That’s according to the Estonian Tourist Board (http://www.visitestonia.com ) who say that the 10 best reasons to visit their country are: it is clean, scenic, accessible, rich in contrasts, quality, atmospheric, curative, delicious, inspirational and easy to visit. All true, I’m sure, but our reason for going there last week was to attend the Annual Council of the European Baptist Federation.
The EBF Council met for three days in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, and the 140+ delegates came from around 50 countries across Europe (including the Brexit nations) and the Middle East. The hum of conversation during coffee breaks was fantastic – so many languages and gestures used to communicate so well! On the first evening we all walked in the rain and wind (it’s cold up there, so close to the North Pole) into the beautiful Old Town to the Oleviste Church for the opening service. During the fifteenth century this church was considered the tallest building in the world. Its present-day spire is a mere 124 metres high and the tower provides a wonderful viewpoint over the capital city. But the most interesting feature is that ‘during Soviet times’ (a phrase heard frequently in Estonia) several Christian denominations (Lutherans, Baptists and others) were evicted from their places of worship and given this church building to share, presumably in the hope that they would argue over the practical details and the churches would fade away. But they made it work (in the face of a common enemy) and the church communities stayed strong through all the persecutions and difficulties of those years. When Estonian independence was re-established in 1991, these churches had the option of finding new and separate buildings. Instead they took the unusual step of voting to continue to share the building and to work together as Christians in a nation that claims to be the least religious in Europe. The church building does not look at all like a Baptist church – and that’s why!
Finally, a few little-known geographical facts: Tallinn is closer to Dublin than Naples is; Tallinn is closer to London than Reykjavik is; Tallinn is closer to Frankfurt than Malaga is. Estonia is closer than you think and it’s well worth a visit.