Tallinn and the Internet
Although our stay in Tallinn was short, we still got a small impression of the city. The medieval townscape is still characterized by the Teutonic Order and the Hanseatic League. One almost has the impression to be in a German town. Yet, you hear more Russian than German.
We want to get to know more of the country although our possibilities are very limited. Next destination of our journey is Riga in Latvia. Before the start of our trip, we heard already that it is better not to go by train there. Our searches on the Internet lead us to a company that specializes in the route Tallinn – Riga, it is tallinnrigabus.
They promise a ride in a minibus and make several stops on the way to show more about the country. We ask the tourism information and they reserve us by phone two places on the bus. Meeting point is the next day in front of the tourism information. We are still a little skeptical since we have no written confirmation but everything turns-out well. The next day the minibus arrives as announced.
Perhaps everything works without problems because in Estonia one refrains from a large part of correspondence in favor of the Internet. Authorities communicate only via the Internet. The medieval city of Tallinn is in complete contradiction to the innovative behavior on the Internet. Estonia is the most innovative country in the European Union. Estonia is leading at e-government and at e-Residency. Estonia has distinguished itself already very early: Skype is an Estonian product.
Every day, the company drives the route Tallinn to Riga and of course back. A ride takes 12 hours including 6 scheduled stops. In this first part, we show the route from Tallinn to Valga, located at the border between Estonia and Latvia.
Olga Loitsenko, a very young driver who speaks excellent English drives our bus. In reply to the question, where she has learned this, she tells us that she has learned English on TV.
In Estonia, many films are broadcast in original English language and are only subtitled. As a result, many young people learn the language in this way.
We also learn that there are two different types of inhabitants in Estonia. There are citizens and citizens with undetermined citizenship. These are the Russian speaking minority.
You can only become a citizen and get an Estonian passport after you pass a language test. The language test is said to be very difficult. But, the citizens with undetermined citizenship can travel without a visa to Russia and the EU.
Leaving Tallinn, we pass the Schnitzelhaus, where we had dinner the day before. The food is highly recommended. The landlady has worked for a year in Bavaria and the chef is Bavarian. Unfortunately, we did not meet him.
We asked the landlady whether the Estonians feel as Europeans today. After a little break, she answered that they do not feel European. Earlier, the Russians call the shots, today it is the EU. The answer has given us a bit of thought. If you call for a military presence from the Baltic States, everything sounds different.
The first 160 km run mainly through a flat country. Broad woods and meadow sections characterize the region. The stories from exiles from Silesia who had to struggle through after the 2nd World War here, come to our mind.
Many children were left alone and could only survive as the farmers gave them work and accommodation until they could move on.
Then we reach Viljandi.
Big red strawberries made of concrete characterize the street. They point the way to the Kondas center for naive art. It was named after the naive painter Paul Kondas, who became famous for his painting “The Strawberry Eaters”
The first settlement traces in Viljandi are already 7000 years old, but the first written mention is from 1154. In 1224, the crusading German military orders built a mighty fortress, regarded as the largest fortress in the Baltic. At the beginning of the 17th century, it was destroyed during the Polish-Russian War.
Before we reach the remains of the castle, we come across the equestrian statue of Johan Laidoner. He was the commander-in-chief of the national Estonian forces in the Estonian War of Independence from 1918 to 1920. He prevented a communist coup attempt in 1924 and supported the authoritarian regime of President Päts from 1934 to 1940.
This prevented a fascist takeover of power, but the individual liberty rights were severely restricted. In 1940, after the occupation by Russian troops, Johan Laidoner was arrested by the Soviet Ministry of the Interior. After his stays in various Russian prisons, he died in Vladimir’s prison near Kirov in 1953. Many Estonians regard him as patriot and freedom fighter.
On the opposite side of his monument, is an open-air theater. Here the internationally known “Viljandi county Folk Music festival” takes place every year.
Afterwards, we cross a 15 m deep valley via the Suspension Bridge of Viljandi and reach the remains of the castle. In 1879, Felser & Co in Riga built the suspension bridge for the moat in Tarvastu.
In 1931, Karl von Mesenkampff gave the bridge as a present to the town of Viljandi. It is 50 m long and became an important symbol of the town.
During the visit of the remains of the castle, heavy rain starts and we have to seek shelter in the old ruins.
Next scheduled stop is the sandstone caves of Helmets. But before we reach it, we are again surprised by heavy rain. So we only see the remains of an old castle.
We decided to immediately drive to Valga.
In the center of the village, we make a short stop at the school, which is jut being renovated. A participant of our bus trip spent her youth here.
Afterwards, we enjoy a delicious lunch at Hotel Metsis*. Stuffed animals from Russia and Africa show the hunting passion of the hotel owner.
We cross the border to Latvia at the exit of a town.
Please read on > From Tallinn to Riga – Part2
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