Images and experiences of regional identity: landscapes, heritage and tourism in
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Ester Võsu , University of Tartu Helen Sooväli-Sepping, Tallinn University PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Images and experiences of regional identity: landscapes, heritage and tourism in Võrumaa (South-East Estonia). Ester Võsu , University of Tartu Helen Sooväli-Sepping, Tallinn University Maarja Kaaristo , University of Tartu. Research questions.

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Ester Võsu , University of Tartu Helen Sooväli-Sepping, Tallinn University

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Images and experiences of regional identity: landscapes, heritage and tourism inVõrumaa (South-East Estonia)

Ester Võsu, University of Tartu

Helen Sooväli-Sepping, Tallinn University

Maarja Kaaristo, University of Tartu

Research questions

  • What is considered heritage and how is it related to the perception of the regional identity?

    • Imagery of the region constructed from the outside

    • Perceptions of regional identities by tourism farm owners

Empirical data and methodology

Ethnographic fieldwork in tourism farms of Rõuge and Haanja

municipalities in Võru County: July, September 2008; July 2009


  • Sepa Farm (Rõuge)

  • Tindoru Tourism Farm (Rõuge)

  • Eha Tourism Farm (Rõuge)

  • Mäe Tourism Farm (Rõuge)

  • Kiidi Tourism Farm (Rõuge)

  • Haanjamehe Tourism Farm (Haanja)

  • Vaskna Tourism Farm (Haanja)

  • Hurda Tourism Farm (Haanja)

  • Suhka Tourism Farm (Haanja)

Empirical data and methodology

  • about 2/3 of all accommodation establishments in Estonia are located in rural areas

  • ca 320rural enterprises providing B&B in Estonia (a considerable amount of them are tourism farms); 70 of them located in Võru County

  • 7 tourism farms in Rõuge Municipality

  • 8 tourism farms in Haanja Municipality

  • two main seasons in Rõuge and Haanja – summer and winter.

  • about 80% of the tourists visiting rural tourism enterprises in Võru County are domestic tourists.

Empirical data and methodology

  • Booklets on Võru County, Haanja and Rõuge municipalities

  • Discourse analysis

  • South Estonia Brand Book

Key concepts

  • Farm tourism (tourism farms, tourism farmers)

  • Heritage and landscape

  • Regional identity

  • Staging and performing regional identity/heritage

Imagery of Rõuge and Haanja

“One of Estonia’s most pictureresque settings, the tiny village of Rõuge lies among gently rolling hills, with seven small lakes strung out along the ancient valley floor. /…/ Rõuge is a good base for exploring the countryside, enjoying fresh strawberries in summer and going for swims in the pristine Suurjärv, in the middle of the village.” /…/

(Lonely Planet Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania 2006)

EHE – genuine: lived, protected, Estonia

Imagery of Rõuge and Haanja

Performing heritage in tourism farms

  • Experience of rural silence

  • Guided hike in the forest

  • Animals in the farmstead

  • Taking a sauna

Performing heritage in tourism farms: silence in Suhka Farm, Haanja

Actually, nowadays there’s such a distance between you and your self, so that people are frightened; they are afraid of themselves. They get nervous; something is not right. So you have to calm them, maybe with soothing herbal tea. And so people want some kind of noise. [...] Quite often they wake up in the middle of the night. This happens mostly in the winter, not in the summer. And then they realise it’s the complete silence. [...] And also in the forest, it’s a place where you can meet yourself… This frightens people. What can you do…?

(Merike, Suhka Farm, Haanja)

Performing heritage in tourism farms: hike in the forest, Haanja

One thing that we offer here are day-hikes. They consist of different activities,such as a horseback ride, walking, or a canoe trip. But quite often people are rather lazy, so they’re not very interested in walking, so we have to adjust these activities. We have to offer different things and be willing to change and modify them according to the wishes of the guests.

(Vello, Eha Farm, Rõuge)

A hike in the forest of the Piusa primeval valley in Haanja.

Performing heritage in tourism farms: encounters with animals in the farmstead

We had seven cows and pigs but then the dairy farming went down and we kept some just as a hobby. Now we have a cow, three sheep, a goat and a pig. And we also have dogs.

(Luule, Mäe talu, Rõuge)

At first they [the ostriches] were just a hobby. But then the people got curious and started to bother us: show them to us too [--] The fact that I have ostriches from the South and reindeer from the North living peacefully together here… it’s very attractive to people.

(Alar, Tindioru Farm, Rõuge)

Performing heritage in tourism farms: saunas in Rõuge and Haanja

An old granary transformed into a smoke sauna (Sepa Farm, Rõuge)

A “barrel” sauna in Vaskna Farm, Haanja

It’s about the peace. [---] Every Friday, the same way [naked] I come out from the steam room, I go for a swim in the pond and afterwards I sit on the terrace of the sauna and tell to myself, that this is exactly the kind of Estonia I always wanted. (M, 38)


  • Heritage is clearly expressed in the imagery of the region, whereas it is not articulated by the farmers. Tourism farmers don’t draw sharp distinction between heritage related and current practices in their everyday life. 

  • Tourism farmers’ perception of regional identity is derived from their own farms (and activities performed there) and the landscapes surrounding their farms.

  • The overall basis for the farm tourism experience is the rural environment, landscapes surrounding the farmstead and the farmstead itself as part of the landscape; natural and cultural components cannot be separated in case of tourism farms.

Thank you!

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