Estonia – the warmest memories of a Nordic trip

Тази статия може да я прочетете и на: Български

How we felt Estonia in a week and drove 1000 km to see the real country

The more we read about it, the more unprepared we felt to this trip. We reserved our apartment 6 months in advance and bought the plane tickets 3 months before the journey. We even insisted to pick certain seats on the plane despite none of our flights lasted more than 2 hours. We knew we were going to a place both expected and totally unknown and this made us very emotional about it.

Just a week after we boarded our first flight from Sofia, we were sitting in a cold early morning at the coziest and warmest airport in the world, thinking “Let’s hope that our luck to make unexpected returns to places we visited will work this time, too”.

Because you have already read the headline of this post, the emotional beginning is probably not making you curious which this mysterious destination was. Yes, it was Estonia, and it was both expected and unknown for us for many reasons. And this article might sound a little bit too emotional and not like “5 wonderful sides of Estonia”, but we will, as usual, share our personal thoughts, emotions and memories of this trip.

The “expected” Estonia

It will be a lie to say that we were surprised of everything we experienced in Estonia. However, one thing is to read a lot about something and another thing is to experience it personally. So here are a few things that brought us a lot of positive emotions during our stay in Estonia, despite they might sound trivial.

Lovely urban areas

Believe or not, the first thing we fell in love with upon landing was the Tallinn Airport, which totally deserves its prize “The coziest airport in the world”. We did not spend hours there, neither something particular happened during our passing through it. It just brought such warmth and welcoming that we immediately liked it.

Rottermani quarter in Tallinn

Rottermani quarter in Tallinn

The second thing were.. the trams! Haha, yes, of course we knew Tallinn is a normal European capital and public transport is well arranged and contemporary. But we love the beautiful trams leading to the airport so much that we never had a thought to take a taxi to the city. The tram was more than enough for us.

We also loved the whole Ulemiste business area around the airport, looking like a contemporary but cozy town. It is a rare view to have such things in the immediate vicinity of the airport.

Easy and welcoming

Roads in Estonia are flat, well organized and still cozy. We drove around 1000 km in total during our stay.

Tourist places in Estonia are well organized, welcoming and again cozy. Estonia is a very easy destination for tourists. And they use the EURO which made things even easier.

Tallinn is really welcoming to tourists

Old town of Tallinn is really cosy and welcoming to tourists

Almost everybody in Estonia speaks good English and many people also speak Russian. Again, a very friendly country for foreigners and it is hard to get lost.

There is proper food for everyone – many different types of restaurants and bars both in Tallinn and in smaller towns. Supermarkets offer everything you would need no matter what diet you are following. Again, a normal European country.

Vegan cafe in Tallinn

We are not vegans at all but if you are, you won’t stay hungry in Tallinn

Everything is digital, if you wish. Estonians have electronic ID and so many online public services including voting. For travelers who love the hi-tech stuff, Estonia is a paradise. Barcode tickets for the public transport are twice cheaper than if you pay cash.

The unknown Estonia

Well, this is another story. We actually never expected the whole Estonia will be so cozy and warm (not in terms of weather, though). It looked like all the places, streets, buildings, people, nature sites, they emitted some kind of warmth that could be felt in the air despite the harsh weather at some moments. It’s not something particular you see, you just feel it. And love it.

The white nights

The white nights were a surprising experience. Not that we did not expect that – just the opposite. We knew that this was the period of very long days and short nights. And (so naively) we were making great plans how we would be out on the streets until midnight or later. Well, after the excitement of the first evening, our biological clocks reminded us that this is something they are not comfortable with. It was quite strange not to see real darkness for a week. We never expected that NIGHT will be one of the things we would appreciate the most after we return home.

Sunset near Saka Manor in Estonia, Saka cliffs

Sunset near Saka Manor in Estonia, sometime around 22.30h

Another side effect of white nights is that they really limit the time suitable for nice photographs. We usually chase the hours just after sunrise and before sunset, but both events occur in really uncomfortable times like 4 am and 11 pm. However, white nights are really romantic and we are happy to have experienced them.

