Today my husband sang Happy Brenda Day to me. I always enjoy a reason to celebrate and I recently learned of Name Day so now it’s part of our calendar!! How will I spend the day?
Our bus left Tallinn en route to Riga and traced the steps of The Baltic Way. The Baltic Way was a peaceful political demonstration which took place on August 23, 1989 when approximately two million people joined their hands forming a 400-mile long human chain through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to protest the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed 50 years earlier between the Soviets and Germans. That pact had divided the European countries between the two aggressor powers at the beginning of WWII. These three Baltic states demanded public acknowledgement of the Pact’s secret protocols.
This unique demonstration organized through radio broadcasts has been tagged by UNESCO as a Memory of the World. I had not heard of this category but it strives to save and preserve historic events and documents.
The Baltics are part of the European Union. There is no border control among the Baltic nations. The only border control is on the east border with Russia … for obvious reasons.
The Estonian government is trying to eliminate cash payments to workers so they can be sure to collect taxes. It sounds like the government monitors money flows more closely than we do in the US. The average monthly income is about $2,000. There is a base twenty percent for personal income tax. It can be up to 32 percent. If one earns more, they pay more.
Additional taxes on dividends , excess housing, and other allow Estonia to provide free education and health care to the people that live here. About 20 percent of a paycheck is used for housing.
A woman is given 100% of her monthly salary one month before the child is born and until the child is two years old. The father must take a minimum of 3 months to care for the child and will receive his monthly income as well.
Typical families have one to two children. Because the population is declining, the government gives you perks for more children. At age three, the child can go to kindergarten. Public kindergarten is free.
Parents sign their baby up for kindergarten several weeks before the birth. They might get in. If not, they will have to pay for private kindergarten.
School starts at age 7. Students attend school up to age 16 or 9th grade. At that point, they either go to high school or a trade school. In the past, many married right out of high school as they were encouraged to do so. Today, they wait until their twenties.
We are experiencing thunderstorms. Our guide says that Estonia is crying because we are leaving.
There are 1.8 million people in Latvia. One third of them live in Riga. Latvia is a flat country with lots of waterways. People enjoy taking boat trips for recreation.
One can spot a Soviet apartment building because they all resemble one another and have five stories. The Soviets decided that people could walk up that far so they wouldn’t need to install elevators.
Turaida Museum Reserve
Secret Soviet Bunker in Ligatne, Latvia
The bunker is massive at 18,000 square feet and is the largest built by the Soviets. The secret bunker was nicknamed the “Nursing Home.” It was built in the 1970’s and cost four billion in today’s dollars.
There is a picture or sculpture of Lenin in every room. Even children learn to recognize him very early.
Our guide said that the Latvian mentality leftover from Soviet times is different than how we think at home: In America: If it isn’t specifically forbidden, it is allowed. In Latvia: If it isn’t specifically allowed, it’s forbidden.