Friday, 24 July 2015

My Estonian Island Adventure

Before heading over to the islands I decided to spend the night in Estonia's summer capital Pärnu. It's been a while since I was last in Pärnu and I noticed there have been quite a few changes. Many of the amber shops that once lined the streets in the city centre have disappeared and many new restaurants have sprung up. One restaurant that I was pleased to discover still exists is Steffani's. I first ate here in 2003 when I visited Pärnu with my family for the first time. Business has been so good that they have even opened a second location - it is so popular that the queue stretched out of the door and onto the street!  

Steffani's Italian Restaurant

Pärnu Beach

Pärnu is Estonia's summer capital.
Visitors come in droves from Sweden, Finland and Russia. 

The ferry port at Virtsu in mainland Estonia.
Virtsu is about an hour's drive from Pärnu.

During the summer season the ferry to Muhu runs regularly, approximately every half hour.
It's great value for money, only €2.60 for a one way adult ticket and €7.40 to take your car. 
The ferry crossing to Muhu Island takes 25 minutes.

A road connects the island of Muhu to Saaremaa.
Once you leave the ferry terminal it's a 76 km drive to Kuressaare, the capital of Saaremaa.

There are ten villages on the island of Muhu.

Liiva is a popular stopping point for visitors. 
Here you will find a cafe, restaurant, supermarket and a beautiful gift shop.

In this shop you will find many wonderful handmade embroidered items.
Estonian handicrafts at their best!

The island of Saaremaa is the most ethically homogeneous part of Estonia. Approximately 98% of people living here are ethnic Estonian. Saaremaa is known for its windmills, sheep breeding, fishing, vodka distilling and tourism. It was once completely covered by an ice sheet during the last ice age and the island is still slowly rising out of the sea to this day. One day it will naturally be joined to the mainland and further islands will appear offshore.

Suur Tõll and Piret, two mythical characters from a local folk legend.
They are regarded as the guardians / protectors of Saaremaa. 

The folk legend written in several languages.

Kuressaare Castle -  a museum is located inside.

There are many idyllic spots in Saaremaa in which to take photographs.

The market is open every day.

Saaremaaa has many beautifully restored buildings on the island.

To experience some really good traditional Estonian cuisine, a visit the Saaremaa Veski restaurant is a must!

By the seaside there are two resort hotels named after former Estonian presidents.

The Spa Rüütli and Hotell Meri

Map of Saaremaa and list of attractions.

Visiting the Angla Windmills is a must when visiting Saaremaa.

This museum is really interesting. There are five windmills on the property as well as several old tractors you can inspect and sit on. Inside the main building there is also old farming equipment, tools and a centuries-old blacksmith's forge on display in addition to handicrafts.

The famous windmills of Saaremaa.

It's really lovely walking around the grounds here. You can go inside the windmills and feed the goats, ducks and rabbits who live in the animal enclosures.

It's truly delightful spending time in the Estonian countryside during the summer months.
Warm days, long nights and even if it rains the sun always makes an appearance in the afternoon!

Harvesting equipment.

Inside the main building at Angla is a cafe and exhibitions.

Estonian loom.

I stayed in a few different places on Saaremaa. Here is one. Accommodation is hard to find during the summer months unless you book way in advance. I like these country retreats where you can rent a cabin and relax and enjoy nature.

A traditional Estonian swing.
So much fun!

Leaving Saaremaa, the weather was much better compared to when I arrived.
Several different vessels are in service between the mainland and Muhu.

View on board the ferry.

My summer holiday in Estonia is almost at an end but before I go, I will spend a few more days in Tallinn. I will definitely stock up on my supply of 'Eesti leib' - the best tasting breads in the world!