Saturday, November 21, 2015

Helsinki and the Baltic States

We made our flight connections to Helsinki, as did our luggage, though they were late from the plane, put on the wrong carousel. Took a bus to the train station and walked to our hotel.
The crossing was on a Boeing 767 (American) which was very cramped and uncomfortable; the connection from Paris to Helsinki (Finnair) was very comfortable and afforded us both some sleep.

After checking in we cleaned up and walked around, getting to both the Finnish Orthodox, and Lutheran cathedrals. While looking for a restaurant we ran into two Finnish fellows who directed us to one restaurant and gave us suggestions for more. The one we wanted to patronize was fully booked so we started looking at others and ran into the same two guys. They made some phone calls and eventually got us to a Mexican restaurant. Teresa and I shared the mini pork tacos. I had the lamb and Teresa had crunchy pork enchiladas.
Back to the room, no gelato, as apparently Finland is gelato free. This did not bode well for the rest of the trip.
We stayed at Risoli Jardin, a great location, awesome breakfast but our air conditioner was not quite up to the challenge even though the weather was great (cool).
Beware the seagulls.
In the morning after breakfast we went to the TI to purchase a Helsinki City Card. From there it was to the ferry to Suomenlinna Island, “the Gibraltar of the North.” We visited the museum which presented a history of the island and then we went on a tour of the bastions, the dry dock and the tunnels with more history. It was built by the Swiss, taken over by the Russians through some bargaining and poor intel by the commander of the fort, bombed by the English during the Crimean War (for no real purpose) and is now a tourist attraction.

After the lengthy visit we took the ferry back to Helsinki which dropped us off at the open air market which we ambled through. We bought Shane a t-shirt. For lunch I got the “Mixed Box” which was fried baitfish and octopus rings. The rings could have used more seasoning and the fish could have been fishier. While paying for it we were told to be careful if we walked around with the food as the seagulls would attack. Teresa convinced me to eat in the covered area provided. After walking some more Teresa got a big bowl of cooked vegetables for her lunch.

 We then walked to the covered market. On the way the seagulls got their revenge on Teresa for us being so stingy. After the covered market we got Magnums (dark chocolate caramel) which became our substitute for gelato.
Then to the City Museum; then the Art Museum. After the Art Museum we checked out the Railroad Station and the City Center Shopping area below it.


 I bought a lemon drink and large coke zero. Back to the room.


For dinner we went around the corner to Jurri. Think gourmet Finnish. I had Tin Soldier Cider which was very good, Teresa had white wine. We started with Sapas (Finnish tapas) goat cheese with marinated beet bits, grilled rainbow trout with sour cream and malt, cabbage pie, and spring chicken with celery- all very good. For entrees I had organic beef with new potatoes; Teresa had grilled and smoked pork- all good but gourmet portions.
We walked after dinner making our way to the promenade on the southern shore of the peninsula. Well worth the walk. At 10:00 p.m. it looked like it was 6:00 p.m. but we headed back to the room anyway.

The next morning was quite cool. I ran before our delightful breakfast.
We went back to the Market for more shopping before our guided bus tour of Helsinki. It was 1 ¾ hours and quite good. We saw some new places including the Church of the Rock and the Sibelius Monument.

When done, we decided to go back to the room to put on jackets and long pants.
We picked up sandwiches at “Picnic” and ate our picnic on the grass in Esplanade Park. After that I found the only gelato in Finland. Vanilla was the only viable flavor but it was good.

We took Rick Steves’ walking tour and then walked to the National Museum which we visited. We stopped in at Stockman’s Dept. Store on the way back to the room.
We walked to Krog Madame for dinner (which included a walk through “Plague Park- where plague victims were buried). We started with 3 tapas: mushrooms with gorgonzola mousse, tiger prawns with coliander, and goat cheese carpaccio. For entrees I had duck leg confit with potatoes au gratin and green veggies- Teresa had lamb. It was all very good. Back to the room.
In the morning it was off to the Viking Line for our ferry ride to Tallinn. We arrived in Tallinn at about 12:30. After checking in we went to the TI which was in the middle of Old Town. We bought our City Cards, checked out the arts and crafts market in the Town Square, hit a grocery store for bread, cheese (and a pastry for me) as an impromptu lunch so we could make the 3:00 p.m. guided bus/walking tour. The guide had 2 customers. She had a dry sense of humor, e.g. the "hey taxi, help me, my husband is drunk again" statue and when noting Estonians were not very religious: “most Estonians go to church twice a year, once around Christmas and once when their cousin is singing in the choir”.

