Baltic 2016 Part 1 To Estonia
Looking at this map you can see our intended route. This part will take us as far as Saue about 20 km from Tallinn on the day we go to Helsinki.
As well as the route shown, we would also have getting on for 700km each way to reach our start and finish points on the Baltic. I planned a day and a half for each transit. We have been to Tallinn, Helsinki and Stockholm so were able to ignore them on this trip. So with a little playing around with the rough schedule I was able to say that we might manage it, and also have holiday time in the Estonian Islands and the Finnish archipelago.
For this blog I will, on some days, copy what I put on social media at the time and will indent those bits and use red:
Wednesday 22nd June Good morning, well today is the big day as we head for Harwich this afternoon on our Baltic adventure. Don't expect too much from us until we reach Finland as roaming charges will apply in Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. By the way our ferry doesn't leave until 11pm but last time we went on the night sailing we were caught up in road diversions and nearly missed our ferry. So early this afternoon we are driving to Dedham Vale which I have never been to and which is described as Constable Country as many of his more famous paintings are set there. Its only a short drive from there to Harwich (about 15 miles)
This may involve some repetion and you may have to keep your wits about you as often these bits were entered first thing in the morning and refer to the previous day!
The day went as planned, Flatford Mill was delightful and we went on a nature walk and saw... a pigeon.
Our crossing was smooth but parts of UK and Holland had severe thunderstorms. Arriving at 0745 on day 1 it took us an hour or more to get off the boat and through the border checks. We passed most of Thursday getting to Wildeshausen just south west of Bremen. Sunny all day It was still 26ºC at 10pm and then we had thunderstorms throughout the night.
Wildeshausen the morning after
Day 2 It was still damp on Friday morning. We woke up to the news that Britain had voted to leave the EU. We refuelled (1.14€/litre) and set off to rendevous with the Baltic near Lubeck. We arrived near Harkensee and both of us then paddled in the Baltic.
Feet in the Baltic
Nearby young women were getting topless so I was hurried back to the van to continue to our night stop which was to be Niendorf on the island of Poel near Wismer. A nice enough place and we had a beer and looked at the smoked fish in their pub/shop. For the first time in Germany found that you needed the domestic european plug to get your hook up instead of the blue DIN one. Guess who had left their adaptor at home, I hadn't needed it since Norway in 2006. No real problem, after driving all day and with a large solar panel and very sunny weather, I wouldn't need any mains power. Just use the fridge on gas and boil a kettle on the hob. It was hot all day and come the evening a thunderstorm again, which nearly caught us out as we had walked to the nearby town of Kirchdorf.
Day 3 My birthday. Opened cards and presents, another very sunny day. Drove through Rostock and along the coast as far as Ahrenshoop. Got our bikes down and went for a ride, had a birthday currywurst then on to Stralsund where the nice campsite was full, the rubbishy one had spaces but we thought we could do better.
We went a few km further on to Greifswald, nice spot but no nearby restaurant. One of the problems we were to have was with Saturdays, we really needed to be in a campsite by Friday and stay until Sunday but that was going to be difficult with our time constraints and general lack of planning. What I also didn't realise was that school summer holidays had already started here. Just turning up on a Saturday was always going to be chancy. After driving a lot further finding a full camping spot and going through another late afternoon thunderstorm we arrived at Wolgast. Parked on a free carpark and went to the nearby restaurant.
I had Zander (pike-perch), don't remember too much else about the meal but I remember the bent glasses.
One thing we both like to do is read books set in the areas we are passing through so for this trip we had loaded our kindles with a suitable range. We avoid travel guides as a rule but did have an Eyewitness guide to Sweden from a previous visit and the Rough Guide to the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania) bought specially for this trip. Might as welll mention maps here. We have a Freytag & Berndt 250,000:1 atlas of Scandinavia bought in 2006 which also covers Holland and Northern Germany at 400,000:1 and for planning a 2016 AA atlas of Europe at 900,000:1. So before leaving I went to Stanfords in Bristol and got a Baltic states map at 500,000:1 and two of Poland, NW and NE at 300,000:1. I also bought a book, 'Polish History for Travellers' but have found that very heavy going.
