TALLINN - The twin towns of Valga and Valka are separated by an international border, but on Aug. 4 they will be united in music.
Through quirks of history and geography, the towns straddle the border between Estonia and Latvia. Citizens live a strange existence, constantly crossing through checkpoints as they go about their daily business. Although they live as neighbors, the people are divided by language and culture.
"We wanted to make an event to bring all the people together so they can integrate," says Roberts Skrajans.
He's the organizer of Borderrock, a festival that attempts to bridge the divide through rock music.
The town lived as a single entity until the 1920s when the two nations declared their independence. They were forced together again under Soviet rule, but undertook a complicated divorce in the early 90s.
Music is one of the factors that draw the towns together. While many older residents keep to their side of the fence, younger citizens regularly cross the border to attend concerts at bars.
"We speak to each other in English. Maybe some people in the shops know the basic words of both languages, but we can't hold a conversation together," Skrajans says.
"This is one of only six places in the world where a town sits on a border. The street signs are in Estonian there and in Latvian here, there is no translation. The main difference is mentality. Estonians are more northern, more Scandinavian. We are more like Europeans. They are more introverted, not so active or open, a bit more quiet."
As his name suggests, Skrajans comes from the Latvian side of the border, and that's where the festival will be held. Six Estonian bands and 11 Latvian bands will perform at the Valka Open Air Theater starting from 3 p.m. on Aug. 4.
Don't forget to keep your passport in your pocket 's you'll need it more than once.
Meanwhile, back in Estonian territory, there's another small, quality event that attempts to bridge divides, this time across music styles. It's called Kapa Muusikafestival, and it takes place in the small town of Kohila, between Tallinn and Rapla. It features performances from classical and rock musicians in an atmosphere that organizers descrbe as a "whole family rock picnic."
Saturday Aug. 4 sees the start of Kapaklassika, the classical side of the event. It features traditional Estonian folk, an interesting percussion ensemble, an Australian ambient electronic artist and Brigit Oigemeel, the winner of the recent Estonian Idol television series 's and a proud resident of Kohila.
On Sunday Aug. 5 some of the best Estonian rock and blues artists come out to play at Kaparock. There's Jaaaar, Vaiko Eplik and Eliit, Brides in Bloom and a long list of other performers.
Organizer Elari Lend said the split festival happened by accident.
"One year a band couldn't come on Saturday, so we held a second event on Sunday. It created a nice atmosphere. There are not so many drunk people as there might be at other festivals. There are elderly grandparents and small infants sitting on blankets," Lend says.
Kohila is an easy drive from Tallinn, and also sits on a train line, so there are many transport options.
Valka Open Air Theater, Latvia
August 4 from 3pmwww.borderrock.lv
August 4 and 5www.kapafestival.ee