Estonia has had a rich history from the Danes through the Russians. After watching a native dance we headed back to the room.

For dinner we went to Controvento, an Italian restaurant. We didn’t have a reservation but waited 10 minutes and got a table. Teresa had red wine; I had Kiss, a pear cider which was very good. We shared a chicken Caesar salad. I had a salami pizza, Teresa had a creamy sauce pasta with smoked chicken and roasted vegetables. Teresa won dinner. We walked through part of Old Town before going to Mad Murphy’s for dessert. I had chocolate cake with strawberries and ice cream; Teresa had strawberries and ice cream. I won dessert.
We then spent a lot of time wandering as Tallinn is an enchanting town. At 10:30 we forced ourselves to walk back to the room as it was still quite light out.
Our hotel, The Nordic Hotel Forum was very nice; modern, comfortable, nice bathroom, and an A/C that worked well. There was a huge selection for breakfast; the quality was hit or miss- mostly hit.
We got a lot accomplished the next day even though this was probably my most inept day ever on our travels.
It started at 3:35 which I mistook for 7:15 when I looked at my watch. I proceeded out to run and was almost done when I tripped and scraped one knee and two hands. Only when I got back to the room did I discover that it was 4:00 a.m. I had planned to go to the gym when I got back so I now had to wait 3 hours.
The gym had a nice pool, hot tubs and treadmills, but no real upper body workout.
We headed out to do some exploring.

After lunch we went to the Renaissance Archery Tournament- there was a Renaissance festival in Tallinn for the weekend- and then to the belly-dancing exhibition.

We then toured the new Rotterdam district outside the city walls which featured modern (and interesting) architecture. Grocery store, then back to the room.
On the way to dinner we encountered a young man who was apparently economically distressed as he held up a sign which read “Help, I need money for vodka and beer!”.
We ate at Vanaema Juuros which is Hillary Clinton’s favorite in Tallinn. We both had the salad with slabs of warm cheese. Teresa had the pork belly with black pudding and black currant sauce, stewed red cabbage and potatoes; I had slow roasted lamb with black plum sauce, mashed potatoes and vegetables. We both had chocolate cake with ice cream and blackberry sauce. – A slow walk back to the hotel.

The next day was nature day. We made picking up our car way too complicated but finally got off. We headed east to the four peninsulas with the first stop at Juminda for the lighthouse and memorial for those trying to escape the Nazis in WWII. That was our first stop in the Lahemaa Rhavuspark, the first national park in the USSR. There were two main features of the park: thick forests and “errant” boulders left from glaciers.
From Juminda we went to Virve, then to Loksa, Parispea, Vinistu- then to Tammispea where we found the large isolated boulder that had broken in pieces. Next to the resort town of Kasmu (where we took a coast and forest hike) Vosu and Altja.

 Next we headed to Sagadi Manor which belonged to –no kidding- the Von Fock family, originally Swedish but later Germanized.

When we were done with the tour we headed to Rakvere and the Art Hotel- very inexpensive but no A/C on probably one of the ten nights of the year it could use it.
After cleaning up we went to the Art Café. I started with fried cheese balls in a creamy mayonnaise sauce- better than it sounds. We shared a Fizz cider which was very good.
We both got pikeperch fillets over roasted potatoes in creamy garlic sauce- excellent. For dessert Teresa had crème brulee with strawberry sauce; I had chocolate cake with ice cream – all for less than 30 euros.

After a stroll to the supermarket we walked to the castle and then the big bull statue. We heard someone covering the Beatles in a different language so we walked to an open air concert. They had a good female singer but hardly ever let her sing. Back to the room. 


Breakfast was cereal and omelets – fair.
We headed east. An unannounced detour took us on a longer but prettier route. We then went south along the 5th largest lake in Europe and the border with Russia.
We stopped in Lohumsun to see a small church. Carmen insisted we take the shore road at Mustvee for the view (I also got a coke zero at a grocery store) which was a popular road for bicyclists.

