I have only been once in Saareamaa and despite the possibilities I never visited it again. Alan coming for the Singing and Dance Festival we took the chance to travel again to this unique island in the middle of summer!
Tallinn being in the North looking toward Helsinki and Saaremaa on the South, we could see a lot of the countryside while driving from up to down. We even got lost and see more than we wanted.
Alan rented a nice car and before departure we looked at country maps to find places of interest. Near Tallinn is a village with a old fashion lighthouse. Muraste locality wasn’t easy to find for us. We firstly end-up in Suurupi driving in the forest and going to a wild beach that seems to have been used by Soviet guards. Indeed no lighthouse there. We got into the car and find Muraste and walk on a beach again. We walk and walk for very long without seeing anything. When we started becoming annoyed Alan saw a tall house in the forest. Not sure what it was we walk closer, crossing some houses. Finally we were at Muraste Majakas!
We found the lost waterfall
Alan and me have a special souvenir with Keila-Joa waterfalls. Back in Erasmus we organized a long trip around this small country with a van. The trip was supposed to end with the visit of the gorgeous place – but we never found it.
This time I knew where was the waterfalls, Heikki having shown me how to get there It was summer and water didn’t flow as it was in spring. I was still happy of the tour and Alan of being able to see it finally.
Cities of south west Estonia
Midway to Saareamaa we visited the Padise abbey ruins. The abbey was found by monks kicked-out from Lativa around 1310. As for most Estonian ruins the abbey is maintained in its statement and is totally free to visit. We stayed for about a hour. Climbing the tower for a view on forest and also visiting the underground caves.
Largest city before Kuressaare, Haapsalu is my favorite resort place in Estonia. I prefer it to Pärnu that I consider less charming. Haapsalu has a old castle in ruins that regularly hosts events and even concerts. In the main building is a history museum focus on the medieval time of Estonia, it was interesting and big enough. A lot to see considering the country history.
After a drink on the main square we walked on the resort promenade and took car to see the Railway Museum with its impressive roof platform and Royal pavillon. The platform is the longest covered in the world, built for the Russian Tsar of its time. Haapsalu being back then a very famous sea resort for Empire’s nobility.
Saareama the largest Estonian island
Driving in the afternoon we arrived in Kuressaare for the evening. We booked a room in a guest house very close to the centre. We had shower and went out for dinner in a restaurant. Using internet we found La Perla which is a very good place to eat that was almost on the town hall square. Kuressaare being small, nothing is very far from that point.
After dinner we have explore the castle area, going on fortifications and in the yard and then spent the evening walking around and drinking beers at the beach. No mosquitoes but air was fresh.
Last known meteor crater in Kaali
The morning after started our exploration of Saaremaa. Both of us have visited it almost three years ago at the end of the Erasmus semester. Alan with his friends and me with an ESN trip. We didn’t have hand on the way and do not remember what cities were visited. We then prepared a round trip and mark on a map all place to go and underline some larger town without know what to see there, considering that if it is large it has something to see.
We began with Kaali crater. A huge crater in the village of Kaali. Actually its has also several smaller ones in the surrounding. Its origine has be proven not so long ago when a scientist has analysed the mineral present in the crater. For common people it could just be a pound in a old and tiny sleeping volcano.
So much to the South that I can see Lativa
Leading to the most southern part of the island we had a break at Tuhemardi to see a Soviet memorial at the sea. It has a tall column and many prismatic grave.
We continue to Sääre, at the very south of Saaremaa where is a light house and some kind of village. Old bunker is still present and broken also. The funny thing with that place is that I was able to get Latvian phone network instead of Estonian… and I could see the northern coastline of Latvia. I would not swain to there but with a small boat it seems possible.
A classic to see in Saaremaa are the impressive cliff of Panga. It obligated us to cross all the island so we agreed to stop for lunch in the biggesst city we could find on the way. This city was Kihelkonna. At first it didn’t talk to us much. We went to a very small grocery shop to find sandwich and started to walk around, searching for a good place to eat. In this village, we found the Saint Michael church. Most famous church of Saaremaa that we have seen years ago. The main characteristic is the presence of a slender tower. A relic of old church design when the bell tower wasn’t yet integrated to the main edifice.
We went to visit the Kihelkonna church and met a charming old lady. She didn’t speak a word of English but talk a lot with us. At first we couldn’t figure what she wanted, entrance fees? As it was common to speak German back in her time she try to communicate with us in this language. Alan knows some German as well but situation was funny since nobody could actually understand each other!
After some minutes she started to draw on a paper and we understood that she proposed to climb the tall tower! She gave us the keys and said that we had to be fast: we shouldn’t be in the bell room when it will ring! It let us almost 10 minutes to go and come back. Up there we were able to open the windows and see landscape around.
After this nice meeting drove again until Panga andits high cliffs. I had vertigo watching at the high… there is no protection or fence so it is recommended to not go to close to the edge….
The symbol of Saaremaa is this typical windmill that we can find example in Angla that were maintained. There are several typical Estonian mill plus a guest from Netherland. Technological choices are different, the Estonian ones being simpler.
This little open-air museum is interesting for the whole family. There are many windmills to visit and animals to see. Some place where to sit and have snack and even a large stone house museum telling story of the region.
Finally we left Saaremaa after visiting Maasi and its stronghold. The building isn’t interesting but the surroundings are. A lot a lot of birds and vegetation!
When we left Saaremaa we went to see Koguva, very old fashion village on Muhu island. This village remained untouch and looks at it was centureis ago. I was really surprised because I had never heard of it before! I have the feeling I have been there but cannot confirm it. Maybe yes, maybe no.
I enjoyed walking in its streets, Alan less. We drove back to Tallinn faster than we came to not be too late in the capital.
The day after we continue our exploration of the Estonian countryside and even went again to Haapsalu!