Summer school
"Impacts and their Role in the Evolution of Life"
Saaremaa,Estonia, 25 July - 3 August 2017


Please see the Venue & Access page for details.

Please see the Venue & Access page for details.

During the conference it will be summer, although pollen seasons of different plants arrive later in Estonia than in Central Europe. If you have a pollen allergy, check with your doctor about possible medication during your trip to Estonia. Unfortunately there is no updated pollen forecast for Estonia, but you can consult the Finland pollen forecast from the University of Turku. The contamination levels for Southern Finland should be similar to the ones in Estonia. If you have any food allergies, please inform the local organisers (mentioning it on the registration form will do).

Banks are open from Monday to Friday 9.00 - 16.00 or 09:00-17:00. Most banks are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. There are several bank branches in Kuressaare, all are located on the main street (Tallinna or Lossi). There is a Nordea office at the main square (Kohtu), it opens on weekdays from 09:00 to 18:00. If you want to change cash or cash traveller cheques, it is highly preferable to do so at a bank. ATM machines are widespread in Estonia. Please note that the passenger terminal of Kuressaare Airport has neither ATMs nor currency Exchange services. The ATM machine closest to Georg Ots Hotel is at the "Kauplus" shop at Pargi 16. It is 200 m from the hotel, just walk towards the town along the sea and you will see it at the left. The ATM closest to Ruubi Kodu is at the SwedBank bank, Tallinna 16 (follow the main street towards the town).

The climate in Estonia is like the one in Scandinavia, but slightly more continental, characterised by warm summers and fairly severe winters. The weather is often breezy and humid (average humidity in July 79 %) due to the proximity of the Baltic Sea. The average overall temperature in July is 17 degrees C, the average max temperature being 21 degrees C and the minimum 14 degrees C. Precipitation in July amounts to 60 mm, with 12 wet days on the average. Bring your umbrella and a light raincoat in case of occasional showers. Please note that there will be Nordic twilight during the course (see below).

Saaremaa is a very safe place. The most common problems to hit foreigners are pickpocketing and car break-ins. If you want to report a crime, contact the local police station. In Kuressaare it is located at Transvaali 58, 93816 Kuressaare, phone 454 9705. For emergencies call 112. The non-emergency local number for the Estonian police is (+ 372) 612-3000. Although many operators speak English, at times those answering this line may have minimal English speaking skills.

Dangers and annoyances
We do not plan any extreme activities, so people should be safe if they take care under the excursions. There are, hovever some potentially dangerous animals around.

The greatest danger is exerted by ticks. Saaremaa is a risk area for tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). Vaccination against TBE is therefore rcommended, but it might be difficult to obtain such in the US. Also the Lyme-Borreliosis exists in Estonia (no vaccination available yet). To use repellents is a good idea in Estonia.

Mosquitoes can be a nuisance, especially after rainy weeks. Some diseases (e.g. tularemia) can be transmitted by them. A good repellent should be taken with at the field work.

The only venomous snake in Estonia is the common adder (Vipera berus). Care should be taken when entering rocky terrain. The adder is a protected species. If bitten, seek medical attention immediately. Bites are not frequent in Estonia and fatalities extremely rare.

Although great care will be taken by the organisers to ensure safety of participants, it cannot be fully excluded that accidents or illnesses happen. Participants will take part in all activities of the course at their own risk and the organisers do not have any liability for accidents or illnesses affecting any attendee(s) due to course activities. If participants wish not to take part in part of the activities due to safety or health reasons, this is perfectly OK. The organisers will make a reasonable effort to avoid anty disadvantage for attendess because of that.

Dress code
There is definitely no dress code at the summer course. However, at the farewell dinner you might want to dress a bit smarter.

Estonians are fond of beer, Le Coq and Saku are two of the leading brands. Also Saaremaa has his own beer, "Saaremaa Tuulik" which is now produced by LeCoq in Tartu, though. The restaurant at Kaali sells a local unfiltered microbrewery beer. There is no significant amount of grape wine grown in Estonia, but fruit wines (apple, pear) are often on restaurant's menues. A traditional sweet herb liquor is Vana Tallinn. The bread beer "Kali" also remains popular, as well as vodka (Viru Valga).

Driving in Estonia
Many rules on driving resemble those in the Nordic Countries. For example, car headlights must be lit at all times (even during the day and the Nordic twilight). Traffic drives on the right. Speed limit is 50 km/h in built-up areas and 90-120 km/h elsewhere. Drivers who have had their licence for less than two years must keep below 90 km/h. Your vehicle must carry a warning triangle, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and wheel chocks. Seat belts are compulsory in front and rear seats.

DO NOT drink even minute amount of alcohol before and during driving. The legal limit of alcohol in the blood is zero and drink-driving is punished by heavy fines and/or imprisonment.

