First Hand: Student Festival Equal Parts Dionysian and Apollonian
Tallinn’s Autumn Student Days are taking place in the capital from September 25-28. ERR correspondent Marina Giro participated in the opening ceremony in Old Town and took the students’ pulse.
Not to be outdone by Tartu's springtime bacchanalia, the traditional Student Days started with a festive opening ceremony on Tallinn's Town Hall Square on September 25.
Already en route to Town Hall Square, you could hear loud music bouncing all over the cobblestones and Gothic facades. Students had congregated in small groups, each representing a different university, which could be distinguished by balloons of different colors and the banners of their alma maters. Each successive phalanx was fronted by a costumed participant: a huge bee abuzz with energy, a calm white bear, a slightly rowdy duck, a huge safety pin.
Every one of these characters was a very friendly, obliging ham, waving to everyone who wanted to have his or her picture taken with the mascot. Some students were handing out paper spectacle-shaped flyers meant to be worn at a flashmob in the evening.
Soon this whole veritable Carnival procession led by the mascots was heading to modernist Freedom Square where another dose of music was waiting for everyone. The student crowd expanded to take up the whole square, where a screen and stage had been set up.
At 21:00 the traditional annual Student Days Night Song Festival (Öölaulupidu) was scheduled to start. At this point, the crowd became visibly dotted with greater numbers of middle-aged people, apparently happy to be rekindling the spirit of youth. Anticipation for the start of the Night Song Festival grew and grew, and then the moment was nigh. It started with traditional patriotic Estonian songs, with the famous (in Estonia, anyway) Estonian singer Ivo Linna and young people led by an orchestra performing famous songs like “Isamaa ilu hoieldes,” “Mis värvi on armastus,” “Saaremaa valss” and others. The crowd followed along to lyrics presented on a huge screen next to the stage. After the party, local pubs and cafes were thronged with students, and a communal party spirit enveloped the whole city center.
After the opening day ceremony, students will get a chance to relax or rage, as is their wont, in popular Old Town nightclubs and pubs where they can present cards entitling them to discounts on drinks and cover charges.
But Student Days also brings several Chautauquas’ worth of opportunities for stimulating the mind and adding to knowledge: a chess game in Wabadus cafe, presentations on traveling on both the mental and physical level, how to live without fear, a pool tournament, a cinema screening and movie night at Tallinn University Baltic Film and Media school, a pub rally, something called academic beer training, a fairytale evening for adults, a “ghosts and legends” tour in Old Town, karaoke, beer pong, student poker, ABCs of future parenthood, meetings with zoologist Aleksei Turovski; biologist, nature writer and photographer Fred Jüssi; writer and educator David Vseviov, a tantra meditation with publicist, radio journalist and editor Peeter Liiv, a board game afternoon, a self-defense workshop, Microsoft Office 365 University training, business workshops for young people.
This smorgasbord of activities will end with the closing ceremonies at Tallinn University on September 28.