The shortest nights in Estonia occur in June, when the sun is down only between 00.30h and 03.30h. The shortest days are in December when you can see sun only between 9.30 and 15.30.

Weather in Estonia

Despite we caught an unusually warm period for the season, it was still hard to get used to local weather. Not that we had not prepared with both jackets and t-shirts. It was just strange that the temperature differences between the various parts of the day can vary a lot – from 10 degrees in the nights to 25 degrees during the day. Like jumping from March to July in one day and then back. Actually, for Andrey was not such a big deal but for cold-sensitive Mimi it was. And the wind blowing from the sea is another hard thing for cold-sensitive people.

Windy sunset near Pakri lighthouse

Windy sunset near Pakri lighthouse. You can’t feel the hurricane from the picture but this was probab;y the windiest place we have ever been to

Estonians love wine

Almost every restaurant and bar has a nice wine selection, including fine wines on glass. As a country where climate does not allow growing vines at all, this was a beautiful surprise. In terms of drinks, they produce many different beers and ciders. We had no idea about the ciders, actually.

A glass of wine for dinner at Saka Manor restaurant

A pleasant glass of wine always accompanied our meals at Saka Manor restaurant Estonia

How plans change, always for good

As we said in the beginning, we had a plan for Estonia. We had a long list with many spots we wished to visit, some of them priorities, others not. However, plans are made to be changed so we ended up having visited several places we actually had not planned to visit. And skipped one that was an initial priority. So here is where we went in Estonia.

Saka Manor – the spirit of Estonian manor houses

A 17th century manorial estate on the northern coast of Estonia. One of our best decisions regarding our trip to Estonia. The manor house and the compound around is now turned into hotel complex where you can enjoy both luxury and amazing nature around. And you can also camp on the territory of the complex. Saka Manor is a place we really loved, read more from our article about it.

Saka manor house

Saka manor house

Saka Manor is in the middle of the way between Tallinn and Saint Petersburg, very close to the Estonian town of Narva. So if you are planning a trip in this part of the world, it is a great place for rest.

No matter whether you have decided to follow our steps or just read this story out of curiousity, you can also check the other manors in Estonia. There are tens of them, many now restored and turned into hotels or convention centres. We chose Saka because it offers wonderful rest, amazing natural views and the beautiful Baltic sea coast. The walks on sunset in May and June are a great idea for a night well spent. Just have in mind that mosquitoes can be seen anywhere around water sources.

Our cute mate Olympus Pen-F at Saka manor beach

Our cute little mate Olympus Pen-F at Saka manor beach. He was enjoying the view together with its bigger mate Pentax K1 – II who had to take the picture.

Lahemaa national park

Around 50 % of the Estonian territory consists of forest and another large part is covered by bogs. Bogs are especially interesting for their special biological characteristics, flora and fauna. And hiking through them is another charming experience. Just an hour drive from the capital Tallinn is the Lahemaa National Park, which offers numerous of opportunities for hiking and exploring the beautiful nature and ecosystems.

Viru bog, Lahemaa national park, Estonia

Viru bog, Lahemaa national park, Estonia

We took a short walk to the Viru bog, which is maybe the easiest to access, just a few km from the main road Tallinn – Narva. The hiking trail is easy, well organized and not so long and is quite popular not only for travelers for local people, too. It is even accessible for people in wheelchairs and kids in strollers.

Estonians are proud with their nature and that you need only to drive 20 minutes from any town or city to reach the wilderness. Well, Viru bog is probably not the wildest place but is a great natural escape from the city. Be cautious if you decide to leave the boardwalk and jump into the bog. It is actually not allowed and I would not advise you either because it is a bog after all and you can sink in the soft soil at the bottom.