We got to Tartu at 12:30- we changed rooms as the first was not A/C’ed.
Tartu is a college town, some parts very modern, some quaint. We went first to the town square- Raekoja Plats- then past the university to Toome Hill, saw the ruins of the old cathedral, found the Kissing Hill- after a fake-out one, the Sacrifice Stone – where pagans made sacrifices and students burn exam papers. Back to the university for their art exhibit, the lock-up room used to discipline unruly students (the punishments were listed in English) and the Meeting Hall.

We then went to St. John’s Church and then the Botanical Gardens. The front was mediocre, the greenhouses were not worth the 3 euro entry fee, but the free gardens behind the building were very good.

Heading back to the room we got some pastry (munching on chocolates had been our only lunch) and we saw a drone demonstration near the City Hall.

After cleaning up we went to the Tilted House- now an art museum.

We then went to a concert at St. John’s Church. It was a Russian quintet named “Esse” which had just been named world champion as an ensemble. They had 2 accordions, 2 small balalaikas, and one huge one. They were excellent – playing Queen, John Williams, Grieg, Stravinsky and others.


 From there we went to La Dolce Vita for dinner. The waitresses were doing side work from their modeling jobs. I had cider, Teresa had wine (that may change soon). We shared a Milano Salad – arugula, salami, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. Teresa had a similar pizza, mine was anchovies, capers, olives and onions. I had decent gelato on the way out.

We walked along the river on the way back to the hotel. As we arrived 4 of the 5 musicians were going out; I golf-clapped and told them they did a good job and we enjoyed their performance.


In the morning the breakfast at the Hotel Dorpat was pretty good, extensive, except for pastry items.
We drove off first to Puhajarve Lake to walk around that area.

Next to Songaste Manor-Castle, which was built by the guy who developed the rye grain and commercially exploited it.

Next to Sigulda (after road construction delays reminiscent of Romania) where we checked in, hit the TI, and decided our first stop would be Turaida which consisted of vast grounds of gardens and statuary, as well as a castle involved in all the disputes in this area throughout the centuries including the Brothers of The Sword, The Livonian Order, The Teutonic Knights, The Archbishops, the Swedes, Poles, Germans and Russians. Within the various rooms of the castle you could find information and artifacts which was quite extensive. After seeing everything there (almost) we decided to call it a day and head back to the room.

For dinner we went to Bucefals, one of few choices. I had beefsteak, French fries and salad. The steak was typically European, mediocre. Teresa had chicken stuffed with spinach and feta cheese – she won dinner and dessert with her ice cream and black currant. My ice cream- peach juice cocktail was a bland mix.
In the morning after a good hotel breakfast (The Livonia was good value for the money) we headed to Cesis for a day trip.

Cesis is best known for its castle which endured two famous sieges against Ivan the Terrible. The castle was erected by the Livonian Order beginning in the 13th century. We took a candle lantern for a climb in the Western Tower.


We also toured the New Castle which has been transformed into a manor. Both castles had plenty of English and plenty of information.

We sauntered around Cesis a bit; meeting some Australians in the cathedral.


 More ambling; very good kebabs and we headed back to Sigulda.
We first went to the other castle of Sigulda which had some nice displays and where we bought some soybean candles.

Next we went to the “Tarzan” theme park. The theme was an obstacle course in the treetops. We got in our harnesses and received our instructions before making our way from tree to tree. There were 5 different levels of difficulty with 5 or 6 obstacles in each category. I made it through 4 levels. Teresa went halfway through the 5th.

Next were the zip lines. We took a cable car to the top of the hill and then came down on 23 separate zip lines, mostly treetop to treetop. The last one was the longest at 180 meters. We met a girl from the area who spoke English well as she went to a private school in the Hamptons. She was with a schoolmate from Switzerland. We had them try the Big Wheel before we did.
We also took the cable car up to do the toboggan run; then the tube slide and the big swing. Time to leave.
Bucefal’s again, we both had cider. I had a chicken Caesar salad, chicken stuffed with pineapples and boiled potatoes. Teresa had a Greek salad, skewered pork and boiled potatoes. No dessert tonight.
In the morning we headed first to the valley. We went to the cave of the Rose legend. We then climbed 4,216 steps up the valley wall- meandered back down; climbed 2,864 steps up again to see the last remaining partial wall of the old castle; then took the serpentine road down to the path to our car.