As we went through Germany I was finishing off reading the 'Peenemunde Deception' a police and military novel set near the end of WWII in the days following an RAF bomber raid on Hitlers V1 and V2 test and launch facility. Doreen started reading our book about Polish history. I started on The Polish Officer on my kindle a novel which starts with the invasion of Poland at the start of WWII but which makes some claims about how poor the British and French support for Poland was.
Day 4 Sunday A little cooler, I went out at 07.30 to catch the opening of the bridge here. I believe it to be one of the largest of its kind. It carries the railway as well as the main E111 road. As the roadway lifted I was amazed to see pigeons nesting in a small gully below the road surface. Every time the bridge closes tons of steelwork come to a halt just above them.
After breakfast we walked around Wolgast and bought rolls etc for lunch, from a bakery near the church, then we drove to Peenemunde.
Peenemunde was a bit of a disappointment, much of the site is occupied by a former power station. Having seen the V1 and V2 outside, the audio guide takes you to the power station rather than to the other exhibits about Hitler's vengence weapons, which are tucked away in a small corner of the building.
However once we had found it, it was interesting, we stayed three hours. One fact I noted was that the vengence rockets arguably caused more deaths on the German side than on the British and that the vast quantities of potatoes used to make the alcohol for fuel caused severe food shortages. Certainly Peenemunde and the production factory that followed consumed huge resources of men and materials to kill very few of Germany's opponents.
Following the coast along the E111 then the L286 we soon arrived in Poland. As soon as we entered Poland we went on to the cobbled streets of Swinoujscie and into a market set out on both sides of the road. Here so that Germans could easily access the cheaper goods in Poland. Just outside the town you come to the mouth of the river Oder where the road gives way to a free ferry shuttle service.
After crossing we drove for a couple of hours, on poor roads to the resort of Pustkowo which wasn't as far as we had hoped to get.
This from Doreen on facebook: Arrived in Poland late afternoon. Seems weird being in a country where I can't make anything of the language. All the signs and town names are unpronounceable. I can't even say 'thank you' in Polish. We have five days in Poland so must try and learn a few words.
We had hoped to get as far as Kolobrzeg but the roads were too bad in places to make much headway and the maps didn't seem reliable. Pustkowo wasn't even mentioned as far as I could see. We went for a short bike ride, the village had lots of pop up shops selling mostly seaside tat. However our campsite was very nice even if the arrangements for emptying the cassette was primitive.
Monday 27th June Good morning
Well this place is so small it's not on our maps, and even the spelling varies but I think it's Pustokowo. First night for a while without a thunderstorm. Yesterday we crossed the mouth of the mighty R Oder by a free ferry, size of the ones crossing the Tamar. If you come this way you might not want to be relying on hook up, two campsites recently have non standard and different sockets. What little news we are getting out of UK makes me despair.
Day 5 Monday Our idea was again to stay close to the sea and so we put Ustka as our destination, just a parking place in town not a campsite. It should have been just three hours away. The road to Kolobrzeg was very poor you had to concentrate on the road surface all the time. We stopped in Koszlin at a Kaufland supermarket Now is a good time to mention their currancy the Złoty you notice the line on the 'ł' that reminds you that it is really pronounced 'w' however in everyday speech you hear it as an 'l' thats because non-polish spreakers say the 'l' and Poles have taken the easy way out. Or so I was told. We did hear both. Polish stuff is cheap but we were very disappointed in some of the food we bought and stuff that we left on the shelf was well past its life, salads especially. Doreen took over, and shortly after was fighting her way over the potholes. We couldn't find the parking place in Ustka so went on 15km to Rowy where there was a campsite. We rode into town on our bikes to find it was like a down-market Skegness all sea side tat and fast food. The beach was good though. It was a lovely day and no thunderstorm.
Tuesday 28th June
Good morning All. Heading for Gdansk today and intend to stay two days. Don't think the campsite we are going to has wifi so it will possibly be goodbye for a while. Last night we revised upwards the distance to go around Kaliningrad to 670km this is to avoid smaller roads because of our bone shaking experiences yesterday.
Got to the main road and drove to Gdansk. Main roads were quite good but there was plenty of poor driving, we were cut up badly twice and saw a few near misses. We had trouble finding our chosen campsite as the gps coordinates were slightly out. There are two campsites here, so close that they face each other on an unmade road. The coordinates for the one that we didn't want was in fact correct and would have done for both. They are so close that each campsite has positioned an employee on this approach road to exhort you to camp with them. They share a gazebo! The tram stop for central Gdansk is just outside and it was a short walk to the beach. We never found the beach, but we didn't try too hard. We were on a level serviced pitch with a DIN hookup socket but we did without the hookup. We used our washing airer for the first time. Our main entertainment was watching a French motorhome reposition itself several times in order to get their satellite antenna locked on. Not sure they ever did.
