Tallinn

May 2019 – it was cold and dull with wind and rain once I arrived.

I took a bus (Lux Express 8 euros 2.5 hours) and walked from the bus station to KE’s flat. KE is a dancer /choreographer / therapist who I discovered on the internet and emailed out of the blue asking her if she might like to meet. She very kindly invited me to stay with her, I enjoyed giving her a Shiatsu, and we had great conversations.

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In1991, Estonia won independence after many decades of Russian (and German) occupation, during which their culture and autonomy were almost non existent. Much architecture exists which is redolent of those years.

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‘Cornflower’ is the name of this metal sculpture. It is a memorial which ‘commemorates all victims of the Soviet occupation and those who gave their lives for the freedom of Estonia.’ (from the plaque beside the artwork). Created by Paul Saar, 1990, Tartu, Estonia.

It was not as easy to find an affordable place to eat. The prices were higher (it being the capital and me being in the tourist area) and some places looked shut which actually were not. It was, of course, hard to translate the signs, and my fingers were numb from using the map on my phone. I found a blog which recommended Estonian chocolate which I tried to give myself a quick boost from being freezing and having let myself get very hungry. That did the trick! Lunch at the Teater in Rataskaevu.

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The place I found was great. I had a filled pancake (their speciality) and a tea for 5.5 euros.

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Tallinna Reaalskool, Tallinn

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Lutheran Church, Tallinn

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Freedom square, Tallinn
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Freedom square, Tallinn
St John’s Church / Jaani Kirik, Freedowm Square, Tallinn

St Nicolas Church and Museum

Tallin Old Town

Kiek in de kok (round tower) and Maiden Tower (4 sided tower), Old Town, Tallinn

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Orthodox church, Tallinn

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Tallinn Art House Kunstihouene, Vabaduse, Tallinn

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Anna Ekston, leader of the Estonian National Ballet 1944-51

I went in search of an art gallery which the woman in the Tartu Kogo Gallery recommended to me and on the way I got to see a different quarter of the city.

Theater – front of the Eesti Draamateater Tallinn

Politseiaia Park

Skyscrapers, Tallinn

Small older buildings amongst the high rise buildings, Tallinn
The Temnikova and Kasela Gallery, Tallinn – cutting edge contemporary art
The End, Edith Karlson and Dan Mitchell, Temnikova and Kasela Gallery, Tallin
Municipal stone statues, reproduced across the city, Tallinn

I saw on the map that I was one minute away from the Kassikohvik cat cafe which was on my list. Unfortunately it was shutting when I got there, but the woman in the yellow jersey let me in to take a few photos. It had been recommended to me so I feel I can put it down here. Expect a five euro supplement for adults, and less for children.

2 sculptures on the outsides of buildings

Gardening outside the flats, Tallinn

Architectural detail on the windows of the blocks

Other than one grumpy bus driver, every other single person who served me or showed me round, gave me a bed or otherwise was where I was, was friendly and kind throughout my month in Estonia, and I am very gratful to them all for speaking English to me when all I could really say was ‘thank you’ in their language.

I bought a bunch of non-hot-house flowers in Tartu from similar women to these.

A lovely Latvian woman I met in the hostel in Parnu, recommended that I walked up to the Kohtuotsa viewing platform where the inscription ‘The Times We Had’ can be found. She also showed me photos of the wonderful Jagala waterfall (bus 152b) a distance away from Tallinn.

Having flown to Riga, I returned to the UK with Air Baltic.

Other sights in Tallinn Estonia Tourist Board

https://www.britannica.com/topic/history-of-Estonia

Tartu

May 2019

The forests and cleared forests of Estonia

I took the bus from Pärnu to Tartu (Lux Express, 9 euros) and passed through more forests, including areas which had been cleared and the church on the mound in Viljandi, approximately half way along the 105 kilometre journey between the two cities.

Tartu is the second largest city with 101.000 inhabitants and the total population of the country is smaller than the population of Bucharest.

Tartu University

Located in eastern Estonia, it’s known for the prestigious, 17th-century University of Tartu (the population is made up of one fifth students). The old town is centred around the university’s neoclassical main building, and the cafe-filled Town Hall Square, home to the Kissing Students fountain.

The Kissing Students fountain.

