Estonia today, Russia tomorrow!
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - May 24, 2019 - 12:00am

TALLINN, Estonia — As of this writing it is 10 p.m. on Wednesday on board the “Serenade of the Seas” while it is already 3:40 a.m. in the Philippines and we just finished dinner. At this point it is already dusk, but while we were having dinner, it was still daylight. Apparently in the Baltic Sea, they have very little time for darkness. I woke up at 2 a.m. this morning and it was already dawn. These are the nations where there’s just too much sunlight and little nighttime. I heard that often we can see the aurora borealis, but I guess it doesn’t appear at this time.

Frankly speaking, I never thought that this voyage would bring us to Estonia, one of the Baltic States. My understanding of the Baltic States was that they were invaded by Russia when the Bolsheviks grabbed power from the Russian aristocracy and established the first communist nation on earth. Our tour guide told us that she was a teenager when the Soviet Union took power in Estonia and sent 300,000 Russians to live there.

She recalled the time when the Soviets took over Estonia, when a Russian man was sent to their house and given a room to live with them. That’s how good communism is. It reminded me of the Boris Pasternak classic movie “Dr. Zhivago” where Bolsheviks took over their house and gave them only one room to live in.

When I asked how big the population of Estonia was today, she said one million. Wow, that means there are more Cebuanos living in Cebu City than Estonians. As the bus toured the city of Tallinn, she told us that we were passing a road that if we continued on to around 200 kilometers, we would be at the Russian border.

The first stop on our tour was their equivalent of our EDSA monument. It was when a great number of Estonians went to a big park and sang their songs of freedom from the clutches of being under the Iron Curtain for over 40 years. This was around 1991 when glasnost and perestroika were the keywords being used and East Germany finally freed itself from the Warsaw Pact and the Berlin Wall collapsed. By the way, outside the Imperial War Museum in London, they installed a piece of the Berlin Wall for tourist like us to take photos, which we did.

Then Poland gained its independence from the Soviet Union, where communism literally collapsed and the Iron Curtain became a piece of Russian history. With the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the Baltic States gained independence and then joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and our tour guide proudly proclaimed this reality. But with Estonia only having a million people, I don’t think they are a huge help to NATO, but that they are neighbors with the Russians.

Just like what happened in Sweden, which declared its neutrality during World War II, Adolf Hitler asked the Swedes to allow his troops to pass through in order to invade Norway and if they refused, they would invade Sweden. So Sweden allowed the Germans to pass through their neutral territory.

This is truly a great vacation on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. This is because, if we flew in every country that we passed by, we’d have problems in the immigration and passport control. This is the beauty of taking a cruise, where you only enter one immigration station and put your bags in your room where you can stay for seven days. Just imagine, Tallinn, only has a small population, but when we got into their port, there were three cruise ships docked in their harbor, which meant a great tourism industry for such a small country.

Yes, we toured a beautiful orthodox dome church, but they did not allow photographs to be taken. A few meters away, we also got inside a Lutheran church and photographs were allowed. Most of Tallinn streets are medieval cobblestones that are harsh on the feet. What’s wonderful with Tallinn is that they don’t have any traffic problems at all.

Also, one thing great about taking a cruise to so many countries is that you need to change money for your expenses. In London they use pounds, in Copenhagen they use Kroners, in Estonia they use the Euro, but the strictest nation is Russia, where we are going tomorrow. Russians use rubles and are prohibited to accept US dollars; after all, the US isn’t considered a friendly nation to Russia. More on this next week.

SERENADE OF THE SEAS
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