Day 7 Wednesday 29th June
We caught the tram in to Gdansk but the driver said he had no tickets, so many of us had to get off after two stops and use a machine and catch the next tram, luckily they are frequent. This tram went past the central railway station and the next stop was dock gate 2 where the big dockers rally and walk out happened and where the solidarity leader and eventual president Lech Wałęsa first hit the international headlines. (There is that ł again followed by an ȩ which sounds a bit like a nasal 'en'). I didn't realise how much the pope John Paul II (who was Polish) played in all of this.
In Gdansk a busking string quartet played Pachelbel's 'Canon' (I wonder did he write anything else) along with 'Hallelujah' and 'Time to say Goodbye' before playing some serious Russian sounding stuff, whereupon we moved on.
Back from Gdansk city spent a good bit of the time at the solidarity (Solidarność) museum lots to think about in the history of Poland in our lifetimes. However as the sticker says 'Freedom started in Gdansk'.
If anyone saw the Hairy Bikers Baltic tour programme you'll know they made these dumplings (Pierogi) in Gdansk so it was the obvious choice for lunch when we saw them on the menu. Frank had the mince filling and I had spinach and feta. We visited the museum of European Solidarity which gave the history of the Polish fight for the right to form trade unions and to go on strike. Then right through their struggle against communism, Lech Wałęsa being elected president and finally the break up of the Soviet Union. Very interesting morning. The rest of the day we wandered through the old town and bought enormous ice creams!
Having spent a long time in the museum (where we met a couple from Bristol, and where we mutually decryed Brexit) we walked to the central railway station and found a post office above the platforms where we wrote and sent our post cards. Doreen didn't much like pierogi, its a filled dumpling, and I thought the icecreams had a really artificial flavour.
We know from the hairy bikers program that these buildings were mostly reconstructed after being destroyed in WWII.
Caught the tram back to camp, but again no tickets or ticket machine, so we did what the locals do and didn't pay. I found that I had a few insect bites on my legs and had to use anti-histamine cream. At the camp met a Finnish couple and we asked lots of questions about ferries (but not the right questions as it turned out).
Day 8 Thursday
During our time in Poland I had clumsily broken our charging lead for my iPad and Doreen's iPhone and so we headed for a Tesco to buy a new one. This wasn't easy, the first store wasn't where google said it was, then two or three hundred yards away we found what we took to be a Tesco distribution centre, So went instead to one that was not far off our route south and in a stall inside the supermarket found and bought the lead. Quite important for without my iPad we wouldn't be able to find the campsites so easily.
"Our route south"? Well south and then east because as the map showed we had to get around Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave sandwiched between the Baltic, Poland and Lithuania. I had earmarked three days for this but had originally chosen a route far closer to the Kaliningrad border. However our experiences on the first two days in Poland convinced us that instead we should follow more major roads. It would be further, but we hoped it would be on better roads. We were soon on a brand new motorway toll road, avoiding road works on the coast road and made excellent time but it was soon over, it only cost 4.9 Złoty, well less than £1. After a reasonable drive to Elblag and with Doreen taking her turn at driving, we headed south once more on a dual carriageway towards Ostroda which was slow with very lengthy roadworks. Then on to Olsztyn and eventually Mragowo where we had a walk, a coffee and where I took over the driving after Doreen's two and a half hour stint at the wheel.
We hoped to get to Elk and a campsite there but when we arrived it was full and although there were a couple of wild camp possibilities nearby, a fair was setting up so we drove on to Augustow and crept in by a back route to a campsite at the marina on a lake. A long day's driving, 418km, but we had got further east than the eastern edge of Kaliningrad. So on paper at least we were ahead of the plan. Plus we had seen storks, lots of them. The meal was great, cost us about £16, everyone at the marina was excited and about to watch Poland v Portugal in the European cup. Poland lost on penalties I think, but we were long gone to our bed after our tiring day, 23ºC at 10pm.
