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
Pansies, hyancinth and tulips in contrasting colours

oznorReflections and Dandelion

Lillies in front of the ornamental lake, bridge and summer house
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


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

Taken the next day when the sun was shining! Pärnu Bus Station
From the bus station I went past a beautiful Orthodox church, Pärnu
My first stop was a Supelsaksad cafe /kohvik – it was bitterly cold and the hostel was not admitting us until 2pm, Pärnu
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.

Sama Muster (The Same Pattern) by Marilyn Piirsalu, MONA (Museum of New Art), Pärnu, Estonia
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.

A beautiful doorway, Pärnu
The back of the school (below) and the side of the Gunpowder Magazine Gym, built near the bastions to fortify the city, Pärnu
Local school (red brick) with Estonian flag flying, Pärnu
The spires of Kateriina Kirik (almost like the Scottish word for church – kirk), Pärnu
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
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
Lydia Koidula, poet 1843 – 86, Pärnu
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.

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.

Supelrand Beach, Pärnu



The municipal library, Pärnu

Features of the River Pärnu.

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.

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

See my Estonia page for supermarkets and travel info

Visit Estonia webpage

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

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.

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!

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.


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

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
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
Everywhere there are brightly coloured timber houses – pink, yellow and blue
Many of the houses have smaller buildings in their gardens which are buried up to the roof on three sides
I am staying in the small village of Massiaru in the Pärnu region of Estonia
Russia is to the east of Estonia, Finland to the north west. I came north from Riga in Latvia
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.

Pussy willow, one of my first successful close-ups enabled by my new phone camera
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?

Mostly silver birch and various types of pines
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.

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.

The forests provide for many people’s livelihoods – logging and wood preparation. The hay bales are in long, white plastic covered snakes
Nearby is an industrial building
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
Hawthorn and Dandelion – 2 more residents
I am writing about death and loss, so this window sill display is most appropriate
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


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
The patterns in the sand are amongst the most impressive I have seen. Beach, Pärnu Region, Estonia
This green painted Orthodox church is 3 kms away in the village of Urissaare