The modern Science Centre AHHAA has hands-on exhibits and a 4D cinema.

Kirik (a bit like Scots kirk) St John’s (above and below).

Still in use but in a poor state of repair

In contrast to Estonia’s political and financial capital Tallinn, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and cultural hub.

 

Tartu is renowned for its beautiful pastel coloured 18th century buildings

Cars actually stop if you want to cross the road. Travelblog.org

There are hiking tracks along the banks of the river Emajõgi, and I am told that you can be in a more natural environment in 15 minutes, but the weather was very cold until my last hour, so I didn’t go there until then.

St Paul’s red turret – detail

If you stay at Hektor Design Hotel or the Looming hostel, don’t believe g…. maps about how to get to the tourist part of the town! Instead, wind your way through the streets which are parallel and at right angles to Rïgli, and you will find all sorts of interesting places:

The University natural history museum
Impressive graffiti
Karl Luik, mayor of Tartu 1920-34
The award winning architecture of St Luke’s United Methodist Church, Tartu, Estonia

Next to Looming is a yoga centre and I had a lovely class with Anna Morozova (see YogawithAnna on Facebook).

I stayed in Hektor which has a lot going for it – a clean, private, single room with writing desk and a kitchenette and toilet right outside, shared with 3 other rooms, but there is no sound proofing and every door closing and footstep echoed and reverberated. For an extra 3 and 5 euros you can use the washing machine / dryer (once) and sauna (unlimited) respectively. I had the latter (women separate from men) to myself all 3 times I used it. There is a cafe downstairs which looked good, a smart, shared kitchen and a book collection to borrow from. Other downsides: there is something wrong with the drains so my shower / toilet smelled terrible, it is on a very busy main road, quite pricy, the basement where the sauna and stuff was creepy, especially in the evenings, and it was approximately half an hour’s walk from the centre.

The Toomemägi Park is on a steep hill and is well worth a visit: a beautiful green area, cafe, playpark and below –

The Observatory
The ruined Tartu Cathedral, in hilltop Toomemägi Park, has two restored towers with viewing platforms
Chimneys coming out of grassy mounds. This was my view when I did my Tai chi one morning
The Angel Bridge, named after either the English or the pretty face of Rector Parrot
The Devil Bridge
View from the park

To find the park, go to the foot of the hill by the playpark, in front of the pink church which is now a kino / cinema and either climb the steps or walk up the cobbles under the Angel Bridge (above).

This debonair gentleman stands in the calm sitting area next to the Elektricteater cinema

Here was my favourite café – Kohvik Krempel is a few minutes walk from the main square. The middle two photos are of an Estonian healthy drink called … which was different both times I had it (one to be eaten with a spoon and the other the consistency of coffee – it’s cold, made with oatmeal, fruit and kefir – delicious!

Like lots of the coffee shops, it looks shut from the outside. Do not be deterred!

I loved the Botanic Gardens.

Bridge looking towrads the main house, Botanic Gardens, Tartu
Spring’s bright colours – tulips
Poppies
Iris
Pansies, hyancinth and tulips in contrasting colours
Reflections and dandelion
Lillies in front of the ornamental lake, bridge and summer house
Pulsatilla
They have an extensive collection of mosses and lichens
The glasshouses

Other sights include the Toy Musem:

Tartu Toy Museum with lots of barbies

The leaning art museum:

Unfortinately closed between exhibitions, when I was there

The theatre museum:

Theatre Museum, Tartu

The Natural History Museum

The side of the Natural History Museum – the windows are an art work

It turned out that the charming Kogo Gallery was a minute away from my hostel. I was impressed by the woman who watched over it (friendly, helpful and knowledgeable), as well as by the exhibition of Ede Raadik‘s Sailin’ on the Red Sea contemporary art work.

In a cosy square with cafes and interesting buildings.

The black, white and gold building I have used for the title photo is the Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Tartu.

Visit Tartu city blog

City planner blog

Pärnu

I took the bus (#72 cost 1 euro) from Massiaru to Pärnu. There was snow on the ground. May 2019

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Taken the next day when the sun was shining! Pärnu Bus Station
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From the bus station I went past a beautiful Orthodox church, Pärnu
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My first stop was a Supelsaksad cafe /kohvik – it was bitterly cold and the hostel was not admitting us until 2pm, Pärnu
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Then it poured torrentially so I went to the Uue Kunsti Muuseum ‘New’ art gallery up the street. There was a donky outside to welcome me, Pärnu

I loved the textile exhibition – reegel ja rituaal (rule and ritual) by the Estonian Textile Artists’ Union – a lampshade as if it was covered in dust and what looked like spiders webs, penguins made from felt, and a herring on a T shirt!

