Finally, we arrive in the third country of our journey through the Baltic States – Estonia. Several times I have been here at intervals of several years and I was always thrilled.
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At dusk we come to the former manor house
Vihula Manor Country Club & Spa in Estland
I already know the hotel from a previous visit to Estonia and am thrilled again. That’s how I imagine an old manor should look.
The main building houses the restaurant and the reception, as well as other public spaces. The rooms are located in the various other buildings that connect to the main building and are grouped around the small park with the ancient trees. A small lake is also part of the site.
Unfortunately, we only have the one night here and can hardly enjoy the property with its spa, the small vintage car museum, the vodka distillery and what other activities there are.
But what we really enjoy is the very good food in the evening and in the morning!
Since the hotel is located in the
Lahemaa National Park in Estonia
we also want to visit it. Translated into English, it is called “Land of Bays”, because it is located directly on the Baltic Sea. Very early in the morning, long before breakfast time, a ranger picks us up. We drive a short distance with our bus to Altja, an old fishing village with quaint wooden houses. Here we enter the awakening forest. The air is so clear and the sky so blue as I have rarely seen. However, it is freezing cold, barely above zero degrees Celsius.
The ranger explains the different tree species, lets us hear the bird songs and shows us in a book who sings so melodically. The sun blinks through the trees and casts golden reflections of light on the moss.
Suddenly we are standing at the coast, on the beach with its powder-soft white sand. Hardly a breeze stirs the water and the surface of the Baltic Sea hardly moves. Large stones lie in the shallow shore area, as if a giant had played bocce.
We see many animal tracks in the sand, waterfowls fly up, it smells wonderfully of salt. I would like to stay, but firstly it is even colder here and secondly the ranger is already a good deal further, he wants to deliver us on time for breakfast.
You´ll find the whole walk here on Kommot.
Palmse is certainly one of the most famous former estates in Estonia. I´ve been here already on a previous visit. Today, the small museum housed in the main building is empty. Only our group is here. It’s not yet a peak travel season and Corona has brought a lot to a standstill here as well.
In the museum, the rooms are furnished in the style of the 18th century. With many pictures and also a music room, where among other things there stands an orchestrion. Unfortunately, we can’t hear it at the moment, but I made a video back then, which I like to include here.
The other buildings are partially closed, but since an ice-cold wind sweeps, we no longer want to look at the forge, but rather continue.
While we drive a bit further through Estonia, the wind settles and as we arrive at
Moor Viru Raba in Laheema National Park
it is wonderfully windless. The parking lot is quite full, quite unusual here in the national park. You can find the whole hike here on Komoot.
The beginning of the moor path is well signposted, equipped with multilingual information boards and in very good shape. On wooden planks we walk through the moorland and along ponds. It’s really very moist here and no one wants to step aside. In the middle of the walk we arrive at a lookout tower. From above, the landscape can be seen even better. The trees and clouds are reflected in the almost black moor water of the ponds around us.
Too bad this hike is already over, but we have to continue to
Tallinn, capital of Estonia
In the afternoon we reach the capital of Estonia. The city now has got about half a million inhabitants. Translated, this means “Danish city”, because for many years the Danes ruled the city.
I have been here several times before. The first time more than 20 years ago, at that time it was a city in a state of upheaval, with countless construction sites and sometimes still bad roads. That has all changed. The city is modern, and we drive for quite a while on wide streets through the suburbs before we arrive in the old core of the city.
The Hotel L ́Embitu
Will be our accommodation for the last two days. It is located on the outer edge of the old town, about 10 minutes’ walk away.
It is very modern, the rooms large and even though it is located in the city, it is quiet. Especially worth mentioning is the restaurant on the top floor, with a great view over the city. The breakfast buffet leaves absolutely nothing to be desired.
When I hear Estonia somewhere, I inevitably immediately think of the old town of Tallinn. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The new Tallin
By bus we drive through the new districts. Particularly noteworthy here is the huge singers’ stadium, for the choir competitions taking place here. Singing is a popular sport in Estonia!
Otherwise, the city here looks like many other major cities in the world. Many high-rise buildings, modern buildings, lots of glass.
