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suve ja sygise nurk

On Sept. 23, the day of the autumnal equinox or sügisene pööri/päev at 11.21 Eastern European Summer Time, the place to be was on the corner of Suve and Sügise Streets in Tallinn, or literally on the spot where summer and fall meet.


Like virtually all place names in Estonian, these street names too, are in the possessive or genitive case. Summer is suvi, possessive suve and fall is sügis, poss. sügise, or the street belonging to sügis.

Most people living in the 100+ year-old wooden apartment houses in the vicinity of this corner can see the Estonian flag being raised and lowered on the Pikk Hermann tower, or can at least hear the accompanying music, since the Kelmi/küla neighborhood lies just to the east or beneath the tower.


Kelmiküla means the village (küla) of kelmid plural, singular kelm. A KELM is a crook, swindler, rascal, petty thief and this area of town was where the crooks, thrown out of the upper or lower vana/linn (old town) resettled once upon a time.


Kelmikas is an adjective meaning sly, but also in a playful, mischievous way. Remember the campfire song lyrics "Loen su silmist kelmikat juttu, naeratus vallutand huuled..."? A court can charge you with mischief = kelmus. S/he was charged with one count of mischief – Teda süüdistati kelmuses.

Another spot local people cast out elsewhere found shelter centuries ago was the adjacent Pelgu/linna neighborhood.


Pelgu/paik is a place where you can hide and find shelter from harm, so Pelgu/linn translates to the city of shelter.


Pelg is both fear and the place where you can escape from it (pao/paik, pagu); pelgama is to be scared and shy away from something.


You fear, so you flee: pelglikud põgenikud pagevad pelgu/paika – fearful refugees flee to places of refuge – another current topic in Europe on the corner of summer and fall 2015.


May Estonians keep the warm SUVI in their hearts and not be too PELGLIKUD in opening them up to people in crisis.


Photo and text:
Riina Kindlam, Tallinn


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