Above from left to top right and then bottom right: Sometimes a herring is just a herring by Krista Leesi; Sume (the lampshade) by Triin Talts; Good Ideas To Hatch by Erika Pedak.

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Sama Muster (The Same Pattern) by Marilyn Piirsalu, MONA (Museum of New Art), Pärnu, Estonia
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Giant’s Lantern by Kristiina Tuura at MONA (Museum of New Art), Pärnu, Estonia

Helsinki based, Tuura made this work from recycled rubbish, and found objects with school children and immigrant students. It pays respect to hundreds of years of tradition of  lantern making in Syria.

There was a great and on-going sound of music and revving which I later realised was a motorbike rally. I had never seen so many leater-clad bearded folk in one place when the event ended and they all descended on the town to eat!

Pärnu is the riviera of Estonia where the rich come to the beach. It has typical wooden buildings of a much grander style though than I was sued to in the villages.

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A beautiful doorway, Pärnu
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The back of the school (below) and the side of the Gunpowder Magazine Gym, built near the bastions to fortify the city, Pärnu
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Local school (red brick) with Estonian flag flying, Pärnu
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The spires of Kateriina Kirik (almost like the Scottish word for church – kirk), Pärnu
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G W Richmann b Parnu 1711 Constructed the first lightening rod in Easter Europe at the same time as Benjamin Franklin and unfortunately it killed him in 1753. Sculptor Riho Kuld, Pärnu
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August Jakobson memorial 1904-1963 professional writer, chief editor various publishing houses, Chairman of Estonian Writers Unions. ‘Vaeste-Patuste elev’ was his breakthrough novel, then ‘Tuhkur-hobune’ depict the life of workers in Räma, a district of Pärnu
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Lydia Koidula, poet 1843 – 86, Pärnu
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Eliisabeti Kirik 1747, Pärnu

I walked back through the Munamaumlaute Park iron where children were happily running and playing in the sun between showers, and where for the first time I could not see the view because there were leaves on the trees.

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I stayed at Hostel Louna. I was the only one in this 8 bed room for the first night and for the second I was joined by two women – one from Lithiania and the other from Lativia. We have some nice chats! Pärnu

Hostel details: great staff, no bunks, all clean, fresh laundered covers and towel, hot showers, big windows with lots of light, very good value for money (11 euro a night), great location, kitchen small and could do with improvement, my room was on a busy main road. Beside Tallin Gate and 2 parks, one with fountains, about half way between the bus station with shops, Pärnu museum, churches and tourist areas; and the leafy suburbs, painted wooden villas, above cafe, Museum of New Art and wonderful beach.

Both mornings I was able to do my T’ai chi on the beach – a very long and sweeping strand on the edge of the Bay or Gulf of Riga across from the Isle of Gotland and Sweden. Neptune kept watch!

I found a pine cone and stood like a tree remembering the garden at Massiaru. A man walked out of the sea. I didn’t see him go in. The same happened on Orkney. I tried being barefoot, but the second day I wore my boots – too cold! Despite having my swimming costume on it was 4 degrees with a bitter wind, so, no! I also tried very hard not to glance at the people looking at me when I was supposed to be concentrating!

I discovered that if I orientate myself towards the sun to start with and move through the sequence (140 + or – moves), I come back to a new front it has moved by then – obvious really.

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Supelrand Beach, Pärnu

 

 

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The municipal library, Pärnu

Features of the River Pärnu.

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Apparently the only post box (yellow) is by the back of the bus station opposite this train, Pärnu

I also enjoyed the Pärnu museum crafts exhibition.

Near the hostel is Jenny Kruse, a second hand shop extraordinaire (avatud = open), Bum Bum a loud beer joint which serves food, a Chinese Medicine clinic, and the famous Tallin Gate.

