The architecture and wood craft of the rural reaches of this region are remarkably consistent and appear not to have changed for centuries. Traditional wooden houses combine areas for livestock and threshing alongside living quarters under one roof. Roofing in this region consists of thin split shingles of aspen, overlapping in alternating rows, making silvery fish scale patterns in the reflected sunlight. Well-tended gardens abound and are loaded with strawberries, currants, vegetables and flowers.
Indeed, flowers and other ephemera seem to have more of a hold on the native Estonian imagination than the constructed environment. Even within the cities and towns, flower shops are everywhere and flowers are considered an essential element of exchange in visiting friends and family. That Estonia maintains its roots in its craft-based heritage is evident in the formal greeting “Koitas sinu kassi kahib”, which translates as “How does your hand go?”. Old crafts seem to be very much alive, with subtle shifts from region to region. This is perhaps most evident in the textiles of traditional costume, which are almost like a woven ‘score’ for a region’s abundant songs and dances. Estonians have carefully guarded thousands of songs over the centuries which are sung collectively at song festivals, the largest occurring every four years in Tallin with up to 300,000 people in attendance.
The traditional songs and dances of Estonia truly are the soul of the country, like a long-guarded secret code that holds the key to Estonia’s past but might also inform its uncertain future. I’m curious to learn if there are specific songs related to certain kinds of work, like an archive of craft instruction. This would help to explain the unfaltering consistency of a region’s craft and architecture. Songs appear to be Estonia’s Deep Craft.