My Estonian is a bit rusty…

So is my German, for that matter.

(As an aside, I actually do read and speak some German, the former more than the latter. French, too, quite fluently, when in practice. I’ve studied varying amounts of Latin, Hebrew, Russian as well as a smidgen of Greek, so I can generally pick out most Romance languages reasonably well and can do essential things like buy a loaf of bread, ask your name, tell you I love you and inquire as to the train schedule in a goodly number of European countries. I’ve never visited any of them, but if I were there, I could identify a red car, buy the last piece of cake and a beer, tell the police that I was a Canadian and find the bathroom. I could even admire the view and find out what a hotel room would cost. What more could you want, really?)

I’m digressing again, though.

I was looking at my web stats, as I’m prone to doing overly-regularly, and noticed a few visitors from Germany (hi Ulla! Ich habe seinen blog gelesen! Wie sagt mann “Blog” im Deutsch?), Brazil (Cecilia, I’m not even going to attempt to write in Portuguese) and Egater, from Estonia. As I was perusing Egater’s blog, I came across a picture that interested me of a Craft and Artisan fair in her area (look under “Muud asjad” on the left side of the page). Following the photo link took my to her Picasa album of the St Martin’s Day Fair (St. Martin’s Day is November 11th) and I spent far too much time marvelling at the talents and creations of this amazing group of people. Their use of colours and graduations therein are so very different from ours here in on the east coast of North America, but at the same time there is a huge overlap in materials and certain patterns. Undoubtedly the similarities in climates and transatlantic trade through the ages has affected both what we use and how we use it. Lots of woolen and wooden items abound in the St. Martin’s Fair, the vast majority of which are made with great skill and by hand. I was seriously impressed.

As I said before, my Estonian is pretty much nil, so I was floundering around trying to find out where in Estonia Egater lived when I bumped into a link to her Technorati profile. Turns out she lives in Hiiumaa. Looking up Hiiumaa, I found a bitsy island in the Baltic sea. It’s just under 1000 square kilometers and looks like a very neat place. I followed the link to the official site and poked around there for a bit. In fact, I had a rollicking good time revisiting the concept of things being distorted in translation. In this case, the old phrase “lost in translation” doesn’t apply, as I think the very idiosyncratic writing of the pages tell us more than a proper translation would. Take the following paragraph, for instance, from the “How to Come?” page

Saaremaa Shipping Company takes passengers onto Rohuküla- Heltermaa, Rohuküla- Sviby and Triigi- Sõru by comfortable ferries Scania and Ofelia with shops, bars and restaurants and other places on board that 1,5 hour trip to go smoothly and quickly. You can choose between the shop, bistro and bar. For little passengers we have nice playing- corners and adults may play with fruit machines.

It took me a second to realise that the “fruit machines” were “slot machines” and not some sort of vending machine packed with apples. Are they written literally as “fruit machines” in Estonian? Very cool.

Then there was the culturally enlightening section on “ice roads”. There are ice roads in Canada, up north, so the concept of driving across a lake is not entirely foreign to me (terrifying, but not foreign) and Newfoundlanders have crossed ice for centuries, both on oceans and ponds, but the vivid way in which going across a portion of ocean was described (for tourists, even!) made truly me want to visit Hiiumaa:

During winter time one experience an unforgettable driving by ice road the existence of which depends on how severe the cold is outside and not of the good will.

An ice road is a different one for you can pass the ferries and you have to drive at quite a high speed with your safety belts open. The speed is reduced only while approuching the cracks that one have to cross over the boards fixed on the cracks. It takes approximately 20 minutes to cover the distance in case of favourable conditions.

At least the Hiiumaa inhabitants hope that such kind of traffik will not be remain only in the memories of our fathers-mothers and grandfathers-grandmothers.

When the ice was thin the rope was tide to the tail and running noose around the neck of a horse. The horse that sank through the ice waited patiently to be helped. Usually the running noose was tightened around the neck and while gasping for breath the animal took a deep breath and was said to become lighter in the water. With mutual efforts the horse was often pulled out of water. In case of favourable conditions the trip from Heltermaa to Rohuküla took around two hours.

John and I have always toalked about visiting Scandinavia and were enthusiastic about the possibility of seeing Iceland, but I think Hiiumaa is now near the top of the list. It looks like a very cool place (both climatically and culturally) and I would love to visit that St. Martin’s Day Fair (really, the photos are worth a look. Use the slideshow feature so that they’re big enough to see properly). I think I’ll take the ferry, though. A body can only take so much excitement.

As an aside, the horse incident was incredibly reminiscent of similar Newfoundland stories immortalised in the song Tickle Cove Pond. Funny how cultures in similar latitudes coincide….

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Penny says:

    Slot machines are usually called “fruit machines” in England. They always used to have pictures of a variety of fruit: the player was always aiming to get three of the same type.

    A popular game at school fairs is the “Human Fruit Machine”: behind a table, three children will pull out a piece of fruit when you pay your money. If they are the same, you win a nominal prize, such as a piece of fruit.

  2. Penny says:

    I’ve just checked on the Net and it looks like fruit machines are not the same as slot machines. It seems they are similar, but the precise workings, and the way they payout are different. I don’t know whether the Estonian machines are like British ones or Canadian ones.

    Anyway, Iceland is very nice to visit.

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