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Chinese Medicine treatment makes people healthy! Pärnu
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The Tallin Gate, Pärnu

See my Estonia page for supermarkets and travel info

Visit Estonia webpage

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This big food shop was still open 7.30 at Port Artur near the bus station, Pärnu

Estonia – insects, lakes and log cabins

April 2019 Massiaru, Estonia

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This little critter looks as if someone has been doodling on her in a bored moment – a V shape here, a straight line there, 2 half tear drops with black dots inside, colour that in black, leave that bit orange!

I could not get a photo of the big peacock-coloured beetle. He spent all his time negotiating the grass and falling over at almost every blade. He must have been used to it because he flipped himself over and just carried on.

Hawthorn was watching a moth which had got caught inside the double glazing, so he couldn’t get to it, but he spent a long time watching and trying, bless him.

Like a battlefield – you could almost see people picking through bodies looking for coins. It seemed strewn with sadness

The new leaves have come out next to the pussy willow which now look like they are bursting with excitement at the feel of the sun.

There is virgin growth everywhere
Spreading their leaves to get every particle of warmth
Magenta primula
These wood anemones have taller stalks than the ones from 2 weeks ago, now the air is more benign
Delicate and simple blossom

As I stand facing the rising sun to do my morning exercises, the sunshine gleams through the dandelion leaves at foot level.

I came across the most stunning lake
Beside a log cabin
Made in the old style with interlocking logs
The paths are soft under my boots
And the frogspawn is bubbling

The bus passes through mile after mile of forest with the longest straightest tracks dissecting them. Some are dense pine and others are deciduous, more spacious with a matching green floor. Occasionally they have been cleared for agricultural purposes (in the centre of one huge one were 2 storks lazily pecking), or for motorbike racing.

Along the rivers are clumps of bright celandines

I am picking up a few words of the notoriously difficult Estonian language : thank you sounds like aita; tee is street without the s, r and second t; kohvik is coffee shop ; kool is school – you can see why I know those ones!

Everywhere forest is being cleared for agriculture
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Overhead is heard the constant honk of geese and squeak of swan
One evening’s walk I was accompanied by herds of cattle with calves on both sides of the road, lowing loudly
Really unusual pink flowers growing straight out of the ground as if someone had half buried them
We ate these maple flowers, battered, deep fried and sugared
Sprats are the locally produced fish
One of my favourite morning spots for ‘standing like a tree’
Dandelion half plays, half delights in the day

All those trees mean that of course the main house building material is wood and they are usually painted beautiful colours which shine in the evening sun.

A sea swim in the sunset, a woodpecker, and more

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Place names with too many vowels! Lanksaare, Uuemaa and Urisaare of the startling green Orthodox church.

Local place name. Notice the red and white stripes below denoting the National Walking Trail

Häädemeeste (yep, there’s anotther one!) which is the nearest biggish town (it actually has a Co-op which was open on Easter Monday).

Local church, Haademeeste, Estonia
Talking of which: beautifully decorated local eggs dyed with onion and beetroot skins
A small lake nearby where I am staying, Massiaru, Estonia

I have seen some magnificent birds here. There was an aweee(p) single repeated call. A large bird, it looked like a black and grey raptor swept down over the ploughed field with a huge wing span.

Strong shadows, forest, Estonia

Pee pee pee, pee poo pee poo. I didn’t see this one but I certainly heard it. Is it the bird who mimics others? It is as if he is practicing all the tunes he can remembers in case he forgets. Or pretending to be more birds than he is!

They don’t seem to take care when cutting down the trees

A confetti of leaves
A trill of birds
A stumble of stones
A crunch of cones
A prickle of pines
The roughness of riven birch
A needle of fir saplings

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Silver birches shining in the early evening sun

The straightest roads I have ever seen. They have ditches running parallel on both sides, some filled with water. Ahead they go, as far as my eye can see.

This one was a railway running from the coast inland to transport the wood and putting lots of fishermen out of work. It opened in 1923 and was finally taken up in 1975. It was the last public narrow-guage in Estonia

Four long wheee calls, a flap of large wings. I looked up, shielding my eyes from the sun with my hand. Across to a high-up tree it flew and then I heard a distinctive wooden drilling – it was a woodpecker! Much bigger than I expected, I saw it so clearly silhouetted against the blue sky.

