Thursday, 25 August 2011

Saareema Island Estonia

Saareemaa Island, Estonia, August 25th

This was such a beautiful island, so unspoilt and untouristy. It reminded me of Paradise in so many ways. If one analysed the elements that make up a small island community, allowing for language differences and cultural variation, the essential heart would be the same. Actually this island was a good deal less set up for tourism at the moment, but clearly that is to come. Estonia only got the Euro in January of this year, so their economy is in something of turmoil, and I felt they needed our income, however modest that was.

Our guide, Kristyan spoke with fantastically colourful English, he told us how the national park on the island was swimming with 46 types of ‘Orchidies’ , and that the ‘Saareema people had ‘scriddled’ out the past Soviet difficulties and were now ready to say hello to happy travellers from the West’ ! I thought he was marvellous.
After arriving at Kussarrere, the capital, (as big as Portree but with half the shops!), we were let loose on the streets. It had such wonderfully mixed architecture, old Russia with Dacha’s and Onion topped Orthodox churches, painted in fading yellows and pinks, to large Soviet blocks of flats which have precisely 50 square meters of space per flat, and built when the island was closed to the public in the 50’s, to the modern eco houses which would be the pride of any young architect, complete with turf roofs and solar panels, built in strange shapes and all with lots of gigantic passive solar windows. Every one of the old houses had a woodpile stacked in exactly the same way - last year they had 7 feet of snow, so logs are essential to life. It puts my barnful of higgeldy piggeldy logs to shame!

Our guide told us that the island was academically self sufficient having 3 High Schools, 1 Trade School and a Tartar University, where a degree could be ‘earned’ (note the word ‘earned’ carefully, not taken for granted, or given away easily) in the local language, so our young do not need ‘to flee’. I was amused by the ‘our young’ – he cannot have been a day over 25!

I coffeed! Well it is part of the survey! This one was 1.20 Euros – the price falls with every port, and it was extremely good, complete with Estonian gipsy music played in the background, and my only companions being black haired locals smoking dark cheroots. A town with soul and depth as well as recent historical darkness.
I walked up to ‘the shiniest jewel of our fair city’, quote of guess who, the Kussarrere Fortress, and in amongst the clear signs for all the attractions there was one which read,

‘This way to the Communist Massacre of 1941 Memorial’.

Thank God that Armadale Castle does not have to display such a dreadful sign. Grateful for great mercies.

The main street had a pavement covered in bright daisies on which the local children skipped, like a sort of Hop Scotch, and the market was full of knitted goods of a vaguely Icelandic style (now where does that come from?!) and amber jewellery alongside lovely wood carvings. The food stuffs were largely home grown fruits and vegetables from the stall holders land, and I gorged myself on 6 fat, ripe plums, squishy to perfection and as sweet as full blooded honey. There were lots of mushrooms which looked almost artificial when I am used to the dull greys and browns of our common varieties, and looking as if they were collected in the dew of the morning.

It is a privilege to visit such small and hopeful communities, and I hope my modest purchases in some small way said a hearty thank you for letting me into their lives for an all too fleeting moment.

Now here is up to date news – I am sitting typing this by the pool and our young cruiser was, a moment ago, playing by the edge of the pool. Suddenly his young eyes spied something in the distance and he joyfully shouted ‘Whale, whale’, well as you can imagine, onboard that causes a huge amount of interest, infact his photographer father has a camera par excellence and took photos instantly. On viewing the close up it is infact an abandoned boat. The captain must be told, and we are, as I write, circling around to make sure there is nobody onboard, or injured, or worse!
Peter is the star of the moment and cock a hoop with childish delight at his glorious sighting.

Go Captain, save the ancient mariner, and make the Estonian Daily Mail front page!

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