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International Magazine - Travel-
Estonia and Latvia with Gloria Cressler
Old town of Tallinn,
Estonian National Dress
Estonia: Defence Building and old town gates
Fat Margaret was built starting the 1300 and the
fortifications of the Big Strand Gate in 1510 -
1529. Building was finished by master Gert Konigk
from Münster in 1531
Black Tie International Magazine
I just came back recently
from a wonderful trip to Estonia and Latvia. We were
accompanied by Ms. Krista Altok Tassa, President of the
Estonian American Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
First we landed in Helsinki, Finland, our port of
entry, where we passed through immigration, and then
took a plane to Tallinn, Estonia,
which is only a short 25 minute flight.
You can also travel by ferry to Tallinn, Estonia,
from Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden, and vice
Estonia is in the northeastern edge of the European
union. And is in the Schengen area so it has open
borders with the rest of Europe.
We landed at Leonard Meri airport,which is named after
the late Estonian President. Planes fly from many
European and other countries to this airport. Americans,
British, Canadians and Australians do not need a Visa to
enter. Just like the members of the European Union,
euros and dollars are accepted.
Estonia has a population of
1.3 million but it is larger than Denmark and Holland.
We were met by a representative of the Estonian Tourist
Board, Ms. Kristiina Ojamaa. Everyone that is connected
to tourism in Estonia speaks good English and some
German, Finnish, Russian and Swedish.
Estonian has achieved independence twice, the first in
1918 from countries that invaded their country
earlier, from the Germans to Russians, Danes, Swedish
and so on, and the second in 1991 from the Soviet Union;
they were the first country that got there independence
from the Soviet Union among other countries that were
Since then, they have worked very hard to rebuild their
country and are known as the “Most High Tech” country in
all of Europe.
Even though Estonia was part of the Soviet Union
for half a century, Estonians are more influenced by
Nordic tastes and traditions. They have great food and
also serve marinated Bear in some local restaurants,
however there are no polar bears in Estonia!
This year, Tallinn has also been named the 2011 CULTURAL
CAPITAL OF EUROPE. We were dropped by our hotel to rest
Savoy Boutique Hotel
www.savoyhotel.ee, which is in the old
town of Tallinn. and that evening we were welcome with
a toast of Champagne and a tour of the hotel by the
Sales Manager Ando Saar, the chef and also the Food and
From there we walked several blocks to this
restaurant named Nano, which is owned by a former model
Beatriz and her husband, an artist and a musician. They
served us a great spread: including 10 types of
appetizers before we had our soup, entree and dessert. I
am glad that I only had a little food each time they
brought out the food or else I am sure I'd never have
been able to get up from my seat! It was very good
traditional Estonian food.
The nightlife is as
wonderful as any other capital city in the world. In the
old town they have good restaurants, many places that
have live music, bars that are open for 24 hours and
nightclubs for dancing. And, we went to few of them ,
including Clazz, which that night featured Motown music
and other nights 60's music; as well as places where
they perform both traditional Estonian, as well more
modern music. Many people from European countries visit
these places till late at night, so visit and experience
the nightlife yourself!
The following day we were
given a tour of the old town tracing the history of
Tallinn through music, beginning with a stop at the
The Museum curator demonstrated and played different
local instruments dating to medieval times, some 9
Next, we stopped by an old building that was built by
the first German Merchant that came to Estonia during
the 13th century. and they called their group the Black
Heads Society. In fact, when the TV Show AMAZING RACE
went to Tallinn the building was one of the stops for
Later we visited the Maiasmokk cafe where famous poets
and artist have hung out since 1864, followed by an
encounter with a man dressed as a KGB offier who
interrogated, recalling the Soviet era in Estonia."
Believe me it was scary!" Next, we took a very old bus,
(the same bus used to transport prisoners to the KGB
cells) The soldier served us vodka in the bus and we
sang Soviet songs with him along with sheet music.
From there we headed to lunch at Kaera-Jaan Restaurant
which featured modern Estonian food.
It was very good.
Next, we visited The Bastion
Tunnels under the Old Town, and then to the Sokos Viru
Hotel, which features the KGB MUSEUM. During occupation,
the Soviets kept a secret office on top of the hotel and
they put bugs in between the paneling of certain hotel
rooms so they could listen to conversations of the
guests , who were staying at the hotel. Now the hotel is
renovated and a lot of tourists from Scandinavian
That night we went to a very modern and nice restaurant
called Restaurant O www.restoran-o.e
where they served fusion food similar to high-end
The following morning most
of the people in the group went bicycling along the
seashore to Kadrioru Park; yours truly does not ride
So I was in a chauffeur
driven car during the tour as we stopped at Kadriorg
Palace built by the Russian Tsar Peter I as a summer
home for his empress, Catherine, today a museum.
We stop by the Estonian Art
Museum called KUMU, a museum of modern art featuring
local artists, and next we visit the Estonian Song
The Estonians have a song festival every 5 year where
Estonian communities from throughout the country gather
and perform. Participants dress in their colorful
native costumes and 30000+ fill the open-air
amphitheater and grounds and they sing for several days.
In fact, even during the time of Soviet occupation
Estonians found a way to celebrate their song festival
by singing a few patriotic songs at the end of each
festival. Today Estonians living in other parts of the
world return home to Estonia to participate in the the
Later, we had lunch at
another modern restaurant called Restaurant Kadriorg.
www.restorankadriorg.ee They served us
Italian food and it was good. Most of the restaurants in
Estonia serve a lot of Italian and Spanish wines but
they also serve French wines and Champagne. In fact they
have good wine selections and, of course, vodka.
Estonians produce numerous vodkas, such as Turi, The
Tall Blond, and Saaga and Ston, all of which were
produced for import to the United States. They also have
a special drink called Vana Tallinn, a liquor; I had it
and loved it!
