Today I want to talk about money. Don’t worry, not in a tacky way, like talking about how much money I make or something. I want to talk about Estonia’s money, the kroon, which as of January 1 will no longer be in use. On the first day of 2011 Estonia is joining the euro zone, also known as the European Monetary Union, and after a 2-week period in which both kroons and euros will be accepted, these beautiful bills will be gone forever.
Photo credit Tairo Lutter / Virumaa Teataja
This is sort of an odd thing to get sentimental about. If you had told me a few years ago that I would practically be in tears over what my country’s cash looks like, I would’ve thought that sounds incredibly strange. But that’s how it is right now, because seriously, I love Estonia’s money. I know that joining the euro zone is important to Estonia for economic reasons, and I also obviously know that there’s no turning back now– this transition is happening regardless of how anybody feels. Estonians are bidding farewell to the monetary unit they’ve used for nearly 20 years.
Let’s face it, American bills are relatively boring– all the same size, all the same color, all graced with images of male politicians. Estonian bills, however, are varied, colorful, and display an interesting selection of notable people. The faces on the bills include those of poets, scientists, and even a chess player, and they also include images of birds, trees, and a fortress with threatening clouds looming overhead. Of all the bills, my favorite is this one:
That woman is Lydia Koidula, a poet and cultural figure during the cultural awakening of Estonia in the late 1800’s. Isn’t she beautiful? A young woman, thick hair cascading down her shoulders, who wrote plays and poems and helped Estonian culture become what it is today. I love not just the fact that there’s a woman on the printed money here, but the fact that it’s this particular woman. She’s not a queen, no royal bloodlines, no crown. She was an artist (and to make the whole thing even more romantic, the back of the bill features an excerpt from one of her poems in her handwriting. It’s so lovely!). How many other nations have a woman like that on their currency?
I wasn’t here when Estonia regained its independence in 1991 and re-adopted the kroon after years and years of using Soviet rubles (and I’m sure that for the people who were here this transition must be even more poignant). But I am somebody who has grown up living and breathing Estonian culture and, as an adult, chose to come here and immerse myself in this world I heard about throughout my childhood but saw for the first time only after I’d hit my teen years. To me these bills are a part of a culture that I love, and a few years ago they also became a part of everyday life. Strange as it may sound, it’s heartbreaking to see them go.