Summer in Estonia is like an abusive relationship
“Summer this year was amazing,” everyone said when I arrived in Estonia on August 24, 2018. “It’s such a shame you missed it.”
Not only was summer amazing, though – September was pretty good, too, with plenty of sunny days in the low to mid twenties, perfect for wandering around Telliskivi, strolling through Kadriorg or walking to work.
Then came October – the leaves changed colour and began raining down, laying a carpet of red and yellow on the ground. I remember walking to work one morning under a bower or branches shedding their leaves and wondering, “How did I get to be so lucky?”
November was a bit meh – grey and rainy, reminiscent of Melbourne winters but 5-10 degrees lower (for any readers in North America – all degrees in this blog are Celsius).
Then came December, and with December came snow! And fairy lights! And the Christmas market! Which would last until late March (with the exception of the Christmas market).
Since then, I’ve been aching for summer – for sunny days and warm nights, for long brunches and leisurely dinners enjoyed at Rotterman, Telliskivi and in the old town, for watching the world go by.
What have I gotten? Snow in April and May (admittedly, there wasn’t much in May – maybe 30 minutes one morning – but it still counts). In June and July, 18 degrees and rain. Some days I look at my weather app and see that Melbourne in winter is experiencing the same weather as Tallinn in summer.
The thing is, it isn’t constant rain. In the first week of June we had 4-5 days of sun and topped 30 degrees. Jaanipäev (midsummers – the longest day in the year, which we celebrate with a long weekend and festivals) was in the mid-20s.
And every time, I begin to trust again. I begin to hope. I think: This time will be different. This time it’s real – summer is finally here!
Until three days later and it’s suddenly grey and rainy again.
When summer is here, it’s amazing. The problem is that it’s so fleeting that I’ve stopped enjoying it. And I’m not alone – every time there’s a sunny day, everyone I know is holding their breath, waiting for it to vanish once more.
Now if you’re from Melbourne, or familiar with Melbourne weather, you might say: “But that’s no different to back home. In Melbourne, we’ve had rainy, 16 degree days in the middle of summer – on Christmas, even!”
Yes, this is true. However, there’s one crucial difference: In Melbourne, I know the sun will return. Having grown up through a drought, I see rain in Melbourne (while inconvenient from a hair styling perspective) as a good thing. Summer rain in Melbourne is life saving – it means our water reserves are getting topped up and our gardens will survive the season.
But I always know it’s going to turn around – that there will be plenty of warm, sunny days to come.
In Estonia, this is not the case. In Estonia, I arrived at the end of last summer – the bulk of my experience here has been in autumn and winter (spring doesn’t count – it was largely a continuation of winter). I’ve been conditioned to think of this as a place of rain, snow and darkness.
All of these things are fine. Fun even – both Drew and I loved our first winter, and think that snow is the best thing ever.
But I was really looking forward to summer – for a respite, so I could truly enjoy autumn and winter when they returned. Unfortunately, three to four days of summer at a time isn’t enough of a respite.
My hope – my fragile, tenuous hope – hadn’t been fully beaten down, though. I believed a time would come – perhaps two good weeks in a row! – when I could believe in summer once more. Until this morning.
After a beautiful weekend, today was 18 degrees and raining. I hopped on the bus, and stared out the window for the journey. And what did I see?
The trees – whose branches have been so full and heavy with green leaves – have already started to change. Green leaves are already developing crimson tips, and yellow ones are already fluttering to the ground.
My hope has officially been crushed. As of July 22nd, summer in Estonia is over. Now my only course of action is to go into hibernation until December, as winter (and snow!) will be more reliable.