My Estonia 2: Land of the late night party

main square in Tartu, Estonia
Main square in Tartu, Estonia. All the cafes had outside tables and chairs set up for summer. It's a nice, relaxing vibe. People try to absorb as much sun as they can while it lasts. There was also a free film festival on in the main square for the week that went most of the night on some days. They had different genre films, old and new, from all over the world  (no Australian though) and even played the old 70's soft porn flick 'Emmanuel'. Didn't see it although it's probably very soft compared to what's on tv these days.

close up of flowers in botanical gardens Estonia
The flowers in the Tartu Botanical Gardens were all in bloom. Gorgeous colours I think.

Me waiting for the taxi to go to the airport in Tallinn. Talking of airports Tallinn is a really good airport. Comfortable, reasonably aesthetic and you can get wifi free. It makes a difference if you're sitting around for hours.

This was the second time I went to Estonia initially to go to Hiie's mother's 70th birthday (gee those estonians can sing and dance all night!) but then we thought we'd extend it. We ended up traversing the country thanks to the reliable old buses. From Tallinn to Tartu to Tallinn again to Haapsalu to Tallinn again. But you don't see the best of the landscape from the bus, as its pretty flat so it isn't hugely interesting. You really need a car so that you can experience the bogs, pine forests and desolate beaches in Estonia's national parks intimately. An amazing event I'd love to see is the migration of millions of birds passing through Estonia in spring and autumn. You really have to go to very specific places off the beaten track a bit to view them, so a car's in order. On the bus trip to Haapsalu we saw a couple of storks but that was about it, so we managed to catch up on some reading which was great.

Talking of reading, in Tartu there are so many great bookshops many of which stock some fantastic english language literature of which I bought a couple. I was really surprised but Hiie had told me how great the bookshops were so I shouldn't have been. It gives an indication of the intellectual nature of this tiny town.

close up of cathedral church ruins Tartu Estonia
This cathedral church ruin in Tartu dates from the 13th century and was dedicated to the apostles St. Peter and Paul. Sometimes I think the atmosphere in a ruin catches the spirit of Christianity more than a church full of priceless paintings and sculptures. It's like the spirit is not imprisoned in a church it's part of the world? I haven't seen virtually any ruins yet but I must say I loved the ruined cathedral here and the fortress ruins in Haapsalu. You felt the history through the bricks.

 exterior of Justice department building in tartu estonia
This Justice Department building in Tartu is part of a whole area of buildings to the north of the city square, that includes the cathedral, most of which have been restored. There's still a lot of buildings in Tartu a little the worse for wear but the city is trying to restore them gradually.The global financial crisis hit Estonia hard. Many street lights are turned off at night to save money. There's a really positive, energetic vibe in Estonia overall though in spite of it.

outside tennis court in Tartu Estonia
Tennis anyone? Kaia Kanepi is currently Estonia's most famous current tennis player.

We stayed at hotels in Estonia which was eye opening as they were so much better than the one we stayed at in London and a lot cheaper too. You get fantastic continental breakfasts unlike in London where they were hard pressed to give you a coffee. The service and general standards were excellent all over Estonia.
The same with restaurants. We went to one gorgeous restaurant in Haapsalu which had a kind of 19th century ambience but with a relaxed beachside atmosphere. Estonian food's hearty and meaty and if you don't like meat you might be hard pushed to find a vegetarian restaurant.
Eduard Vilde was another fantastic restaurant decorated with paintings of Estonian artists, writers, and poets as well as Irish ones including Oscar Wilde. Supposedly there's some kind of connection between the two.

farm buildings in Estonia surrounded by paddock
Photo taken from the bus on the way to Haapsalu. The landscape's really flat with occasional farms and birch forests punctuating it. It takes about an hour and a half from Tallinn main bus station.

sunny day with calm sea and Estonian small town in distance
The beautiful little 12th century town of Haapsalu in West Estonia. The name is from Estonian haab 'aspen' and salu 'grove.' It has been well-known for centuries for its warm seawater, curative mud and peaceful atmosphere. You can get all three when you go swimming which I did finally because Haapsalu beach actually has sand which enticed me into the water. Your feet squish in the mud and seaweed as you walk through the water.

main street in small town in Estonia
Haapsalu is the most quaint seaside town. Narrow streets with early 20th century wooden houses mostly lead to the sea though this one isn't so narrow as it's the main drag. There is a modern area of town but I'm never inspired much to take photos of modern buildings etc. They're mostly so ugly in my opinion so I'm probably giving a bit of a distorted impression on my blog sometimes. I certainly do with the photos of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, which is a modern metropolis that looks like any other modern metropolis except for Old Town which I was interested in.