We then headed out to the churches and museums- Church of The Holy Spirit, The Estonian State Museum, The Eppling Tower (I tried on some heavy mail), The City Museum, the Greek Church, The Russian Orthodox Church, St. Margaret’s Tower, The Peek in the Kitchen Tower.
 Next to the Kebab Restaurant for lunch which was the 3rd time I made a wrong turn that day.
We then drove back to Tarzan’s place to use our remaining tickets on shooting and archery.

Off to Lithuania. On the way we stopped at a Maxi Superstore, which is like Walmart but nicer. We bought salami, cheese, bread, tomatoes, and olive oil for sandwiches, along with pastries and chocolate because we were on vacation.
Vilnius was not easy. We first parked in the parking lot for the Defense Ministry and went looking for our B and B. We had to call Grizzina who spoke little English and seemed to know little about the parking situation. We eventually found a TI and ATM and after a convoluted process a parking space. It seemed half our time traveling that day was inside Vilnius and the other half the 280 kilometers getting there. We required A/C and parking in all our bookings, this place had neither. We had a room in an old house with a separate bath.
We cleaned up and headed out- went on both promenade streets and ended up on Cathedral Square- massive cathedral, massive square. We ate at Zoe’s Bar and Grill with a view of the Cathedral. I had ostrich filet, stir fry vegetables, onion rings and a large Lithuanian beer. Teresa had spicy beef with rice and vegetable dish with a large cider (I told you). We had spotted a gelato place on the way down so we hit it on the way up. Teresa had dark chocolate and amoretto; I had dark chocolate, milk chocolate and snickers.

Further along we found a large group of young people ballroom dancing outside. We sat and watched a while- back to the room.

After breakfast we went back to the cathedral to go inside, next we walked up to the Western Tower of the High Castle, then to a park and then the gardens.

From there we went on a tour of churches as you can’t swing a dead cat in Vilnius without hitting a church.

After 6 or 7 churches I decided I wasn’t feeling well and we went back to our room via the Gardens where I rested for about an hour while Teresa did more planning.

Then some more churches, the Angel’s Gate (where the Madonna performs miracles for the faithful).
We then went to the Amber Museum/Amber Shop. I asked the girl where they made the dinosaurs but she had no idea what I was talking about as she had never seen Jurassic Park. As I was relating this to Teresa who had seen the movie, she had no idea what I was talking about.
We then went to the Presidential Palace and then up and down the swanky shopping street (Hari Krishna were in attendance) where stately manors had been converted into stores.

Back to the room.
In the morning I still wasn’t feeling well but we went to Trakai by bus as I didn’t want to drive through the city again and look for a parking place when we got back- and the bus tickets were $1.50 apiece each way.
Trakai is a small peninsular town with bridges to an island castle. We hit the obligatory churches; went through the Kuraims section of town (a Jewish sect brought back from the Crimea to be castle guards); saw the peninsular Castle and then the wonderfully restored Island Castle.



On the way back to the bus Teresa got a very good kebab.
Back in Vilnius we decided to do some shopping; at least window shopping. We ended up at Cathedral Square. We were serenaded by an old bearded man in Lithuanian and Ukrainian (and he didn’t ask for money). We were also given candy by a girl in a green dress, apparently a Lithuanian wedding custom.

We read up on our travels for the next day in the park and then headed back to the room.

We strolled around for a while before dinner. We shared a plate of cheese and olives. Teresa had chicken with cheese, spinach, dried tomatoes and rice. I had beef stroganoff. Teresa had some chocolate back in the room for dessert.
The next day we took a vacation from our vacation heading west to the coast. We reached our destination, Klaipeda, early (really good roads) couldn’t check in so we walked around town – did some “Amber” shopping, found the kebabs place- had a picnic- back to the room.

