Thursday 27th July 2017 – Otepaa vald, Estonia (Puhajarve Manor)
Took photos of “the red rock” on the lakefront at Kalleste – a local tourist attraction and the cemetery. Like in Poland, the Estonian cemeteries are adorned with flowers and lanterns and exquisite headstones and the setting in this one was lakefront amongst beautiful trees and gardens – really peaceful and beautiful. Many of the unit blocks throughout the town were in bad repair and most of the people here only speak Russian.
We travelled to Alatskivi to find a few places on the tourist map. We passed by many roadside caravans selling local produce particularly onions. The Lake Peipus region is renowned for its famous onions and they even have a road called “Onion Road” where you can buy all sorts of onions by the bag full if you want. Many also sell smoked fish – gave that a miss big time – think we are both over fish for a while.
Nearby, in a little village called Nina we found some really interesting old buildings going back centuries and amongst these a fabulous and secluded waterfront resort. The cemetery here was one of the prettiest and most colourful we have seen. Ziggy certainly created some interest here, as I am sure most people here would not have seen a motorhome particularly with GB plates. We were quite relieved to see Ziggy still there waiting for us on our return.
Friday 28th July 2017 Tartu Estonia
Next on to Tartu, Estonia’s second largest city. We parked at the top end of town and soon found the KGB Cells Museum. It is housed in the infamous “Grey House” which was the regional KGB headquarters in the 1940’s and 50’s. Apart from the lock-ups themselves, the museum has extensive exhibits on deportations, life in the gulags and Estonian resistance movements.
Next a 15 minute walk downtown to Old Town. If you have not already guessed, we are really interested and intrigued by these magic places and hunt them out in each city. The focal point here is the Town Hall Square. This is the marketplace and a cultural gathering point of Tartu and features the Kissing Students fountain. Again an abundance of churches, museums, open air restaurants and pubs and central seating set amongst colourful flower beds. The narrow streets also have strings of fairy lights everywhere which in the evening and in winter would be a fairyland.
It began to rain (we have had fabulous weather in Estonia so far) so we made a dash up the hill and then to find a camp for the night.
We had planned to stay longer in Tartu but there is only one registered camp stop here in the Port of Tartu area but it did not take long for us to decide not to stay and move on.
We found an unbelievable camp site in a place called Otepaa, south west of Tartu. They have 10 dedicated motorhome spots and six of these with electricity. Only one other motorhome here. Set in the grounds of a health and spa resort with an indoor pool, gymnasium, sauna, tennis courts and even a ten pin bowling centre with four lanes. The manicured lawns and trees stretch as far as you can see with bike trails heading in every direction around a small lake. Wow- double wow- and we can use any of the facilities, have a massage, visit the doctor all for a pittance.
It was late when we arrived, so we checked out the resort ready for use tomorrow and settled in for the night – it is almost dark at night now.
Only 3 motorhomes here overnight but at 9am the car park was filling quickly with families heading for the beach (pebbles only) but beautiful grassy areas next to the pebbles were quickly snapped up.
Off came the bikes and off we ventured to explore. My power pack always comes with me but my driver opts to go manpower only. I chuckled when we hit the first really big hill as I turned on the power assist and watched my best friend struggle up. Last view as I got to the top was his truly walking his bike up (he nearly made it to the top). Credit where credit is due to his truly – I cheated. We continued on for some time and then headed back for lunch and a well deserved break.
Enjoyed the afternoon on the beautiful green lawns and people watched until late afternoon. Fully refreshed, set off again on our bikes – both of us with our power packs. The bike tracks went on forever and so did we. First time we have had the opportunity for a long time to travel so far on our bikes – was fantastic.
Had dinner (and sweets) at the Resorts Cafe and listened to some live music (couldn’t understand a word) but the beat was great.
Saturday 29th July – Cesis, Latvia
Good news – BIG WIN!!! – over six weeks ago, the day we arrived in Norway in a beautiful little town called Son, we parked in a “free for 24 hour parking zone” and on return from a long walk found an infringement notice flapping on our wipers to the tune of $AUD100. We wrote to the local council and complained. We also lodged a complaint with the parking company Europark. There was no logical reason for the ticket so stuck to our guns on this one. We received an official notice from Europark advising that the ticket was cancelled but gave no reason.
Left our resort spa reluctantly. Such a beautiful place, free and included electricity at no cost. Hard to believe but these places do exist.
We had just finished our last drop of rum the night before and needed to find a shop to restock. We were out in the country and did not expect to get to a reasonably large town for some time. We passed by a sign to an Alko 1000 which was just a little out of our way so headed towards the small town to find it. Don’t you just love the name Alko – very appropriate!! The shop was mega huge and cars and buses were lined up everywhere. Like a small city in the middle of nowhere.
We parked Ziggy in the bus zone (there was no room in the car park) and fought our way through the crowds to get through the front door – could not believe what we saw. People had trolleys stacked and overflowing with beer and spirits- some people had two trolleys. Couldn’t believe what we were seeing so asked a shop assistant why this shop was so busy. Unbeknown to us, we had crossed the border into Latvia and these were Estonians stocking up across the border at much cheaper prices.
Our last bottle of Captain Morgans cost us around €24 for a 700ml bottle. Here it was €14 for a litre(that’s around $20). We bought 3!!! Beer was also €0.70 per 500ml which is around $1.00 a bottle. Not much difference in the cost of wine though. Evidently Latvia is heaps cheaper than Estonia and Lithuania but not as cheap as Poland.
The small town of Cesis is in the centre of Gauja National Park and is just delightful. We parked in the middle of town only 500 metres from their Old Town and Cesis Castle. Couldn’t believe the number of tourists at the Castle, in this small town in the middle of nowhere – several buses had just arrived and the queues to see the castle was a mile long. Stunning grounds of manicured lawns, picturesque gardens and fountains formed a magic backdrop to the castle.
Old Town is only very small and many of the buildings were in the early stages of restoration – scaffolding hiding some of the beautiful features of the old buildings. The Old Town Main Street was totally ripped up, no doubt to lay cobblestones at some stage soon to add more appeal to the streetscape. Quaint shops lined this street, no doubt unhappy right now, but once completed, this street will be the focal point of Old Town.
We stopped at a pizza restaurant just on the corner of Main Street. We have found most staff in touristy places speak English. The waitress arrived and spoke to us in a language I couldn’t understand. I asked her if she spoke English and she smiled and said “I am speaking English”. We both laughed and ordered a 45cm pizza and a couple of beers. The pizza arrived and it was humungous – we couldn’t possibly get through it. A Doggy bag and an hour later, we headed back. So pleased that the darkness of night has returned – have really missed it,