October 21, 2010
I got up quite early this morning as I couldn’t sleep. There were three girls in our room who were leaving so I got out of their way and sat in the common room and lazed around for an hour or so until Elizabeth woke up. We packed up and had breakfast and then caught tram to bus station. It was quite a shame to be leaving as we’d had a really good time here. There isn’t an amazing array of sights to visit within the city itself but the town is pleasant to walk around and Yanush at the hostel had been great and really friendly.
We got the tram to the bus station and waited for our bus. We’d assumed it would be a normal coach but it was actually a minibus and we had to chuck our luggage onto the back seat! We were heading to Kuressaare, a small town on one of the Estonian islands called Saaremaa. The journey took just under 4 hours and included a short ferry ride to one island before crossing the bridge to Saaremaa. The ferry ride was much needed as it gave us a chance to recover my rucksack and our lunch but also have an even more required toilet stop!
Just like Tallinn, we struggled to find our hotel but did so eventually. I had sent the woman a message this morning giving her our arrival time but she wasn’t there when we arrived. She had replied to my email telling me to call her but given we don’t have a phone we weren’t able to do that. Hell, that was the reason I’d sent her the email with our arrival time in the first place but apparently that wasn’t good enough! Thankfully the hotel doors were unlocked and we were able to get inside and connect to the internet and call her through Skype and she was quickly there to show us our room.
We walked into the main town after dumping our bags and had a quick look around the tourist info centre, scoped out some restaurants for dinner and then stopped at the supermarket for breakfast stuff. The hotel had a nice little common area and just four double rooms but when we got there no-one else was occupying any of the others so for now we had it all to ourselves.
For dinner we went to a bar we’d seen earlier. From the outside it looked like a basement bar serving local food, similar to the one we’d found in Tallinn, but inside it was quite smart and almost looked like a trendy wine bar. They still did local beer and food and it was cheap so we hung around! I’ve really grown to like the dark Tume beers here and it was an easy decision to pick a beer to accompany my meal. Tonight I had minced boar (basically boar-burgers) with mashed potatoes. They really love pickled stuff here and this was accompanied by beetroot and gherkins. It was certainly an interesting combination. Elizabeth went for a stroganoff dish and her sides were just the same! It is so good to actually be somewhere where the local food is readily available, tasty and affordable… even though we had pizza twice in Tallinn!
October 22, 2010
We didn’t exactly spring out of bed this morning, choosing to enjoy the peace and quiet afforded by a private room in an empty hotel to catch up on sleep. I reckon my last decent night of sleep was way back when we stayed at Martin’s cabin so I was well overdue a good 9 or 10 hours undisturbed! When we did get up we had some toast and watched the rain fall on the kitchen window, eventually spotting some breaks in the clouds and heading out.
We walked right the way through town to the southern tip where the impressive Bishop’s Castle stood, built between 1338 and 1380. It stuck out into the sea from the small peninsula but unlike many castles and forts we’ve seen recently, this one actually looked like a castle! It is ringed by a lovely moat and the setting is really picturesque. Given it is the off-season, there was quite a bit of construction going on around the outer walls but it didn’t stop us wandering around the building site for better views of the castle! We walked around the inner walls and then crossed back outside the moat and walked around the park surrounding the castle.
We wandered back into the centre for a late lunch at a small café and then headed back to the hotel. There isn’t a whole lot to do on the island other than enjoy the scenery and given the very rare buses and the fact we don’t have a hire car, the information we got from the tourist information office wasn’t too helpful. This was compounded by the fact I misread the bus timetable and we now have hardly anything to do for the next two days as there aren’t any buses going to where we want to go to! Yes, I’m an idiot. I managed to compound the annoyance I had with myself later in the day, too, by booking a non-refundable flight in the wrong direction meaning I’ll now have to re-book and incur the costs again! Let’s just say it wasn’t a good day!
Given we had lunch so late neither of us were particularly hungry so we spent the evening lazing around, reading, Elizabeth watched a film and we had sandwiches when we finally got hungry. It was good to have a quiet evening with no-one else around but I suspect two more days of this and we’ll be going crazy!
