Sunday, August 18, 2013

Douches in Their Natural Above

There are actually guys like this in Tallinn too...unfortunately they are not held up to the rightful opprobrium that they seem to get in North America, say, and are in fact lauded here as being something to aspire to.

Indeed anyone who calls them out on their behaviour runs the risk of themselves being called a douche, and worse things than that.

Kinda sucks, huh_

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Death of Summer in Estonia

I usually date the end of summer from two events, the swallows (and swifts, and martins) leaving, and the English Premier League starting.

 These two would usually more or less coincide in Britain; here in Estonia the swallows are sensible and have already been gone about a week and a half (at least that's the last time I saw any, anyway).
The Premier League however started today, and with an unexpected away win for Villa at Arsenal.

True, we had luck on our side with the reffing at least of one of the pens it seems, but start as you are going to finish, Villa. Three relegation battles in a row the last few seasons but this year the faith in Lambert and the young players is going to pay off I think.

Nonetheless, summer is definitely over :-(

Friday, June 7, 2013

Clarification On Yesterday's Post

Seems the debate between Martin Helme and Postimees' Abdul Turay I'd mentioned yesterday did take place after all, with Mr. Turay 'winning' by most accounts. Would be interesting to have seen footage of it.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Estonian Former President Speaks Out On Race Issue

Having said yesterday I wasn't going to write about politics, I've done gone done it again. Well noone's reading so it doesn't matter.

Former President of Estonia Arnold Rüütel, the first president after the reestablishment of independence in 1992, has spoken out against a conservative politician's remarks last week about black people in Estonia needing to be sent back whence they came.

Good for him (Rüütel) I say. He's an old guy and may not be up with the sensibilities of us younger, particularly ex-pat, residents here, but it's welcome anyway, especially since there seems to have been little or no reaction to the comments from the political elite here.

The conservative party which Rüütel is honourary chairman of, and which the original speaker, I won't dignify him with his name, belonged to, do not currently hold any seats in the Riigikogu (Estonian parliament) so one could dismiss them as the work of a fringe crank, whose daddy happens to be party chairman and a former Estonian ambassador to Moscow. On the other hand the coverage has given it the oxygen of publicity, so the cat is out of the bag, along with any other cliché
you care to mention.

For their part some of the prominent ex-pats here have aired their views; apparently Abdul Turay, a black British journalist here, was scheduled to have a closed debate with the author of the comments, and Stewart Johnson, a standup comic, had also put feelers out in this direction. Not sure what's happened on that front since then.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Kristina Ojuland Booted Out Of Reformierakond

I wouldn't normally blog about politics, particularly not Estonian politics although I try to keep tabs on what's going on.

The latest development has been the sacking of Kristina Ojuland, high flyer in the classical liberal Refomierakond (R-kond) or Reform Party here in Estonia.

The party forms the greater part of the coalition government and its leader Andrus Ansip has been prime minister of Estonia since 2005.

Ansip has already announced he will not be seeking reelection as party leader and so it would be sage to assume as prime minister either, but the party has been riven with scandal and back biting for the past year at least.

The principal incident was the sacking of former MP Silver Meikar for apparently blowing the whistle on illegal donations to the party (and we're not talking about mega bucks here) a scandal which also implicated Kristen Michal, former Justice Minister and something of the coming man within the party.

Whatever really happened, Meikar lost the engagement and was effectively branded a liar by the prime minister himself.

In this latest development Ms Ojuland, platinum-blonde representative of Estonia at the European parliament, former foreign minister and a long-serving member of R-kond was accused of vote rigging, concerning the casting of an e-vote from an elderly voter who in fact had no access to the necessary technology that would have enabled them to do so.

The election in question was an internal party affair rather than a national or regional one.

In a brief tit-for-tat, Ojuland pointed the finger at corruption within the party as a whole and gave her own press conference just yesterday before finally being shown the door.

I personally don't quite know who to believe, Ms Ojuland was no stranger to controversy and her tenure as foreign minister was tainted by the disappearance of some documents that were her responsibility. On the other hand, Ansip's style has been, at least since I've been in Estonia since 2009, notably authoritarian and uncompromising. John Major he is not.

Well, I said I wouldn't usually write on such issues so I´ll cut it short there, readers with Estonian might want to see this article, or in Finnish, or, er, in English.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Where Should You Buy Property In Tallinn, Estonia?

Here is some advice on where to buy in Tallinn, Estonia  - i I were thinking of buying in Tallinn (I already have)...