 We changed and drove to the beach. Really nice sand, very cold water. Thousands at the beach- scores in the water. We got a soft ice cream in the parking lot before the slow (lots of traffic) drive back to the hotel.
For dinner we walked down to the river and ate at La Terrace. I had duck breast with red wine/cranberry sauce, Parisian potatoes and an oven baked apple with the same sauce. I also tried the major Lithuanian beer- okay. Teresa had pork tenderloin with mushroom sauce, roasted potatoes and salad – very good- and cider again. Total bill- $20. A short walk- it was getting chilly- and back to the room.The next morning it was Teresa’s turn to feel a little puny. No breakfast for her but she was up to a day trip to Palanga. It was reported to be a happening place but we were not prepared for it. It was a resort city and this was the height of the season. Driving into town there were folks on the side of the road holding signs for renting out rooms (like coming off the ferry on a Greek Island)
After Carmen tried to mislead us we made it back to the center of town and happened upon the perfect parking space; it was free and close. First the TI and then the J. Banaicaus Gatve, a very long pedestrian street leading to the pier. It was early so the crowd was light. We only walked part of the pier and then to the Botanical Gardens.

After that we purchased a beach umbrella, changed into swimming gear in the car and headed to the beach. An ice cream bar was our lunch on the way.
Kailapeda’s beach had been full; Palanga’s was jam-packed for miles in both directions. We waded in for our 2 mile roundtrip walk along the beach. We saw entire smoked fish sold from a boat that came ashore and toddlers loving the cold water.
We each got a slurpee on the way back to the car; then drove back to our hotel.
After a rest, we got bikes from our hotel and rode around the parts of Klaipeda we had not seen before. Upon turning in our bikes we went to Frederico’s for dinner. We both had cider. I had a refreshing chicken salad, pikeperch with nuts and vegetables in a white wine cream sauce and rice. Teresa had grannie’s meatballs, mashed potatoes and beets. We shared apple pie and ice cream. Back to the room.

In the morning we headed to the ferry for the short ride to the Curonian Spit, a very long narrow barrier island off the west coast. We explored the island a little before heading to Nida, about 60 km’s south. Carmen found our place – we walked around a bit, found the TI, a Maxima, and then decided to go back to the room to drive the short distance to the beach on the opposite side of the island. We were there from 2:30 to 6:30 and then decided to eat at a restaurant near where we parked our car.
I had a cheese, apple, and fried bread salad; a pork steak in mushroom and cheese sauce with potatoes, tomatoes, pickles and lettuce- I couldn’t finish. Teresa had stuffed cabbage with potatoes and a green salad. I had cider, she had white wine. We also got rye bread- total bill- $14.00. Teresa got upset at the tip I left (again). Back to the room.

After cleaning up, we walked south to the Parnidzio Cognitive Path which took us first to 180 steps and then to a view of a dunescape of which the photographs will not be able to do justice. The site had a huge sundial. At this point we were about 1km from Russia.


We then walked north along the coast, got ice cream, then listened to 2 girls (twins?) playing the violin and another instrument. They were very good. A stop at Maximas for provisions (cherry coke included) and back to the room.

In the morning we headed first to the bike rental place; secured bikes and took off on the #10 bike trail- 30 km’s to Juodkrante. While on the way we encountered the couple from Munich who we ate breakfast with the previous day in our hotel in Klaipeda. They were bicycling in the opposite direction- from Juodkrante to Nida.

Upon arriving in Juodkrante we scouted around town a little, got some local pastry, a Fanta Orange then went to the Hill of Witches. This was a long trail through the woods with carved figures meant to be scary.

After that we turned in our bikes. We had some time before our bus back to Nida so I got a Magnum; Teresa got a tomato and a cucumber.
Back in Nida we stopped in Maxima and got some nicely spiced roasted chicken, a big bottle of carbonated lemonade and some chocolate.
After lunch we went to the beach.
For dinner we went to the most expensive place in town trying to use up our litras. I had cider, a Greek salad, tuna steak with red garlic sauce and potatoes. Teresa had wine, mozzarella, tomato and lettuce salad, pikeperch in mushroom cream sauce and boiled potatoes- $38.00.

After that we did some shopping- grocery and otherwise.
In the morning we drove north and crossed on the ferry. In Klaipeda we decided to go to the open air market we had not been to before- rather disappointing. Carmen had taken us by a mall on the way there so we went back to try to spend our remaining litras. Quite a mall- two gelato places- had our best gelato on the trip. We did some shopping. The mall was huge, modern and had an exquisite food area.

