June 17th, 2019


Saturday night

An advertisement runs on the TV: A young handsome father is reading the paper, young children run past him to where the beautiful young wife is reading the same paper on her iPad. The house interior has rustic Baltic charm. Husband puts down the paper and joins the family at the breakfast table where the brown bread is lovingly slathered with butter and lingonberry juice is poured with lingonberries dancing in the crystal pitcher. The family gets in the car, husband now wearing a pull over in the Estonia flag blue with traditional patterns, aerial photos of the car driving through birches and other trees, wind blowing the branches, then the family parks with other cars beside the road, joining a great crowd. The father lifts the son up to his shoulder and the scene shifts to the view of the filled Song Festival Grounds.

I tear up.

Curses, sentimental patriotic advertisements (for the local paper) works in any language.

OK, now the weather announcer is giving the weather from the beach -- she's young, blonde and in a bikini. I swear all the temps are in the Celsius teens. But today's high was 20°C (67°F), and i was so toasted walking in the sun in a sleeveless top.

The energy in the town was very festive. Today they are celebrating the first mention of the city in chronicles from 800 years ago. Perhaps that was why everyone was so festive, or maybe it's just that it's midsummer week and a lovely Saturday.

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The fashion sense is diverse and creative where i was wandering.


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My sleep Saturday night is best summed up as too hot, too narrow, too achy, and too much light. Sunday morning as too much anxiety about public speaking.

Sunday's breakfast in the hotel was amazing. Surely a special day buffet i thought as i restrained myself from binging. Being in a state about work, i didn't think to take a photo. I described it to a colleague who advised that, no, this is not unusual, and i'd probably see the same the next day. And lo!

Baltic foods for breakfast

Clockwise, from top: brown bread, cheese, and tomato, a second brown bread, cheese, and tomato, herring in mustard sauce, a green salad with cherry tomatoes, black olives, and generous amounts of lox.

Indeed, it is all here again, except i think there was a sweet, layered pastry (cake!) that isn't here this morning. Oh, and 7 minute eggs, which i think are probably runny in side? Soft boiled? I wont miss them. There's a fine tray of scrambled eggs from which i helped myself yesterday, today i was bold enough for salad for breakfast. The tomatoes are from Spain; i am advised by the fresh market i went to on Saturday. They are delicious. So much beautiful food. I shudder to think of the hotel breakfasts in America where the height of dining is making your own waffle.

Dinner last night was improved heartily by bumping into tow women from the conference who were going to a locals restaurant at the end of the street from my hotel. My random choice of a restaurant was closed: they swept me up and we went to Pööbel, on Google maps as a bar, but with a fine menu on the first page before three packed pages of beers and cocktails. I dined on Estonian sandwiches and a salmon salad.

"Barley bread with egg butter and beef liver pâté, black bread with mushroom salad and spiced sprats" which they adapted for me to leave off the beef, put the sprats over the egg butter and the mushroom salad stood on it's own. I did not notice the mushrooms.

"Salmon alder - smoked in the morning served with green salad" The fresh smoking was a revelation: a glaze of smoky flavor on the rich fish -- how can i describe how fresh smoke tastes?

We ate outside where the long evening light was wonderful, although the sun in the trees at nine pm was disconcerting.

I slept better last night, pushing the beds closer so i wouldn't toss everything to the floor. The feather comforter was already folded in the corner. And i kept the eye mask on more successfully, probably due to less tossing.

Yesterday was filled with crystal clear sunshine. Today it's overcast and i wonder if i will need a sweater today. Probably tonight. It is, of course, this morning that i have to wander a bit before the conference proper begins with the plenary at 11. I'll take the camera and wander more through the old city.