City Centre and Old Town

First, the Old Town (see map 2 below) will continue to hold its value. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, hugely popular with tourists, well supplied with a variety of good quality restaurants, cafes, bars, craft shops, high end clothes shops and other amenities, and is close to the harbour not to mention the seat of Governmental power. What’s more people actually live and work there.

The ‘Kesklinn’ (City Centre, also called the ‘Südalinn’) similarly will retain its prominence and, whilst prices took a greater bashing here during the 2008-2010 slump than in the Old Town, is of key significance, containing as it does not only Tallinn’s Central Business District, but more entertainment outlets, foreign embassies and a large number of residents.

Add to that the district of Kadriorg, to the east of the Kesklinn, with its leafy, evocative streets, fine old housing, and the Palace built for Catherine the Great, not to mention the President’s residence, and you already have a large, contiguous area of desirable housing with strong rental potential. In fact, the three areas noted above come under the one administrative area as far south as the Ülemiste Järv (see map 2) which is the Tallinn city lake, and cover 28 square kilometres in total.

But these areas have already arrived, so to speak. Whilst developments in the Kesklinn in particular look set to continue, such as the new Finance Ministry at Suur Ameerika, and there is plenty of scope for refurbishment work in all areas, it seems unlikely that there is to be any radical transformation here. That process has already happened, stretching back the 20 years since Estonia’s independence.

Emerging Districts

Now to the districts of Tallinn showing promising signs for investors. Again, these are largely adjacent to one another and can thus be treated as a single entity for our purposes. Essentially they comprise the ‘Sadam’ harbour area (see map 1 below) stretching westward along the waterfront along the ‘Culture Kilometre’ (a popular cycling and jogging route) to Kalamaja. This stretch is set for a lot of exciting development in the coming years, both residential (that process has already started with the quality new housing in the Jahu and Suur-/Väike-Paterei streets) and commercial. One recent development which has already happened is the newly refurbished Seaplane Harbour, which includes dry docks, Seaplane Hangars dating back to the late Tsarist time which hold a museum, and vessels of historical interest.

Kalamaja itself is similarly already experiencing a renaissance. It largely comprises character wooden houses, mostly around a century old but here have been some tasteful new builds constructed along the same lines, as well as new, more modern builds. The Kalamaja effect is spreading southwards to neighbouring Pelgulinn (where I live), which has similar housing stock and is quiet and family friendly, yet still a stone’s throw from the Old Town, eventually dovetailing into the borders of the more-established Kristiine suburb. The Kassisaba district (close to the British embassy) has seen construction and refurbishment activity aplenty recently as well (e.g. at Adamsoni 33).

Returning to Kalamaja, the border that separates it from Pelgulinn, demarcated by the goods rail line to Kopli, host what is really the hub of this new revival – the so called bohemian quarter. This comprises three of the hippest restaurants in town, Kukeke, run by the same people who are behind the successful Komeet restaurant in the Solaris centre, F-Hoone (literally ‘building F’) which are both in former light industrial buildings, and the more established Boheem cafe close to the station.

Other good quality refreshment outlets abound, and we have to mention the nearby Asian Cafe  on Kopli 4c close to the central train station, which offers tasty Indian, Chinese and Thai-style food for those in a hurry and at good prices.

Moreover this area is set to be the new alternative theatreland, with a theatre accomodating a good couple of hundred seats slated for construction next year.

Lastly, this effect may well spread Northwards throughout the Kopli peninsular (see map 1) over the longer term. The Kopli peninsular, once the site of aristocratic hunting forests, today displays very mixed use, with various commercial docks including the Bekker port, the HQ of BLRT, a shipbuilding company, plenty of old wooden workers cottages, office space, parkland and the magnificent Estonian Maritime Academy building. Beyond this at the tip of the peninsular lies the Paljassaare nature reserve, which is excellent for birdwatching and its natural environment in general, all year round.

Rough per square metre price of districts

As regards prices, please note that in Estonia prices are often cited in terms of Euros per Square metre (and before 2011, Kroons per Square metre). There are pluses and minuses to this system. One advantage is obviously getting a quick idea of whether or not a property is overpriced or not by comparing its per Square metre price with that of the average for that area. On the other hand sometimes it ends up comparing apples with oranges - a large family home is intrisically different from a studio flat wihch in turn is quite different from office space (the prices below reflect only residential - obviously most office space in Tallinn will be rented anyway).

Moreover the condition in which apartments are in varies hugely, although Estonians will tend to put a huge hike on asking prices (estate agents here still tend to let the buyer set their own price, which is daft) if a property has been remonted, so you have been warned.