October 23, 2010
Today the weather was exceptionally crap and given we couldn’t do much due to the bus timetable cock up we spent most of the day just lazing around and doing nothing much at all.
We eventually headed out when we got hungry and decided to try and find the bar we couldn’t find yesterday. It was supposedly in the park around the castle but given how big the castle park was we didn’t stand too much chance without a proper address. Today, armed with the address we still struggled to find it but just as we were about to turn around and head back I spotted a sign on a wooden shack. From outside, John Bull’s didn’t look like much but inside the bar was designed froma a school bus and the warm fire was particularly welcoming. Elizabeth tried the meat dumplings which were like mini pasties and tasted really good and I had the chicken with cheese and basil. I’m not sure there was much basil on it but I wouldn’t have tasted it anyway as the cheese layer was pretty thick! The food was very tasty and well worth the search, especially when accompanied by a Kiss Siider!
We got back to the hotel just before the rain really started and hammered against the windows all evening. This helped us decide to not bother going out tonight and so we had sandwiches and stuff at the hotel. We did have time to sort out a walking route for tomorrow to get us out and into the fresh air so fingers crossed the weather holds up!
October 24, 2010
We got up and had breakfast and made some sandwiches before setting off for our walk. It wasn’t the most exciting or adventurous but according to Google Maps the circular route was around 13km and should take us just over two hours. Given we’d not really done any longer distance walking for a while we were hoping we’d make it! The route wasn’t exciting at all, leaving our hotel and heading for the main road, following that until the roundabout, turning left along another main road, following that until the end and then turning left back towards Kuressaare to complete a large triangle! At one point we passed between two large lakes but for most of the way they were not actually visible through the surrounding forests. The locals passing us on the main roads must’ve thought we were mental and at times I was inclined to agree but at least we were getting some fresh air.
Back on the edge of Kuressaare we were both getting hungry but rather than eat our sandwiched we stopped for another siider and some more meat dumplings at John Bull’s! Our little treat! We ate the sandwiches back at the hotel and lazed around, again. We got some things sorted for New Zealand next year which seems like miles off but we’re already having trouble getting accommodation in the big cities.
For those that don’t know, we plan to finish (well, almost) our trip next September in NZ for the Rugby World Cup. I got tickets for three matches and so given how things book up way in advance we decided to try and book our transport and hostels. We managed to get a cheap-ish flight from Bali to Auckland and so we booked that and we even managed to get a bus from Wellington to Auckland for under $20 for both of us! Sometimes it pays to book way in advance and we saved almost $100 on the bus alone! Anybody fancying NZ next year for a month or so, let me know as we might be able to squeeze you in the car!
For dinner we went to a traditional restaurant called Veski Trahter, which was housed in a windmill. The restaurant was really close to our hotel but we hadn’t seen it before and that was a real shame. The windmill looked really cool but it was too dark now to take photos and we were leaving early in the morning tomorrow. It is always annoying when you miss out on things or discover them too late, especially when you’ve been sitting around on your arse for most of the last three days! Elizabeth tried the beef hotpot and I again went for chicken, this time without the inch of cheese! We tried some of their homemade beers, as well. They were all fruity flavoured and so I went for cherry and Elizabeth had blackberry. They both had a really strong flavor but Elizabeth’s tasted more like a cider whereas you could taste both the hoppy beer flavour and the cherries in mine! We even decided to have desert and we chose “snowball soup”. We had no clue what this was but it turned out to be some kind of curd in condensed milk and covered in jam. It was fairly good but had a weird consistency. I think Elizabeth liked it more than I did!
Back at the hotel we got packed up and I sat in the common area and watched the NFL matches online. When I did finally come to bed I couldn’t sleep and I had a really weird feeling that the clocks had changed this weekend and we hadn’t changed ours. As we had a bus tomorrow morning and I was worried about the time, I eventually got up again and checked the internet as to when the clocks changed. It appears it is next Sunday so I had gotten up at 3am for nothing!