Archive for the ‘Estonia’ Category

Avoiding a bad road

22 August 2018

Rapla to Purtsi

As we approach Latvia we’ve been worrying about the coast road between Parnu and Riga. Although part of a Eurovelo route, cyclists have described it as heavily trafficked, narrow, lacking a sealed shoulder and offering no respite or alternatives.

In Rapla, we considered our options and this morning caught a very schmick Estonian railcar to Viljandi. From their, two easy days will get us to Valga in Latvia and then a train to Riga. With time running out we can choose which bits we ride on bikes and which on trains.

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Rapla Church

The weather is cool and sunny and everything looks fresh after yesterday’s rain. We enjoyed a fine breakfast at the Jõe Guesthouse with the other cyclists and then caught the train to Viljandi.

Viljandi street art

We struggled to find the centre of Viljandi but as we did so we learnt that it is quite a big town. A bakery with a golden pretzel sign filled us with hope but was a disappointment. A cafe in a shopping centre had a better range of pastries but we’d already stocked up. We’re looking forward to being back in Germany with it’s countless bakeries.

We sheltered from a heavy rain storm at a bus shelter in Mustla.

Mustla

In front of the bus stop is a diminutive statue of the town’s famous son, Martin Klein. Martin represented the Russian Empire at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912. He won what should have been his penultimate bout in that contest after an 11 hour grapple with the reining work champion but was left too exhausted to wrestle for the gold medal the next day. He took silver and became the first Estonian Olympic medal winner albeit for Russia.

Martin Klein statue, Mustla

A glorious tail wind helped us spin our wheels in fine fashion through pleasant rolling farmlands to a guest house near a lake at miniscule Purtsi.

Purtsi, Estonia

Rainy ride to Rapla

21 August 2018

What we didn’t know until late this morning is that 20 August is Day of Restoration of Independence, celebrating the dramatic events of 1991. Tallinn was quiet but the shopping centres were open. We began to suspect something when we saw many houses with wet Estonian flags flying limply as it was drizzling with rain.

At Freedom Square in Tallinn there was an outdoor exhibition of photos from turbulent times in the 20th century when the Baltic states were under Soviet and then German occupation.

We had just seen a large number of Estonian soldiers chanting as they marched along the footpath near the city centre – not sure where they were going.

On the edge of Tallinn, heading south, we came across a sign commemorating the Baltic Way, when people from the three Baltic countries formed a human chain on 23 August 1989 to express solidarity against their loss of independence in 1939.

After this we slogged it out with continuous rain and drizzle through forests, farms and unremarkable towns.

The last 15km along the main road inspired us to investigate the train as there was a station was nearby, but a 50 minute wait wasn’t worth it so we rode on.

Rapla is a small town that has a large church with two steeples, a nice guesthouse where we are accommodated along with a number of other wet cyclists, and a cosy pub that serves good Estonian fish soup and schnitzels.

Coffee in Kuusalu

20 August 2018

We breakfasted on bad Russian muesli in our hostel before receiving a goodbye hug from our host. She may have just been grateful that we paid her in cash! It was cool and drizzly as we set out on quiet roads (bitumen all the way today – yay!) through the forest – no elk though.

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After 40km or so we were looking for coffee and, arriving at the town of Kuusalu, we felt moderately optimistic. There was a hamburger kiosk on the edge of town – not open until 12. In town there was a supermarket, a bus stop and a church but no cafe. We visited the old Lutheran church where the 11am service was about to begin with a small congregation – 2 people were coming in as we departed. As Estonia is one of the least religious countries in the world, churches are not numerous here.

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On the way out of Kuusalu we passed a large sports centre and, as the rain was increasing, we stopped there to find that, as well as team sports, they had coffee and nice food available – muffins, open sandwiches, salad rolls, fruit salad. Great! After a break waiting for the weather to clear, we set off again just in time to get rained on again and to meet a couple of cyclists approaching us, Rudi and Barbara from Switzerland, who had set off from Tallinn this morning. In a 5 minute chat we let them in on the news of our coffee discovery and gave them some tips on Russia where they are headed.

