I was in Tallinn for 48 hours only with a fluent Estonian speaker. Delight soon replaced my initial disorientation and amusement (Estonian to a Finnish speaker is a bit like Czech for a Polish speaker or Dutch for a German speaker – you shouldn’t laugh, but sometimes it sounds funny, as there are so many false friends and odd differences).
Much of the delight was not only linguistic but culinary. Aed (‘the garden’ was not only delicious, it had some delicious hyperbole on the front of the menu in pretty good English (tiny quibbles more than overridden by the quality of the food to come). The original and translation of the title page are below, so you can drop words like ‘sybaritic’ into your next Estonian conversation:
The obligatory discussion about and research into dessert revealed that in this context õunakook was in fact apple crumble, as it says in the paper English restaurant menu, not apple cake as it is in the Estonian, crumble cake (Streuselkuchen) as I had predicted, or apple pie as it says in the online menu.
My new word of the day from this restaurant was harilik nurmenukk (Primula veris), or, literally translated from Estonian, common meadow doll. English speakers would know it as cowslip: this is neither a cow’s petticoat nor because cows slip on it, but according to Mrs Grieve’s Herbal, a corruption of the earlier name ‘cow’s leek’. The tea I drank from it is a good sedative or antispasmodic.
Most importantly, the food all tastes divine.
If you’re in Tallinn, go there!