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BH in Tallinn: 2

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I want to throw in the comment that tourists abound in Tallinn, including many Americans, and not just backpackers, either. Many, many people speak English, and the posh hotels are as smooth as you could desire.

Next day was Sunday, so I did a little walking in the old town, and at three turned up for an Anglican Eucharist celebrated by a Lutheran pastor in a gothic church. It was here that I knelt in direct line with a fifteenth century donor. The sermon said how sad it was that Christianity was in decline in Estonia, and that most people in Tallinn saw that Sunday, St John’s Day, as the Grill-Fest, the great barbecue day. Quite right, I’m sure, but in fact almost my next move (after coffee and cake) was to take a bus straight to the grillfest. I did pause to see the Swedish embassy, where in September 1991 the Svenska Dagblat newspaper had a photo of the new Swedish Ambassador to the newly free Estronia up on a ladder, with a hammer, nailing his Embassy sign to the wall. By now the weather had broken (as is traditional for Midsummer in Estonia), so at the grillfest I gladly bought a 2 dollar plastic mackintosh, and in the best British tradition ignored the rain. The information desk people explained that each of the five tents had a different style of music, so I went to the folk dancing tent. There was just one group all evening, dancing every hour on the hour for thirty minutes. They were amateurs from Tallinn, but knew dances from all over Estonia (and Cossack). Both sexes, all ages, including three boys aged around 12, three very pretty girls in their teens, hair braided or in plaits, and a young woman built on lines that Rubens would have liked, all dressed in old costume, showed every sign of high enjoyment, smiling at each other as they danced, laughing as they got steps wrong (seldom), and using dances that brought in members of the audience (all of whom seemed to know the steps). All evening there were more dancers than audience, and we all fitted inside the tent, except for a wild moment of mild rain when three couples danced the galop right out into the field and back again. The dancers even invited me, and I was tempted, but my ankle wouldn’t have approved, and I waved my stick at them. But they knew I was with them in spirit. I saw the shows at six, seven, and eight, and at 7.30 supped on grilled pork, saute potatoes, sauerkraut, and beer, at a table within easy earshot of a tent where a band was playing Rock Around the Clock as if it had just been written. I told some young Estonians at my table that this music was fifty years old: I don’t think they believed me.

Bus back, up to bed, next miorning a taxi to the bus station, and so to Riga.

Ben Haines, in Riga

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