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Several dozen storks were grazing in the fields nearby, the most we have seen in one place on this trip. That was a lovely sight!

Closer to Tallinn we detoured a short way to see the Jägala Waterfall with a drop of 8 metres – for Estonia that’s pretty high.

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The approach to Tallinn is not at all medieval. As we travelled through the industrial fringe an intense rain storm drenched everything – but not us as we sheltered in a bus stop.

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Soon after this we reached the waterfront from which the cruise ships, ferries, old town church spires and modern skyscapers of Tallinn could be seen.

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Stork and elk

19 August 2018

Ian is the expert at spotting wildlife. This morning he saw another stork perched high on a tower and, later, a mother elk with a calf in the forest.

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Today we specialised in off-road tracks and became closely acquainted with Estonian forests. Before this we passed through the town of Kunda where there is a paper factory, a cement factory and a Cement Museum, presumably to educate people about the wonders of this material that so many of us take for granted. Like other towns, there were few people visible on the streets in Kunda and hardly any shops. We visited the supermarket and by chance noticed a cafe and stopped for coffee.

Our route followed the coast where at one place we could go right to the beach and rest on a couple of old armchairs to observe hundreds of white swans on the water.

The final part of today’s ride was all on tracks that varied from hardly visible (thanks Garmin! We rejected that one) to soft and sandy to single track with tree roots everywhere. It was hard going.

But we eventually emerged on to a sealed road (there should be a Bitumen Museum) and arrived at Vosu, a charming holiday town on a small bay. We are in a slightly dilapidated but comfortable hostel with a friendly proprietor.

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Modesty screen on the beach at Vosu

All quiet on the Estonian front

18 August 2018

Narva to Kortsialuse, Estonia

(Apologies to Erich Maria Remarque)

Narva, a fort city, is situated on the Narva River which forms the border between Estonia and Russia. It has been the location of many battles, most recently during WW2 when great damage was done to the old town. All appears peaceful now though. We saw a line of cars queued up to go across the border and the town cleaning team sweeping up as we ventured out for breakfast.

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We have had a long day on the road, much of it along the coast. Narva-Jõesuu, where the Narva River reaches the sea, is a holiday area with beach access and lots of accommodation. There are also some large abandoned apartment buildings.

We followed Eurovelo Route 13 for much of the way, making slow progress towards our destination. We had some stretches along rough unsealed tracks that were about as bad as Kangaroo Island! Interesting sights were a bride and groom having photos taken with the sea as backdrop and two young Belgian cyclists with way too much luggage including a Viking scarecrow.

There were a number of small towns, all of which had little or no commerce and few people around. We went into a shop in Sillimae that was invisible to us until we saw some people emerge from it. Like the shops in Russia, it had a wide selection of goods available, a significant proportion of which were alcoholic beverages of all kinds.

There are high cliffs above the sea giving a good view of the Gulf of Finland and a couple of islands far offshore to the north. By mid afternoon we decided to follow Garmin (GPS) rather than the bike route and this gave us a variety of sealed roads and forest and farm tracks, while avoiding the highway to Tallinn which is not ideal for our purposes. We saw reaping of crops, two storks in a field and one on a nest, farms and villages, apple trees (fruit tested by Ian and found to be inedible) and a large slag heap that had been vegetated and turned into a downhill gokart track. No shops, no cafes, no bakeries.

The last 12km on a dirt road through an uninhabited area made it hard to believe that we were headed towards our accommodation. We had no idea whether we would be able to get an evening meal and were mentally preparing for instant noodles. Emerging on to the main road though, our hostel appeared and everything we needed was available – cold beer, hot meal, shower and bed. Our companions here are a group who look as though they are on a work team-building jaunt – they are playing musical chairs and other developmental games.