Neil Taylor. Estonia: The Bradt Travel Guide (Fifth edition). Globe Pequot Press Inc., Guilford, Connecticut, 2007. www.bradtguides.com.
When one decides to spend thousands of dollars on travel, accommodations and food it makes good sense to prepare beforehand. Especially so, when the goal is to expand personal parameters, with a hope of connecting with one’s roots.
Prior to such an undertaking most people undertake some research. The first choice is often taken on the internet. It is cheap and easy. Alas, that can mean also that the result equals the effort. The second, of relying on the printed word may be the road less taken. Guidebooks abound, and the penny-wise, pound-foolish do not always see their value. Yet these works are generally well researched, edited and proofread, unlike many internet postings.
The ability to winnow the chaff from the grain, of separating blatant promotion from good advice is not given to us at birth – witness the asinine efforts, and, sadly, the enormous profits of the advertising industry.
The $29.95 that the Bradt Travel Guide to Estonia (available from Chapters Bookstores and online) costs, however, will buy much more and have greater lasting impact than the sandwich and 2 cups of coffee that the same amount will purchase in any European airport lounge, while waiting for your connecting flight to Tallinn to be called.
It is highly likely that the majority of this paper’s readers living abroad have already been to Estonia since 1991 (or earlier), perhaps more than once. With relatives and ancestral homesteads to visit, song festivals to take in and the white nights of summer to enjoy, the siren call is strong. Parents and/or grandparents often prepare the way for those born in the diaspora, giving suggestions of where to go on such a journey. For those still planning their first trip to Estonia, or for whom that initial experience bordered on the overwhelming, a suggestion: buy this book.
The author, veteran British travel writer Neil Taylor, is more than a regular visitor to Estonia, and it shows. There is a passion and genuine enjoyment of the country that is usually not to be found on the pages of a travel book. Recommendations are not made willy-nilly, all is laid out in a friendly, open and personable style. In his foreword Taylor writes that his first visit to Estonia was made with little foreknowledge and enthusiasm. It was simply a job, to go and write a guide for visitors to the country. Once there, however, he became, in his own words, “addicted at once.”
This updated 5th edition was published in late 2007. Taylor emphasizes that “those in the know recognise that Estonia has much more to offer than just Tallinn’s cobbled streets and café life.” To underscore his affection for the country Taylor purchased a flat in Tallinn, thus proving what he terms his “long-term loyalty” to a nation, that for many travel book publishers is, alas, still simply a part of “the Baltics.”
The guide includes excellent maps, comprehensive and unbiased sections on Estonian culture and history, as well as the expected pointers at a glance and practical info, complete with latest website data. It is not all gush about museums and architectural must-visits, hotels, restaurants and spas, although those places are meticulously covered. Taylor also conveys the relationship that Estonians have with nature, suggesting hikes for the hale and hearty; sightseeing strolls for those less fit, youthful or adventurous. It is a fine choice to recommend to those with an interest in their heritage who have yet to undertake the pilgrimage, as well as to friends who want to know what the fuss is about.
The key selling point for readers perhaps saving up for the next expensive visit to the ancestral homeland is that this book is a veritable pleasure to read. When pining for the forests of Võrumaa, yearning for the sounds of the Baltic lapping the shores of the islands, aching for the tranquillity found in the solitude of beautiful bogs in nature reserves, one can pick up Taylor’s guide and be transported in the mind’s eye while comfortably ensconced in a favourite reading chair. Sometimes that is the best form of travel of all.
An excellent detailed travel guide to Eesti