The hiking trail at Viru bog, Estonia

The hiking trail at Viru bog, Estonia

So it is quite easy to reach Viru bog – it is just metres away from the main road Tallinn – Narva, some 50 km east of Tallinn. The whole trail is about 3,5 km long and the full lap is 6 km. Around the middle of the trail there is a watching tower which you can climb. We were there in early June and it was quite a hot and dry period. However, the bogs are usually wetter and be wary of mosquitoes and other insects.

The trail is really easy and popular.

Jagala waterfall

Another easily accessible beautiful natural site near the main road Tallinn – Narva. A 50-m wide, 8 m high waterfall, accessible by car from both sides. We are not the strongest waterfall lovers but the place is really nice and you can also picnic there while enjoying the view.

Jagala waterfall, one of the fullest waterfalls in Estonia

Jagala waterfall, one of the fullest waterfalls in Estonia

Reaching the waterfall is easy by car from both sides. There are parking areas and you can easily have picnic under or above the waterfall. This is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country and despite you may have seen bigger ones, it is also very beautiful. Because of its beauty and easy access, the area is visited by many people and you may not have much privacy but there is space for everyone.

Puhtitsa monastery

We have always loved the peacefulness that monasteries offered. We love the way such kind of places are being kept and maintained – with a lot of belief, care and dignity. So we never miss a chance to visit a monastery. Puhtitsa convent is located in eastern Estonia and is a Russian Orthodox monastery.

The gate to Puhtitsa convent

The gate to Puhtitsa convent

We chose to visit Puhtitsa while wondering whether to visit another castle (like the one in Narva) or something more different. We were later very happy with our choice to visit the only Russian Orthodox nunnery in Estonia.

The largest church at Puhtitsa convent

The largest church at Puhtitsa convent

The convent was built in 1891 and is now under the authority of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The buildings in the monastery complex were designed by Michael Preobrazhensky, the same architect who designed also the St. Alexander Nevski church in Tallinn and other Russian Orthofox churches across Europe.

Rakvere

The remains of the medieval castle in Rakvere

The walls of the medieval castle in Rakvere

Rakvere castle is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Estonia and a popular tourist attraction, particularly for children. During our visit, we had little time to explore it but it sounded great to visit the local wine cellar or drink a beer in the yard. We decided to take a stroll around the castle walls and also in the beautiful and peaceful town of Rakvere.. We climbed the tower of Holy Trinity church which offers wonderful views to the town and the castle. The castle itself offers numerous attraction for kids and we saw many groups of students there.

Andrey climbs the tower of Holy Trinity church in Rakvere

We also climbed the tower of Holy Trinity church in Rakvere

Haapsalu

This resort town on the western coast of Estonia was one of the places that stole our hearts in the country. Not that the others did not impress us, but you know, everybody has some passion for certain things. And our passion are small cozy towns, like Haapsalu. We were lucky to experience the maybe liveliest day in the town, during the festival of Italian wine and music. You already know about our passions to wine and Italy so it was a perfect 3 in 1 combination. The only problem was that we could not enter the castle because a concert with pre-sold tickets was held there. However, we had a pleasant lunch in a seaside restaurant, no need to say that it was also very cozy.

The cozy town of Haapsalu, Estonia

The cozy town of Haapsalu, Estonia

Haapsalu Episcopal Castle

We actually did not see this beautiful castle, turned into park, from the inside. Because the day we visited Haapsalu inside the castle there was a concert that we were not prepared for. However, we walked it from all sides and took a glimpse at the bell tower and the cathedral inside. The construction of the castle of the Bishopic of Ösel–Wiek lasted around three centuries. The current look of the castle dates back to the early 16th century. However, when time passed, the need of fortification walls disappeared and they were partly demolished when Haapsalu became a part of the Russian empire in 18th century.

The tower of the Cathedral in the castle, Haapsalu

The tower of the Cathedral in the castle

Even if you only walk around the castle, you will notice that it is well maintained and tells the story of the past centuries. We did not spend much time around the castle but instead joined the crowds attending the Italian wine and music festival in the town that day. What we had heard before was that Haapsalu was a very quiet and calm place but there is also room for surprises.

