Estonia lies along the Baltic Sea, just south of Finland and has snowy winters and long light summers. It is a country about the same size as the Netherlands, and is sparsely populated with around 1.4m people. Tallinn, Estonia's capital city, is about 80 km or 50 miles south of Helsinki, across the Gulf of Finland. Sweden is Estonia's western neighbour across the Baltic. Russia lies to the east, Latvia to the south.
Estonia's ancient seacoast capital exudes a sense of romantic history, being one of the most completely preserved medieval cities in Europe, a gem on the UNESCO World Heritage List that is only beginning to be discovered by delighted visitors from around the World. A spirit of mystery still pervades the cobbled courtyards of the picturesque Old Town, the winding alleys overhung with original 12th and 13th century merchant's houses, barns, warehouses, medieval churches and state buildings.
Tallinn, released just over a decade ago from the Soviet yoke, is certainly not stuck in the Dark Ages, however. While preserving its past the city is as forward-looking and thinking as any other modern European capital. This is probably best reflected in the interactive exhibits at the Tallinn Science and Technology Centre, the city's showcase for the arts and sciences. Public transport is modern and efficient; the nightlife is pumping from cigar bars and pool halls to nightclubs; and dining out is a tasty choice from take-away pizza and Chinese to formal French and traditional Estonian Cuisine.
Tallinn is an important port and one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. It is a city of grey towers topped with red tiles, of stone stairs beneath arching gateways, of narrow winding streets, cobbled pavement and towering ramparts. It is now quite famous for servicing the Yachts large and small that continue to populate the harbour. The Harbour area itself has been developed with this purpose in mind - rather than just being another fashionable harbour to be seen in, like on the Cote d'Azur. Which it exceeds in a remarkable way.
On the Western Coast, the islands and islets have been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and are a mecca for Estonians and tourists alike during the summer.