close up of Haapsalu castle in Estonia
Haapsalu Castle (13th century) You know all those painters and watercolourists from the 18th century who thought that ruins were the height of beauty? Now I understand what they mean. The picturesque sublime they called it in art theory. When there is a full moon in the month of August, it is said that an image of a maiden, the White Lady, appears on the inner wall of the chapel.

close up of the wall of Haapsalu castle Estonia
Part of the wall of the castle.

sunset over the water at Haapsalu Estonia
Sunset at Haapsalu.

close up of exterior of traditional estonian house
Most of the houses and buildings are made of wood. One of them was the Evald Okase Muuseum that we visitied to see what the the local artists were like. Intense and slightly tortured here. The whole museum was made of spruce and had a very strong smell of burning which kind of interfered with your viewing pleasure I thought. Another gallery we went to was the magical Epp Maria Gallery whose works are a kind of combination of new age and early renaissance. Beautiful colour. You can sit in the gallery and have tea and cakes and read art magazines. It was just beautiful and relaxing. Well worth going to. Heaps of artists seem to have their summer studios in Haapsalu and I can see why.

cloudy day at beach in Haapsulu Estonia
Orange changing boxes brilliantly contrast with the colour of the sea.

beachgoers ignoring the rainbow over the Haapsalu beach Estonia
At Haapsalu main swimming beach the sky put on a dramatic show for us.

sky reflections on the waterways in Haapsalu Estonia
The landscape is the perfect environment for water birds. Rich in protective reeds.

green steam train in Haapsalu Estonia
Haapsalu train station has been turned into a train museum. It's a shame the train line from Tallinn has been closed.

I really think they need to update the buses and bus infrastructure here. It is reliable though so that's something. It's more reliable than public transport in Melbourne that's for sure. If you want to go anywhere in Estonia, coming from the airport, you have to go to Tallinn's Central bus station at Lastekodu 46, which is pretty awful and depressing. It needs a serious modernisation. The one cafe at Tallin's bus station is ok though and has free wi-fi which is handy to organise your itinerary. Next time I'm taking the trains to see what they're like.

view of the church spire in the medieval town of Tallinn Estonia
The medieval Old Town, Tallinn, Estonia. There's an edge in Tallinn. Walking around at night you've got to have your wits about you. I would'nt recommend walking around by yourself if you're a woman.

cobblestone street in old town Tallinn Estonia
Old Town, Tallinn. We were only in Estonia for a week and I wanted to see Tallinn as well so we left Haapsalu on the evening of their famous August blues festival in the Castle and caught the bus to Tallinn which I was slightly disappointed by but you have to make choices when travelling. We went to Old Town that night and ate at this american restaurant called 'Texas'. Tacos and all that. Good food and they were playing blues music all night so I still got my dose of the blues. It's a good place to go and cheaper than many of the other restaurants in the area.

looking upwards at the Art Museum of Estonia in Tallinn
Art museum of Estonia (Kumu Art Museum) in Tallinn. This building was designed by Finnish architect Pekka Vapaavuori and opened in 2006. It won the Museum of the Year award in 2008 from the European Museum Forum. The exhibitions I saw here were fantastic overviews of Estonian art including during the traumatic Soviet period. Just brilliant though I found some of them hard to look at they were so tragic. Estonian art is quite underrated I think. There are many fantastic artists. One modernist painter whom I love is Konrad Mägi who combines a symbolist/post impressionist/fauvist/expressionist aesthetic. That's a mouthful. Couldn't find a book on him in the bookshop though- there were only about 20 books in the whole shop! He's on Wikipedia though.

fauvist painting of beach in Estonia by Konrad Magi
Konrad Mägi's 'Rannamaastik landscape' The paintings are better in real life. The colour is more sensitive.

exterior of Kadriorg baroque palace surrounded by trees in Estonia
Kadriorg baroque palace now an art museum.

rotunda on island in public lake in Tallinn Estonia
Public gardens in front of the Kumu art museum. This park was laid out by Peter the Great for his mistress.

moving blue tram in Tallinn Estonia
I was surprised to see trams in Tallinn which reminded me of being in Melbourne.

Take a look at: My Estonia: Land of the singing revolution 
How tiny Estonia stepped out of USSR's shadow to become an internet titan.

My Estonia travel guide
Welcome to Tartu website
Tartu University Bookshop, Ulikooli 11, Tartu
Eduard Vilde Restaurant Vallikraavi 4, Tartu
Aleksandri Hotel, Aleksandri 42, Tartu
Central Restaurant Ja Ollekelder, Karja 21, Haapsalu
Epp Maria Gallery, Kalda 2, Haapsalu


  1. Really lovely ... thanks for sharing your adventures with us!

  2. Thanks I'm glad you enjoyed it.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts