Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

7 May 2012

Cycling the Estonian Islands

Posted by Will

I decided to take a detour this week to explore two islands off the west coast of Estonia: Hiiumaa and Saaremaa. And what fantastic weather! The heat of the morning sun wakes me up and then intensifies as I pedal my first kilometers along the island roads lined with wildflowers. Lunch in the shade, afternoon spent squinting through my sunglasses and evening watching the sun set over the top of the tent. The backs of my hands have a full-on suntan and my face is catching up. Can’t resist asking: how’s the weather back in Britain …?

p1000454-800p1000449-800

These islands feel wonderfully detached from the Estonian mainland. There isn’t a single town on Hiiumaa and most villages are made up of just a few old wooden houses. Every now and again I was treated to the sight of an old man in dungarees chopping firewood in his back-garden. Most of the time they’d wave enthuastically at me as I rode past but a few were too confused by this sweaty two-wheeled alien and so just stared. There’s hardly any traffic at all which adds to the picture that this place hasn’t changed much in several decades. I managed to go a whole hour without seeing a vehicle.

Saaremaa is larger and has some tourist infrastructure but still retains an old-age charm. The one town on this island is called Kuressaare and I would recommend anyone in this part of the world to pay it a visit. A 14th century castle stands here. The irritating, camera-swinging, mobile-phone ringing type of tourist hasn’t yet discovered this place and I was able to spend an hour exploring the grounds in peace. The natural beauty of Saaremaa is everywhere: beaches, wildflowers, woods, birds chirping and even a meteor crator. Like the castle, I could explore this with no one else around. How often do you get to walk around a meteor crator without a bunch of other tourists and their bawling kids? Haha I sound like a grumpy old man at the moment.

One of the most interesting aspects of the islands are the abandoned ex-Soviet buildings. I have to say I wasn’t brave enough to go inside one. They lie by the side of the road, concrete, overgrown and half-collapsed, with gaping black windows glaring menacingly out at the road. I can’t describe the spookiness. I passed 4000km outside an enormous derelict factory with ripped tarpaulins half-covering cracked windows and rustling slightly in the wind. Creepers crawled up the sides, the back wall had collapsed and the main entrance was just a large black square hole beside the road. I didn’t camp there.

p1000463-800p1000430-800

So, that’s my two cents on the Estonian islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa. I’ve left Estonia now and have rolled myself to Riga. There’ll be a Riga post soon which should be a good one because I am BLOODY loving it here. Three words: Latvian folk dancing.

Leave a comment

*

 

2 Comments already on “Cycling the Estonian Islands”
  1. 11:33 ampermalink
    07 May 2012

    Tim Haigh-Gannon

    Glad to hear its warmed up, and the sun is shining on you, in what sounds like a very beautiful part of the world…. back home its the “wettest drought” on record!

  2. 11:40 ampermalink
    07 May 2012

    Mumsy

    It’s a Bank Holiday so it’s raining again but we did have a dry day yesterday!
    Cotswold tent sale on today, didn’t look like there were many takers but plenty of puddles. Watch that sunburn!