A Travellerspoint blog

Estonia

Day 157 to Day 176

sunny 25 °C

During our time in Estonia, Rein’s parents and sister arrived to travel with us around Estonia. We had traveled together in 2009 but only around Tallinn. This time we were to hire a car and see more of the countryside.

Tallinn
We did however spend the first week in Tallinn, catching up with extended family and checking out things we missed last time. This included a visit to the Occupation Museum. It was smaller than the one in Vilnius, and the building was its own unique design. It was very informative, with 25min videos covering 6 time periods of occupied Estonia from 1939 to 1992. We also visited the Bastion tunnels and the “Kiek in de Kök” tower. This translates from old Germanic as “Peek in the Kitchen” which is what the guards could do from the height of the Tower. The tunnels underneath stretch all around old town, with only 150 meters currently accessible to the public.

Family @Vanalinn Bastion Tunnels

Family @Vanalinn Bastion Tunnels

Kuresaare, Saaremaa
Arriving in Kuresaare, the capital of the island of Saaremaa we discovered a beautiful small town. Our accommodation was prefect, just a stone’s throw from the center of town and the castle. We spent the first night having dinner on top of the old town windmill. Then on our first full day we made the trek (an hour’s drive!) down the Sõrve peninsula, the far south west coast of Saaremaa and the namesake of the Estonian Children's Summer Camp in Australia! The coast along that part of Estonia is quite isolated; we only came across a few cars and houses along the way. When we arrived at the Lighthouse, there were more people there than we expected. The peninsula was rocky and along with the Lighthouse had a Military museum and a few old Bunkers.

Rein throwing a rock @Sõrve Lighthouse

Rein throwing a rock @Sõrve Lighthouse

We had planned to visit the impressive castle of Kuresaare on our second day; however, Rein became sick and we missed out. Rein’s mum, dad, and sister still went and said it was fantastic, just means we have to go back one day and see it for ourselves. As we were leaving Saaremaa we did visit the Kaali crater, a group of 9 meteorite craters in the town of Kaali. They are over 4,000 years old and the largest one now contains a lake.

Kaali Crater Lake

Kaali Crater Lake

Pärnu
Rein was still quite sick in Pärnu so we rested up on our first day in town and then ventured out on the second day. We visited their beach, which is the most popular in Estonia. It was a nice beach but nothing like we have in Australia. No wonder people get into trouble in our waters at home as the water at beaches in northern Europe is so calm, very shallow and no rips. We also checked out Pärnu’s old town, although it wasn't much of an old town as the original town had long been destroyed and re-built in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Henry @Pärnu Beach

Henry @Pärnu Beach

Viljandi
On our way from Pärnu to Tartu we visited Viljandi, where Rein’s grandmother once lived before Estonia was under the Soviet Union. Viljandi has a very impressive castle and monastery ruins that date back to 1224 when Estonia was under the Teutonic Order. They sit beside the beautiful lake Viljandi. During the Swedish and Polish wars in the 17th century the castle and monastery were extensively damaged and have remained pretty much in the same condition since then. More recently they have begun restorations works.

Viljandi Castle Wall Ruins

Viljandi Castle Wall Ruins

Tartu
Tartu, in South East Estonia is the countries University town. Tartu University was established in 1632, making it one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. The town also has some great parks and streets to walk around. On one of these streets there is the leaning building in which when it was built the smart builders put one half of the building’s foundations on the old town wall rock and the other on wood. What happened over the course of time was that the wood begun to rot and sink thus creating the leaning building!
Another interesting building in Tartu is the ‘highest pub’. Initially we took this literally and thought they were claiming they were the highest pub geographically in the world (which surely wouldn't be the case!); however, they meant they had the highest ceiling at 10-11 meters (supported by a Guinness World Record). The pub is built in an old ammunition's store built into one of the bastions around the town.

Püssirohu Kelder

Püssirohu Kelder

On our last afternoon in Tartu we ventured 100m down the road from our accommodation to the A Le Coq Beer Museum. A Le Coq was founded by Albert Le Coq (a Spanish guy) in London using the brewery in Tartu. In 1997 it was bought out by a Finnish company and produces many different drinks including long drinks and soft drink but is most known for it’s A Le Coq Premium Beer. We didn't really know what to expect from the tour as they started off telling us the museum was closed for renovations but then decided to take us on a tour as quite a few people had turned up expecting to get in. We went through the production part of the brewery, including a scary walk on top of the vats outside, just a lazy 35m off the ground with barley any railing stopping you from falling!! It was then into the museum to learn some of the history including an A Le Coq beer bottle found in a sunken ship that was 150 years old, with beer still inside! After learning a lot about production and history it was then time to taste the beer! (memory becomes hazy)

Mum & Megan @A. Le Coq Brewery

Mum & Megan @A. Le Coq Brewery

150 year old beer found in a shipwreck

150 year old beer found in a shipwreck

Rakvere
After a reasonably long drive by Estonian standards (we took the long way to visit the Peipsi lake that separates Estonia from Russia) we arrived in Rakvere where Rein’s grandfather was born. Rakvere also had a very impressive castle that we visited on our first full day in Rakvere. The castle, built around the start of the 14th century (although other strongholds had existed on the same land for a long time before this) was one of the most interactive themed castles we've visited. There were many courtyards, underground cellars, tunnels and walls you could get lost in.

