“Estonia is the most non-religious country in the world” – my tour guide

I don’t even know how one would measure that. I think faith (like most things) is hard to measure, even if it’s not the faith itself being measured, but rather the number of people who believe in something greater than themselves.

I attended a service today at 10 am at Jaani Kirik in Freedom Square. Don’t ask me my method for choosing which church, I picked one at random and ran with it.


This picture pretty much sums up my experience. Luckily I’m pretty accustomed to attending church services where I don’t know what’s going on. My mom is a practicing Christian and attends a church that primarily speaks Mandarin. When I attend on occasion with my mom, I can chunk together broken fragments of my forever decaying Mandarin while the translator keeps me up to speed, filling me in on the 85% that flew over my head at a lofty altitude of 33,000 feet.

Things obviously are different in Estonia. No language classes taken 13 years ago, no translator, no one that looks like me.

I chose a spot in the back, behind all the grandmas in their Sunday best. I, like most people, don’t like to disrupt a community I am not part of. This means standing, sitting, praying, and singing when everyone else does, even if you don’t really know what your intent is supposed to be while performing these actions. If I sat the whole service, I feared I would offend some church goers. Is my lack of participation disruptive? Or is it an active form of resistance? I don’t know! If I partook in the ritual, would it be disingenuous because I’m not religious? Which is worse? Also, does the fact that I didn’t understand a single word of anything change the answers to these questions? So much to think about!

My saving grace during this experience ended up being my music literacy. The hymns were all I was able to latch onto, and I got to sight read in Estonian that I didn’t understand. That part was pretty fun. I actually enjoyed myself considering I was just processing gibberish for 2 hours.

So what do you guys do when you’re not religious and you’re about to start a meal with people who say grace? Or if you’re attending a religious service to support someone you care about despite not practicing that religion? Or when someone gives you a gift for a religious holiday you don’t celebrate?

“Estonia is the most non-religious country in the world” – my tour guide

First night in Tallinn

Let’s set the scene. I’m in my hostel’s common space with two┬áthree individuals whom I do not know. None of us are talking to each other. There’s an Estonian lady knitting next to me and it seems she just finished an oat breakfast of sorts. She’s also watching the news or something on her laptop.


There’s this man probably mid twenties to my left and his friend just joined him (that makes 4 of us in this room right now). She’s this girl I bumped into when she was hustling out of her hostel room. They’re speaking Spanish, but I don’t want to assume country of origin. (First asian guy spotted! 9:20 is not poppin’ in the common space, 9:30 is poppin. Our count is now seven total people. Asian man is eating a huge tub of yogurt. #hostellife)

Things I did on my first night:

  1. Landed at 22:30 in Tallinn Airport to a gorgeous sunset! Yes the sun was setting that late!
  2. Exchanged USD for Euros so I could mobilize my ass and catch a taxi to my hostel
  3. Checked into my hostel
  4. Took one of the most cathartic showers. It was clean and refreshing, it doesn’t matter that the water stream was shy of a steady piddle.
  5. I’m staying in a room that can occupy 14 people, but only two of us slept in there last night.
  6. Watched an episode of Kimmy Schmidt
  7. I was the only one in the room from 11:30-12:30, then a friend joined me.
  8. Yes, I made a friend! She’s Australian and we had a lovely chat, too bad she’s leaving today. She was so cool though, she’s about to go live in the Estonian wilderness in some kind of no waste/eco retreat for a few weeks.
  9. Went to bed

I’m on a breakfast hunt currently. I need my covfefe and maybe a pastriestrie.


I think I’m just going to try walking around the Old Town to see what I find. I need to do some emailing ASAP. So much to do, so little time!

Bye for now. Hopefully there will be pictures in these posts starting soon.

First night in Tallinn