After a restful night, I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to leave Tallinn for our next stop, Parnu. Parnu is the summer capital of Estonia, and many people come here during the summer to enjoy the long sandy beaches and ultra shallow water. Parnu is on the western part of Estonia, whereas the winter capital, called Tartu, is located on the east near Russia.
The drive to Parnu was an interesting one, mostly because of what I saw from out the window. Typical Estonian houses are made of wood, with most having large decks and large yards. I saw many of these on the drive, but also very modern houses, some even made entirely of glass or cement, for example. I liked this juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary houses, especially in this suburban setting.
By the way, Parnu is the fourth largest city in Estonia, and it has approximately 40,000 people. In comparison to that, Tallinn has a population of +400,000. From this, one can infer there are not many people in Estonia.
Once we arrived in Parnu we went to the beach. Mid-route we drove past some summer villas that are very popular with both tourists and Estonians alike. One in particular really caught my eye, it was an absolutely gorgeous villa that was painted in bold colors and surrounded by a large lot and gardens. It definitely stood out amongst the others, and there were many. Our tour guide told us that during the winter it is used as a hotel.
We made a short stop at the beach, even though the sand was covered in snow, and the water was covered in ice. Apparently one is able to walk for quite a ways before the water even reaches the torso, which immediately reminded me of Bear Lake. The beach itself was also quite wide, and very long, probably one of the reasons it is such a popular place. Besides us tourists, there were some “snowboarding wind sailers” hanging out on the snow and catching some air. Or… at least trying to.
After this stop we continued on to where we would be staying for the night, Maria Farm. There were two rows of little cottages, with three rooms in each cottage. I actually ended up getting my own room, and I think Angela may have gotten her own room as well. It was actually really nice having my own room once again, and I could finally walk around without having to be careful about anything. This also has been one of the nicest accommodations I have stayed in. Besides having a kitchen with table, and a very large bathroom, the room itself was more than enough space and had quite comfy beds. In fact, I wouldn’t mind coming back here in the future if I had the opportunity too.
Our sleigh rides were to begin around 4:00 p.m., so everyone walked over to the stables to get ready. There were two horses with sleighs fitted for the rides, and in total only about ten people could go at a time so we were forced to split into three groups. While we waited we sat in a teepee around a fire to keep warm. And I may have played with a farm animal or two.
The sleigh ride itself was enjoyable. In my group was Iwan and Joe as well as our tour director. It’s always nice being close with the guide because you can learn so much more from getting an insiders point of view. For example, during the ride she pointed out some deforestation that had happened around the farm, apart from a few lone trees standing here and there. She told us that they do this in order to allow the forest to grow back in the future. Makes sense. But these are some of the tallest trees I have ever seen in the world, so chances of them growing back any time soon is not likely.
The sleigh ride lasted about twenty minutes or so, but the horses sure can pick up speed if they want to! Once the ride was over I made my way over to the building where dinner was going to be served, and hung out with some people there while we waited for the others.
Dinner was a traditional Estonian meal with many cold salads (ew), devil eggs, bread, spiced cold pumpkin, garlic potato wedges (aaa-mazing), pork, and some other things. I mostly filled up on the potatoes and pork. Dinner was pleasant in general, and for the most part I was surrounded by people from Australia and the U.K. (There are a lot of Australians on this trip.) In between dinner and dessert I went back to my room to grab my swimsuit for the sauna. We once again had to split into three groups, and I chose the first option for 8:00 p.m. so that I could sauna for an hour, return to my room to shower, then go to bed. Dessert was some type of chocolate brioche. Is this Estonian though? Who knows.
Ten people were allowed in the first sauna group, and Iwan and Joe happened to sign up for this time as well. In addition to them, there were four people from France, a couple of girls from Germany, a guy from Turkey, and a few other people.
I think I may have mentioned this was a wood sauna, but it was actually a smoke sauna. The process is similar with throwing water on rocks (or in this case some type of chimney), but there is no wood and the process is slightly different. For example, to heat this sauna, one allows smoke to enter the entire room and heat it up, and only after it gets hot does one open a vent to allow the smoke to leave. We had to mix boiling water (literally it was boiling in a huge barrel in the middle of the room) with some cold water and then throw it into the chimney area. The heat after doing this was excruciating, and I think the temperature was more intense than my first sauna experience, but, I did last the entire hour. It is also very Estonian to gently swat ones self with herb branches on the back and limbs to allow toxins to escape and soothe the skin. That poor last group who had to swat themselves with our sweaty branches…
After a quick shower, I finished off the night reading my emergency magazine. Best. Buy. Ever. (Even though it was like $10.00 USD.) The next day we had to get up a bit earlier in order to head to Latvia! Two stops before Riga though: the border, and a town called Sigulda.
I want to get my passport freaking stamped. Traveling is so lame without passport stamps.