Hitchhiking in Estonia – Shota (Georgia)

I am Shota from Georgia and I would like to share with you my unforgettable experience of traveling and discovering Estonia.

The story of my first acquaintance with Tartu and Estonia in general starts two years ago, when thanks to the bilateral agreement between my home university (Tbilisi State University) and the University of Tartu I had a chance to spend semester in this wonderful town. Amazing time spent here and high-class lectures influenced on my choice of place to pursue master studies after graduation. 

As the February of 2013 came close, with an unbelievable excitement I started going through application process. Despite it’s quite time consuming work to do, when it comes to collecting all the documents and running between different offices to get them into proper order, I was so looking forward to coming back to Estonia, it kept my motivation up. I should also note that Georgian students are really lucky, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia is offering scholarship for students from this country, which covers tuition fee and living costs with monthly stipend. So, I applied and waited in nervous, even though I was pretty sure that my chances were quite high.

My spring semester was quite busy with writing BA thesis and getting ready for graduation, so the beginning of June approached really quickly with amazing news that I was accepted on EU-Russia studies at the University of Tartu and I was allocated MFA scholarship. The process of getting ready for departure didn’t take too much time for me, as I already have mentioned above, I was living in Estonia for six month, so I knew what and how to do, without panic or too much rush.

As busy summer with good-bye parties and vacation got closer to the end, I was already on the plane heading to Tartu. As relations between Estonia and Georgia are quite close, Tbilisi-Riga-Tallinn plane was full with Estonians coming back from summer vacation. Hearing their conversation sounded like heaven to my ears. It made me realize how much I missed this language, which still sounds like Japanese to me. 🙂 Four hours of flight with and excitement of seeing Tartu again went pretty fast and as I landed in Tallinn, my journey began.

This time I tried to make beginning of my academic year different and to enjoy few but magnificent sunny days in Estonia as much as possible. So, instead of going to the orientation week (which is not good idea if you are first time in Tartu, because those orientation meetings are really useful), together with my Estonian friend I hitchhiked to Parnu, which is unbelievably beautiful town with nice beaches. After spending amazing hours at seaside, enjoying Segway ride along the beach and having dinner, our journey continued to Saaremaa, which is a big island in the west of Estonia. To get to that place we had to hitchhike to the harbor, from where we took the ferry to the Muhu, a small island connected to Saaremaa with bridge. From harbor in Muhu we hitchhiked again, to the Kuressare (capital of Saaremma). Even though it took me several days to remember how to pronounce the name of city correctly, I fell in love with that place. Small town with lovely houses and incredibly beautiful landscapes. 

I was really lucky to get a chance to visit Kihelkonna, which is the small village, and if you look on the map, you will see that its one of the most western point of Estonia. Most fun part is that we were picked up by construction truck which drove us all the way to that village. It was surprising to see such a small village in the middle of nowhere, to be so modern and well-developed. I could even pay by card in the store, which was really something I wouldn’t expect to do in such a remote place. Estonia keeps fascinating me every single day. After eating smoked fish, which was really good and yummy, (oh god, I miss that fish) we headed back to Tallinn, which was my place of residence for a week, until the beginning of academic year in Tartu. Journey back to the capital of Estonia was even more fun and full of interesting experiences. Of course we hitchhiked, which is something I advise everyone to do, so you can discover Estonia and parts of the everyday life of the people you can’t see while traveling by bus or train. First car that picked us up on the way back, was driven by woman who was head of the village community (hope it’s right word), so we had really interesting conversation and she was really friendly with giving advices from which road it would be better to hitchhike. The car by which we got the harbor was minivan full of young Estonians, drinking and partying. It was surprising and against all the stereotypes to see Estonians really loudly singing along with songs. 

So, here we were, back on the main land of Estonia, after being given ride by Lithuanian businessmen with fancy car, who were driving to Vilnius and guitar-player of local music band, we got stuck in the middle of nowhere. It was around two a.m. and we were standing on the road with no street lights on, and freezing, while hopelessly staring at cars which were passing in front and could not even spot us because of darkness. But the sky was so magnificent, maybe because of no street lights, it seemed like the whole galaxy was up on the sky. I even could see the falling star. And I am sure that’s why luck returned to us. Suddenly, out of nowhere, minivan drove by and driver asked where we were going. After he found out that Tallinn was our final destination, he promised he would come back in half an hour and he would pick us up. For me at first it sounded like a joke and I didn’t really expect him to come back. But soon minivan returned and he drove us to his yard, where we had to change the car and get on the old bus. Here our story got even more interesting. It turned out that the man who picked us up, was driving old, broken buses to Tallinn, but as this is illegal, he was doing it during the nighttime. It was so sweet to see that in doing all these, he had his wife next to him. They seemed really cute couple and wife was driving minivan in front of the bus to see if there was any police on the road. Those people were really friendly, they even bought coffee for us, so we could warm up. Just imagine how amazing experience it was for me, as for foreigner. 

To conclude this part, hitchhike more, while you are studying in Estonia. Especially until weather lets you do so. Plus Estonians are really friendly and willing to drive you. During that one week, I saw way more of Estonia than during the whole six month, two years ago.

Week of idleness, which really felt like summer holiday trip to Estonia, ended and I was back in Tartu. Academic year began. I can’t express how excited I was too see again hundreds of students walking around the city centre, university buildings and feel that yes, I am back to the one of the most beautiful, small and lovely university town. But at the same time, I am so looking forward to Christmas holidays, so I can hitchhike again and see more of Estonia with unforgettable experiences. 

 

 

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