since coffee makes people happier, it's drunk more in norhtern countries. Which is true in the case of Scandinavia and Estonia versus, say The Netherlands. It does not, however explain Great Britain. Or, on the other hand, it explans perfectly why Great Britain is so godawfully depressing ALL the time....

Martin-Éric ütles ...

"rescure" Good slip of the tongue, that one! ;)

Cat Power ütles ...

Well, it is much easier to handle -20C cold, when you constantly have some tea with Stroh inside you :p
Not that we'd get the chance to try this one again, considering the global warming etc.

Dasanjos ütles ...

Oh, being brazilian, I really miss the Feijoada and Carnaval spirit :)
But like the Estonians say:
If it's cold, it's cold.
And if it's dark, it's dark!
So, I wish that all enjoy the dark nights of Estonia the best way possible!

I discovered that reading huge books is easier during black and cold winter than during warm sunny summer days :)

matude ütles ...

And it gets worse. :) This year the solstice - or the pööripäev - is on the 21th December, so couple of more weeks before it slowly starts to get lighter again.

Check out this website: , it's a bit weird/broken, but otherwise contains good information about different kind of bulbs and lamps. Finding the right light specter really helps.

By the way, there's this alcohol-free Glögi, by Põltsamaa, which is pretty good. Helps, if one doesn't want to be wasted every evening. For some reason hot alcohol drinks affect me much harder and faster than for example cold shots of vodka or Jägermeister.

And also you can make your own glögi, which is always a nice way to spend some dark hours. You can find different recipes on Google.

Toivo Ellakvere ütles ...

just take a walk when there is some light (around 12:00). quite refreshing.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Setauket NY

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6:58 am 4:25 pm

I think your brother bungy jumped
you domiciled in North Eastern Europe.
It was sunny and beautiful today ... :)

Juan Manuel ütles ...

The pimeag is really a hard experience and not everyone can survive the Estonian winter. It takes a lot of practice to get used to it. Respect!

There is a Raimond Valgre song that says that summer nights in Estonia are so short that it is impossible to seduce a blond girl in that period of time. I wish the opposite were true in winter ;) He could have made a song about that...

Martasmimi ütles ...

I have been to Estonia 3 times only once in the summer and it was cool in August.
Cold by my standards.
I am coming again on December 29th
A gluton for punishment..
What we do for love.....

martintg ütles ...

Christmas celebration makes a welcome festive break mid winter, you pagans should try it some time.

plasma-jack ütles ...

What special recipes do you have for making it through what can be a trying time?

Booze and culture. You've got the right idea. By the way, they show "Afterwards" with John Malkovich in Cinnamon today, I'd really like to see it myself if I were in Tartu.

Giustino ütles ...

The pimeaeg is really a hard experience and not everyone can survive the Estonian winter. It takes a lot of practice to get used to it. Respect!

It's different from what one would expect. I don't feel depressed, just sort of frustrated. I think this is how sauna culture started, because the sauna is also an extreme experience, and in the winter months it stimulates you when you need it the most.

But I can't say I enjoy the opposite. I was in San Diego in October and I felt like someone was pointing a hair dryer in my face at all times [they call it the "Santa Ana winds."]

Kristopher ütles ...

"Christmas celebration makes a welcome festive break mid winter, you pagans should try it some time."

Pagans start too early -- decorations go up day after Halloween. Therein lies the trouble, maybe?

"that overwhelming desire to have a glass of wine or bottle of beer every evening has yet to set in"

Might I suggest the obvious, that the extended sojourn in San Diego and the US had something to do with your heightened creativity?

I just came back from southern Europe. It got dark at 1730 which is not very late, and it rained all week -- but big, big difference in the way I feel.

(By the way, 24h clock is used in Europe so it doesn't sound so dismal. "Sun sets at 1800" sounds like it sets late at night. My first reaction is to say "Wow, that late, huh?" while stalling for time and doing the conversion.)

There's a crackpot theory that cosmic rays and magnetic flux are also more intense the farther north you go. The particles bombard our nervous systems and cause elevated rates of diseases like MS and general jitters. I don't buy it, but that would definitely makes what Estonians do (living in Estonia, that is) hardcore. Braving an onslaught of radiation for their country...etc.

But no recipes from me. The only remedy for SAD is visible light. Not to be a killjoy but SAD is too close to clinical depression to joke about much.

Katherine ütles ...

I think Tom Waits sets the mood for me during these months of perpetual twilight and darkness.
Glögi is good, and so is a nice roaring fire at the fireplace and appetising smell of gingerbreads lingering in the air.
I gave in and although I did not buy complete light therapy system, I had to get myself full spectrum light bulbs. The ones you can use in your regular fixtures. And they actually do make a difference, especially with low air pressure and cold rain. :)

stockholm slender ütles ...

I have just two words, three words: cod liver oil - and B-vitamin. No-one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition... In my distant salad days I did not even much notice the change of season and I lived well to the north of Helsinki. But in my thirties this dark season started to be quite a bother - especially as there seems to be less snow these days, just rain and wind on pitch dark land.

Though I have to say that this manic-depressive subarctic year is also kind of exhilarating: in six months we progress from this oppressive dark to the crazy energy and almost perpertual light of June. Lapland of course is even more extreme - it would be nice to once witness the sunless time there. Midnight sun certainly is a weird, unreal phenomenon.

karoliina ütles ...

i'm the opposite:
usually other estonians don't believe me, but after living in greece for some years, i have become to really miss the darkness. first it was alright, but after the third year, i think, i started to get a bit uneasy or irritated in november-december and after much thought i found it's not that much snow (snowmen!) or the cold (the joys of -15C!) i miss, but the darkness. maybe it's something to do with biological processes or something, like the bears who get restless when the winter comes late and they can't go to sleep, i too, get frustrated when i can't switch to easy hibernation and cozy early nights. maybe it's also something estonian to feel a duty to be all active 'as long as the sun is up', really to seize the day -- but what if it's shiny and bright almost all year? no formal excuses to be lazy - no-one could bear with that for too long.
at least my mother has already posted the piparkoogid.

Kristopher ütles ...

SS: vitamin B, seriously? Not D?

B12 would make a lot of sense, though, or megadoses of some other B, though.

LPR ütles ...


You're still in Greece? If yes, then that proves how much you miss the darkness. You miss it as a concept not practice.

I'm the same way.

I too miss so many things about Estonia. Most of them in theory.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Kristopher: Well, actually it is some sort of a cocktail with D included - I was initially quite sceptical, but these last winters have been easier, perhaps there is at least a psychological effect. At least the darkness has not felt so oppressive since I started using them.