Sunday, June 17, 2007

Võrumaa Fair

I swear this is not intentional, but I have just come back from Vastseliina. Three cars' worth of yuppies descended upon the home town of one of them, to fry meat, drink booze, and go to the country fair.

Vastseliina is not just a waterfall, in fact it is a municipality seat, a village of about a thousand people in the southeastern corner of Estonia - quite close to the Russian border. When the fair comes, it is an excellent place to reassure oneself that the nation does not, in fact, consist of Tallinn and Tartu exclusively. Getting there involves stages, like diving: you do not go straight to Vastseliina, but stop off at Võru first. Võru itself is a town, the center of an area known for a distinctive dialect, and the proud host of a giant Maksimarket store - slightly weird as, IIRC, up until recently the entirety of Ida-Virumaa was devoid of large chain supermarkets.

The village itself is a curious mix of authentic and foreign. Typical Nordic single-family homes with cute gardens are interrupted by several cookie-cutter apartment buildings put up in the Soviet days. In the village's center, a big neo-classical building houses a boarding school; veteran fire trucks are parked next to their depot, and a few hundred yards away the police station is beautified by a Subaru WRX squad car. The fair and the strongman competition held as part of it attract visitors from across the borders - Latvians and Estonians communicate in Russian, predictably but still remarkably. Vastseliina is supported mostly by the timber industry, and it is a clean, well-maintained place, without the flashy opulence (and depressing tower block ghettos) of Tallinn or the overt haughtiness of Tartu. What it does, mostly, is exhude quiet confidence; this is a place inhabited by country people, who have good reason to believe they can handle whatever life throws at them.

In this country, in this time, that's a sentiment worth promoting.

No comments:


| More