Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Through Estonia

Of course it took forever until I eventually left Tartu. And when I had done all internet surfing I discovered that right on Tartu's main square a traditional song and dance festival was taking place. Pretty young girls and handsome blond boys in traditional costumes were happily dancing on a huge stage and even the kids were dressed up. Eventually I managed to tear myself away at 3 pm.

Again I was about to make a big detour to see Lake Peipus, one of the biggest lakes in Europe that forms the border between Estonia and Russia. It is the traditional home of Russian old believers who had left Russia in the 18th century when the Russian Orthodox church was reformed but they stuck to the "old beliefs", therefore the name Old Believers.

Lake Peipus
I arrived pretty late at the lake but was lucky: a big Swedish tourist bus was visiting and therefore one of the churches was open. When I entered 50 Swedish tourists stared at me and neglected their tour guide's explanations. I continued cycling along the lake of which I did not see much. The shoreline was totally overgrown. Locals had to build little canals to be able to access the lake. The stretch along the lake was fabulous. I felt like a hundred years ago. Small wooden houses were lining the small but paved road alternating with little fields and gardens. The Old Believers were traditionally growing onions and were therefore often referred to as "onion Russians". I even found a cemetery well with good water and settled down for the night in yet another mosquito swamp forest.

Alekvisti before the storm
Next stop was Alekvisti with a manor resembling Balmoral castle. And whom did I meet there? Martin, the German cyclist with whom I've had dinner two nights ago. We just chatted briefly because a thunderstorm was threatening and I was looking for some shelter. I found it under the huge archway leading to the castle where two other cyclists were already waiting - Germans as well. The rain lasted over an hour and I learnt that the German couple were here on a supported group trip. They had been afraid to come here alone. When leaving I saw their support vehicles: two buses towing bike trailers - not exactly my cup of tea. But while I was camping with millions of mosquito friends that night they were probably nice and comfortable in a hotel. To each their own.

Lake Peipus
With a couple of rain stops in bus shelters I continued along the lake, now with nice views. The amount of rain and the high temperatures made the ground "steam" - and brought even more mosquitos out. Cooking dinner was definitely no fun these days.

But now I was aproaching the Estonian "highlands". This did not result in much elevation gain as they are just 166 m high, but it lead to a relatively dry and almost mosquito free campsite. Finding it though nearly lead to disaster: cycling down a forest road I saw picture perfect pine forest. I hid my bike in case someone drove by and headed into the dense forest to find a nice spot. I found several nice spots - but had lost directions and could not find my bike any more. I fought against panic rising up and marked a central point from which I ventured out in several directions until I saw the forest road again - and two minutes later I was happy reunited with my bike. Next time I go campsite hunting with a GPS!

I was now cycling towards the Baltic Sea coast and I noticed more and more former German influence. The old graveyards had German tombstones and the manors and castles old German names. One came in very handy when it started to rain and I could comfortably sit it out in the castle museum. This being limestone country Porkuni was a limestone museum although I admittedly found the free wifi more exciting. Finally on June 8th I reached the Baltic Sea for the first time on this trip.


Chris Roche said...

I get annoyed when only a few mosquitoes. Do you have a strategy to deal with them? Sprays, roll ons, mosquito nets?

German Tourist said...

Chris, usually I just suffer through them. They don't bother me when cycling and only become a problem when setting up my tent. Once inside my tent I am safe again! So usually I don't do anything or just put on long trousers and a shirt. Only when it gets really bad and I cannot find a good campsite then I use repellent.