Monday, August 18, 2014

The (Estonian) Hills are Alive With the Sound of Music

When Estonian Craft Camp announced that we would have a field trip day on Wednesday of camp week and told us of our options, I knew immediately that I would choose Setomaa, the Seto region which is located in the southeast corner of Estonia, very close to the Russian border (less than 5 miles/8 km) and very close to Latvia.  It is an area with unique traditions - their knitting, embroidery, and metalwork were all of interest to me.  This area even has its own language, separate from the Estonian language.  It is an area I thought would be best to explore with a guide.

We went to the Obinitsa Art Gallery/Handicraft Shop first:

Nele (our Estonian Craft Camp guide) in Obinitsa

We met Ülle Kauksi and her husband, Evar Riitsaar, at the gallery and they talked with us (through Nele, our guide and translator) about the Seto traditions and handicrafts.  We also saw Külli of Nordic Knitters again (link to my blog post about meeting Külli) with her hand-dyed yarns and beautiful mittens.  She had many mittens out on display, but still more in a suitcase:

Lunch was served family style at a local restaurant/house.  At the entrance to the restaurant, we were asked to remove our shoes, which is traditional in Estonian homes.  Lunch consisted of a cold "pickle" soup, bread made locally, ham, three different grain casseroles (oats, rice, and buckwheat?), a local cheese, and jam.  The Seto people - the original locavores! 

Entrance to Seto Seltsimaja (restaurant)

Following a tour of the Orthodox church by the choir director, Eleanora Aida, we headed outside the church to hear some traditional singing "leelotamine" by Eleanora and our Seto guide, Ülle.  This singing is usually done with a larger group of women, so they told us to imagine more voices.  Here's an Estonian stamp showing Seto women wearing traditional folk costumes including their large silver circular brooches which resemble breastplates or armour.

Imagine the women above in costume as you view the video in the link below.  This video is of an informal two-person Seto singing demonstration (I apologize for a little, occasional sound of wind with the voices).  The voices have a rather haunting nature to them.  Enjoy this 41-second clip I filmed of Ülle and Eleanora singing:

If you are interested in more information about the Seto national costumes, I found an interesting blog here with lots of detail:

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