Estonia, in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, is known for its medieval heritage and untouched natural beauty. Tallinn, the country’s capital and cultural hub, is where most of the expat population is concentrated. Estonian is the official language, although German, Russian and English are also commonly spoken.
There are many benefits to living in Estonia, such as political stability, low cost of living and worthwhile business opportunities.Expats can also look forward to sampling Estonia’s sumptuous cuisine, which is known for its simple preparation methods. Since food and fitness must go hand in hand, here are some tips for staying healthy in Estonia.
Estonian cuisine revolves around the changing seasons. Local ingredients are the most important elements in food preparation since the population has always maintained a strong connection with nature. A common practice among Estonians is mushroom and berry picking. Families get together for forays into the local forest where they also gather herbs and medicinal plants. Food is cooked using mainly locally sourced ingredients. Organically grown and raised farm produce is used not only in restaurants, but also in homes. Some of the popular Estonian foods include marinated local fish, smoked ham and elk sausages. These are served at eateries and also available for purchase at supermarkets and fairs. Expats on the look out for healthy local food must also pick up some typically Estonian items such as cheese curds, black bread and Värska mineral water, obtained from mineral-rich underground sources.
Apart from counting calories, another healthy food habit is checking the labels on products. Check the purity of foods by examining the labels and also ensure that they actually do come from healthy sources. The Green Key label on products indicates that have been produced in association with organic producers.
Fish is a common staple of the Estonian diet and the Baltic herring is the country’s national fish. Due to its affordability, it used to be considered the food of the common people, but can now also be found in most restaurants. Some local delicacies involving fish include roasted and marinated lamprey and eel soup.
Vegans may take a while to adjust to food habits in Estonia, since consumption of meat and dairy has traditionally been a part of the food culture. Tallinn has some excellent choices for vegans such as Lido, in the Solaris center, which is a self-service cafeteria where you can check the listed ingredients before picking up any food. Vegan dinners are also held every month at Sotsiaalkeskus Ülase12 in order to spread awareness about veganism and how healthy vegan food can be prepared at affordable prices.
Estonia is blessed with abundant natural scenery, so naturally there are many outdoor activities that are both enjoyable and healthy. In the summer season, watersports gain huge popularity. From simply jogging on the beach to more challenging pursuits like windsurfing and canoeing, expats will have plenty of options. The Estonian mainland lends itself to other interesting outdoor activities like hiking and horse riding. The islands of Saaremaa and Hiimaa are especially popular for biking.
Expats living in Tallinn can participate in the Tallinn Running Tour, where you can take in all the main city sights while running at a slow speed. Some training is required before you can take part since the tour lasts for 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours. You can even choose the route you want to take, such as forest and park, Old Town or seaside. Maarjamäe Memorial, Tallinna Linnahall and the Song Festival Grounds are some of the sights you can expect to see. The tour is guided by some of Tallinn’s triathlon enthusiasts.
For those who want a glimpse of a different side to Tallinn, the Funky Bike Tour is the ideal activity. Enthusiastic and entertaining guides take you through the Kalamaja area. The quiet streets of this neighborhood house are lined with wooden houses and industrial landscapes dating back to Soviet times. There’s also a Russian flea market and an abandoned prison. Although Kalamaja has gained worldwide notoriety for being a hipster quarter, this bike ride can be an enjoyable one, combining sightseeing and light exercise. The tour lasts for three hours and includes up to eight persons.
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