Monday, October 17, 2005

Ethnography by any other name - Tallinn

Most museums in the Baltics are shut on Mondays - we knew that, so we went to Tallinn on Tuesday. Unfortunately many of the good museums (if our tyrannical guidebooks are to be trusted) are shut on Tuesdays as well. Fortunately there is another attraction a short bus ride from the middle of the city.

At home we call this sort of thing a folk park, or folk museum. Calling anything "ethnographic" sounds to me like it would make visitors run a mile - which would be a real shame! Maybe they are much more serious and intellectual over in the former Soviet Republics?

Whatever the name, they have traditional wooden buildings from all regions of Estonia, and they are adding more all the time.

This is a perspective on the hard but simpler life, in the centuries before communism, capitalism, industrialisation and globalisation changed the world. Mediated by a tourist board, of course, with an interpretative centre and gift shop. Capitalism.

But they have a nicer cafe than you get in tourist attractions at home - almost untouched by the globalisation of coke and chips (or should that be fries?). They actually dare to have a menu of traditional local fare.

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