I found the river but none of the promised beaver or otter, although there was a dam which looked as if the former had been busy. It was so peaceful that I sat on a stump and inhaled the fresh water smell

So far I have seen two storks – one flash of white at the corner of my eye revealed a gawky version of a heron in the garden; the other striding in a field, surely taller than I.

I walked along the boardwalk, three quarters finished and the scent of new-sawn pine, through the alder forest and came out on Kabli beach

Earlier I had visited further down the coast and ducks and geese ftook their turns in the air, as well as spread out V-shaped wedge (or bevy, aparently) of swans, necks extended, and swept around the coast.

Kabli Beach, Estonia

I have rarely seen a more beautiful sight. The Bay of Riga with an individual, gracious swan on satin water. In and out I went, it was so cold, a little deeper each time – my skin tingled.

A blood-orange sky lazed around a golden sun. Eventually I swam, legs brushing rocks I couldn’t see. Otherwise, ridged sand underfoot

Later, sitting in gritty clothes, I marvelled at the upside down exclamation mark of magenta egg. The setting sun was suspended a few centimetres from the horizon and the matching pillar, no it was more of a column because it seemed to have rounded edges, was in the sea underneath.

Sun setting on the Bay of Riga, Estonia

It got squatter, closer to merging with the ocean. I took a stone seat full of the day’s warmth under my bottom. The view was luminous, now a magic mushroom. All the birds went on tweeting as if nothing was happening! The sky was rainbow coloured. The orb started to flatten. Then there was just the merest cap, and at the last ,a distant errupting volcano, a flying saucer far away, a pink dash and it was gone. My toes were numb.

I think it only lasted around three minutes in total before it vanished below the horizon
When I turned round, it had bathed everything a soft red

Yesterday deer ran across the road in front of me. Today I disturbed a flock who thought they were camouflaged, but I had already heard and seen them. Off they scarpered, white arses flashing up in the air as they bounded through beige bracken.

The aura of a pussy willow is the same as the cats with the sun behind them

It turns out that the round, glowing bees are wild for the pussy willow. They buzz edso loudly I could still hear them as I walked away.

Can you see the white aura around Hawthorn, one of the resident kittens captivated by something? He is so curious that it doesn’t take much to get his attention!

This morning when I was doing my exercises in the garden and was on the Wood part of the 5 Element chi gung, a tiny rustle caught my ear and there was a mouse beside me on the pile of wood shavings. In the evening I heard that one of the cats had brought one in as a ‘present’. I hoped it was not him.

Dusky pink, plum, apricot: the stalks and trunks. Anything that has the faintest natural hint of these colours picks up the evening sun

Later I saw a black snake. It was approximately 35 inches long (70cms) with a slight yellow on its head, but it had been run over which was how I got to photograph it and measure the length with my thumb. (I thought better of including it here as it was somewhat damaged and it seemed a bit gruesome somehow).

Last week’s full moon
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and one more sunset (from a different evening) to end with.

I recommend the Alien Heartbeat blog for beautiful short accouts of walks in Estonia, the people he meets, and gorgeous photos.

The flora and natural beauty of Estonia

Spring 2019, southern Estonia

Try listening to native Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel here while you feast your eyes on some of Estonia’s lovelist spring flowers and other natural wonders.

Hepatica nobilis or Blue Flower / liver leaf / crystal wort
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Blue, white, yellow (alder lily) and purple on the forest floor
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Wood anenomes
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I cannot find out the name of this flower
Eight days of sun and purple violets showing between tree roots amongst the dry crunchy leaves of the winter gone

Shy yellow heads: one dandelion-ish, the other cowslip.

Cowslip

It looksed like iris and wild rose in their infancy along what used to be a path which I followed through the forest, stepping over fallen logs, twigs crackling under foot.

Grasses
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Wiggly, furry – what are they?
Fungus with orange edging growing on the underside of a fallen log in the forest
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The new seed heads of moss growing very close to the ground
Tiny green seed flowers
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Just opened today (24.4.19)
New fir
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The only stem of its kind, a one-off
Grape hyacinth and burgundy shoots
Celandines
Star shaped leaves of lupin amongst the brown winter grasses
Close-up of the prettiest moss ever
Budding leaves
The pink heads of rhubarb just poking through
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By a small lake, bulrushes like popcorn exploded and mimicking candy floss fluffing

Unfortunately I have not managed to identify a lot of these. Please do let me know if you are better on naming than I am. I would be very grateful.

