30 May 2007

Kuidas elad, Matsalu? My Good People

"Kuidas elad, Matsalu?" (literally, How you live, Matsalu?) was a 160km bicycle tour of western Estonia, more specifically: a tour on backroads full of annoying peebles, rocks, and stones through an area known as Matsalu, quite popular among Estonians for birdwatching. More than 40 youth and adults from Tapa rode in this three-day, two-night adventure May 11-13.

We all started out in Lihula (the first and second pictures), our bikes being transported the three hours from Tapa in the school's trustworthy blue truck. It was about noon. I started out in a pack with four other adults: one of the Russian language teacher's from Tapa Gümnaasium; her neighbor, a salon owner; one of the Estonian language teachers; and the school's computer teacher (in the first picture, unloading the bikes). The guy in the green cap followed us with a van full of tents and sleeping bags for all 40 of us (and some food and beverages just for us adults).

The five of us met the guy and the van for lunch in Kloostri. I forget what time it was or how far we had ridden. We could have had escargots for lunch, because we found a number of snails crawling in the foilage along the side of an abandoned stone barn.

We rode more than 70km the first day. Screwdrivers kept us warm overnight, and tea and coffee got us going the second day. We stopped at the Hanila Museum to watch a little Estonian folkdancing, presented especially for the cyclists. We came up along the sea coast at Sepamaa and then had lunch on the southern side of the port city of Virtsu, facing the sea (and the sun) just like the wind turbines.

Believe it or not, after three days and more than 160km - the third day, just 30km, was no sweat at all - we all made it back to Tapa and, even more importantly, back to classes on Monday! Note the type of outer apparel we are were wearing...on May 13.

28 May 2007

Kuidas elad, Matsalu? My Sea Coast

Along the western coast of Estonia there's a finger of water poking into the mainland. That's the Bay of Matsalu. In this bay is Suurerahu (loosely translated by me as a Great Place for Peace and Quiet), one of Estonia's 1,500 islands. Run your own finger down along the coast to Sepamaa, across from Kesselaid island. Then drop down to Virtsu, the mainland's closest point to the island of Muhu and the gateway to Saaremaa, Estonia's largest island on which 35 of the 36 species of orchids in Estonia grow.

26 May 2007

Kuidas elad, Matsalu? My Churches

1&2. St. Elizabeth's Lutheran Church in Lihula (population 1,614). Its church bell is from 1745 and organ from 1845.

3&4. St. Nicholaus Church in Kirbla (population 278), the smallest stone church in Estonia, is 11m wide and 28.9m high, and its moss-covered graveyard.

5-7. The former Russian Orthodox church in Kõmsi (population 172).

8-10. 13th century St. Paul's Chuch in Hanila (population 48), its altar and pulpit, and its graveyard.

22 May 2007

Kuidas elad, Matsalu? My Countryside

20 May 2007

Basking in the Sun

On Saurday, May 12, I basked in the sun near Kuke on the western coast of Estonia . It was a short break on the second day of a 160km, three-day bicycle tour, or roheliste rattaretked. (Note the winter jacket, the winter hat underneath the bicycle helmet, and the winter gloves in my hand.)

Today, a little more than a week later, I basked in the sun on the balcony of my fifth-floor Tapa apartment. Not only did I bask in the sun; I drank Starbucks Papua New Guinea coffee and read the April 18 issue of Time Out London. (Note the authentic black Speedo swimtrunks, essential apparel for sunbathing, swimming, and doing hard work in Estonia no matter how big your belly is.)