Back on the road – on the way we picnicked at a stop and were quite lucky to find ourselves by a lake. I ate the smoked halibut on rye sourdough crackers- purchases I had made the night before. Teresa had a salami, baby swiss, tomato, olive oil sandwich on really good bread she was patient enough to hold out for on her search.

Next we went to the Hill of Crosses which is exactly what it sounds like. The tsars and communists couldn’t deter its existence – millions of crosses.

 Long trudge to Riga- bad roads with plenty of waiting.
Our apartment was spacious, a 5th floor walkup; A/C in bedroom/sitting room area works great; washer/dryer in the kitchen; outside not attractive (typical communist architecture). Old Town was right across the bridge- but it was a long bridge.
OMG- what a place Riga is. The entire Old Town has been restored and they did a beautiful job. The place really hops. Turn every corner and not only see wondrous sights but there will be live music as virtually every large establishment has a live band. The Town is jammed with people. The only downside is that there are too many Americans.
We chose Indian for dinner- excellent. Teresa ordered the lamb with brown sauce, I got the chicken with red and we shared. They were spicy but not too- the vegetable side dish Teresa ordered went a bit far however. The garlic naan bread was tasty. I had beer, Teresa wine. Delightful evening.

We both ran in the morning and after loading laundry went into town, checked the TI and decided on a walking tour. We again were the only customers. Our guide was quite good and we got the history of Latvia, of Riga, and of all the buildings we saw. We visited the Ratsaukums Square with the statue of Roland, the house of the Blackheads, the Schwabe House and City Hall.
We then saw St. Peter’s Church, Dome Square, Three Brothers, The Swedish Gate, The Powder tower, the small guild, the large guild and various other sites. She left us at the Freedom Monument and we did more exploring from there. The Beys Bazaar was disappointing, the Art Nouveau tour was not, as wonderfully restored buildings dotted our route.


We took a break with cider and fried bread (we earlier each had an ice cream bar as the temperature reached 86 degrees) before heading to the central market. A market was on the other side of the tracks and it was huge. No purchases as Teresa was not impressed with their prices. Walking back we encountered a moving bar that was transported by the customers pedaling. Back in the room we found that the washer doubled as a drier.

We went back to old town for dinner. We both had chicken with an additional flavor neither of us could place. Teresa enjoyed her baked potato, I had a local potato and onion dish. She had wine, I had cider.


 We strolled and saw Peter the Great’s Palace, it was large but otherwise unremarkable.

The next morning we took a day trip to Rundale Palace; Latvia’s version of Versailles- more impressive than I thought it would be.


We drove back to the room to eat lunch. Teresa chose great bread, I chose great cheese and salami; tomatoes and olive oil rounded it out. We went across the street to the Latvian National Library, a really impressive building. Inside were reproductions of mosaics from Ravenna, Italy.

We then walked back to Old Town. We toured the Occupation Museum which was a very good history of Latvia during the first Soviet occupation, the Nazi occupation and the second Soviet one.
After the museum we went to the cathedral which was only so-so. We walked to the castle which is undergoing renovations and very little could be seen. We timed our walk back to the room from city square which was fourteen minutes.


We went to Rozengrals for dinner. It was quite an experience as it is a restaurant in a labyrinth of tunnel and cellars the earliest notation of which is 1320. Before being a restaurant it had most recently served as a wine cellar. The restaurant had a medieval theme, music (both live and piped) costumes, and cuisine. All recipes were from the middle ages. I got the pork shank with horse radish and two spiced cabbages (one was pickled). I had red beer that our wench- see picture- told me was ginger beer. Everything was terrific. Teresa had a lamb shank (a more manageable portion) with asparagus and barley. She had two glass of Australian wine. She enjoyed hers also.

We walked around a bit, it was the first time we were out when it got dark, I bought a t-shirt and headed back.
In the morning we headed to Parnu. Arriving in town we stopped at a Maxima to provision up. We went to our inn; as we were early we then went directly to the beach. It was a large beach with packed sand and relatively warm water. We both swam in the Baltic Sea. We ate our picnic lunch, read, napped, and got back to the room about 5pm.
We decided to walk into the town center instead of drive. There was not a lot to it. We ended up standing in line 20 minutes to eat at Steffani’s a very popular pizza restaurant. We both had cider and pan pizza’s. Mine was tomato sauce, cheese, bacon, chicken, blue cheese, garlic and pineapple. Teresa’s was basil and cherry tomatoes but got arugula instead of basil and was disappointed. That didn’t help matters when the smallest change I had was five Euros and tipped our hot, blonde waitress that amount on less than a 20 Euro meal. It was the 11th time on the trip we had that argument.

