We just got back from our talumaja in Põlvamaa and I have to say, it's always so depressing to come back to Tallinn.
I find I'm happiest in the smaller towns and villages of Estonia. I have an affection for towns like Põlva and Võru and the villages surrounding them. These places seem to be comfortable in their own skin. They enjoy being small Estonian towns and I can appreciate that. The people are friendly and don't mind stopping to chat for a bit. Driving around the pothole laden back roads of these rural areas I love seeing the chimney smoke rising from the small talumajad that dot the land. I get an emotional warmth from that landscape. The air is crisp and clear and with a serene quietness only broken by the occasional bark of a distant neighbors dog. When I walk into the house my birch burning ahi gives off a heat to the log walls and surrounding air like no radiator ever could. Sitting in our sauna nestled against the forest wall is heaven.
I feel sorry for people that come to visit Estonia and never leave Tallinn. So much of what they see is a culture of hooker heels, leased Beamers and mounting debt. They completely miss the soul of this country.
The heart of Estonia is in it's forests and bogs. It's in the berries and mushrooms beneath a towering stand of birch trees. It's in the ax and the ahi. The heart beats where there is still a friendliness and fondness for your neighbors and where people haven't forgotten how to smile and look you in the eye. While my wife and I sweat away in our little log smoke sauna nestled along the edge of the forest, we know that the true spirit of Estonia is still alive and well.