The Tallinn commuter train service is just great. I live well outside the capital and do not visit it too often. It makes sense to buy a single ticket rather than having a monthly card.
I do not need to have cash with me on board. There is a card I can upload either money or travel time to. Debet card payments are not accepted on board but other than that, I am happy.
Last time I uploaded balance to my rail card, it did not work with Firefox. Chrome was the only of my options to work. Of course I complained in Twitter.
Uploading yesterday, I detected suddenly that there was no problem with Firefox. The Elektriraudtee have a Twitter account of their own and it seems they follow feedback as well. Not to mention their real time updates whenever something extraordinary happens.
There is also a wifi network on trains, allowing me to spend the 70-75 minute journey doing something useful on line. When the rails and trains get modernised there will not be very much to hope for.
I am a happy commuter.
Tags: balticum, latvia, lithuania
In this clip the Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves uses five minutes efficiently by putting into a nutshell how the three Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have changed and how the whole World has changed during the last 20 years. He appeared together with his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts in Riga in the final session of Transatlantic Agenda 2010 A Baltic Vision.
This footage from Estonian channel 2 shows the effects of the Moscow-Tallinn train going just a bit too far due to a break failure. The engine driver and his number two are now being investigated (Estonian) as it turns out that they failed to make some of the mandatory break checks during the journey.
Tags: jaan kro
I just heard in the radio and read in the paper that the great Estonian writer Jaan Kross passed away today at the age of 87. He was repeatedly nominated for the Nobel price in literature but was unfortunately never rewarded.
Jaan Kross was imprisoned during WW II by the German occupation and after the war by the Soviets. He was deported to Siberia by the Russians. His career as a writer started when he was allowed to return to Estonia 1954.
Kross started his career as a poet but he is best known of his historical novels. The Wikman Boys, 1988 and Tahtamaa (2001) are in my bookshelf. Between Three Plagues, 1970 and The Czar’s Madman, 1978, are among his most celebrated books.
Jaan Kross had a long and outstanding life. Unfortunately he did not survive to experience the 90th anniversary of Estonian independence which is five days after what would have been his own 88th birthday.
Tags: latvia, schengen
Martin-Eric was in the twin town of Valga/Valka at the Estonian Latvian border when the Schengen treaty enlargement took effect at midnight Friday. He has posted a comprehensive description of the last hour of the old border procedures and the first hour of border freedom.
The first time I was in Valga/Valka was late 1990′ies. The mid town border crossing point (picture) was then open for Baltic citizens only. The Estonian border guard would have allowed me to pass but her Latvian colleague checked with his boss who said no way.
I had to take a walk of good two kilometers to the international transit point outside mid town. The road I walked was practically on the border which was only marked with a sign. I could have jumped the border without a problem as no border patrols were to be seen on either side but I wanted a stamp in my passport. Besides, I did not want to risk getting in trouble on my way back to Estonia.
Ironically, I only got an Estonian stamp that time because the Latvian border guards had none to issue. I did get a Latvian stamp as I returned to town a year later so I have that old passport among my dear souveniers. Incidentally, that very same passport also has the last stamps issued in Berlin both from Checkpoint Charlie and Friedrichstarsse Railway Station when the Brandenburg Gate was opened and East German border guards no longer stamped the passports.
As I was less than enthusiastic to walk back and forth between mid town and the international border point I decided to stay overnight in Valka in the only very modest hotel in the Latvian side. The hotel was run by an elderly lady who spoke fluent Estonian. She told me that she had lived near Pärnu for decades during the Soviet occupation. During my stay she was the only person I was able to communicate with in Estonian. At that time Russian would have been a useful language to command, very few people in town spoke any English at all.
When I returned to Valga/Valka in August 2004, both Estonia and Latvia had recently joined the EU. The mid town border point was open for all nationalities which speared me from a five kilometer walk to get to exactly the same point. The formalities were somewhat easier than before. Latvians checked my documents when I was entering Latvia and Estonians in the other direction. A double check in both directions was performed earlier.
At that time I did not stay overnight and did not even go to see if the old lady was still running the hotel. I just went for a couple of beers near the border. I had changed 100 Estonian crowns which is around 6 €. That money bought me two pints in the pub and eight bottles to take with me back to Estonia which almost qualifies to free beer.
I had considered celebrating the lifting of border barriers either in Tallinn or Valga/Valka but unfortunately I had other matters to take care of. The twin town is the closest open land border to Helsinki. Since there are no longer any formalities, I am certain to return there sooner or later.
On a more frequent basis I am going to notice the benefits of the Schengen treaty in the harbours of Tallinn and Helsinki where lines for the passport control no longer exist. But that is nothing compared to the relief that a number of Estonian families in Suve street in Valka are experiencing. They have the rest of their life in Estonia but their houses were left on the Latvian side of the border when Estonia and Latvia regained their independence. Now they are able to legally cross the border at the most convenient spot rather than taking a long detour through the official crossing points.