Haapsalu Bishop's Castle, Estonia

Haapsalu Bishop’s Castle

Where to eat in Haapsalu

We had some hard time trying to find where to park the car because the town was really crowded for the festival. However, we managed somehow sna immediately started hunting for the best places to eat in town that were recommended by a couple of local friends. First we went to Hapsal Dietrich – one of the most famous restaurants just on the main street. Well, it was too naive to try to find seats among hundreds of other people on the street. If you go to Haapsalu and eat in this restaurant, we will be happy to hear how it was. It looked really nice.

Wiigi Kohvik restaurant in Haapsalu

Wiigi Kohvik restaurant in Haapsalu

Next try was the nearby Kärme Küülik where the situation was the same. So we left the main street and headed to the coast where you can also find some cafes and restaurants. We were lucky to find a table at – Wiigi kohvik  – another restaurant that was previously recommended to us. There we had a very nice seafood lunch with bio lemonade.

The centre of Haapsalu is a very pleasant place but one of the most famous attractions in the city is actually the old train station. It is a very beautiful wooden building, unfortunately not functioning anymore. The last train from there departed in 1995. Now the station is a museum and a venue for art events and concerts. Around it you can also see old train cars.

The old train station in Haapsalu, Estonia

The old train station in Haapsalu, Estonia

Haapsalu is a wonderful resort town that hides many more beautiful places. There you can enjoy healing mud and great atmosphere. We are a little bit sorry that we did not spend a day or two there. As you know, we never hurry to visit all attractions in one day and the culinary tourism is often a priority for us. So I would advise you to spent at least a night in Haapsalu and enjoy the place thoroughly.

Pakri lighthouse

After we saw a few pictures by other bloggers on Instagram, we could not get this thought out of our heads – we have to see this place. The Pakri lighthouse is located on a peninsula around the town of Paldiski, a former military base some 50 km west from Tallinn. The area around the lighthouse is stunning beautiful with its vertical cliffs above the sea and the ruins of a former old lighthouse. However, we encountered an unexpected problem – a hurricane wind that would not let us stay straight, not talking about taking any photos. We really wanted to put the tripods and make many sunset shots but we mostly enjoyed the view from the car.

Pakri lighthouse and the statue near it

Pakri lighthouse and the statue near it

Ruins of an old lighthouse near the Pakri lighthouse and the beautful cliffs around

Ruins of an old lighthouse near the Pakri lighthouse and the beautful cliffs around

Tallinn

Last but not least, we spent most of our time in Estonia in the capital Tallinn. And it fully deserved it.

Tallinn old town skyline

Tallinn old town skyline

We preferred to stay more days in Tallinn, to explore the old town numerous times, and also the other neighbourhoods like Kalamaja, Teliskivi, Rotermanni, Kadriorg. We preferred to stay and feel the heart of the city instead of counting the number of places we visited. To eat in different restaurants, to drink berry wine, to climb tower after tower and of course to see some museum. To meet real locals who walked us by a former prison and a former Soviet “fortress” by the sea. And to catch the only day in the year when you can climb the Toompea tower, within the building of the parliament. We felt Tallinn in so many ways and it really helped us feel Estonia as a whole. But a whole new article about Tallinn is coming, so stay tuned!

The Toompea tower, Estonia

The Toompea tower

Old town of Tallinn, Estonia

Yes, we loved Tallinn, the capital of Estonia!

June 23rd, 2018 Мария Андреева The story of our wonderful 5-day stay in Tallinn, Estonia We immediately answer the most-asked question since our return from Estonia. Yes, we loved it. Not only the capital Tallinn, but the whole stay in the country in late May and early June. We probably caught the warmest and driest week of the month. And…
The most complete source of information about travelling to Estonia is their official portal www.visitestonia.com. For us it was the most helpful and we advise you not to miss it when you organize your trip.

[apsp-pin-image image_url=’https://www.pinterest.com/pin/301670875035119130/’]

Copyrighted Image