Thursday, November 23, 2006

Tallinn, Estonia

The research branch of FMI (about 200 people) have a retreat every year. This year, the retreat was held on a ferry to Estonia. Tallinn is 50 miles (80 km) across the Gulf of Finland from Helsinki. There are several ferry companies in existence. Our ferry, the Galaxy, was huge and had sleeping rooms. The boat departed about 6:30 p.m. on Monday, ending up at Tallinn about 10 p.m. People sleep on the boat, then are allowed to depart in the morning to go to the city. The boat leaves Tallinn at 1:30 p.m., returning to Helsinki at 4:45 p.m.

Because alcohol prices are so much lower in Estonia, people stock up. Even little old ladies have dollies with them, lugging several cases of booze back to Helsinki. Our boat was relatively empty, but it can turn into a real party boat when full. The ship has a disco, karaoke bar, saunas, pool, children's playroom, and restaurants on board.

Of course, the FMI researchers were all about business. There were also conference rooms where we met on the way to Estonia and on the way back. The four new professors (including me) introduced ourselves to the FMI research employees (about half of the 200 were able to make it).

Part of the attraction for Estonia is that the Finns and Estonians share a common heritage, speaking similar languages.
When Estonia was behind the Iron Curtain, families could not see each other. Tallinn is a very old city, unlike Helsinki, which is relatively recent (a blog entry about that in the future). The oldest part of the city was built behind walls (see below).


At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I visited, a group of Estonians came to the workshop and met with their FMI counterparts. Despite their similarities in languages, they conducted their meeting in English. I wonder if that was for my benefit or that there are enough differences in languages such that they had to speak English? Are their languages as similar to each other as German is to English?

At 7:00 AM, Blogger David Schultz said...

Hi Jim. I don't know the answer to that question. Because the language of science is English, most scientists know English well enough to communicate in it. Even at the university, some classes and research groups work entirely in English because of foreign students, as well as it being good practice for them in speaking and publishing.

At 12:31 AM, Blogger stindu said...

Most finns can understand a little of what Estonians speak. The reason for that is because even though Finnish and Eesti (the language) are very similar many of the words Estonians use mean something entirely different in Finnish. The Finnish/Estonian language difference might be compared to the Spanish/Italian language difference. You understand something, but not everything.


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