This past weekend was not only a holiday weekend (Veterans’ Day) but also my birthday weekend, so it was naturally a good excuse to take a trip to the island of Saaremaa with my favorite travel partner, Reinhard. we set out Saturday morning, picked up a rental car, and headed straight for the town of Virtsu where we would catch the ferry for Muhu Island. Once we arrived at the coast, we could already tell it was going to be a rough journey on the water. The area was littered with windmills, indicating that there is a constant supply of wind. Sure enough, the ferry was battered around. Thankfully the trip to the island of Muhu was short. We knew finding a place for lunch on the small island would be just about impossible, so we stopped at a grocery store for a makeshift picnic lunch which we ate in the car along the way to the Koguva village. The village was very charming. There were little huts with grass roofs and moss all around. Many of the huts had little exhibits inside that you could peek into. Of course the museum running them was closed, but we were still free to wander around. Beyond the cluster of huts, the Koguva port was situated. The rustic port was really just some closed buildings and a few forgotten fishing boats. Frozen, we got back into the car, got through the rest of Muhu, seeing a couple windmills and churches along the way.
There’s a a bridge between Muhu and Saaremaa. As we drove past, we saw some guys windsurfing in the water along the bridge. I sure hope they had some warm wetsuits on! I certainly can’t imagine wanting to go into that cold water, but those brave guys seemed to be enjoying it. Our very first stop was at the Karja Catherine Church. It is a beautiful church built in the 14th century. After a quick photo session, we left for the Angla Windmills. The island of Saaremaa is known for its beautiful windmills. There used to be a large amount of them, but now there are only 5 windmills left. The wonderful windmills of Angla are located in an extra windy spot on the island near a “main” road, so they were easily accessible by the workers. Luckily, that also means they were easily accessible for us, too! We were driving along the road and all these beautiful windmills popped into view. We stopped on a little path on the road, got out of the car, were greeted by a friendly dog, and started exploring. We found that there was a museum house and a real parking lot on the other side of the windmills, so we moved on over there. We learned a little about the history of the windmills while warming up over some coffee. We spent some good time wandering around the windmills (4 typically Estonian, 1 Dutch styled). We were even able to climb inside 2 of the windmills – the big one had an exhibition of children’s artwork.
Next on our list was the Kaali meteoroid crater. Scientists think that the meteoroid struck the area around 4,000 years ago. The big one in my video below is actually a part of a series of craters. There are 8 more smaller craters in the area, all from debris that broke off of the main meteor.
Before checking into our hotel, we stopped at the Kõljala manor house. This manor house is very different from the other ones I have seen. The others have been very well maintained and preserved. The Kõljala manor house, on the other hand, has not been so lucky. Though the pink and white paint was clearly peeling, the manor house was still beautiful.
After a long day on the road, we wound up in Kuressaare, where we were to spend the night. The people at my work told me we absolutely had to have dinner at the La Perla restaurant, and I’m so glad we went. Apparently the man who owns the restaurant is an Italian American who used to work at the same place I am right now. But he fell in love with an Estonian woman and decided to stick around and open an Italian restaurant. I had the most delicious pasta carbonara ever and Reini really enjoyed his lasagne. After dinner we walked to the Bishop’s Castle, a key landmark of not only the city, but the whole island. It was a really eerie site at night. Cold and windblown, we called it a night and promised to go back the next day.