Sunday, September 1, 2013

Roadtrip to Tallinn. Pärnu and Haapsalu.

Walking along the beachside boardwalk in Pärnu.

Our morning began with breakfast at the Klaara Mani. Last night, we had agreed on a breakfast time so we made sure we got up and made it to the dining room at the agreed upon time.


When we walked in to the dining room, the table had already been set up for us. A spread of food that trumped the buffet at the Elizabete by a long shot and has raised the benchmark for all guesthouses to come!!






To start, there was some sort of berry flavored juice - not too tart, not too sweet. Next to the juice stood a tall carafe of water that had some blueberries, cran or lingonberries, and a small sprig of dill immersed in it. Such a pretty presentation that!  Loveliest bottle of water I have EVER been served!








On the table was also a small container of oatmeal.  It was more than two people could eat except perhaps if you're a pair of starving, hungry Estonians.












The centerpiece was a plate of cold cuts, cheese, butter, and slices of tomato and cucumber. Such a wonderfully presented plate of food!  Seriously.






  




A basket, which held three types of bread, sat ready for us to take slices from.










There was way more food than the two of us could possibly eat in one sitting but I guess she didn't want us to go away feeling like we hadn't been fed. As far as I was concerned, she had already gone out of her way to make sure we were comfortable and this meal was taking it above and beyond that! 

What a great way to start off our day!

After we ate, I walked about the room looking at all the photos on the wall. They were obviously of family. The owner soon joined me and told me the story behind several of the photos including the two that were taken with her standing next to a former President of Estonia. An earlier *version* of the Klaara Mani was in the background. There were quite a few photos of the guesthouse before it was expanded. It was fun looking at the photos. Her husband soon entered the room. Much quieter than his wife and perhaps a bit uncomfortable speaking English, he soon got into the conversation and in no time, turned as chatty as any person could! He really warmed up to us quickly. It didn't take us long to learn just how enterprising this couple is. They both run the guesthouse but he also runs a mulch business on the side. They joked that the guesthouse is just their hobby! Of course, we took the opportunity to ask them about going to places to visit on our roadtrip to Tallinn and both agreed we should stop and see Parnu. They then got a map of Parnu for us and marked out a few places.



Parnu is a popular seaside resort for Estonians. We obviously have to go and of course, will compare/contrast it with Jurmala. They also recommended places for us to eat and seeing that we are Asian, pointed out a Chinese restaurant. We grinned and told them that we wanted to eat Estonian food. We were really enjoying our conversation with the owners and they with us. I think at the height of the season, when it gets busy, there's not much time for them to chat with guests. We had to get on the road though. It was another long drive day and we had to be in Tallinn by 2p to meet up with the owner of the Airbnb apartment that we would be staying at.

We left the dining room by the side exit. In the garden, my brother was curious about the mound of the dirt with the door on the side.  It looked like something out of Hobbitville except it was beautifully landscaped.


According to the owner, it was their storehouse where they kept their preserves throughout the year. Makes sense as I'm sure they do a lot of canning during the fall in preparation for winter.














He asked if we wanted to see it and of course, Bro was curious. He later told me the storehouse was pretty spacious, with plenty of shelves to hold the canned goods.

Back in our room, we quickly gathered up our belongings and headed out to the car. We said our goodbyes and thank-you's before getting in and driving off. It was wonderful night's stay here and I would definitely recommend it for anyone coming to visit the park.  My one big and it's a truly big regret, is that I never got their names.  I can't believe I was that rude to not even ask them after how gracious they were!  Slapping myself to this day.

On the road, we followed the map to lead us to the main highway to Parnu. The days here have been picture perfect - makes for an enjoyable ride as long as the sun is not shining directly in your eyes.

We soon figured out that in Estonia, the word for "center" as in the center of town is "Linn". We took the turn off to Parnu and followed the signs toward "Linn". It was a long drive before we saw anything that looked like a building that would be in an "Old Town" area. At one point, we stopped looking at the map and followed our instincts to arrive into the old part of the city.

Wooden building in Old Town Tallinn.

We spotted the universal green sign with the lower case *i* printed in white - the Information Center. We pulled into the parking lot and parked the car. From what we could figure out, this being Sunday, parking was free. Well, that was our guess but to ease our fears, Bro checked out a dashboards on a few of the other cars and none of them had tickets displayed on them so we were good to go! Nonetheless, I walked away with fingers crossed.

Unfortunately, the Information Center was closed. Either because it was Sunday or it was too early in the day.


So, we walked on by and again, followed our instincts and we managed to find a pedestrian only street linked with charming wood plank buildings mixed in among pastel colored stone buildings.


Again, either it was Sunday or too early in the day but most of the places were still closed for business. We walked around several city blocks just to take in the surroundings.


We passed by a couple of Russian churches and even passed a small square where runners were congregating for the start of a race. We should have referred to the map that the Klaara Mani owners had given us to locate the places to see but for some reason, we didn't. I was just enjoying the morning walk in this very pleasant part of town.


Except for the restaurants, none of the other establishments were open so after a few blocks, we decided to head back to the car and drive to the beach. Might as well check that out while we're here. Now, we looked at the map, that the kind owners of Klaara Mani had given us, for directions :-)

Bro took the navigational helm and got us about a block away from the beach where we parked the car. Place was pretty empty. Either again it was Sunday, too early in the day or as I was thinking, too cold for the beach.

Not a soul around.

There was a nice walkway along the beach which we followed.


We passed the odd person or two as we walked along but that was it.


