Briefly about saunas… Saunas are really popular in Estonia. And I mean, most people have a personal sauna in their home, all gyms have a sauna, and my school even has two. Before coming here I’d only been in a sauna twice, and both times it was kinda this special thing that was supposed to help me “sweat out my toxins” according to my older sister. It was like going to a spa or something else that was a bit out of the ordinary. Here, I would compare it a bit more like having a bath — maybe you don’t have one every day because it is a bit of a time commitment, but it’s nice to relax every once in a while and sometimes it’s even a social thing (like a hot tub). The ESN group at my school had a sauna party which is where I learned we have a sauna on the 6th floor of my university. I also learned that pouring beer on the hot rocks in the sauna (this was a wet sauna where you often pour water on heated rocks to create steam), smells actually really good, like sweet bread or something. Also it’s not recommended to drink beer in the sauna as that can be quite dangerous.

In other news, the past few weeks I have finally broken out of my strictly Tallinnas existence, and seen a bit more of what Estonia has to offer. I went on a short backpacking trip with two fellow exchange students, which was an experience in itself. Seeing as Estonia is one of the flatest countries in Europe (it’s biggest “mountain”, Big Egg Mountain is 318 m above sea level, we weren’t arduously ascending mountains, but I did get some nasty blisters and realize I should really train my shoulders a bit before next time. We walked a total of 50 km in southern Estonia, near the second biggest city Tartu. The weekend after I went on my first ESN trip called “Around Estonia”. It was very literally a trip around Estonia with roughly 50 exchange students in our own bus. It was probably the best way to see a lot of the country in 3 days and two nights, and the organizers did an amazing job. We visited several cities including Haapsalu, Pӓrnu (with it’s beach on lake Peipsi, it’s considered the “summer capital”), Tartu (home to one of the oldest universities in Europe), Viljandi, and Narva (you can see Russia across the river), all of which I recommend.

All in all, October has been a busy month and we haven’t even reached Halloween yet!

Beautiful snapshots from backpacking, the bog on the right was magical

Also from backpacking, fall in southern Estonian countryside is beautiful

Some more fall pictures

Left is a raised bog, it was a bit spooky. Right is an abandoned railway station in Haapsalu

Viljandi and Pӓrnu, try to spot the completely real polar bear

Left is Pӓrnu beach (across is Russia), and other sightseeing

Right is the Russian fortress across the river from the Narva castle