Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Thoughts on Haapsalu

I was impressed, surprised: a trip to Astrid Lindgren land. I wondered would it just be comfortable nostalgia for the (mostly) bad old times, but at heart I think it really was aesthetic appreciation, an aesthetic experience. Silence, the summer around us: sleepy streets out of another time or from imagination, Astrid Lindgren streets. Such satisfaction for eyes, for ears, an appropriate rhythm of life - even if only in imagination. Not hysterically clean, self-satisfied Sweden but wounded, imperfect Estonia, probably the most suffered modern nation along with its Baltic cousins, even Russia itself does not begin to compare. Strange experiences history hands out to us, strange music, but amid rebuilding, along quiet sunny streets I enjoyed myself.


helsinkian said...

I've never been to Haapsalu, although I'd certainly want to visit. I think Estonia is a great place to be during the summer; I just came back last night from a short visit to Tallinn.

The idea of Swedish Estonia is very fascinating to me. I suppose what's left of it is mostly to be found in Haapsalu. I guess most Swedish Estonians emigrated to Sweden when the USSR conquered the country.

Another fascinating place would be Vormsi (Ormsö). I believe that island was very hip among Swedish-speaking artists during the late 19th Century. My grandmother has a painting by the Finland-Swede Beda Stjernschantz hanging on her wall, which I think is from Beda's Ormsö period. For the Swedish-speakers here, Ormsö was like their Karelia and believe the art from Ormsö can to some extent be compared with Finnish Karelianism.

Swedish Estonia has all these Romantic connotations about Paradise Lost. I'm becoming increasingly more interested in the Baltic Sea and everything around it. I spent this year's Midsummer in Mariehamn, Åland and really liked the atmosphere of the lifting of the pole in English Park (Engelska parken). I wonder how Midsummer was celebrated among Swedish Estonians before the war.

stockholm slender said...

Indeed, I think they call the area Rannarootsi or something like that. I noticed that there was a much bigger proportion of Swedish tourists than compared with other parts of Estonia. I have heard (though can't confirm) that the Swedish villages and islands lived according to the 17th century Swedish law even after the incorporation to Russia - in any case it probably was quite archaic type of living there.

The older parts of Haapsalu did really look like something directly out of Kalle Blomqvist pages - I mentioned this to my friend and only later in the hotel my wife (an Estonian) remarked that the well known Lindgren illustrator (can't recall her name) lived there before her escape to Sweden during the war. I think almost all Swedish speakers did flee to Sweden - this probably would have happened at least in Ostrobothnia had Finland also been occupied: it would have been relatively easy to cross the Gulf of Bothnia. They were interesting times indeed...