Lake Peipsi

Lake Peipsi

Rakvere Castle

Rakvere Castle

On our second day in Rakvere we drove to Lahemaa National Park on the Estonian north coast. We first made a stop at the popular beach spot (again nothing like Australia!) and then drove to one of the three manor houses in the area you can visit. We decided to go into Sagadi Manor which has a history that dates back more than 500 years. It had many beautiful rooms and immaculate English style gardens, not quite what you expect in country Estonia. There was also a Nature museum and Forest museum which were also very informative, however by this stage we were very tired and a little museum ed out.

Mum & Dad @Sagadi Manor

Mum & Dad @Sagadi Manor

Then it was back to Tallinn for our final dinner and parting ways. It was a very enjoyable time traveling and catching up with our family. Would do it a third time.

Dad & I sharing a Sausage Platter

Dad & I sharing a Sausage Platter

Posted by reinandleah 08:15 Archived in Estonia Comments (2)

Episode 10

The Baltic States

sunny 22 °C

Spent a long night finishing this one, being informed that today we are on the move and our next place has no Wi-Fi.
Fun Fact: This episodes voice over is recorded at 2AM in the bathroom.

Next up is travelling with my family around Estonia

Posted by reinandleah 22:00 Archived in Lithuania Comments (0)

Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania

Day 134 to 154

sunny 22 °C

After a busy few days in Helsinki, Finland we boarded the two hour ferry to Tallinn, Estonia. Both of us agreed upon arriving in Tallinn that it felt like a second home and that having been to Tallinn before we knew our way around immediately. Having been to Tallinn before we didn’t immediately head out and do all the touristy things, we mainly wandered around the Old Town and reacquainted ourselves with Tallinn. We noticed a few things had changed since we were last here four years ago; there were a lot more tourists, there was even a Hop-on Hop-off bus making its way around the city. Since last being in Tallinn, Estonia has adopted the Euro and from a tourist point of view prices in some restaurants had definitely increased; however, as Rein’s cousin (who lives in Tallinn) told us the local’s wages haven’t necessarily increased with these price increases. Rein’s cousin, plays the piano accordion in a jazz band and we were lucky enough to see his band, Abraham’s Café, play in Tallinn. We also were lucky enough to have arrived in Tallinn when the Old Town Days festival was in full swing. This festival celebrates the history of Tallinn in the medieval times. As part of these celebrations was a May Count Tournament, which is where the best sons of Tallinn make their way to the countryside to test their weapon handling skills to make sure Tallinn’s defence system remains strong. At the end of the tournament the best ‘Count’ is chosen and as his reward he gets to choose his favourite Countess!

Tallinn from the Baltic Sea

Tallinn from the Baltic Sea

Abraham’s Café

Abraham’s Café

Jesters @May Count Tournament

Jesters @May Count Tournament

Knight @May Count Tournament

Knight @May Count Tournament

After a long overnight bus ride (and almost hitting a moose along the way!!) from Tallinn to Vilnius we arrived in Lithuania. It was a bit of a shaky start as we were very tired and had a hard time finding our hostel but once we checked in and got some food and sleep we were as good as new. After acquainting ourselves with Vilnius we headed over to the KGB Museum (one of many in the Baltic states). We spent three quite eye opening and depressing hours at the museum, there was so much information to comprehend in regards to the occupation of Lithuania by both German and Soviet forces. If learning about some of the horrible circumstances of those times wasn’t enough the basement of the building was the old KGB prison where you could see firsthand what conditions political prisoners faced, including an execution chamber. On a much lighter note like lots of other countries in this area of the world Lithuania is very flat, with not many hills, let alone mountains. However, in the middle of Vilnius there is a small hill on top of which the old town castle is positioned. This viewpoint offered amazing views over Vilnius and the surrounding areas. We also visited Užupis, an independent state within the city of Vilnius. If anyone has heard of Christina in Denmark then you know roughly what we’re talking about (although the people of Užupis don’t sell marijuana). On one of the walls in Užupis there is their constitution in about 25 languages. One of our favourites from the constitution was that ‘A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of need’ and ‘Everyone has the right to make mistakes’ and many other great examples.

Vilnius Old Town

Vilnius Old Town

Užupis Constitution

Užupis Constitution

After Vilnius it was onto the capital of Latvia, Riga. The old town of Riga reminded us very much of Tallinn as it was relatively intact, compared to Vilnius’s old town which has mostly been destroyed over the years. We went on one of the free walking tours that Riga offers and went to the lesser known parts of town. One of these stops was in the food markets which are the biggest undercover food markets in northern Europe. These buildings were built and before they put on a regular roof they recommissioned four Zeppelin hanger roofs from another town near Riga as the roofs for the markets. This creates what feels like a massive space for the markets. There is a hall for meat, vegetables, dairy, and fish. On the walking tour we also visited the Academy of Sciences building, nicknamed “Stalin’s Birthday Cake’. Originally this building was built (during Stalin’s time) as a gift from other Soviet countries to the people of Latvia and was supposed to have a statue of Stalin on top; however, Stalin died halfway through the building process so this addition was abandoned. Today it functions as a regular office building.

Riga Markets

Riga Markets

Leah & Rein @Riga

Leah & Rein @Riga

We are now back in Tallinn, Estonia awaiting the arrival of Rein's parents and sister who will travel with us around the Estonian countryside.

Posted by reinandleah 02:50 Archived in Latvia Comments (0)

Episode 9

Scandinavia

sunny 22 °C

In this episode we travel from Denmark, through Sweden, then onto Finland.

Now we are off to the Baltic States.

Posted by reinandleah 09:17 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Episode 8

Eurovision

sunny 22 °C

Our time at the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö Sweden.

Posted by reinandleah 08:06 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

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