That evening we embarked on a 3-hour sail on Tallinn Bay
where we boarded an ice cutter and saw a World War II
submarine and enjoyed Baltic salmon sandwiches along
The following day we left
Tallinn and drove to the port of KUIVASTU, 90 miles from
Tallinn,and took the ferry to MUHU ISLAND.
We had a hands-on cooking class at Nami Namaste farm and
home restaurant a,
www.sikkkesumari.com which is also
a place that is frequente by the President of Estonia
and his family. The farm is owned by a husband and wife,
originally from Finland. The wife’s name is Sikke Sumari who
hosts a tv cooking show and her husband is a Publisher.
They have numerous a-frame style cabins and
country-style rooms for cooking class participants.
From there we went to an ostrich farm. Lots of ostriches
and also many different types of animals. including
kangaroos , and wallabies, which I had never seen
We arrived in Kuressaare the
capital of Saaremaa island and checked into the George
Ots Spa Hotel
www.gospa.ee , a very beautiful hotel
with modern SPA facilities as big as some hotels in
Dubai, by the beach, with swimming pool and lots of
amenities. I had a very large beautiful room. And
several similar hotels line the beachfront. with just a
short walk along the seaside to Kuressaare ‘s Episcopal
We were treated to a tour and dinner at the
castle. Earliest mention of the castle dates to the13
and 1400s. The hosts were dressed in medieval garb ,
and the table adorned with utensils, glasses a l a
knights of the roundtables, and musicians performing
music of that era. The experience is really great and
you will feel like you are in the movies.
The following day some
in our group went kayaking on Kuressaare Bay. Yours
truly enjoyed the hotel and the different SPA TREATMENT
at the hotel,which I love. Then everybody went to Good
Karma Soap Farm www.goodkarma.com where
the husband and wife team taught us how to make soaps
and then back to MUHU ISLAND.
There we checked into PADASTE MANOR which is a very
beautiful MANSION built by German Royalty. In addition
to the main mansion they have several buildings that
surround the Manor, one that houses a spa and
duplex-style guest rooms, as well as the gatehouse.
We stayed at the main
Mansion and I was very lucky to be given the large
master bedroom like a bedroom in a palace on the ground
floor and right outside the garden, and next to the
garden, the beach; it was heaven, you can check their
website to see how beautiful it is: www.padaste.ee
The featured room by the garden was the room where I
stayed, lucky me!
We also had dinner at their
restaurant Alexander which was voted #1 Restaurant in
Estonia in 2010. It has a glass ceiling and walls which
looks out on the forest.
We left Muhu Island and took
a ferry to the mainland and drove to Parnu the ESTONIAN
The town is surrounded by old castles, which were
built by occupying forces of the many countries (Sweden,
Russia,amon others) which invaded Estonia.
We were able to do some shopping around town there
are a lot of old remnants of the Swedish era, as well
After that we went to have lunch in Ammende Villa
www.ammende.ee by the beach. The Villa is
a century old mansion, which has been renovated into a
wonderful hotel, featuring a private restaurant on the
top floor with marvelous views of the town. and also a
restaurant on the ground floor.
Then it was time to leave Estonia, beautiful Estonia.
From there we drove to Riga
Latvia which took us 2 1/2 hours. We stayed at the
www.gutenbergs.eu/en in the old town
Dome Square 1.
The town is surrounded by large domed Lutheran churches
that look alike. One afternoon I got lost because I
thought the church close to our hotel was the same
church that I was following. They used to have catholic
priests in the catholic churches but they were run out.
That night we had dinner at RESTAURANT ZILA (BLUE COW),
in old town of Riga surrounded by lots of restaurants
in the nearby plaza.
The next day we were picked
up by our tour guide Juris who gave us a tour of Riga.
The Latvians also suffered a lot at the hand of the
Germans and Soviets.
We ventured through the Old town and saw the replica of
the building originally built by German merchants called
the Black Head Society in 1344, today used for social
functions. Next we visited a store that sells
traditional Latvian folk costumes and perused the Riga
Central Market , which consists if 3 large hangars.
We strolled through the Art
Nouveau District and Alberta Street which has row after
row of Art nouveau buildings built by German architects
and other European and Latvian architects. They also
have a museum there to show how people lived during that
From there we went a little
shopping spree and then we drove to a restaurant along
the Daugava River named Ostas Skati.
Afterward some people went shopping and others to the
museum, They have several museums there, an art museum
and the Occupation museum. featuring pictures and other
materials depicting life under Nazi and Soviet
occupation. Estonia also has a museum of occupation. and
it shows also how they were treated badly by these two
That evening we had dinner
on the rooftop of the Gutenbergs hotel, which featured a
beautiful spread. We started with different types of
appetizers from seafood to pasta and vegetables, and of
course good wines, which we did at every meal in both
countries, and I ordered a very good thick juicy steak,
Most Europeans love meat and potatoes and it is the
same in Estonia and Latvia. Then the following day
it was time to go home to New York City, but I will
never forget the good times and experiences of this
I had a very good friend who was the former Consul
General of Estonia and he kept on inviting me to visit
Estonia and I kept saying I was busy. If I only knew
what I had been missing I would had done it sooner.
I would like to thank all the people and companies and
the country of Estonia, the Estonian Tourist Board,
Finnair, and www.liveriga.com/lv
who made our trip possible.
To make your plans to visit Estonia consult
You are going to love it, Just like us!
The people in Estonia and Latvia are the warmest and
You will have a wonderful trip trip.
For more information please
click on the site that we provided including the sites
of the different hotels and places or feel free to send
me a message at
this is Gloria Cressler signing off, till next time.
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