The next morning we left for our road trip towards Narva. We had decided to stay at a small holiday village called Kauksi by Lake Peipsi and use it as a base for our explorative day trips. I was blown away by our bed and breakfast in the middle of the forest by a very friendly owner – we bonded over her travels to Namibia the previous year. At the accommodation we had the massive 4 bedroom, 2 floor wooden cabin over 2 floors to ourselves, it can host about 12 people. The large kitchen downstairs with a dining area able to host about 50 people.There was also 2 separate log cabins spread far away from each other to give you privacy.The place was perfect for family get togethers, weddings, social events and even yoga retreats.
For our first stops we chose the Rakvere Castle. It has this enormous bull statue at the front on one of the hills. In the castle courtyard they reenacted the 17th century castle life – they had the blacksmith’s and prostitute quarters and wooden horses etc. They also had a Death Chamber tour where they explained what people thought about death and the rituals about death. I absolutely love Estonian tours guides, they are always patient whilst Triin translates Estonian into English for me and they are always very passionate about the subject they are discussing. And Estonia is absolutely filled with history.
Next stop Narva. Well, we also stopped at Sillamae for a short break and were sufficiently underwhelmed.
Narva connects Estonia to Russia via a bridge; it’s quite a cool sight with a castle on either side of the river facing each other. We spent absolute ages at in the Narva Castle and I really enjoyed the history lessons from my guides, Pirjo and Triin. The castle also had a 17th century courtyard with an apothecary and a pottery place where i played a game and won a little ceramic pot which i gave to Triin’s mom (hi, Ilme!). I know a little bit about Estonian history – I knew that Estonia became independent in 1991, but didn’t know they’d been independent before. It seems like just about everyone from the Swedish and even the Danish claimed parts of Estonia at some point. Triin and Pirjo explained that some of the countries at least brought something like better education and didn’t just take from them.
After Narva, we went on to lake Peipsi to visit the villages where the Old Believers still lived and visit a museum fully dedicated to them. In a nutshell, the Old Believers are the members of the Russian Orthodox Church who refused to go along with the reforms during the 17th century and were, thus, kicked out of the congregation. They were persecuted, exiled, tortured, you name it across Russia and as a result decided to move, amongst other places, to the villages by lake Peipsi on the Estonian side to find a new home.
These villages still exist today although they’re losing their young to more modern life in bigger cities. We visited Kolkja, a village of Old Believers even teaching their scripture as a subject in school along with ‘old’ russian. One of the biggest local industries used to be onions (due to the wet soil) but it’s also dying out now due to lack of demand. It’s still being sold along with smoked and salted fish, so the for sale signs are everywhere. The museum guide explained that the local supermarkets have stolen their onion branding and claim their onions are ‘Peipsi Onions’ although they’re not.
Just like last year’s road trip with Pirjo and Marleen, this trip had been awesome, too. Last year we went island hopping in western Estonia. I’m always amazed how many layers there are to Estonia, and to their history and culture.
On the third day we drove back to Tallinn and spent the night at Pirjo’s flat. The next day would be a very big adventure for me.