One of the first villages I crossed in Estonia was ULUU and I think I spent a good hour thinking about that name. Four letters – one of them repeating three times – what else do you need? Why come up with names like Kothgumprechting – way too complicated! (no offense to all Kothgumprechtingers – it was simply the first village name that came to my mind). So we Austrians can learn from the Estonians – and so we did: “Habi Tere” (let’s not discuss my chosen spelling here) – is a very typical slang greeting in Austria and obviously it has some Estonian influence – “Tere” being the normal “Hello” in Estonia. Hehe. Maybe I do have a future as a linguistique scientist…:-)
Last time I wrote I had just arrived in Pärnu – the so-called summer capital of Estonia. Plenty of restaurants, cafés, bars and live DJs and music all over the place on Saturday night. I took a day “off” and spent Sunday on the beach with half of Estonia and many tourists. It was the first time I saw a crowded beach up north, but it was still very nice. People here are quiet, they don’t yell as much as we do, they make a lot less noise – very pleasant for me.
After leaving Pärnu I made my way to the big Estonian Islands, spending my first night on Muhu right on the sea in Koguva. Koguva is a small old fishing town with well preserved houses (that are still lived in) and a museum for tourists. It’s a beautiful quiet little place. Funnily enough i saw the next Surly bike there (or rather the owner saw mine) and to make a long story short: I spent the next day riding to Kurrassare on Saaremaa in very nice company with Till and Celina. We passed by a meteorite crater and by a ruin of an old factory – maybe the only one that had every existed on Saaremaa. Kurrassare is like Pärnu another “health resort” (Kurort), quite cute. My highlight of Saaremaa were the windmills in Angla though.
For the next island on my initiary – Hiiumaa – I had different options: there was enough time to cycle around it, or enough time to spend another one or two days “off” from cycling. Riding 60km against strong head winds to the ferry made me decide to skip the idea with circeling around the whole island and rather continue to a place called Kassari or rather the “Sääre Spirt”. That’s a peninsula that leads a few kilometers into the sea, getting skinnier and skinnier until it is just a line of rocks. It was really very nice. But that was not all. Hiiumaa – the island, that is supposed to be the calmer, more nature bound one had a few more great suprises for me: on the ferry I met three German/Swiss ladies who invited me to join them the next day for a smoke Sauna. That is an absolute highlight of a trip to Estonia or Finland, since those smoke Saunas are not so easy to find anymore. It was really quite an event. The smoke Sauna has to be heated 4-5h before it is entered, about 3 m3 of wood are burned therefore. The one we got to used was private and we only had the chance to access it because one of the ladies I was with didnt get tired of asking around and made it happen. We wore funky wool Sauna hats, used birch-twigs for “massages”, were served cold cider and swam in the next-to-the-Sauna private swimming pond. It was really a very, very nice little adventure. Afterwards we all smelled like freshly smoked “Gselchtes” (=meat) and treated ourselves to a very nice dinner. And if that wasn’t enough – Hiiumaa had two more super nice surprises for me: one was the visit of a family run business that produces wool on revitalized machines from 1865. And since I love to knit I loved watching those machines. And the absolute highlight came at the very end of my 2 days on Hiiumaa: I was peacefully riding along the road, all by myself, on the way to the ferry. Suddenly – out of the nowhere – two huge, beautiful elks wanted to cross the road. Lottchen got a bit scared and I had to slam her beaks (can you say that: “slamming the breaks on a bike””??:-)). The elks were about 20 m in front of me and I think by hearing Lottchen’s squealing breaks they got a lot more frightened than Lottchen and made sure to disappear quickly. So unfortunately I did not manag to pull out my camera fast enough and catch the full beauty of them…
By the way, in the deciduous forest here (that is quite seldom) I noticed a – to me – very well-known smell (which was later confirmed by some dishes on the menu of the nice restaurant we had dinner in): wild garlic (Bärlauch)! Crazy that wild garlic grows here in July, when Austrians have long forgotten about it!
Happasalu was my first stop on the mainland and the third health resort I visited. The nicest things about the rainy day in Happsalu were having coffee in a very nice Kursaal (the nicest one according to me), the massage I treated myself to (first massage since I have left on this trip!!) and a dinner on the camping site I spent in excellent company: with Anti. Anti is Finish and has done several trips around Europe and acutally he is currently doing more or less the same thing as I am doing, just the other way around. So we agreed to meet “half way” again – somewhere in Sweden. I will keep you posted if it works out!
From Happsalu to Tallin I rode along an old railway track for 64 km and then headed up north to camp on the peninsula of Paldiski. By the way – camping in Estonia is awesome. The Estonian state forest organisation (something like the Bundesforste in Austria) has an own app (rmk.ee for those on their way to Estonia:-)) that shows you all the camp sites they provide. They are often in the middle of a forest or right on the beach, but certainly always somewhere in nature and not in an urban site. Those camping sites are for free and you will always find a bonfire place there and a (or more) table that (most often) comes with a roof, so offers shelter against the rain. On most sites there also firewood and sometimes an outhouse (Plumpsklo) can be found. Sometimes you are alone on such places, sometimes there are a few others. The sites are always big enough that everyone has enough privacy and they are very peaceful – as long as no mad women start screaming at 3.30am and goes completely nuts because some kids from a couple hundred meters away decided to help themselves to some firewood from the site we were on…
Currently I am on Victoria I – the first time I have a bed on a ferry!!! I am on my way from Tallinn to Stockholm after having spent a few relaxing and awesome days in the Estonian capital. But since this blog is (again) way to long, my Tallinn experience and all my next travel plans will have to wait for the next entry:-)
Schiff Ahoi – Lottchen from the bottom of the ship and Eva from, well, the bar (Johnny Cash is playing:-))!