Sunday, July 9, 2017

Estonia - Haapsalu, Saaremaa and being a tourist at home

Hey! I'm back in Berlin to unpack, repack and sleep for a night before heading to Northern Bavaria tomorrow. Well actually this post will probably be published with a delay since there was a huge misunderstanding with our internet connection. So by the time you read this, I'll probably be back again already.

Anyway, I wanted to share about my trip to Estonia this past week. Even though I missed the opportunity to see the German parliament voting to legalize gay marriage (yay for love!) live in Berlin, I was beyond excited to go home for the first time since Christmas. This time there were also a lot of firsts and new things for me, so I figured I'd list some.

  • I flew Nordica for the first time! It's the successor of Estonian Air aka. the airline founded after the previous Estonian national airline declared bankruptcy in 2015. Even though Matt has flown them once from Munich, their prices have been way too high in comparison to not only the Baltic budget airline AirBaltic but sadly even to SAS (which remains my favorite airline!). Even though I've heard some concerning stories about cancelled flights and whatnot, my personal experience with them was pretty good this time. Now all they need to do is open a Tallinn-Zurich connection, and we're set. 
  • I visited Haapsalu for the first time after at least a decade (you know you're getting old if you can say things like that). The town is seriously super cute, especially the cafes/restaurants/souvenir shops area and of course the seaside. We stayed in the Fra Mare Thalasso SPA hotel which is by far the best price-quality SPA I know in Estonia, probably due to Haapsalu being a little bit off the beaten path. But as I said, totally worth the trip! I'd definately recommend it over Laulasmaa SPA, which is a little closer to Tallinn, but has a more children-oriented swimming area (unless that's what you're looking for, of course!) and fewer other eating options and sights around. By the way, I also got my first ever full 40 minute massage, which was such a weird experience... also super painful on my shoulders, lol. 
  • I tried a bunch of Estonian craft beers, which seems to be totally "in" these days. I'm not really a beer expert, but I liked the Jaanihanso Hopped Medium Cider (nice and dry, not super sweet cider) and Pöide Schlager (a new sort from Saaremaa's Pöide) more than the ginger beer from Pihtla (apparently Estonia's oldest microbrewery, also on Saaremaa) or a local beer called Hapsal that I tried in Haapsalu. It's also interesting that Latvia's Valmiermuiža seems to have some sort of a second coming on the Estonian market. Since it was one of my Dad's favourite beers, I remember going out of my way trying to find it for him in Estonia back in the day, whereas now you can even get it on tap from multiple restauants on Saaremaa. And just as I'd said something along the lines "well they still don't have the Frišs here", I found that too, in the Retro restauant in Kuressaare. 
  • I went to a concert in an experimental event space called Triigi Filharmoonia on the north shore of Saaremaa. The weather was absolutely horrible (going from Germany to Estonia, my allergies smoothly transitioned into a cold), so we passed on the chance to check out something cool on the way up, which would have been fun otherwise. The stage is also built in a way that you should be able to watch the sunset behind the performer(s) through the glass wall. Or in our case, a very stormy grey sea, which was also mystic in a way. 
  • I read "Minu California" by Ede Schank Tamkivi. It's not necessarily a new edition in the infamous Estonian travel/expact book series, but I figured would read it as a little prep for our upcoming US trip. I enjoyed her intelligent and positive way of writing, which is why the book made it among my favorite Minu-books now. Definately recommend! 

It felt ironic to maneuver my suitcase through the youth singing festival masses on the Freedom Square and even past the "singing festival fire" being carried at the front of the procession on my last morning in Tallinn. The by far the most patriotic festival carries a different motto each time and this year it was Mina jään/Here I'll stay. But there I was, on my way back to my home away from home. I won't stay yet but I'll come back one day, I promise!

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