Thanks to this blog for information on the Blue Flower names.

Riga, Pärnu, Massiaru

April 2019 – backpack travel.

Disclaimer: the sky really was that blue – it wasn’t a fancy camera filter!

I travelled to Riga in Latvia (one of the 3 Baltic States) by plane from Edinburgh, arriving late on Thursday night.

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Early April morning, St Peter’s Spire, Riga, Latvia

I took 22 bus from the airport to the centre and walked through the underpass to the Wicked Weasal Hostel which I highly recommend. It is clean and the staff are really friendly. I was offered a free beer and there’s tea (including green) and coffee in the well stocked kitchen. I was in a shared dorm with a Spanish soldier and ended up reviving my Spanish until late at night as we swapped life stories!

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The Art Academy of Latvia, Riga, Latvia

I stayed less than 12 hours so have very few photos to show for it. On the way out I passed the astonishing golden domes of the Riga Nativity of Christ (Russian Orthodox) Cathedral, and the statue of Rainis (Janis Plieksans, a famour Latvian poet, playwright, translator and politician in the Riga Esplanade park.

 

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Unusual clock behind the Art Academy, Riga, Latvia
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Mural in the Pärnu bus station, Estonia
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Pärnu River, Pärnu, Estonia
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Pärnu River, Pärnu, Estonia

I took two buses that day – one to Pärnu along the main highway, and the other which doubled back south for some of the way and then headed slightly inland to Massiaru – four hours in total.

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A church I snapped through the bus window on the way – the majority of Estonians say that religion is not important in their lives. The ones who are, are either Christian or Orthodox
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This part of Estonia (south west) is flat and forested. In many places they clear the pines and leave the silver trunks of the birches
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Everywhere there are brightly coloured timber houses – pink, yellow and blue
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Many of the houses have smaller buildings in their gardens which are buried up to the roof on three sides
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I am staying in the small village of Massiaru in the Pärnu region of Estonia
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Russia is to the east of Estonia, Finland to the north west. I came north from Riga in Latvia
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In the old school house, Massiaru, Estonia

Every day I walk for a couple of hours – on the first day to the south, then to the north, the west and east. The roads are straight and wide, some dary grey tarmacked and some stony and pale apricot. It is monotonous walking – mentally relaxing.

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Pussy willow, one of my first successful close-ups enabled by my new phone camera
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I am surrounded by trees including the familiar Scots Pine

Standing amongst them
The patience of trees
The forebearance of trees
The pure being of trees
Do you think the birds tickle them?

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Mostly silver birch and various types of pines
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Also some oaks in the garden which has farm land around it

I find a sunny place in the mornings to do my swinging exercises, T’ai Chi and to ‘Stand Like a Tree’ (a chi gung exercise) for my general health and to counteract the 6-7 hours a day of cerebral work writing hours at my laptop.

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There is a new pond in the garden. The reflection reminded me of a natural green version Dali’s Mae West lips

I sit in the sun to have my lunch, topping up my vitamin D levels after the Scottish winter. In contrast to my trips to Spain in previous years, I have gone back in time coming here, leaving the Spring behind me, but it is getting warmer every day and the plants are shooting nicely.

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The forests provide for many people’s livelihoods – logging and wood preparation. The hay bales are in long, white plastic covered snakes
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Nearby is an industrial building
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Nepeta cataria (catnip). The primary resident is creating an artist’s herb garden – cultivating and planting seeds in hanging trays in the old classrooms, and creating presentations indoors in the bedrooms through the winter
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Hawthorn and Dandelion – 2 more residents
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I am writing about death and loss, so this window sill display is most appropriate
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This thrush was not killed by the kittens who live here as they were kept in after their operations. A sleek grey lynx was spotted in the field next to the garden that day, but I think it was more likely to be the visiting cat

 

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Before they left, M and R took me to the beach on the Baltic Coast near Kabli which has a camp site where the RMK Estonian Hiking Route walkers can stay close to the end of the trek
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The patterns in the sand are amongst the most impressive I have seen. Beach, Pärnu Region, Estonia
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This green painted Orthodox church is 3 kms away in the village of Urissaare