Parking is a problem in Estonia, but Kuressaare is less crowded still. Illegally parked cars will be clamped. Heavy fines can be imposed for unlawful parking. It is recommended to park in guarded car parks. Credit cards are accepted at most petrol stations.

112 is the general emergency line throughout the European Union (similar to 911 in the U.S.) The number can be dialed from any phone, and the call is free. s

We do not plan any extreme activities during the course, but it is good to have the following equipment with you

  • sturdy walking shoes (trainers are OK, but not optimal, flip-flops and high heels definitely not)
  • a sunhat and sunglasses are a very good idea
  • rainproof gear for the field work
  • mosquito and tick repellents
  • bathing clothes and a bath towel
Geologists might want to take their own geological hammer with them (in the checked-in baggage, please). Although we plan to provide some, it might be a good to have an own if you want to search for fossils in the Panga cliffs.

Estonian cuisine shows influences from Germany (from the Hanseatic times), Sweden, Russia and other countries, although there is a distinct Estonian cuisine. Popular starters are selections of sausages, meats and potato salad. Other appetizers are rosolje (bettroot, meat and herring), räim (Baltic herring) and pirukad (pastries with different fillings). Soups (bean soup, cabbage cream soup, fish soups) are often eaten after the starter.

Pork in many forms (with sauerkraut and potatoes) is a very common main course, often with a rich gravy. Popular dessert are kama ( mixture of roasted barley, rye and oat flour served with milk or kefir), and kissel (a fruit soup).

Rye bread is served with almost every meal. It is said that some Estonians instead of wishing "bon appetit", say jätku leiba ("May the bread last").

The local patriotism of the Saaremaa inhabitants manifests itself in the existence of many food brands containing the island's name. There are Saaremaa cheeses, Saaremaa sausages etc.

Estonia is an associate member of the Schengen agreement which exempts travelers from regular personal border controls between 13 European Union (EU) countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden) and two European Economic Area (EEA) countries (Norway and Iceland). People living in Great Britain and Ireland are subject to personal border controls upon entry to the Schengen area. Border controls can, however be imposed on travellers from all states.

A list of countries whose citizens DO NOT need a visa to visit Estonia can be found here. If you need a visa, please start the paperwork AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Not only can handling times be long, but it might be difficult to find the embassy responsible for citizens of your nationality and location. In many cases, Estonian embassies do not hold consular offices and the visa applications are handled by embassies of other countries.

It can be said that Estonians are a bit of IT freaks. The Soviet Institute for Cybernetics was located in Tallinn and Skype was invented in Estonia. Free Wifi is available in even the most rural areas (although it can be congested and thus slow in cities). Also the hotel and the hostel offer wireless connections.

Laundry facilities
There are no coin-operated self service launderettes in Kuressaare, but there is a laundry at Talli 13, Linna Pesumaja (city laundry). This is 800 m from the Ruubi Kodu guesthouse. Furthermore, the hotel offers a laundry service.

Dinners and lunches are served in the dining room at Georg Ots Spa Hotel for all participants, if not specified otherwise in the schedule. With lunches soft drinks are free, with dinners soft drinks and Estonian beer. For people having chosen hotell accommodation, breakfasts are served at the prospective hotels. For people living at Ruubi Kodu we will fill up the fridge with some groceries.

Medical Services
In case of emergency, call 112 (general emergency). The medical service is quite good (better than its reputation with many Estonians). Pharmacies (Aaptek) are widespread in Estonia. There are 3 in central Kuressaare, Kuressaare Perearstikeskuse Apteek (Tallinna 23), Kuressaare Apteek (Turu 2) an Ülikooli Apteek (Raekoja 3).

Estonia has the Euro since 2011. Notes of the old Estonian "kroon" currency are no longer accepted as payment. Cash machines (ATMs) are never hard to find in Estonia. Please note that the passenger terminal of Kuressaare Airport has neither ATMs nor Currency Exchange services. The ATM machine closest to Georg Ots Hotel is at the "Kauplus" shop at Pargi 16. It is 200 m from the hotel, just walk towards the town along the sea and you will see it at the left. The ATM closest to Ruubi Kodu is at the SwedBank bank, Tallinna 16 (follow the main street towards the town).

Nordic Twilight
During the course it will not get dark in Estonia. Although the hotel and the hostel have curtains, some people might find it hard to sleep. So some sleeping cover for the eyes could be a good thing to bring. On the other hand, the Nordic Twilight makes romantic night walks in the city and in the Kuressaare Castle Park possible.

Post office
Post offices are generally open during normal shopping hours: from 09.00 to 18.00 hours on weekdays, and 09.00 - 16.00 on Saturdays. The Kuressaare Post Office is at Torni 1.

