Relaxing in Lahemaa National Park

Wednesday 2 to Saturday 5 August

We sacrificed our planned three days in Tallinn for three days in the Lahemaa National Park. We booked into the Vihula Manor and Country Club and were forced to upgrade to extend our stay to the three nights. Shame about that!

Our journey from the university city of Tartu was along the western edge of Lake Peipsi. We made a stop at the village of Kaspää, on the lake. The beach was a tiny patch of sand and in the grey morning the village was almost deserted. This has been a very cool and grey summer.

The lake is shared between Russia and Estonia and is the fourth largest in Europe at 236 km2.

We also stopped to see the Valeste Waterfall on the cliffs leading into the Gulf on Finland – this turned out to be a mere trickle, and the tourist experience was a broken bridge.

The sun shone brightly on our first day at Vihula Manor so we took the 5km forest walk. At times we found ourselves tramping through wet grass and not even sure if we were on the right track. We walked past farm houses, wheat fields, a saw mill and a forest and finished by the small lakes and quaint bridges that form part of the manor. 

We have had little sunshine so we figured we should make the most of this lovely day. After lunch on the lawn, we drove to the small fishing village of Altja and then on to the beach resort of Vösu. The national park is made up of forest and coastline and is beautiful. 

We treated ourselves to dinner in the main manor house. It was recommended that we book a table, which made us laugh as there were only two other tables occupied during the evening.

Our waitress was only to eager to serve, but lacking the ‘finesse’ of the English language. As soon as she presented a plate or poured a glass of wine she abruptly said ‘you’re welcome’, even before we had expressed our appreciation for her service.

It’s a sad indictment on our own culture (be it Australian, USA or UK) where a simple phrase is offered without an understanding of its meaning. We have found a strong command of the English language in all the (tourist) places we have visited, but sometimes comprehension is lacking. As for our language skills – we famously announce we can order beer, wine and coffee in French, German, Italian ad Spanish – it is a poor comparison to the English spoken by locals and visitors in these Balkan countries.

That evening the rain started again. It rained all night – I woke a number of times to the sound of gutters overflowing.  We scampered under umbrellas to breakfast and returned to our room for some quality photo sorting time. The rain continued as did our frustration.  We made plans to go for a walk, but the clouds rolled in and we chickened out.

As the wet day wore on, we decided to drive to the nearest town, Karepa as I needed batteries for my mouse. The forests were delightful and we understood that green doesn’t come without the rain. The town was a center for concrete manufacturing, not a tourist destination.  The supermarket was well stocked and once again, we marvelled at the quality of fruit and vegetables.

The sun shone the next day, as we were departing. Story of this adventure! As we left the manor, with the beautiful windmill on our left, we came across an amazing stork’s nest. I am sure it is an antipodean fascination with these nests that are propped up high on posts.

The stork is considered a most auspicious bird.  In several countries the stork is actually encouraged to nest on the roof of the house for good fortune. As we drove through the countryside we saw many posts that seemed to be placed near a farmhouse, specifically to encourage a stork to nest. Nowadays, a metal circle is placed on the pole, however a carriage wheel was often used in earlier days.