Tags: Business, customer service, new yorker, tallinn
As I wrote yesterday, The German clothes retailer New Yorker opened a store in Tallinn a couple of weeks ago but failed to recruit sufficient with Estonian speaking personnel. The store apologizes for any inconvenience they may have caused their customers by failing to guarantee customer service in Estonian at all times, Ärileht writes.
According to district manager Anja Toppe, New Yorker uses German personnel as a temporary emergency solution. New Yorker has a policy of sending German personnel to assist the regular personnel in new stores but their function is normally to advice and assist, not serve clients. Toppe says that New Yorker was encountered with unexpected problems with recruiting Estonian personnel: they had not sufficient with “good applicants”.
At the moment the store has nine Germans and seven Estonians on their payroll. Estonian speaking sales personnel work in every shift. New Yorker hopes to be able to improve the situation as soon as possible.
Tags: Business, customer service, new yorker, tallinn
The German clothes retailer New Yorker recently opened a store in Tallinn but failed to recruit local personnel, Estonian TV reports. Most of the sales persons speak fluent German and wooden English but no Estonian at all. After a number of customer complaints the governmental Language Inspection detected that only seven of the 21 employees are capable of serving customers in Estonian.
The New Yorker store apparently opened before recruiting suitable local sales personnel. The Language Inspection issued an injunction saying that New Yorker must bring their operation into accord with the Estonian Language Act by tomorrow.
I thought I would be able to cover the conference on line in real time. However, even with an existing wifi the event is faster than that. I am particulary happy that fellow countrymen in Canada and US shared their thoughts with me.
I am going to publish the video footage as soon as I get the chance to edit it. I thought I could do it during the conference but I have less time in my desposal than I thought. Anyways, thanks for your input, respected fellow countrymen.
I am in the middle of Gulf of Finland sailing for Tallinn where I am going to participate in a conference discussing the Estonian government’s program for fellow countrymen abroad. The current program is effective for the period 2004-2008 and the conference, organized by the Ministry of Education, will discuss the frameworks of the next program period. I am one of the three delegates representing the Association of Estonians in Finland.
I am planning to cover the conference on line in real time primarily in the association’s blog. There is also a Facebook event for the conference. I hope to get as much feedback from people both in Estonia and abroad in order to present suggestions received from readers to the conference.
While most of my coverage is naturally in Estonian, I am going to try to make a few summarizing posts in English as well. So if you want to learn about the issues discussed, keep an eye on this space and the Facebook event. The conference will open tomorrow morning and close on Tuesday afternoon.
By the way, I already received some good suggestions in comments added to my Estonian blog. Those will be discussed as soon as I meet my fellow delegates and we are going to present the ideas either in the floor or in committees.
This footage shows trucks lined up near the town of Narva at the Estonian Russian border waiting to enter Russia. The situation is very similar at the Finnish border against Russia, has been for a long time. The line can be anything between 30 and 50 kilometers on any given day. Why? Because Russia gives a shit to conduct its border formalities in accordance with international treaties, let alone common sense.
As I sailed from Helsinki to Tallinn this morning, I was on line through the on board wifi during all of the voyage. I even recorded a short video, uploaded it and posted it to my Estonian blog. There are electric outlets allover the ship so I did not even have to consume my battery to stay on line.
Since I had four hours in Tallinn before taking a train to Tartu and the train was supposed to have a web connection, I figured that it would be smart not to consume the battery for reading my e-mails in Tallinn. Otherwise I might run out of power during the two and a half hours in train. Unfortunately, though, the train’s connection was off due to a technical failure.
So I did not read my mail during the four hours in Tallinn, for which I had plenty of time and free wifi spots would have been available allover the town. In addition to that I spent another two hours and a half in a train without a working wifi. Which means, of course, that my inbox was loaded as I finally made it to Tartu. Luckily I have a free wifi right here in my hotel room.
My situation is ideal up to Saturday morning. I can use the web as much as I need to in the hostel and recharge my battery while I do it. Then I can go downtown for the day and log in practically everywhere to return to the hostel in evening to recharge my battery and stay on line.
But my problems are going to start early on Saturday morning. There are two trains serving the Tartu-Tallinn line on weekends. Both of them are supposed to have wifi but one of them apparently does not. And I do not know which one of them is going to be on track in the morning as I get on board.
All of this is of course not such a big deal. Just a small annoyance when things do not work the way you imagined they would. I know that a 24/7 access to the web where ever you happen to be is something that people in many other countries could not even dream of. But since Estonia just happens to be the country in Europe where access to the web is regarded as essential as access to clean water or electricity, you tend to get sour when your plans to stay on line do not work.
I’ll just enjoy things as they are and prepare for a positive surprise on Saturday. Being cut off would no longer be a surprise but something I actually have to take in to consideration as an option.