Augusto Borki Marina
Day 9 Friday Today we put away our Polish maps and our Polish history book (thanks goodness) as although still in Poland we had just crept on to our Baltic States map. Did you know that Poland once stretched from the Baltic to the Black sea?
Just spent our last night in Poland at a marina. Dinner at their restaurant sat outside admiring the lake. We have really enjoyed Poland, weather has been brilliant now it's onwards to Lithuania today
We drove around Augustwo, refuelled, then on to Suwalki, just before the border with Lithuania and went in search of breakfast, but our idea of perhaps a greasy spoon with a 'Full Polish' wasn't to be found, so in the end settled for a coffee and a piece of bread covered in a basic pizza cheese and tomato. Went into a supermarket to use up our Złotys and met a Polish girl from Peterborough who you would have said was English, so perfect was her speech. We left Poland at 12.17 and immediately lost another hour as we entered Lithuania and left Central European Time, CET.
Now for a day or two we had been considering a detour to the Fort at Trakai near Vilnius. It was a lot of extra kilometers but we could then use the A1 E85 motorway from Vilnius to Klaipeda. Trakai was the number 1 'not to miss' in our Rough Guide but we had discounted it up to now because of our initial slow progress in Poland. It was still a 'shall we, shan't we', as we approached the right turn in Marijampole and if the road had looked bad we wouldn't have gone. It was the A16 E28 a major truck route out of Kaliningrad and we made good progress eastwards but as said we had already lost an hour so we didn't arrive until 4pm local time. This was perhaps the furthest east on the trip at 24.9º. When we got to the fort it looked brilliant just like its picture but it seemed to be largely made of modern brick!
So it was, the Russians financed a new build from the ruins, guided by a few paintings. The Russian model is to renovate buildings, rather than conserve like we tend to do in the west, as we found out at this and other sites in the Baltic. It was cheap enough to go round at 7.5€ in total including guide book. Some of the un-rebuilt stuff was interesting but we knew so little of the history of Latvia that we weren't able to fully enjoy it. We got what little information we did by eavesdropping a guide who was explaining in english various things to another person who was then translating into a different language to a small group. Sent our postcards from Lithuania.
I have been mentioning postcards a lot. We have a friend who is undergoing chemo at the moment and we said to her that we would send her a postcard from every country we stopped in, plus we thought we would do the same for the grandkids. In some places ordinary picture postcards cost nearly £1, in some places the stamp to UK was cheap but in Denmark it was the equivalent of £2.60.
Now in the grounds of a hotel complex next to the motorway heading to the Baltic at Klaipeda. Too hot again last night at 26ºC at 11pm.
Getting here involved one more decision, we could have left the motorway at Kaunas and followed the minor road along the River Nemanus (which forms the northern limit of Kaliningrad) and to a campsite near Jurbarkas but to do so would commit us to 145km of minor roads of uncertain condition. It had been a long day and we were reluctant to give up the half a day or so that we were ahead. If we hadn't visited Trakai we would surely have done that but now instead stayed on the motorway and in doing so drove through a thunderstorm to our Camper Connect parking in a hotel grounds. That night there was a big party in the grounds and it went on all night.
Day 10 Saturday 2nd July It was a simple journey to Klaipeda and we arrived around lunchtime where we paid 26€ for a campsite (a list of all the places we stayed will be at the end.) Having chosen our spot in the trees we decamped to a free car park in Klaipeda recommended by the site manager and took our bikes on to the Curonian Spit (in Latvian Kuršių nerija). This spit runs down the Baltic and into Kaliningrad (in Russian Ку́ршская коса́) and then after crossing a bit of Kaliningrad a similar spit goes all the way to Poland.
Campsite at 8pm
It was another glorious day and we didn't get back to campsite until 8pm.
We are in a storm. Thunder lightning hailstones 1 to 2cm, pine cones and small branches landing on us but I think it's stopping now. I have just walked around the touring part of the campsite and a tree has been struck by lightning bringing down branches on a caravan 5 pitches away. We have just been told another storm coming and we can abandon our vehicles caravans and tents for the safety of reception building if we want.
During the storm
What we didn't know then was that in the opposite direction a 25 metre tree had been brought down crashing across the playpark and narrowly missing an occupied chalet. The second storm petered out at 11pm.
Day 11 Sunday into Latvia.
