kolmapäev, märts 05, 2008

otepää

Estonia is the kind of country that looks small on a map, but when you get inside it you discover it is huge. It is for this reason that the Estonian winter capital of Otepää has eluded me to this day, even if I have visited all the neighboring towns and villages -- Tõrva, Võru, Põlva, Elva. I even got gas in Rõngu one time. But I never had a reason to go to Otepää. Until today.

Otepää is mostly famous for its cross-country skiing. The town has a skiing museum and has hosted the FIS World Cup in cross country skiing in the past. Most of Estonia's well-known skiers also live in Otepää. You can imagine what happens when Jaak Mäe bumps into Andrus Veerpalu at the grocery store. "So what are you doing today?" "Skiing"

I didn't get to do any skiing, but I did do some sledding, and my car got stuck in a snow bank, forcing me to do some Markko Märtin-inspired driving to get our family-sized vehicle to safety.

The day's weather just called for a quick day trip, to spend time doing real things away from an e-life that is sometimes more demanding than an actual baby. Everything is there for you on the screen -- online communities, online banking, telecommuting, online shopping. They might as well arrange deliveries of organic food to our house so I never have to peel my eyes away from the hypnotic allure of the Internet. Oh wait, we already get those deliveries.

But Otepää had been calling me. All day yesterday I felt it tugging at my insides, like the force of the moon directing the tides. And that's the other secret of Otepää. It is a holy place that sits overlooking Pühajarv (holy lake). It has an energiasammas (energy monument) that directs unassuming foreigners like me to come visit, eat pikkpoiss (meat loaf) at Edgari Trahter, and take photos of the knoll-laden Valgamaa countryside from the perspective of the vaadetorn (lookout tower).

Otepää truly is Estonia's pearl. Visiting was a rewarding experience and we will be back. You should go there sometime too.

35 kommentaari:

Наблюдатель ütles ...

I love Nuutsaku. Many famous Russians used to vacation there during the occupation. Elva and Otepää were popular among intellectuals in general and Jewish intellectuals in particular

Marcus ütles ...

Yes, a lovely place. Even prettier in the summer, of course. Great country to ride a motor bike on. Or a regular bike.

Colm ütles ...

I was there and I want to go back!
Ma olin seal ja ma tahaksin tagasi minna!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/eestlane_iirimaal/356158583/

Giustino ütles ...

Jah, on küll hää koht külla aga ma ei tea täpselt miks.

nipi ütles ...

Well, I think you get better snow in Haanja, yet a lot of free lands not built in or full of tourists - but on the same, with more reserves for future. Higher hills etc. But yet less services - wilder area.

jason ütles ...

hey, here is the site i was talking about where i made the extra cash, I was making about $900 extra a month...
check it out ..

plasma-jack ütles ...

How was the energiasammas, then? (have lived 24 years in Estonia and never been to Otepää)

jason ütles ...

hey, here is the site i was talking about where i made the extra cash, I was making about $900 extra a month...
check it out ..

Reinumag ütles ...

Quite confusingly, Jaak Mae's name comes without umlauts. Don't know why. But Otepää is a wonderful place indeed.

Rainer ütles ...

It's originally called Nuustaku (not Nuutsaku ;)).
At some point in the 20th century locals decided to change it and that Otepää has more zing to it.

сторожевой пес ütles ...

In 2011, a group of renegade Born Again Latvians are planning a trip to Otepää. Then and there, they will stage what they call the "Third and Final Burning". It doesn't sound all to the good. Наблюдатель raises the twin issue of intellectuals and nutsacks, but we're watching the Latvians very carefully.

Heli ütles ...

I love the place too and go there every summer to camp. I´ve always wanted to visit it also in winter but haven´t got to that yet, too far from Tallinn to pack the kids to car and get to f.e FIS championship in time

Giustino ütles ...

Quite confusingly, Jaak Mae's name comes without umlauts. Don't know why. But Otepää is a wonderful place indeed.

I tried to fix it. At least partially.

Alex ütles ...

I've been there lots of times. Nice that they've been improving the roads around there. The drive from Saverna is quite pretty. Almost bought a house near there once when the summer house frenzy was on but we got outbid by some other couple who were willing to pay more than us. They got a great place but paid a small fortune for it.

Наблюдатель ütles ...

Nuustaku. I stand corrected.
But I wouldn't go there during the winter. I hate snow.
Yeah, the Latvians were in second place after the Finns but ahead of the Russians during the winter. I stayed there in January 2003 and talked to some people from Moscow. They said that aside from being a nice crime-free European resort it was much cheaper to stay in a *** hotel there than anywhere near Moscow.
Many good people used to vacation there--the ones we now refer to as Russian dissidents. To them Estonia was an escape from collectivist tablastan. I knew many honorable people who vacationed there in the 60's and they had no illusions about the occupation--they knew that it was exactly that: an accupation, and they bonded with their Estonian hosts. My late grandmother (she was educated in Germany and Switzerland) used to speak German to her landlady in Elva who did not speak a word of Russian

erueestlane ütles ...

You are right. Estonia is huge. In fact it is the center of the Universe. Go to any small place and stay there for awhile and you get the idea what I mean. :-)

Frank ütles ...

Did you know that the (Baltic) German name for the Pühajärve region used to be Wollust - literally translated into English as voluptuousness ...
Tradition has it that one Baroness Maydell asked the Tsar for the privilege (she was granted in the end) to have it renamed as Heiligensee (i. e. Pühajärve), since she did not like the Tartu newspaper of that day and age to report "(...) Maydell visited Dorpat coming from voluptousness ..."
Anyhow, it shows that the place is and has been special. And of course you are right: Estonia does not fit into a map ... it is a continent (lost elsewhere) at least in nuce.

Frank ütles ...

