Today is our last full day in Estonia; tomorrow we have a 6:20 AM bus headed to Riga, Latvia. One of our big goals, of course, has been to travel overland as much as possible, at least until the fall. And except for that strange little problem of getting from Moscow to St. Petersburg – there were lots and lots of trains, but anything with remotely decent times was completely full, so we flew – we’re doing it. Buses and trains have their downsides, but they’re great for really seeing the country side. After three days in Riga we may rent a car to get around on our across the rest of the Baltics…
And speaking of plans, it turns out that having the rest of your life to travel may not be enough time. I know, sounds crazy, but … we want to spend September in Italy. And we want to get to Albania and Croatia for two or three weeks before that. All of a sudden it’s July 6 and that doesn’t leave much time for Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia. Very frustrating.
Today was a simple day. We took a bus to Oteppa, a town about 42 kilometers south of Tartu (about $12 round trip, total, for both of us!). Otepaa is described in our guidebook as Estonia’s winter capital, but also a center for hiking, biking, and canoeing in the summer. We wanted to hike so we got to the town and the very helpful and friendly woman at the info center right next to the bus stop gave us a map to hike down to and around Puhajarv (Holy Lake, once blessed by the Dalai Lama himself…), a total of maybe 20 kilometers. Besides just a very pretty walk around a beautiful lake, two things stood out.
At one point maybe three-quarters of the way around the lake we came across a group of Estonian ladies out painting. They were just so cute out there, so friendly as we walked by, and so European. The other striking feature wasn’t quite so pleasant. Mosquitos. My God! I’d forgotten what they could be like. And huge, like Alaska-huge, which is even worse than Minnesota-huge. The good news was that I’d bought some powerful repellant before leaving the States. The bad news was that because we haven’t encountered any mosquitos to date, the bug dope was still in my suitcase. We tried to stop to eat some snacks we’d bought for lunch, but that was just a lost cause; they were stopping for lunch, too. And did I mention big? One nearly carried Mark away before I grabbed his foot and pulled him back.