This morning whilst showering I heard an English voice, not just someone speaking English. I didn't hear or see any English people before on the campsite or see a British registered vehicle after I came out of the shower and walked around. I cleaned off the pine cones and twigs from the roof then drove back through the forest where more trees had been recently cleared from the road. We crossed into Latvia, for a moment a border policeman waved us down but then changed his mind. We went up the coast to Liepaja which was a typical town with lots of ugly Russian cold war buildings. We were to see many more in the Baltic states some just abandoned. Saw a big K-Rauta store and I went in and bought a mains adaptor.
If you look at the map there isn't much on the coast until you get to Ventspils, which got a similar write-up to Liepaja, so we were guided by the Rough Guide and went instead inland to Kuldiga. It was described as a compact place where you could see all the sights in half an hour. Well we spent a little longer there but it did include a lunch break. They have a very wide but not very high waterfall.
It was so nice we even bought a photo guide to the town. Does anyone remember Vulcan safety matches? They had a variety that was good in winds because it would stay alight in bad conditions. They were made here but ironically the safety match factory kept burning down so it was eventually closed. Just a few kilometres away we were told there was another waterfall. Impressive? Not, as you might be able to tell from the photos.
Nearly bedtime in Latvia. We are not at a campsite. The one from camper connect had wrong gps location - 7km out. When we asked someone for directions we found the location ok, but no longer a campsite now a building site. As we hadn't seen a suitable wild camp we set the sat nav for Riga 100km further on. Then stopping for fuel we asked the girls in the Stadt Oil station if we could stay the night, 'of course' was the answer so we are at the opposite end of the station to the truck stop and it is getting quiet now at 10pm local.
Day 12 Monday Riga
Drove to the beach via Tukums and did a two minute beach clean (if you watched Springwatch on the BBC this was a nationwide attempt to clean up our beaches). The small purple structure is one we have seen on several Baltic state beaches, its to allow discrete changing for the beach.
Then drove to the Riverside camp in Riga. This is the one slightly further away from the centre but you are on the river, loos and showers are small and unreliable and both failed whilst we were there.
We got a taxi into Riga and it rained. We went into a 'romantic cafe', where you can ask the staff for a hug.The rain then cleared up for a few hours and it was a case of dodge the crowds off the two cruise ships that were in. We spent some time at the freedom monument which was unveiled in 1935 and which the Russians left alone even though it was a rallying point for Latvians during the Russian occupancy of the Baltic states. Now Russian and Latvian speakers are roughly equal in number and they don't much mix, with their own TV stations for example.. The history of Latvia, and Riga in particular, is complicated and I haven't researched it enough but the key question might what and where was Livonia? . For many years Riga was considered culturally to be German. Doreen found a wool shop, why didn't that surprise me! The black cat is a Riga mascot. Two were erected with their bums facing a the HQ of a guild who had refused entry to a builder. The guild went to court and he had to turn the cats around. A loo in the nearby square was permanent, but rather like a portaloo in operation it was the worse loo I have ever been in I nearly threw up.
The gull amused us, it was bathing in that fountain outside the opera house. There was then a spectacular storm and we had to shelter before getting a taxi back.
My book for this part of the journey was Racundra's first cruise by Arthur Ransom (He wrote Swallows and Amazons children's book) When he was the Russian correspondent of The Manchester Guardian he wooed and later married Tolstoy's secretary. He wrote the book in the early 1920's and most of the places still had their German names on maps and charts especially, which made for some interesting research. (Unfortunately whilst on an Estonian ferry I lost this book and I am now hunting down another copy.)
Tuesday 5th July Day 13 Riga and into Estonia
Following a sunny beach walk in the morning yesterday, had a good day in Riga, though a wet one from time to time. Full of tourists from cruise ships and bus tours. Managed to have staple Latvian food "grey peas and bacon" which was excellent, the 'peas' were more like lentils and not grey really. Glad I tried it. Two taxi rides and we are still alive! Going for a boat trip around Riga's canal this morning. Oh and Doreen was stung by a bee on a toe but luckily the stinger didn't stay in so after antihistamine cream she was ok. Wish I could say the same about my bites, which is why I am awake so early, leg swollen and red.
A canal boat crossed the river to our campsite and picked us up, the only passengers, then we went up and down the R Daugava (which was called the R Divina in Ransome's books and was more correctly the Western R Divina then, to avoid confusion with the Russian one). The the boat turned into the Riga Canal and dropped us near the freedom monument. From there we walked to the huge market. This market is made from five re-erected Zeppelin hangers and words can't do justice to its size.
