By João Lopes Marques (Eesti keeles)
Few people know my big passion for toponymy, this etimological study of place-names. And when I explain my Iberian friends the word “Tallinn” comes from “Danish town”, they get surprised. Amazed. I even guess some of them had the secret fantasy “Tallinn” wasn’t more than an adulterated form of “Stalin”.
Usually I go back to the Battle of Valdemar. Historical romantic ideas always work out. Especially such a powerful image like this: isn’t it lovely to imagine a red flag with a white cross descending from the Baltic skies? What a mighty picture!
Actually, this warlike episode explains a lot. Flags are not only holy in Estonia, they are also mushrooming. There is no public holyday without them (unlike Portugal, here they are compulsory in the buildings). Hotels, bars and restaurants like to display proudly a colourful one. Foreigners can buy different shapes of tricolors in any of the multiplying souvenir shops of Tallinn.
“But isn’t this a global trend?”, reminded me Triin. Well… Yes, it is. Being a strong patriotic symbol, with a wide range of interpretations, flags have also become a trendy decorative object. Indeed, flags are today for Semiotics what the 140-character- Twitter-messages are for literature and journalism. Short and concrete.
However, seems to me that in Tallinn the flag spirit is slightly more sophisticated. Interesting. In fact, Medievalandia should be appointed by Unesco “The flag capital of the world”, boasting its own museum and universal exhibition. Why? The Dannebrog is the oldest flag in use in the whole world; according to the legend, it was born here the 15th June 1219.
More importantly: it was sent directly by God himself.
Tallinn European Capital of Culture is the perfect timing to share it with the rest of the world. But bear in mind the celebrations will start in 15 months: the Baltic lobby crusade in the Parisian Unesco headquarters should start right now.
Moreover, a Bulgarian lady (Irina Bokova) has just been elected director of the organization. Who knows if the “New European” solidarity can work out once again? Estonians don’t even have to promise they will back Sofia the day the city bids for “World’s Yoghurt Capital”.
Yes, flags are much more understood (and respected) in the Eastern hemisphere of our beloved Continent. Perhaps because these nations are still recovering from the hammer-and-sickle-trauma.
By the way, Portugal can help in this Baltic cause. More than a coincidence, in the Portuguese History there is a similar chronicle on a “descending phenomenon”. It happened in 1139 during the Battle of Ourique and Jesus Christ whispered our first king (Afonso Henriques) the proper flag Portugal should adopt.
Needless to say, the Lord also helped Afonso Henriques’ small army to kick out the Almoravid Moors from Iberia. Some believe Portugal’s independence de facto, as well as the Portuguese coat-of-arms, were born the day of such blessed triumph.
Hereby the corollary: Afonso Henriques’ hometown, Guimarães, also the first capital of Portugal, will succeed Tallinn as the European Capital of Culture. In my wildest dreams, I can already imagine the Estonian tricolor flag descending from the skies of Northern Portugal the 1st January 2012.
The antipodes of Europe — this great and long diagonal — united by a flag. Romantic. The only difference is that this time it would be much more than a miracle.