20th September 2018, marked as the scheduled plan for our visit to Estonia, Europe least crowded countries, so they said, with a population density of 28.4 people per square kilometre. Only Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia can beat it. It is also one of the the least populous of all the EU member states (1.3 million). Based on some facts we found on the internet, it says Estonia has 2,222 islands and islets in the Baltic. That’s a lot, but far fewer than the country which claims to have the most – Finland, with 179,000 (we’re not sure who counted them) but Indonesia, our home country has over 17.000 Island, still beat everyone on the biggest archipelago in the world, but in terms of the size not the numbers.
Represents Act Global Indonesia, Okky and Me were given the opportunity to be assigned for a training course, a follow up activities on (I)Migration + Action = Global Reaction along with other partner countries participants from Germany, Bulgaria, Spain, Estonia, Kenya and Dominican Republic.
After few months of preparation of creating some project plan, budget plan, logistic plan, travel plan and collecting all of the required documents, the Finland Embassy in Jakarta finally gave their answer for our visa request, and send our passport back to Bali. Estonia does not have embassy in Indonesia, and appoint Embassy of Finland for any Indonesian citizen that will go to Estonia, the closest Estonian Embassy is in Canberra, the Capital of Australia, apparently during month of August 2018, we were the only 2 person who applied for the visitor visa, and they quite strict about it, specially with adequate financial proof and a solid plan of the intention of our visit (not to their country) but their neighbour country, Estonia, but we made it anyway.
It was quite a journey, few days before departure, Reza was in contact with Cotne and Igor, the project coordinator who were assigned to arrange the flight, according to our plan, we supposed to arrived in Estonia by the 20th of September 2018, but apparently the coordinator has other plans, and decided to book the flight on the 20th September with 38 hours total travel time, including transit in Bangkok, Stockholm, Tallinn, and finally, a land trip with a train to Narva, the last city before the Russian border. But, who could complain too much? Imagine you ticked, few countries in a row, only in few hour difference, not to mention missing the connecting flight in Stockholm, the point where all the visa and our passport getting stamped by the local immigration authority, as an entrance gate to Schengen countries, a least expected outcome, as we thought it will be in Tallinn, Estonia.
We remembered, it was a little rainy and cold outside, the apps weather on my phone showed local temperature, 11o celcius, and we had to wait for our new connecting flight with Scandinavian Airlines, a replacement of our missed connecting flight with Thai Airways while we waited on the queue line before passing the Swedish border, an imaginary border which politically made by human, if we think about it again. Back in few decades or centuries, the world might be still borderless, no need of visas, passport or any other documents, which made us more interested to get deeply involved in this Migration topic, specially in a perspective of a world citizen from a Third-World-Country located in Asia.
We finally made to land our feet to the first Baltic country that we ever visited, Tallinn, Estonia, and waiting to clear our baggage in the conveyor belt that were still looping around the corner, then after 20 minutes, we received back our luggage, lucky it was not missing, so we could unpack some of our winter jacket to warm us here in Europe.
The Training Course that we are looking at, was held in Narva, as we mentioned before, it is located in far east of the country, a city of border, before Russia. We had to take a train to reach the city, we were asking the locals and few times, but some of them don’t understand what we trying to communicate, apparently the elder generation here in Estonia are speak more fluently in Russian, with their history background, but we met one young man who finally tell us which train and which line we have to take in order to reach our destination, he was actually quite surprised to see 2 tanned skin guy from the tropics, heading to Narva, and said “Are you sure you are going to Narva?” and we answered, “Yes, we are going there.” and smiled, like any other typical Indonesian people towards the strangers they met on the street.
The train, was full, it was weekend, Friday, 21st September 2018 at 6.16 pm local time to be exact, a day or time where most of the youngster and adults in Estonia who work in Tallinn is going back to their hometown, we were standing in the train from the point we arrived until we left the train, we were smiling, talk to each other, and sometime laughing and speaking with our mother tongue language, yeah don’t ask us if people were starring, some of them are really curious and see us from the toe to the tip of my hat. And finally, one Estonian-Russian girl, start to make a conversation with us in our way to Narva, she is from Narva but spend almost 3 year working in London, a city that might change her mindset to be more wider and open, towards the international perspective and globalization issue.