One for meat, one for dairy (and bread and cakes) one for fish and one for fruit and veg, the fifth seemed to be a mixture and we were told that is the one that is only used by Russians. Outside the hangers there are many more stalls and between them in the connecting corridors more stalls selling a variety of items. Doreen bought a handbag and I bought a bottle of Riga Balsam both purchases required the stall holder to go away and get change. We bough a kilo of cherries for only €2.50 After a taxi back to the camp we drove through the middle of Riga and headed north to Estonia. We just crossed the border and almost immediately went to our campsite and to the beach, it was sunny but a bit windy.
Day 14 Estonian Island Saaremaa
Wednesday 6th July Good morning all last nights wind has died down here on the Estonian coast we will be heading for the Estonian Islands today but may have one more night on the mainland first, depending on the weather. We are roughly a day and a half ahead of our rough schedule. The map isn't going to show much as all there is are a few chalets and lodges dotted around.
Drove to Parnu but only stopped for shopping then on to our first ferry for a while to the Island of Muhu and from there on the causeway to the main Island of Saaremaa. We drove to the bottom left hand corner of the island past Kuressaare to Tehumardi Campsite where we stayed for two days. That evening we found the beach.
Day 15 Windy
After completing our laundry we went on a 17km bike ride unfortunately much of it was on unmade roads but at least for that section the wind was at our backs. We were amazed by the quantity and diversity of the wild flowers on these Estonian islands and did we see a crane?
In the evening dove to the Sorve Lighthouse at Saare, the extreme south west of the island. We bought a souvenir to stand for the whole trip. On our way we saw more swans on the Baltic shoreline than we have ever seen in one place (which includes the swanery at Abottsbury Dorset)
Day 16 On to Hiiumaa
Friday 8th July Good morning All.
Up early, 7am! We are changing Islands today. So after visiting the main town on Saaremaa (Kuressaare) probably going to a remote campsite on Hiiumaa. You can say this about the Estonian langauage they don't stint on vowels. Late afternoon yesterday we visited a lighthouse centre at the Sōrve LH at Saare. Reading Arthur Ransome's book and visiting the lighthouse centre served to remind us what a difficult place the Baltic is for sailors. When Ransome was here in the 1920s all his charts were German and many of the place names were Swedish or German so it has been difficult working out where he was talking about. Reval=Tallinn, Moon=Muhu, Dagö=Hiiumaa, Paternoster=Vireslaid and so on. Some names are have beaten me and so I know that there is an island called Sorup near Reval but which island?
We got going early and we were at the Bishop's castle at Kurassaare before they opened. A well as the ancient castle (Started 1261, restored in the early 1900s) they have an interesting exhibit over several floors of one tower. This deals with the post war occupation of Estonia by the USSR for whom these islands were their front line in the cold war. Arguably for Estonian islanders the second world war didn't end until 1993. They were in a border region with strict controls and many hardships. When the Russians left many families were reunited, some coming from remote places like Canada but others just from the mainland. Interestingly the cafe is on the sixth floor of that tower. Put it like this, if you make it that far it would be rude not to have a coffee and a pastry (rhubarb and strawberry).
We then walked around the town saw the souvenir we had bought at the lighthouse, but cheaper. Then we drove to the port (Triigi) by way of the meteor craters at Kaali which were certainly interesting but we didn't bother with any meteor themed souvenirs or the cafe. Was sent down an unmade road which served to get the whole van covered with dust. Later we saw two cranes, we turned and drove back to make sure of our sighting.
Whilst we were waiting for the ferry at Triigi a voice said "didn't expect to see a British registration camper here". It was Mark and his Estonian partner Sol. We soon established that his had been the voice that I had heard at Klaipeda the night after the storm. They were riding bikes and had been in a tent. Sol was in the cycling kit of Twickenham Ladies and although he was from Manchester and she was from Tallinn they live on a houseboat at Isleworth. We spent the hour of the ferry crossing exchanging experiences of our trips so far. I left my ancient paperback copy of Racundra's First Cruise on the ferry and as I write this I have just purchased a replacement copy.
