Eesti (Estonia) 2005

From Jenny's diary

Sept 5:  Arrived on the ferry from Sweden.  Rode into Tallin and found the tourist office for info on where to stay and eat.  Had breakfast at the Peppersack restaurant – very nice setting,  good service, delicious food, well presented, and cheap.  What more could you want!  I had a cooked breakfast and Pete had pancakes.

In the afternoon we did a guided tour of the city first by bus and then on foot.  Then a visit to the Olde Hansa restaurant for light refreshments.  Olde Hansa is an amazing and authentic medieval-style restaurant lit only by candles.  The staff are all dressed in medieval garb, and the food is something similar to that which would have been served in medieval times.

It would be worth going to this restaurant even just to look at the menu.  We liked it so much we returned there for dinner after having checked emails and attempting to get our laptop fixed.

[Before dinner we had a drink at the Peppersack (you can tell which places we liked, can't you?). While we were there an argument broke out between two guys over a lady, which led to fists flying and culminated in swords being drawn (and crossed!)]

Decided that it was best to stay in the city so as to maximise our time to see it.  The youth hostel was full but we found a very nice hostel in a central location called the Old House hostel.

Sept 6:  Back to Peppersack for breakfast (pancakes with berry sauce for about 1 euro) and then a wander around the city.  Tried an African restaurant for lunch and then wandered around Tallinn some more.  We really loved the ambiance and architecture of Tallinn... the old city is quite small but very interesting.  We had dinner at a beer hall which was mediocre but we did meet a couple of interesting Italian businessmen who were sitting at the same table.  Just as we were leaving the restaurant, fireworks erupted right over our heads.  We enjoyed watching the display but never found out what it was in aid of.  Stayed a second night at the Old House hostel.

Sept 7:  Our old favourite Peppersack for breakfast again... for me scrambled eggs with ham.  Spent the morning doing odd-jobs... Post office, internet, and I bought two lovely paintings of Tallinn, one for us to keep and the other as a gift for Rick and Erika.  Visited the city museum in the afternoon – quite interesting with lots of information about the history of the city and particularly the long history of occupation over the years  alternately by Russia and Germany.

Packed up the bikes and to save money we found a campground just north of Tallinn under a huge TV tower.  Very rundown and rustic... rusty taps and rusty water.   There was also lots of air in the watertaps so the water came out very noisily and in fits and starts.  The campground was also the den of a local motorcycle group who were there when we arrived but they virtually ignored us.  We tried to make conversation but their English was very limited and they didn’t seem too interested in trying.  Perhaps they were too cool for us as most of them had chopper-style bikes.  They were virtually the only other motorcyclists we saw in the whole of the Baltics.  We went off to a fish restaurant for dinner which had been recommended to us by the Italian businessmen, but it was somewhat of a let-down after the restaurants in the city.  The building and decor were interesting though... built like an upturned boat and with fishing nets and paraphernalia inside.

Sept 8:  Packed up camp and had a quick look at Tallinn Palace from the outside.  Then a quick stop at the Post Office again before heading West again in the direction of Haapsalu.  Lunch stop in Paldiski. Somewhere on the way we found an interesting ruined monastery in a scenic spot near a river.

On to Haapsalu just in time to see a nice sunset.  This was also a very interesting town.  We went to Pikseke campground which had been recommended to us and it was very nice, but we were viciously attacked by a squadron of mosquitos while trying to put up our tent. 

Sept 9:  Visited Haapsalu castle ruins and cathedral.  Climbed up into the watchtower / belltower for a good view over the town.

We then caught the ferry to Hiiumaa island – a 90 minute trip.  Rode to Kärdla and found a campsite at Hausma hostel.  Set up the tent and again we were nearly eaten alive by mosquitos.   My head felt like a pin cushion.  Dinner at a restaurant in Kärdla – good service and good food nicely presented for about 18 euros including a glass a delicious red wine: Grafigna Shiraz 2003 from Argentina.

Sept 10:  Woke up late the next morning and packed up at a leisurely pace.  We then rode around the island anticlockwise direction. 

 Unfortunately, Jenny's diary ends here, so I will try to tell the rest of the story as I remember it.

In the afternoon we took the ferry from Hiiumaa to Saaremaa. This island was once home to a very large number of these windmills, 800 if I remember correctly:

Most of them are gone now, as they were made almost entirely of wood. These four just sit on the side of the road. The large, Dutch type is open for viewing and contains a gift shop, of course. This one, however, is NOT one of them:

When we followed a sign to a "Camping" we arrived on a farm. When we indicated that we wanted to camp the elderly lady pointed us to this "building". It is in fact a hut, built like a windmill. In the end we chose the other hut in the shape of a watchtower, as it had all the amenities like seats and fireplace right in front of it and was in the midst of the trees and bushes, out of the wind. We slept in the small room at the bottom. I don't think I would have fitted into the smaller one in the middle. In the top was a lookout.

The whole place was just gorgeous, the way it was laid out and with all the flowers. That way it didn't matter that there was no electricity and no running water. (We had showers in the owners' home.)

11 Sept. - We crossed the island to visit the main city, Kuressaare. There is a very impressive Episcopal Castle there, recently restored (with EU funds).

 We could wander around most of the building and found it very interesting.

On the way back to the camp site we visited an old church and an even older meteor crater. Got back in the dark.

12 Sept. - Time to leave the camp and the island. On the way to the ferry stopped at another two old churches.

At a lunch stop we discovered an excavation site, an old fort or castle. Like so many other sites there was nobody there and we could just wander in. There were even working lights.

Back to the mainland on board a ferry that had obviously been bought second-hand of the British. Next stop Pärnu. The next day we continued our journey towards Latvia. In this land as flat as a pancake anything resembling a hill or valley is something to be seen, so we stopped off at what I think is the only real river valley. Of course, it is a nature reserve. It sports a colourful cliff, into which generations of visitors have left their marks, elaborately chiselled into the rock.

The border town was like so many in Eesti: full of old wooden buildings needing renovation.