We arrived around 9pm local time, and remembered the girl we met on the train told us, to take the taxi, in Narva it will cost you only 2.5 EUR to get anywhere in the city with this type of transportation, and we assumed the cost was for a person, but no, it’s actually cost per taxi or per car, but we were too generous to gave the taxi driver 3 EUR each and 6 EUR in total, as a tip for saving us from cold and tiring night journey from the Train Station to the Hotel, the taxi were shared also with 1 kind local woman who already order the taxi via phone, she mentioned, she were also once involved in Erasmus programme in Spain and explain it to the Russian-Speaking-Driver, and yeah we were happy to see the first smiling and laughing taxi driver in the city, or perhaps for getting the bonus of that day as well.
Welcomed by Bosko, Karina, and Igor, we then head to the restaurant and start to order some foods and drinks, as a dinner treat for the long journey from Bali, and then sleep really well the next day.
The training course were began, in the morning, we were gathered in the hotel, with other participants from Spain, Estonia, Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, unfortunately the Germans and the Kenyan’s representative were not there, from what we heard, the Kenyans they got some issues with their visa submission and were too late to inform the project coordinator, the other participants from Dominican Republic were lost, going to different direction to the south, almost reach Latvia with wrong train, but the show must go on, we then start to make a discussion, brainstorming and began to presents some of the statistic of Youth Unemployment in our each countries, then other subject was presenting UN and EU document related to the youth unemployment, Startup in Estonia, and other things such as the government initiatives and other information that were related to the Migration policy and also employment, focusing on the youth sector.
During this training course, the participant were also given the opportunity to visit the local university, the Tartu University Narva College, where the local student and young entrepreneurs was presenting their tech startup products and services to the public before a week of local carnivals, and we are lucky to tried some of the products and services that offered by them during the exhibitions, we really enjoyed playing with the VR Technology that were made to do a virtual exploration of the city, the VR Games, Robotic Technology, Navigation Apps, and more. The startup companies that were presenting here are not only from Estonia, but also from Sweden and from Russia.
The participants were also got a chance to visit the castle, Hermann Castle across the river border, that separates Russia and Estonia, Karina, our best Estonian organization host from Mittetulundusühing Smart Up were also explaining about the migrants situations in the country, and some initiatives that were promoted by the national government to tackle this migration issues and debateable topics, it was definitely a really nice experience and absorping all of knowledge and informations from different perspective to broaden our minds during our training times here in Estonia.
Not to mention, we were also went to the Capital, to spend some time exploring the old town of Tallinn, exploring the cobbled streets, interesting side roads, monuments, fortress, castles, churches, creative city part and back alleys, the list goes on and getting lost! it’s like going back in time to the 13th century, old town of Tallinn is a UNESCO world heritage protected site and they’ve done a wonderful job of preserving this area that has been around since the 13th century. It’s full of history and not to be missed. After many hours of walking around the old town of Tallinn we were dying for a quick coffee and sit down, away from the popular Tallinn old town square.
And next day, with other participants we decided to travel to Helsinki, Finland, as they have frequent ferry routes connecting the two cities together. Eckeröline, the ferry we took, offers a frequent service connecting Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia. This makes it a fun trip if you wish to sail a little bit, to visit to both cities which is totally possible and a popular option for many travellers.
So 5 countries later, and my Scandi-Baltic Adventure will come to an end. we’ve left with a new-found love of some relatively unknown countries. Of all the places We visited, Narva was still our favourite, quirky, charming, historic, inexpensive, friendly, romantic and most importantly the people we met and the experience we had, we already hoping to return in the winter to see the castle and the medieval town hall dusted with snow, and the Christmas market in the square next time.
Tänan Eestit, nüüd on meie südames eriline koht!
Written By : Reza Noegraha