There’s no better way to start the day than coming across a food list item when you are going for breakfast. Especially when it can form part of a hotel buffet breakfast that will need to fuel a nice long bog walk.
When I was doing my pre-planning for this trip to Estonia, Tallinn Kilud was the only ‘must find’ food item because of the extreme regional availability. So, colour me pleased when I saw this bowl of the little guys.
Having had rollmops before I kind of knew what to expect with these little fish. In essence these are sprats from the Baltic Sea that have been deboned and and marinated/pickled to the point that these become melt in the mouth.
At this point, where I have tried a number of picked fish like these, I am not sure what makes these little fish distinctive enough to warrant their place on the list. Maybe it’s down to the size, the region or because you can find tins of Tallinn Kilud in many shops as a food souvenir. Still, these with dark rye bread and soured cream made for a nice change of pace for breakfast.
So, the order of the day was a guided tour through the Lahemaa National Park by the company EstAdventures. I’m not one for paying for a guided tour, but since there was no other way for us to get to the park an exception was made. Just going to say this now in advance: I am glad we did as the tour was excellent and the guide was funny and super knowledgeable. If I find myself back in Tallinn I will look them up again.
The first stop was at the Rebala Bronze Age Graves. These were uncovered by the Soviets as they were building a road from Tallinn to St Petersburg – and since these graves were in the way each one was moved a few metre away piece by piece. To look at them now you would have no idea, but it’s an interesting fact.
What was also interesting to see is how the family dog received their own little section, right next to the circle of the master of the family. It goes to show how some things never really change in thousands of years.
From here we hopped into the car and went to Kiiu Tower – which I have seen as being described as Estonia’s smallest castle. Nope, it’s literally just a tower that the local rich family (of German origin as all these rich families seemed to be) used to help to defend their home from the Estonian peasants. We were able to go inside to the top floor (up yet more steep stairs) to find that it now contained a bed and some drawings to make it feel like Rapunzel’s bedroom in Tangled. It was very cute.
Now, for the event I was looking forward to – the Viru Bog Trail. A very large amount of Estonia is formed from mire and bogland, and at the Lahemaa park you are able to walk through it via a specially constructed boardwalk. It’s nothing as glamorous as the name would sound. We are talking about s continuous trail made of perpendicular pairs of planks. For the most part they are absolutely perfect, but despite the fact that these were fairly new a few had already started to break because of the wetness of the bog and the weight of people walking over them.
Truly, walking through this bog was the highlight of the day. Sure the ability to drive through a seemingly endless sea of dead straight trees was one thing, but these bogs really was something else.
At the beginning it was interesting because of how so much plantlife survives in such an acidic and hostile environment. Then you get to the parts of the big where ponds and lakes can develop because the ground is so saturated. It’s like the Dead Marshes from Lord of the Rings in the way that it is so eerily beautiful and int hat you can imagine long dead people just laying there in the big just waiting to be uncovered.
We turned around at an observation tower that allowed for some spectacular aerial views of the bog land and give an indicator of just far we had been walking. I think I must have taken a ludicrous number of panorama photographs on my iPhone and still I don’t think I have grabbed as much as I could have. It was standing up here that also made me thankful that it wasn’t a sunny day. With it being slightly overcast none of us were getting too warm during the track and, at least for me, that made the whole walk all the better.
After lunch we went to the Palmse Manor Estate for a tour around one of the 4 manors within the park. Apparently the owners of this manor was so powerful that he actually was a key fight in the assassination of a Russian Tzar and got off nearly punishment free. It must be awesome to be so powerful.
As part of this section we took a look around the house, the grounds and the orangery where I learned that people would rent watermelons so they could be displayed as status symbols… I mean in the world we live in right now this is a weird idea. To rent fruit to show off to people. I guess watermelons were the fancy watches of their day?
The house itself was nice enough, but all memories of it have faded compared to the sound of this ridiculous wind up musical cabinet that could be found in the music room. It made such a clamour that it could be heard throughout the manor. I loved it.
Between the manor and the final stop we made visits to small coastal villages at Altja and Käsmu. The sea was so calm in these bays that, at the latter place, you could see swans bobbing up and down in the middle of the sea. To be fair to our guide, he gave us so much information about these areas it is just that A lot of it is slipping my mind at midnight on the same day.
It was nice to spend some time by the sea and not seeing your stereotypical sandy beach. The scatterings of rocks, the abundance of grasses and the rather ramshackle fishing shacks just added to the character of the whole place .
Our final stop before heading back to Tallinn was the Jägala Waterfall – Estonia’s tallest waterfall at a mighty 8 metres high. To be fair, Estonia is a flat country so it would make sense that the waterfall wouldn’t be too tall.
The extraordinary thing about these waterfalls is the yellow colour of the water coming over the falls. It looks like industrial runoff, but the colour is actually because the water is coming from the bogs that we visited earlier in the day. Also of note is that this waterfall is retreating fairly quickly for a waterfall, which can be seen by the big piles of rocks at the bottom of the falls.
So yes that’s the tour and after two full excursion days I was definitely in the mood for food. Thanks to TripAdvisor I found a nice little place near Toompea that served, what felt like, Estonian food. You can tell it’s a good food because it was filled with Estonian people, who were surprisingly quiet. I swear that if you got a group of 12 Brits around a table having dinner together there would bite a lot of noise, but not Estonians. I think I am really growing to like these people.
Since I missed the chance to do so in Helsinki – I knew that I had to try some elk stew. Honestly this elk meat tasted a lot like a mix of beef and ostrich rather than venison that I have had before. It was lovely with the sauce (that contained beer) and the vegetables. It just furthers shows to me that it’s important to try local things even if they sound a bit outlandish when compared to what you are used to at home.
For dessert I finally got a chance to sample kama. From the sound of it this is a very Estonian food that can be had for breakfast or as a dessert. It’s made when different grains are ground up until they are very fine and are mixed with soured cream and some sweetener. It sounds a bit weird, but it was a nice mild way to round off a meal. So I would recommend at least trying it when making the journey to Estonia.
So tomorrow is the last full day. I know I say this every time but I can’t believe that the end is coming so soon. Still. One more day to see more of Tallinn and soak up as much of Estonia as possible.