- The official name of the country is Eesti Vabariik, translated as the Republic of Estonia.
- Geography. Estonia is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia. Across the Baltic Sea lies Sweden in the west and Finland in the north. The territory of Estonia contains 2222 islands and islets in the Baltic Sea, 984 sqare miles of peat wetlands (5.6% of the territory), and 61% is covered by forest. The northern coast of Estonia consists of limestone cliffs.
- Etymology. Ancient Scandinavian sagas refer to a land called Eistland, as the country is still called in Icelandic, and close to the Danish, German, Dutch, Swedish and Norwegian term "Estland" for the country. Early Latin versions of the name were Estia and Hestia. It may be that the name Estonia originated from the Aesti described by the Roman historians in about 98 CE. The name is often said to be from the Germanic, meaning eastern wayt. Another theory suggests that the name derived from a native word meaing waterside dwellers.
- History. The oldest known settlement in Estonia is the Pulli settlement in south-western Estonia which was settled near the beginning of the 9th millennium BCE. Hunting and fishing communities existed around 6500 BCE in northern Estonia. The Estonian Vikings (the Oeselians) raided Scandinavia until the Danes conquered Estonia in the 1200s, followed by the Swedes, Germans and Russians.
- Language. Estonian is closely related to Finnish and is one of the few languages of Europe that is not of an Indo-European origin. The Estonian language has borrowed about 1/3 of its vocabulary from Germanic languages. Russian is widely spoken as a second language.
- Music. In the 1100s Estonian warriors were known to sing at night while waiting for a battle. The older folksongs are referred to as regilaulud, songs in the poetic metre regivärss the tradition shared by all Baltic Finns. Runic singing was widespread among Estonians until the 18th century, when rhythmic folk songs began to replace them. Traditional wind instruments were derived from those used by shepherds. Other instruments, including the fiddle, zither, concertina and accordion are commonly played for polkas or other dance music.
- Food. Traditional cuisine of Estonia is heavily influenced by the seasons. Typical foods are black bread, pork, potatoes, dairy products, and fresh berries, herbs, and vegetables. It is very common to grill outside in summer.
- Sports. Estonia has competed as a nation in the Olympics since 1920. Most of its medals were won in athletics, weightlifting, wrestling and cross-country skiing. Other popular games and sports include chess, tennis, cycling, beach volleyball, cricket, football (soccer), and basketball. Kiiking, a relatively new sport, was invented in Estonia and involves a modified swing in which the rider of the swing tries to go around 360 degrees.
- Osmussaar. This island's Swedish name is Odensholm, which originates from the Vikings' god, Odin, who, according to a legend, is buried on the island. It has a long military history, but since World War II the whole island is a Nature Preserve. It is an exotic island, with glacial boulders, rock formations, bogs, lakes, old chapels and villages, Icelandic sheep, Estonian horses, a lighthouse, cliffs, beaches, and lots of plantlife - especially orchids.
- Tallinn. The capitol of Estonia and largest city is Tallinn. It has never been razed or pillaged. The "Old Town" is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Ice Roads. The Baltic Sea freezes in the winter, creating roads between the mainland and the islands. The longest ice road in Europe is the 26.5 km route between Rohuküla on continental Estonia and Heltermaa on Hiiumaa island.
- Haapsalu Bishop’s Castle and Cathedral. This is one of the best preserved castles in Estonia. Estonia’s most famous ghost, the White Lady, is said to haunt the castle. In the moat there is a playground with a large chessboard, archery grounds and clay workshop.
- Animals. With a sparse population, there are many animals in Estonia. There are flying squirrels, wolves, wild pigs, moose, lynx, deer, brown bear, beaver, adder, golden eagle and fox.
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