Taking in Estonian history at Kuressaare

Kuressaare castle

Tallinn was nice but I wanted a change of scenery after a couple of days. A castle and its history-charged museum brought me to Kuressaare, on an island in the West of Estonia.

May 11 and May 12: sleepy Kuressaare

This town is nothing special outside of its main draw. A very efficient mini-bus trip brought me from Tallinn to this place in the remote island of Saaremaa, which says a lot about the Estonians’ ability to get things done. This would have taken twice the time in Turkey…

Upon arrival, I realise how small Kuressaare is (population 13000 people). I get out of the bus at the station and have to walk about 15 minutes in a residential area where people still heat their homes with wood fires before I reach my bed and breakfast. This town is quiet, and so is the accommodation where I stay.

Why visit, then? The highlight is the castle, which I visit on Friday. There is bright sunshine and temperatures have finally gone up a bit. This is more comfortable.

A good, long walk brings me to the historical site, which is perhaps the smallest but best preserved castle I have seen, surrounded by water and a park. It apparently is the only surviving medieval fortification in the Baltic countries.

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Nice reflection

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The welcome crew
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This is a reproduction of the skeleton of a knight who was apparently immured alive in the cellar for falling in love with a pretty blonde maid and trying to save her from becoming a nun against her will. Not allowed to like her, eh?

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Watch out. The Soviets are guarding the place during the occupation period.

What is most interesting inside is the exhibition on Estonian history. It gives the best overview of a turbulent 20th century, when the Soviets and the Nazis bounced the country back and forth between themselves. The story ends well, with independence in the early 1990s, when the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union fell apart.

My understanding is that preserving the local culture despite occupation by foreign powers is what makes Estonia what it is today. The locals value their traditions and shun anyone who does not respect that. So in case you fancy an Estonian… you better know that.

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The people who dominated Estonia under Soviet occupation.
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A nice view from the castle

The love for food is very present in this town, too. A stop at the Retro restaurant brings me this spectacular, juicy fish burger. Dill and other spices are used expertly to bring the high quality meal to life. The potato chips are superb and the salad very tasty.

Retro restaurant Kuressaare

Otherwise, Kuressaare has some standard Northern sights such as this windmill. The fun thing is that a very nice pub sits inside.

windmill