Some have it it was not a B. Maydell but a C. Stackelberg (...)

Karla ütles ...

Along these lines, I've heard that during the 1930s, to accommodate the large influx of Finnish tourists to Narva-Jõesuu, conductor Raimond Kull's name would be temporarily altered to Kotkas. :)

Karla ütles ...

Uh, for the same reasons that in the Finnish translations of 'Kull of Atlantis' and 'Kull the Conqueror' stories, 'Kull' was changed to 'Kall.'

Jens-Olaf ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Jens-Olaf ütles ...

If global warming will effect Estonia this place will be history. The area around Munamagi is preparing for the Nordic ski events. They are 100m higher above sea level. That means the chance for snow and a longer winter season is better. This is discussed in Voru already.

Mariajaan ütles ...

I found the blog by chance but could not stop laughing at the sound of its name. It simply sounds so funny in Spanish. Good blog, anyway. I am also touched by the Estonian nation, so touched I had 3 babies with a good representative of it! This lines were dropped just because. I like the name, you know?

Kristopher ütles ...

If global warming will effect Estonia

If? Will? :)

I'm pretty sure (though not 100%) that the longer, colder winter in places like Haanjamaa is more a function of distance from the sea than elevation. The elevation rise per km is fairly insignificant compared to local factors.

Anyway, rule of thumb is that 100m higher translates to about 0.5 degree C colder. Many northern parts of the world warmed that much in the last 8 years. That's not much time for skiing.

erueestlane ütles ...

Justin, did you get the Estonian driver's license? I've heard that Estonia is one of the two E.U. countries where U.S. driver's licenses are not valid.

Наблюдатель ütles ...

I've driven in Estonia with a U.S. license and never had any problem when stopped (I did though in Latvia, but it was a corrupt cop).

You should see Nuustaku before you see Paris.

Generally, if you are a resident you have to get an EuSSR license, but police treat Americans with kid gloves

erueestlane ütles ...

I guess you are wrong, Observer. My borther was stopped two weeks ago in Särevere and whacked with a a heavy penalty (Several hundred dollas, I forgot the exact amount)for being an "unlicensed driver" for driving with Virginia license. He found the whole deal a bit amusing. These cops were not even born when he got his driver's ESSR driver's license in the 80s and there he was, getting a ticket from the homies, no warning, no explanation, no nothing. He said he was polite, did not chuckle at them, took the whole thing seriously and respectfully. Still no matter. Knowing what kind of "litsimaja" Estonian traffic situation is as a whole, did these kids simply want an "altkäemaks" or what? Or did they play some kind of virgins?

Наблюдатель ütles ...

Eru, EuSSR is the European Union of Soviet Sovialist Republics as we see that boondoggle :-)

Actually the natives have been obsessed with showing every one that theirs in a real soveign country, not some toy high-school project, and they are vicious in proving it. Hansapank forcibly closed my business account because of a new regulation from the politburo in Brussels that was applied retroactively (!). When I opened the account showing my Virginia company registration they told me that this was all I would ever have to show. Three years later they reversed themselves when the original paperwork was no longer available (it was stolen) and blocked the account, then closed it, and never ever apologized. The bank clerk was one of those zealous Russian-surnamed Estonians trying to prove that she was more eesti than a true est.
Then in January I was transiting from Russia to Helsinki via Narva and Tallinn, and the border guard threatened to send me back to Russia and demanded proof of insurance. Well, I own a buiseness and am self-insured, but he did not what it was and demanded some card. He was one of those zealous Russian-surnamed Estonians trying to prove that he was more eesti than a true eest.
So they want to show they are nobody's pushover except that is is contrary to EuSSR policy. Unless you are a permanent resident, you can drive a rental car with a Virginia license (as is mine). You just have to show them their place (near the outhouse) politely

Наблюдатель ütles ...

Sorry for the typos. I do know how to spell. It's late, and I am tired

Kristopher ütles ...

As someone who also drives on a Virginia license and has been pulled over once with no problem (driving in a bus lane which like most lanes in Estonia was not marked or under snow) I can tell you that it is legal, though you are technically supposed to have an international driving license to present as well.

Why is everybody driving with a Virginia license -- are they notoriously easy to get?

Alex ütles ...

Been pulled over twice with a U.S. license and no problems either time.

nipi ütles ...

US license background story - it turns out, that for estonians, who return from US and have yet only US license, they have to replace these within a year to local license (new test and drive examination). Weird story, but true.
With so-called international license, released in US in accordance with who knows which convention, still problems as this is the convention we have ratified somewhere but we have not amended our local legislation to it.
Btw, same story is with certain US states licenses in Germany (in Germany they make difference between states which release licenses rather easily or the document can easily be forged).
But I do not know, how the story is with foreigners. Probably there they do not require anything additional.

nipi ütles ...

Maybe joke, but I was told that in Haanja top hills are higher, well, relative height may be the same, but as the absolute height is higher, it catches better the snow clouds and thus has more snow. Otepää hills are lower than snowclouds.
And checking the absolute heights gives the difference even 100 meters!

Otepää: Kuutsemäe 217, following 214, 213, 212, 211, 210 and Väike-Munamägi 207,5

Haanja: 317, 304 (Vällamägi with relative height 88 meters), 296, 293

Geographers tell that hills have to be at least 200 meters in relative - so there are no hills in Baltics.

However, biggest local height difference is in Haanja 210 meters while in Otepää only 127 meters.
In Haanja 18% of nature park territory is over 250 meters over sea level.

Evelin ütles ...

That's so nicely said! Only that I must disagree with you - the meat loafs in that trahter are not really worth a try:D

Martin-Éric ütles ...

Rumor has it that Otepää will soon become the twin city of Gerede, Türkiye, where Ansip recently participated in a ski marathon.