Not a sunbather in sight though there were some kitesurfers working the water near shore. We watched one guy, with protective wet suit on, get his kite ready and then watched him surf - there was enough wind to move him at what looked like to me to be a pretty fast speed. You have to be a hearty soul to want to go into that cold water!


The calendar reads end of August but temperature wise, it definitely feels more like early fall. Roses are still in bloom and as expected, when Bro saw this small patch growing in the sand, he had to check them out. If you're a rose, beware. You'll get sniffed :-)


Cute sculpture of a seashell.

We hung around the beach for a short while and then decided to head on the down the road to our next destination. Another seaside town - Haapsalu. On the way out of town, we filled up on gas. On other trips, someone else has had to worry about running out of gas but so far, we've been about checking the gas gauge every so often and making sure we top off whenever we can. We also informally decided to stick with Statoil stations. Bro recognized it as a good European company so anytime we needed to fill up, we would try to find a Statoil station. So far, they've been in Latvia and Estonia.

It was a short drive to Haapsalu. The distances between our destination points have been far shorter than what it looks like on the map. We've been making good time on our trip.

We managed to get to the center of town and even found the Information Center. We parked in the adjoining lot and again, no ticket needed. I'm beginning to think we only have to pay in the big city so I'm expecting we'll have to cough up a pretty penny or two when we get to Tallinn.

No one out except for two Asian tourists :-)

Pretty little town.

In my pre-trip reading, Haapsalu was the place where Estonian knitted lace was pretty much invented. I had expected to see store after store selling lace products but I saw neither stores nor lace.  Very disappointed.  Perhaps we were in the wrong part of town. Oh well. In the meantime, Bro had seen the signs pointing to a castle of some sort so that's where he wanted to head. I had no desires one way or the other but was more than happy to tag along as long as we were doing something he was interested in.

Following the map we got at the Information Center, we headed towards the castle. Along the way, I spotted a shop selling items made from wood. I made a mental note to check it out on the way back.

We passed a small square and the entrance to the castle was on our right. There was a huge sign board identifying the various structures including a very old church. In the center of the complex was a small grassy area and all around were the ruins of the castle complex. There was a small tower and several balconies and wooden platforms that you could take stairs up to but everything just overlooked the grassy area so I wasn't expecting much of a view. We took the stairs up to one platform and that's exactly what we saw so we simply turned around and came back down.

Entering the castle grounds.

Courtyard.

The Church.

The church was opened but you had to pay to go inside. I wasn't in the mood so I told Bro that he could go if he wanted to but he seemed even less interested than I. We decided to just walk around the complex.


Section of exterior wall of the castle grounds.

Climbing up to have a better view.

Another view of the walls.

Interior courtyard of the Church.


Side view of the Church.

Around the castle grounds.

After a while, we left and headed back down towards the shop selling the wooden items. I stepped inside to check it out. Lots of wooden items - from Christmas tree ornaments to serving utensils to bowls and carving boards. My scanning eyes fell on a tiny wooden gnome with a straw beard and hair and a woollen felt pointed cap and outfit - perfect souvenir for my best friend Corri who collects gnomes and a pair of short handled, stubby looking wooden spoons which I would use in my sugar and tea glass containers - finally replacing the cheap plastic spoons that I've been using for years!

Our next destination was the beach.  On our way, we walked passed a short row of charming Estonian wooden homes. Every one of them looked like they were closed up for the season.


We soon got to a park and next to that, the water.


As it turns out, there's no beach here. Another pretty walkway along the water's edge.

Not exactly *beach* weather.

We headed towards the hotel that I had seen images of in my pre-trip web surfing.

Hotel on the left. 

Hotel on right :-)

The place was open and serving food. A bit too fancy for our tastes so we didn't even venture in. Instead, Bro checked out the rose garden.  Roses, here he comes!


Roses blooming in the hotel's garden.

My eyes fell captive to the cute statue of a polar bear sitting offshore.


Cute but isn't he in the way of the boats looking to dock?


To the side of the rose garden was a small amphitheater. Such a teeny stage, hard to imagine what type of performance is held here.

My vote for smallest performance stage for anything other than puppets.

Aside from the hotel, roses, polar bear and amphitheater, there was nothing else to see.  Where were those lace shops?

In any event, our walk back to the car took us by a small restaurant. We decided to check it out. Inside, there were a couple of families, with small children, hanging out in what I would describe as the living room area of the restaurant. One of the men was stacking up wood in the fireplace and getting ready to light one.

We checked out the menu and as soon as I saw the smoked chicken pasta dish, I decided this was the place where we would be eating. I told you. After the smoked chicken salad that I had in the pub, near the Klaara Mani, I got addicted to the smoked chicken. And I must not be the only one obsessed with the chicken as Bro ordered the same dish.

Bro checking the road map while we wait for our lunch.

Pasta with smoked chicken in a cream sauce.  Oh sooooo good!!

Our food came pretty quickly and by now, the fire was raging in the fireplace. That intoxicating smell of burning wood is a wonderful reminder that the weather is turning colder. Time to bundle up and keep warm. Our table was right next to the window so we had a view of the lovely garden outside.


Our bill came up to 8 Euros.  Affordable lunch!
When we had entered the restaurant, it was cloudy outside. Now, the sun was shining and the warmth of its rays penetrating the glass of the windows. Between the sun and the fireplace, I was quickly feeling very comfortable and had I stayed much longer, I would have laid down for a nice after lunch nap. So relaxed.

On the way back to the car, we passed castle and the shops that I had bought my souvenirs at.  Haapsalu looks so much prettier when the sun is shining!



Next stop.  Tallinn!!