 A rough breakdown for average buying prices of the districts mentioned is as follows (at the time of writing):

Old Town: 2 000 – 3 000 Euros/Square metre.
Kesklinn (excluding Old Town), Kadriorg: 1 800 Euros/Square metre.
Kristiine: 1 300 Euros/Square metre.
Kalamaja, Pelgulinn: 1 100 Euros/Square metre.
Kopli: 800 Euros/Square metre.

As a rule of thumb, rentals will be at least 10 Euros/Square metre in the Old Town (and somewhat more than that for well-appointed properties) falling to around 6 or 7 Euros/Square metre further from the centre. Don't pay significantly more than this for a rental property, although at the time of writing it was not a renters market since there is a great shortage of rental properties (the flipside is there's a glut of properties for sale so it is a buyers market in that sense).

Hope this was interesting and useful, give me your feedback!

Maps (click to enlarge).

Map 1: Area to Northwest of Central  Tallinn,
including Kalamaja and Kopli peninsular.

Map 2: Old Town (Vanalinn), City Centre,
Pelgulinn and Kristiine (Lillekülla).

Map 3: Tallinn City.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Drink Bar Comedy Nights In Tallinn Are Back

The Drink Bar comedy nights organised by Comedy Estonia kicked off again last night after the summer break.

And in some style, there was a really strong lineup, hosted by the unstoppable Louis including plenty of regulars- a lot of people had evidently spent the summer polishing their joke [sic], so there were plenty of laughs ringing in my ears.

I was hesitant about going when I saw that there were 154 listed on Facebook as 'going' and a similar number as 'maybe', but it wasn't quite Hillsborough, though getting that way. Hats off to the bar staff anyway.

Glad I went, it's an excellent place to meet up with regular CE fans, would-be comics from the open mic circuit, newbies (the friend I brought along was impressed) tourists and the mandatory sprinkling of hotties to gaze longingly at from the other side of the bar.

Ben Richards was a personal favourite of mine (as a comic I mean, not a hottie), I like to think he's kind of like a funny version of me, and his 'but sir..' comeback to a heckler (you needed to have been there) caused me to spit Drink Baar Tume on somebody's back.

The headliner, Jacques Barrett, to use the parlance of the young people today, kicked ass, with a truly original slant on being from Australia (there were three Aussies on the bill in total which seems like overkill but in fact was not) and his reflections on living in the UK reminded me of why I am here.

Regular CE people Stewart, Janika and Corey all had great sets - it seems that the large, paying crowd seems to raise their games, it may have been my imagination, but everyone seemed to be even stronger than the open mic nights (where punters don't have to pay of course).

Sander did a set in Estonian so I didn't catch everything but it was consistently funny so far as the Estonian speakers were concerned.

Louis and Janika of Comedy Estonia need to work on their Scottish accents a bit though, they sounded more like South Wales or Birmingham, via the Transvaal, although it set up a brilliant comeback from Janika (referring to Louis' intro) which for me was one of the killer gags of the night.

Unfortunately there were some English dickheads in the crowd, not just me (I'm half Scottish though) but also a large group - moving the night to Thursday means there are likely to be more of these as Thurs eve is often the first night of the largely unwelcome (though the DB seems to encourage it) stag parties - yes they're still coming over. Fortunately this group left in a large conga-line at the end, and were waved off by all twenty thousand people in there, much to their chagrin I think.

There was also a drunk, bullnecked Russian guy who kept yelling out 'ja neponjal' at inconvenient times during Jacques' set, although the latter didn't hear him and in any case I don't know how heckler squelchers work when neither person speaks the other's language (assuming Jacques doesn't speak Russian).

Things seem to be going from strength to, er, strength with the CE crowd - the latest item I read is that not only do they have Steve Hughes and Glenn Wool coming for a show later in the month at the large Kino Sõprus venue (I assume they've sacked off Club Prive) along with the return of Dylan Moran a few days later, but there's also gonna be a regular slot on Estonian Radio 2 with interviews and the like. I suppose next I'm gonna read they've been selected to go into space or something.

If you're in Tallinn, check 'em out!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chinwag Tuesday

A nice podcast illustrating how ex-pat comedy in European countries should be, from the Tuesday Chinwag, three English guys who've all done standup and who meet either once a week or once a month at a cafe in Stockholm, Sweden, in front of a live audience.

Think Skinner and Baddiel meet something else that's been on Radio 4 in the cafe off that sitcom, but it's probably way better than that.

Great window on the west to listen to from behind the iron curtain here in Tallinn.

They're on Facebook too.