03 November 2009

Our New Old Man Friends

Estonia - 028

I love old people. I just think they’re great. Whether it’s my own grandparents, the grandparents of friends or just random senior citizens on the street, I find them to be endlessly entertaining in every way. At the root of it is their incredible amount of knowledge on all things past - wars, rationing, “the way it used to be before all these gadgets and gizmos.” On the surface though, it’s the way they just do what they want irregardless of the reactions of those around them (or the law). “I’m driving in this lane. I want to drive in that lane. There is someone else in that lane. Oh well, they’ll move...I want to park here but there is heavy traffic and a no parking sign. Oh well, I’m old. What are they going to do, really...I am at a restaurant and want soup but there is none on the menu. Hey lady, make me some soup. I’m old.”

Cut to our visit to the Museum of War and Occupation in Estonia. You see, over the course of the last hundred years or so Estonia - a nation of just 1.3 million people and about the size of Delaware - has been tossed around by their larger, less-friendly friends (mainly, Germany and Russia, who did very bad things to Estonia and Estonians). We were meandering through and having our minds blown by the complex and fascinating history when Simon and Martin - two lovely elderly Finnish men who had ditched their ladies for the day to have an adventure - stopped us to have a chat. They were over from Helsinki for the day and just taking in the sights at their leisure.

It started with the usual “where are you from?” but quickly became “can I tell you a story?” I love when old people ask that question because you never know what you’re going to get but nine times out of ten, it’s awesome. This time, it was awesome. Simon started in on the secret history of Finland built on the fact that Finland fought both against and with the Russians during World War II and was “the only European nation to beat the Russians” because it was so cold and they couldn’t handle it (probably an assertion that my old Russian friends in Siberia would challenge but hey, it’s Simon’s story). That led to Martin cutting in to note that he “loves America and always has, even when Bush was President even though Bush wasn’t very good.” Martin spent several years living in the US of A and one year studying in Ithaca, which he described as the “most amazing place” (an assertion that most Americans I know who did not go to school in Ithaca would challenge but hey, it’s Martin’s story).

Nearly an hour later I had learned all about the study abroad opportunities for Finns in America, “the truth” behind World War II, why Estonia is nothing like the other Baltic countries (because it is Scandinavian in every possible way), why Santa Claus is Finnish (he seriously is and we need to right this wrong in America) and why Tallinn is the perfect day-trip destination all year long. It was swell and needless to say, since I’m writing about it here, I had a lovely time. My only hope is that Simon and Martin enjoyed themselves as much as I did. I wonder, do old people find youngsters as entertaining as we find them?


Kyle Taylor

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