Eesti Elu
TÄNAVALT (From the street). A tiny voice amongst the tourists (1)
Arvamus 11 Aug 2011  Eesti Elu
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Piprapihv (pepper steak or patty) is usually seen written on advertising boards on the streets of Tallinn's old town in Finnish as pippuripihvi and has become synonymous with Finnish tourists. Supposedly it's one of their favourite dishes, but I doubt many local Estonians have ever tried it.

Merevaik (literally "sea resin", amber) is a wonder of nature, but in Vanalinn it's unfortunately synonymous with the trinket souvenir shops that also sell matrjoška – a set of Russian wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other. These stores are usually Russian-owned and sell what can only be called East European souvenirs. Although some amber has been found in Estonia, it is much more prevalent down the Baltic coast in Latvia and Lithuania, where it is worn with their folk costumes. (About 90% of the world's extractable amber is still located on the Baltic coast of Kaliningrad Oblast in Russia (previously Königsberg, Prussia).

On the one hand, this message seems to be drawing attention to the fact that a lot of what is being peddled in the Old Town has nothing to do with Estonia or Estonians, something the unassuming or uneducated visitor might not be aware of. It also seems to represent the local Estonians who feel (at least in the summer months during peak tourist season), that they have no place, literally no room in the heart of Tallinn; that their city has been hijacked and is operating solely based on the needs of the wealthy traveler.

This photo was taken in May and when I found myself in Saiakang again a few days ago, it was gone. Perhaps that's a sign of waning emotions as fall is no longer mägede taga ("beyond the hills", as the saying goes), when the streets will once again be home to the home-boys and girls.

But who are we kidding? Most Estonians leave town in the summer anyway and the boost to the economy makes us all happy. I was very pleased to see so many guests taking note and snapping pictures of the newly renovated Suurgildi hoone (Great Guild Hall), home of the Eesti Ajaloomuuseum, Estonian History Museum. ( The adjoining Börsi käik (stock exchange passage) is also aglow after a face-life. I then discovered the tree-lined terrace garden behind Pühavaimu kirik. It was news to me and very welcoming, even for a local yokel.

An interesting tidbit: Saiakang or white bread passage got its name from the bakeries located there starting in the 14th century which were known for small, square-shaped danish-like breads called timpsai (or timbusai). Someone should try making those treats again. For one and all, year-round! Especially since they pre-date the pihv which, by the way, comes from (hakk) biifsteik or patty made from ground beef. Whether the infamous pippuripihvi is in fact a patty or real cut of steak – only the tourists know.
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