Saaremaa & Hiiumaa

I was going to call this post “The Väinammeri Sea” just to make you-scratch your heads – but we are more land than water oriented. Väinammeri is the name of the “Sea of Straights” that these Western Estonian islands embrace. It’s shallow, less saline than the rest of the Baltic – which in turn is less saline than the Atlantic – and stays frozen  longer. It’s home to some endemic marine species, as well as being important stopover for migratory birds that use the Eastern Atlantic Flyway.

2013/06/13: Train plus 91 km to Liiva on Muhu Island
On Thursday morning, we bid Suzanne and T farewell and took a train SW to Parnu. We rode to the ferry and crossed to Muhu, the little “doormat” island that is attached to Saaremaa by a causeway built in the 1800s, and camped at an organized site.

2013/06/14:  53 km to Triigi
The wind was howling from the south, so we only rode a shortish way to the next ferry to Hiiumaa, rather than go south to Kuressare with its castle. Actually, we decided we’d seen enough castles for a while, and wouldn’t mind giving a tourist centre a miss. Our actual route took us by a fourteenth century church and five traditional windmills.

Unlike the mainland, the islands have rock available for stone walls.

Unlike Dutch windmills the entire structure is turned to face the wind.

We arrived at Triigi, the tiny place the ferry goes from, about noon in pouring rain. The fellow at the tiny café regaled us with tales of Finns who had cottages on the islands, and of all the interesting things we should have done in eastern Estonia near the Russian border. He was from Tartu.

The ferry only goes twice a day, and next one was at 8:00 p.m. which would have us arrive late in bad weather in a town with a jazz festival in full swing. Instead, we stayed in a simple dorm room attached to the administration building, complete with kitchen and sauna, and waited till the next morning’s 9:30 a.m. ferry. We read, dozed, used the sauna, and cooked a supper of pannier dregs.

2013/06/15:  90 km to a Room with a View
A horse trailer with two fine mounts got onto the evening ferry, and the next morning so did a truckload of a horses plus another trailer. All were fine beasts with braided manes all ready for a show. I talked to one of the accompanying girls — all with long blonde braided hair — and there was to be a show jumping competition in Kardla at the north tip of Hiiumaa.

We rode north to the ferry back to the mainland, stopping at a church ruin. Miles of flat sandy ground with areas of juniper scrub  and open pine forest. We met two German touring couples of our vintage. On the mainland we found a “health trail” which was actually the old rail bed. The train from Tallinn no longer runs all the way to Haapsaalu.

We followed rail bed for about 40 km,  but it was mostly a raised bed several metres above wet forest and bog, with few camping possibilities. We got to a trail-side picnic table, and there was also a 10 m high observation tower, so Chris suggested we set up the tent at the TOP of the tower! There would be fewer bugs. The tent just fit on the platform, and we set up the siltarp across the railings as a mini-fly. I was put off by the height, at first; the idea of sleeping so near the edge worried me, but it was actually just fine. A room with a view. An eagle’s nest.

Tent at top of 10m tower, by old rail road bed.

View of rail bed from our front door.

2013/06/16:  41 km plus train to Tallinn
Next morning we saw a fox on the rail bed. We rode to Riispere where the “health trail” ends and the train still runs, arriving 10 min before one of the infrequent trains left for Tallinn, and so we hopped on.

Bikes on trains Estonian style

The conductress spoke Russian and I managed to tell her we were 60, so we got very inexpensive “pansyoneer” tickets. The train only goes to 10 km outside the city centre at Paaskula, so we rode the last part into Tallinn rather than switch to a bus with other passengers. This final ride gave us a different view of Tallinn than we got from our stay in the old town: Appealing suburbs, coffee shops, and the ski jumpers’ training facility.

We went straight to the harbour to try and get on a boat that evening, but there were only very expensive tickets left.  Also, there were loads of drunken Finns, many towing shopping trolleys full of cheap booze homeward, and some also trailed by Estonian women with whom I suspect they had commercial relationships.

We found our way to a low key hotel, stayed there, and booked our crossing for the next morning. We’d  also booked a hostel in Helsinki, and written ahead (as suggested by Louise’s Finnish O coach) to a bike shop for an appointment to replace drive train parts –chains and more to see us to Nordkapp and southward again.

I’ve just realized that Finland will be the 35th country our Surlys will have seen. All aboard! And off we jolly well go.


One response to “Saaremaa & Hiiumaa

  1. the mind boggles at the thought of a “a supper of pannier dregs” (the spare socks, dryer lint, sand and the odd rock)

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