After leaving the ferry we drove to the North of Hiiumaa to our campsite at Malvaste. At the campsite we had a huge choice of where to pitch, so we parked near to the beach. There was an odd smell though, something like plasticine, which took the edge off enjoying our BBQ. It being Friday we had resolved to stay put and not risk the difficulty of finding a new site on a Saturday. We needn't have bothered if this site was anything to go by as it stayed practically deserted all weekend.
All my diary records for today was that like many other days there was full sun, we saw 4 or 5 cranes circling and that we found the source of the smell which was seaweed rotting on the foreshore. With no tides in the Baltic, things like that tend to hang about.
However of note were the toilet and shower arrangements. The three showers were open plan, nowhere to hang clothes so you were expected to bare all before going in. This arrangement we met in Lithuania and Finland as well. The toilets were without doors just a piece of curtain each and when you sat down your knees protruded through. Also, and I didn't notice this at first, there was a small square window a couple of feet above the ground into both the shower and toilet areas. It was just the right height for a child to peer in, which is exactly how my attention was drawn to them.
Day 18 Back to the Mainland
We were up early and drove to the ferryport, and caught the 10am Heltermaa to Rohjukula ferry and went on to Haapsulu. It had been our intention to camp there but decided a few days ago that we couldn't afford the time to stop there, so instead made a day visit. We started by visiting the castle, A Porshe rally group had collared most of the parking and some were angled to show off their cars and 'accidently' use up more than one marked space. I took the last space and carefully parked a couple of inches from the rear corner of one badly parked. He was Finnish and gave me a look, so I gave him one back and took a photo. I managed to get within the parked lines.
Haapsulu castle was worth a visit it wasn't on the scale of the one at Kurassaare but it had dungeons, legends and a bell tower which wouldn't have met National Trust standards for access, still I made it to the top.
This being our last full day in Estonia we resolved to have a proper meal at a restaurant with a local menu. So we had grilled pork fillet, potatoes, celariac, apples stuffed with walnuts and peppers in a mustard sauce. It may or may not have been a traditional Estonian dish but it was yummy and its wasn't pizza or kebabs which were on offer elsewhere. Drove on to the Vanamoisa campsite near Saue (which belongs to the same family that own the Tehumardi one on Saaremaa) and which is about 20km from Tallin.
Monday 11th July Good Morning All
Well after a couple of days with only patchy internet we are back on piste. Ferry to Finland today (a 3 feels like home country) where we will spend some time in the islands between Finland and Sweden. Estonia was brilliant, the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiamaa especially beautiful. This site (opened for its second summer) is especially good for exploring Tallinn as its near to a railway station and a cheap ride in. We hear that the sites actually in Tallinn are pretty gruesome and still some distance from the old city. One thing we will have to get used to is the price difference between the Baltic states and Finland and Sweden. For example the three ferries we used in the Estonian islands cost €11.80 -25mins, €15 -1hr and €13.40 -1hr 15 mins, the first one we will use in Finland will be €58 -40mins and if we went into Stockholm from the islands it would be €380! (We have a much cheaper route in mind!)
Have just spent a couple of early morning hours organising and booking ferries on the Finnish archipelago. Was managing to get on islands but not get off them again! All the ferries on this route only have room for four high vehicles. Not sure that I have done the bookings correctly as I have only the driver and no passenger and the second ferry seems to have zero cost! Couldn't make the English version of the website work properly and had to use the Finnish one with screenshots of the English one to guide me.
Yesterday met our first British motorhome since leaving the Hoek van Holland They turned out to be a couple from near Shaftesbury, Dorset. Practically neighbours. They have been away since the beginning of June but have been on a similar route to ourselves and stayed at some of the same campsites as us. We agreed that it has been an eye opener, much of the history since the fifties of Poland and the Baltic states was previously unknown to us. eg the Second World War didn't end for the people of Saaremaa until 1993 when Russian troops left. Up to then they were in the front line of soviet missile defence and were subject to strict control, real shortages and hardship, total censorship and the people who had fled the area when the Russians repulsed the Germans were not let back even for visits until 1992. Earlier met a young Estonian woman, now from Isleworth (!) who as a girl in 1989 had a boat ticket for Helsinki on the day Russian tanks came onto the streets of Tallinn so she got on the boat without knowing when, or if, she would see her family again.
Distance travelled so far: 3427 km
Link to Part 2: Baltic 2016 Part 2