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.