Public transport in Saaremaa
There is a good public transport in Saaremaa, but to more remote places services operate sporadically. Information about timetables and sale of tickets is found here. At this website also information about long-distance services inside Estonia are available. Also in Kuressaare itself there is a city transport, but, due to the short distances there normally is no need for attendes to use it.

Public holidays
There are no official public holidays during the course.

Registration will be at the lobby of Georg Ots Spa Hotel on 24 July 2017 and from 08:00 to 09:00 on 25 July 2017. If you go to Ruubi Kodu directly, we will make sure that somebody is there to welcome you. Later arriving lecturers can get their material in the lecture room during coffee breaks.

Kuressaare is a small, but very nice town. Most sights are also at close walking distance of the conference venue. This includes the castle with the museum, the Town Hall, the Resort club. Information about these sights can be found here. Also Saaremaa offers a whole lot. For details check the website of the island. For information about the capital of Estonia check the official website of Tallinn Tourism.

Shops generally open 09:00 - 18:00 (Mon to Sat). Some department stores and shops in tourist areas stay open later. Some are also open on Sundays. Most popular souvenirs are:

  • Estonian liquor (Vana Tallinn, Valga Viru).
  • Pickled food, honey, mead candles and bee wax products.
  • Handicraft items such as hand-knitted woolen sweaters with traditional Estonian folk patterns, carved wooden beer mugs, juniper coasters and carved limestone product.
  • Original art such as graphic prints, handmade jewellery, colourful glassware or fine ceramics.
  • CDs of Estonian composers of international acclaim (Tormis, Pärt, Tubin, Tüür).
  • Dark, bittersweet Estonian chocolate and other local sweets produced by the Kalev confectionery.
  • Hand-painted marzipan.

A lot of shops sell amber (especially in Tallinn). However, most of the raw material is imported from other countries bordering the Baltic Sea, since not a lot of this stone is found in Estonia.

Taxis are safe and cheating tourists is not very common. A ride from the airport to Kuressaare Centre should not cost you more than EUR 10,- . However, it is wise to remember the following points:

Prices are not uniform, taxi operators can set their own rates. Take a close look at the yellow price list, which is posted on the right side rear door. Here you will find rates for the base fare (usually 2 EUR-5 EUR),the waiting charge (usually 6,40-19,20 EUR/hr), and the pre-kilometre charges (both usually 0,50 EUR-1 EUR/km). Anything much more than these is considered high. Make sure that taxi driver holds an operator's card - a white plastic card with the driver's photo and name, attached to the middle of the dashboard.

When setting off, the taxi's meter should be turned on. It is illegal for driver to smoke or to allow others to smoke in the taxi. The driver is not allowed to ask for more than what is on the meter. The driver must be paid in Euros. Ask the taxi driver for the receipt from the meter's printer. If the meter or printer is out of order, the driver should not be in service and you have the right to refuse to pay the fare.

For calls to Estonia: Dial +372 (the country code for Estonia), then the area code and the subscriber's number. If you want to male a call from Estonia, dial 00 + the country code + area code + the subscriber's number.

For local calls: Pay phones accept phone cards. If you wish to make a call within Estonia, first dial the area code and the number. Phone cards may be purchased from hotel reception desks, tourist information offices, post offices, newsstands and some shops. Telephone cards are also convenient for longer and/or more expensive phone calls (e.g. calls abroad) or if you are going to be making phone calls over a longer time period and do not want to have to worry about having coins handy at all times.

The GSM network works on frequencies of 900 MHz and 1800 MHz (dependent on the carrier). If you are taking your mobile phone with you, make sure that it is able to work on these.

Eastern European daylight saving time (GMT + 3) will be in force during the meeting. There an one hour time shift between Germany, France and Estonia and a 2 hour time shift between London and Estonia. If it is 1 o'clock in London and 2 o'clock in Frankfurt it is 3 o'clock in Tallinn.

Tipping is less common in Estonia than in the rest of Europe. In restaurants, service is included in the bill, but if you get a good service in a restaurant where the bill is sent to the table you can tip 5-10 %. In case of bad service it is OK to give nothing.

A triangle pointing down signifies the gentlemen's room (sometimes also marked with "M or Meeste"), while the triangle pointing up is the ladies' room ( sometimes marked with "N or Naiste").

Please see the Venue & Access page for details.

The electricity supply in Estonia is 220 volts AC, 50 Hz. European-style 2-pin plugs are in use. European plugs work in most sockets, but a few Soviet-era buildings still require the thinner-pinned Russian version.

Weights and measures
Estonia uses the metric system.

All the information given above is to the best of our knowledge. However, we cannot accept any liability for inadvertently false or incomplete information on this site.