So there were two things that surprised us immediately upon arrival in Estonia. First, we disembarked the ferry in a rainstorm putting all of our new rain gear to the test. I quickly discovered my love for my obnoxiously bright yellow rain jacket. As I explained to Burke, when I get scared that the cars might hit me, I just look down and feel comforted because EVERYONE can see me in my jacket from a mile away. Second, when we pulled up to the hostel the people sitting outside told us we could take our bikes in with us. It was up a set of stairs and our bikes were still loaded, so we didn’t bother and just went inside to check in. As soon as the receptionist saw us she said, “Don’t leave your bikes outside or they won’t be there next time.” Yikes.
With only the evening to spend in the capital, Tallinn, we started exploring as soon as possible. The old town was extremely picturesque and quite touristy. It actually felt kind of like Disneyland because the vendors, club promotors, and waiters were all dressed in medieval garb. Very thematic. As we were walking back to the hostel, we were cautious pedestrians waiting for a safe time to cross the street, but apparently we stood out as tourists by waiting too long. A police man in a nearby police car rolled down his window and called out with his microphone, “Go. You there. Go now.”
Rain threatened us into a reasonable starting time the next day too. We rode around in search of an alleged bike route map only to be told by two different tourism info centers on opposite sides of the town that they don’t have that map, try the other center. Eventually the man just gave me a map of the country. Guess what it had on it. Bike routes. As we rode out of the city, we did some last minute site seeing and experienced the worst roads of the trip thus far: no bike lanes, busy streets, and big curbs. At some point leaving the city we veered when we should have gone straight because we ended up missing the costal route and going inland and about 30km out of our way. We caught back up with the bike route as quickly as we could with the motivation of a dark storm cloud at our backs.
We rode on into the afternoon and evening with our sights set on a campground that was along the trail. Riding along EuroVelo 10, we saw some beautiful sites: an old church, the shore, and more storks than I’d ever seen in my life. We also rode by a real cute dog who barked but disappeared as we got closer. I recognized it as a similar action to the sneak attack that Niči tries to do while attempting to scare me when I come out of the bathroom. I said, “I sure hope he’s not a bad dog,” just as he leaped out from behind a bush ferociously barking at my ankles. Undaunted, we continued to cycle following signs for the campground, even when it took us down a gravel road that steadily worsened in quality as we went. After five or so kilometers at a pace barely faster than walking and no other sign, we started considering other options. We eventually stopped at a house with a girl gardening. She happily refilled our water bottles and gave us directions to the beach.
On the beach we set up our tent, made dinner and depleted our water stash once again. Burke went off in search of a refill and came across a friendly Estonian man named Tiit. As the story goes, Burke was caught off guard by his name and asked him to repeat it and the man said, “You know…. Tiit,” while squeezing his chest with one hand. So Tiit pointed Burke in the direction of his house and told him that he could find water there. When Burke got to the house and talked to Tiit’s family, they went inside for water and took a very long time and when they came out with the bottles they also came out with a bundle. “We have gift for you. Smoked fish.” Burke had to turn them down because we are vegetarians and don’t eat fish, but aren’t Estonians just the nicest people? When Burke got back to the beach we decided to go for a quick swim before going to bed. We were surprised by several things:
The next morning we were back on the road, or rather the gravel. Gravel is miserably hard to ride in because it is so unstable and unpredictable. Even with somewhat thick tires I still always found myself having to concentrate on every bump. Despite the attention I paid to the road I still fell nearly every few minutes over the course of the hour it took us to get off the gravel road. Then finally, we were on concrete again! We rode so fast and joyously for a kilometer until we came to road construction. Guess what was there: sand. If you’ve never ridden your bike on sand, it’s worse than gravel. We pressed on for the rest of the morning (we only covered about 10km) until we found a little grocery store in a town called Nova. We bought typical lunch things and a small tube of “extra-strong mustard” which I think was just wasabi mislabeled. It was horrendous and could only be consumed in pea size amounts.
We pedaled on to a city called Hapsalu where we stopped for a bathroom break, a park bench break, and a rest from the third patch of construction we hit that day. We rode by the city’s castle and eventually decided that we were done for the day. I’m sure Burke could have easily continued, but all the bumps in the road really did me in. At our campground that night we met some other cycle tourists. One set was a German couple traveling with their eight year old daughter. She even had panniers on her bicycle. A quick swim and we called the day success as we went to bed.
What an amazing summer you’ve had. It’s great that you’ve created such an opportunity for yourselves to see all these countries. I envy you for the bike trip (and the energy to do it). Maybe you should be bike tour guides.
That cathedral! Needs more external adornment. That’s a gilded lilly, if ever I’ve seen one. Is that eastern orthodox?