Saaremaa is the largest island of Estonia, and it has so many activities and sights that it is not possible to get bored. There are forests and parks, peninsulas and cliffs, tiny villages and farms, churches and castles, lighthouses and windmills… even meteorite craters! All in one island!
I guess most of the highlights could be visited in two or three days by car. Moving around by bus is a bit more complicated, since the bus network reaches most of the places but its frequency is not very good. But if you have time and patience, it is possible. These are the places I visited during my three-day stay.
Kuressaare is the biggest settlement in Saaremaa and is located next to the sea. It is a small town mainly known for its castle and spas.
I was not lucky with the weather so I visited the town mostly under the rain. Still, it is a small nice town to walk around, with wooden houses, small streets, a couple of churches, a baroque town hall and a Dutch mill converted into an inn. On Saturday there was a kind of market with music in a park, a lot of people were there and it was very lively. On Sunday, the streets were very quiet.
The Kuressaare castle stands next to the sea and is very well preserved. It was constructed in the 14th century as stronghold for the bishop. The interior of the castle now hosts the Saaremaa museum, devoted to the islands’ history (from prehistory, through medieval age and especially the last 100 years) and nature (local animals and plants).
As in Narva, in Kuressaare there is a health park close to the city. It is called Tervisepark and is located in the South East side of the city, in the direction of the airport. There are three circuit tracks very well signaled – measuring 2km, 1km and 0,6km – in the forest to walk or run. In winter they are used for skiing and sledging.
I was very fortunate to reach Angla by local transport one hour before a bus which transported 15 tourists, so I could enjoy the windmills all alone. They can be seen directly from the road, five ancient wooden windmills on the hill. It is a very beautiful landscape (and may I say romantic?).
There are four post-windmills (the smaller ones), which are the oldest type of windmill in northern Europe. The biggest one (in the middle) is a Dutch windmill, which did not become popular in Estonia until the 19th century. They have been renovated, and it is possible to enter the Dutch windmill and one of the post-windmills to see how the grain was crushed to get flour.
The windmills belong to the Cultural Heritage Center in Angla, which has also exhibitions about the life of ancient farmers in the islands, and organize craft workshops.
Even with the heavy rain, I decided to leave Kuresaare and take a bus to Kaali on Sunday afternoon. When I reached Kaali, I could not locate the bus stop to go back so I entered a nearby shop (the only one) to ask for some indications. The owner, a woman, did not speak English but understood my question (bus Kureessare?), and asked a man (her husband?) to show me where the stop was.
We went out, walked a few meters, and he pointed the place. It was opposite the place I just got off, without any sign. He pointed at his watch to tell me that I would have to wait one hour. I tried to tell him that it was ok, that I wanted to visit the craters. I thanked him and he went.
I went to Kaali, at 20km from Kuressaare, to see the meteorit craters. The studies say that a meteorit hit that spot around 4000 years ago, leaving a big crater of around 110m of diameter and several small ones around.
I followed the sign towards the big crater, which is now a lake. I approach it. I saw it. A perfectly round lake surrounded by a cone shaped hill. It was impressive. How to explain it? I felt some kind of energy in that place. Maybe it helped that I was all alone. Maybe it helped that is was still raining and cold and windy, which added a dramatic effect to the view. I felt attracted to that lake, where 4000 years ago a rock coming from outside the planet crashed on the ground.
The hour was over, I had to go back to catch the bus. While leaving, I couldn’t avoid looking back to that perfectly round lake. I still felt its magnetism.
I went back to the bus stop. Two minutes before 7pm, the man from the shop came out and approached me. He signaled his watch. I made a seven with my fingers, he nodded and smiled. The bus would come at 7pm. He tried to ask me something and was disappointed that we could not communicate. We saw the bus arriving, he smiled and took my hands as a good bye. He had come out under the heavy rain to ensure I did not miss the bus and to tell me good bye. Waw.
That visit to Kaali was the best moment I had in Estonia. I felt a strong connection to the world and to people, it was what I call a magic moment.
Did you had any interesting encounter while traveling? Any magic moment?
- My first solo travel: a reassuring, uplifting experience
- Tallin, much more than the Old Town
- Narva, the eastern limit
- Viljandi, quiet and charming
- Saaremaa, an island full of surprises
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