We then walked around through the parks and down to the beach before going back to the room.
In the morning we headed north to Virtsu to take the ferry. On the island of Muhu we stopped to see St. Catherine’s church- 13th century, then to the ostrich farm and mini zoo.

From there we went to Kogura a settlement of farmers and fishermen who live in open air museum type setting.


We crossed to the island of Saaremaa. We visited the old windmills (got to go inside) then went to the crater created by a meteorite. Factoid: Estonia has the most meteorite hits per square mile than any other country on earth.


 On to Kuressaare, where we met Merle, our hostess. The room was extremely hot and Teresa had an anxiety attack that she would not be able to stay in that room. Merle was very nice and brought us a fan and gave the option of staying one night. After opening all the window and door and with the fan running we decided to stay all three.
We walked down to the castle and then found a pub (John Bull) for dinner with a view of the castle from the back porch where we ate. We both had cider; I had pasta with chicken, Teresa had pork in a spicy sauce. We stopped at the supermarket on the way back.

In the morning we went straight to the castle. We saw a blacksmith working and a glass blowing exhibition before entering. The castle, the ramparts and moat are well preserved but still under renovation. The castle itself is a historical museum and a big chunk of the exhibits deals with Soviet-Nazi-Soviet occupations. Battles were fought here, first by the Germans moving out the Russians then vice versa.

We saw a few more sights before hitting the grocery store near our room and we picnicked in the garden behind our building. We then drove down the coast to Mandjala to go to the beach. Windmill farms were up and down the beach.
Before dinner we went to the first concert of the city’s Chamber Music Festival. The orchestra was very good.

We went Italian for dinner. Teresa had bruschetta and a Caesar chicken salad (bad). I had a mushroom, gorgonzola, anchovy pizza.
The next morning we spent exploring more around the town. We went to the harbor and saw the Schoor Tull statue, walked around the castle, caught a soccer match, then headed to the park/forest with hiking trails.

We went back to the room for lunch – left over pizza for me- Teresa had some salad and spinach roll she picked up from the grocery store.
We then went to the Grand Rose Spa for a relaxing afternoon. The spa had numerous elegant saunas at different temperatures and different ranges of steam. There was one large pool and several hot and cold tubs with other water features.
We both got massages and enjoyed the amenities.
For dinner we went to Vallimaa Grilliaed. It was very good with our seating up on a platform with trees around it. We both had the same thing: cider, salad, smoked baby back ribs, garlic potatoes and rhubarb cake with ice cream. Another cute waitress.

After dinner we went to the castle to hear the Prague Guitar Quartet play in the Bishop’s Chapel (so-so). It was dark when we went back to our room.

We drove north through the island on the scenic route. The wait for the ferry wasn’t too bad as it had room for all the trucks, buses and lines of cars.
In Tallinn we drove first to the Seaplane Museum, so called because it was located in the triple domed structure created for seaplanes. The museum included maritime, military and naval history. We went through a submarine that had been in service for 75 years and I played with naval guns.

We turned in our car and were driven a short distance to our hotel. There was quite a line for checking in. We went shopping both inside and outside the Old Town before going back to the room.
We went on a search for a restaurant using Trip Advisor. After striking out on four of them we went to Olivedes. Teresa had cider, a pesto salad, and wild boar, puff pastry, and potato pancakes. I had the same except a Le Coq beer, and Stolynachi salad.
On the way back to our room we better appreciated some of the Art Nouveau architecture.

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  1. Hi Teresa, it seems you are new to #TheWeeklyPostcard. We are glad that you could join us this week-end and we love seeing your beautiful pictures here. If you plan to return to our blog link-up, please make sure you display our badge at the end of your link-up post(s) as this is our rule. Read the explanations/rules displayed at the end of the post were you lined up. Thank you