Brief history of Tallinn
It has been around 900 years since Tallinn was first mentioned. The Germans called the city Reval. The Danes ruled here for a long time, but also the Germans, who brought the Hanseatic League with them and ensured prosperity, the Swedes have been rulers, the Soviets occupied the country. Now Estonia is independend since August 20th 1991.
The old town is still almost completely surrounded by the approximately 4 km long city wall, which is up to 16 meters high, formerly surmounted by 40 guard towers, of which about 20 are still standing today. The city wall is between 2 and 4 meters thick and has lost none of its imposing appearance. In some cases, climbing is possible.
In the summer months, when the big cruise ships dock here, the city center is incredibly crowded, and thousands of people push their way through the sometimes narrow cobblestone streets (put on comfortable shoes!) and along the city walls. Today it is almost empty, there are hardly any groups on the way.
If you already know some Hanseatic cities, you can see the influence that the Hanseatic League has had on architecture. My hometown Lüneburg, also a Hanseatic city, has similar houses, with pointed gables, stepped gables and snail gables, only they are even more magnificent here. If the many fashionably dressed people were not here, I would imagine myself in the Middle Ages.
We spend the morning with a humorous city guide, who speaks perfectly German, as lots of people do in Estonia. In a humorous way and with anecdotes, he explains us the history of Tallinn and Estonia. The whole tour can be found on Komoot here.
We start the tour at the “Kiek in de Kök” cannon tower (which means “look into the kitchen”), walk up through the commander’s garden and have a look at the castle from the outside. We go inside the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church. We enjoy the view over Tallinn from the viewing platform, stroll downhill and marvel at the beautiful (guild) houses and again the local magnificent House of the Blackheads, where the unmarried German merchants were at home.
We end the tour at the market square with the imposing town hall.
On your own in the old town
We have a good 2-hour lunch break. What to do? The bakery Saiakangi kohvik in the narrow alley between Pikk and market square with its delicious displays is our first stage destination. And yes, really recommended. The cake is delicious and the coffee too. To warm up and enjoy!
Only some meters further in the direction of Pikk stands the old
“Holy Spirit Church”
with the oldest tower clock in Tallinn, which is dated from the 17th century, and it still shows the time today. Be sure to visit, the low entrance fee is worth it! The Evangelical Lutheran Church was built in the 14th century.
Years ago I was allowed to attend a Christmas organ concert here. Incredibly impressive and even today I am surprised again with organ music. Not only “spiritual” music is played, but the organist also delights the few visitors with quite modern sounds.
The interior is filled with magnificent carvings and old images of saints and colorful church windows that shine today, in the glorious sunshine. Via a very narrow and low spiral staircase I go to the side galleries and have a wonderful overview of the decorated cabinet by Berndt Notke from the 15th century and the rows of seats below me. The carved pulpit from 1597 is also magnificent.
Through the alleys of Tallinn
We let ourselves drift, stroll slowly through the alleys, stand for a while in front of the cordoned-off Russian Embassy with its protest posters against the Russian attack on Ukraine. Not only do we read them carefully, but many others also stop and read or look at the photos.
We also always stop in front of particularly beautiful houses and their facades. It is not difficult to see that Tallinn in Estonia is one of the best-preserved old cities in Europe.
Then it’s time to go on an alternative city tour with a “real” Revaler from the Middle Ages. With
Tales of Reval
Let’s stroll through the old town again. We are shown medieval life, anecdotes are told. At the Deer-Monument, we reenact the scene together and learn so much interesting facts and sometimes also “bawdy things” from the bygone times. The whole thing in almost perfect German presented by our medieval “clerk”.
Finally, we are invited to the cellar of the ancient pharmacy on the market square. Here we can taste a noble drop. For medical reasons, of course!
At the end of our trip through the Baltic States, the last one Estonia, we take part at a medieval dinner in the
Packhaus / Olde Hanse Restaurant
We sit on wooden benches. A good host maid serves us drinks in jugs according to medieval custom and places the food in large bowls on the table. In addition, we hear from two other Maiden medieval songs, played on old instruments. Everything in candlelight and quite dusty, as the old house has only small windows. Despide that, it´s gorgeous and fun!
Downstairs, medieval things are sold in a small shop. Nice souvenirs for old and young.
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