Estonia – the vestibule of Scandinavia
You can read about the tourist attractions of our Lithuanian neighbor in the article regarding the trip to Vilnius. When choosing a trip to Lithuania, however, it is worth considering a visit to the northernmost Baltic country – Estonia. It is also the easternmost country, where you can go by car from PANEK Rent a Car.
Estonia is called by many the vestibule of Scandinavia and it seems that they are right. While traveling through this small country, you can get the impression that it is an endless forest and lakes, and towns and smaller towns are located in small clearings. This impression can be misleading because Estonia is one of the most modern and digitally developed countries in Europe and virtually all of the country’s administration and main services have been transferred to the web. Estonia also has a very long coastline stretching from the Gulf of Riga to the Gulf of Finland, as well as over 1,500 islands and islets that greatly diversify the coastal landscape. Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of languages, so it is best to communicate in English here. Estonians are also eager to show their aversion to everything that is Russian, which is why communicating in this language may be difficult.
The road traffic regulations are Scandinavian: in built-up areas, you can move at a speed of 50 km / h, and outside built-up areas, on expressways and motorways, the limit is 90 km / h. Only in summer, on some sections of motorways, you can travel at a speed of 110 km / h. Driving with the lights on is obligatory 24 hours a day, and driving under the influence of alcohol is forbidden – the limit is 0.0 per mille.
It is best to start a visit to the former Estonian Soviet Republic from the city of Tartu, which is the first larger agglomeration we will come across after crossing the Latvian-Estonian border. It is also the second largest city in Estonia in terms of population and is said to be the capital of youth and positive energy. There are many universities here, so the majority of residents are young people who are eager to enjoy the charms and attractions of the city. Tartu is located on the European Route of Brick Gothic, and the main attractions include the beautiful town hall and the magnificent building of the local university, as well as the ruins of the Gothic cathedral. In the city, you can visit the Estonian National Museum, the Estonian Literature Museum, as well as the AHHAA Science Center adored by children and teenagers. Before leaving the city, you must also take a walk along the streets with wooden buildings typical of the Baltic countries.
Another city worth visiting is Narwa, located on the north-eastern tip of Estonia. The city is divided into Estonian and Russian parts and is a living testimony of the past regime. The architecture of Narva is dominated by the so-called “Great Plate”, which is also well known in Poland, but among this gray landscape you can come across historical gems, such as Herman’s Castle, which was once the easternmost Teutonic stronghold. The first rumors about this place appeared in 1277, when the territory of today’s Estonia was inhabited by Danish peoples. Interestingly, after World War II, the Russians displaced the indigenous Estonian population from the city, and Russians were settled in its place. Today, 30 years after the country regained independence, the Estonian population is only a few percent of the population.
Heading from Narva to the West by road No. 1, we will reach the capital of Estonia – Tallinn, picturesquely situated in the southern part of the Gulf of Finland. This largest city in the country is a natural center of state administration, but it also abounds in many interesting places that tourists should visit. Many of them are sacred buildings, but it must be remembered that the Estonian population is mostly Protestant, and the Orthodox are in the minority. The most important religious object in Tallinn is Toompea, the gothic Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where in 1585 the former Swedish governor of Estonia – Pontus de la Gardie, was buried. Right under the hill, in the Old Town, there is also the 13th-century church of St. Nicholas and the church of St. Michael, where you can admire the beautiful 17th-century icons. The Gothic town hall and the Kadriog Palace are also worth visiting. The building was built on the order of the Russian Tsar Peter I the Great and became his summer residence. The unique palace gardens were the Tsar’s gift for his second wife Katarzyna. While in Tallinn, it is worth taking a moment to visit the Maritime Museum, the KGB Museum, as well as the Estonian Open-Air Museum located on the outskirts of the city. If you have time, take the 2-hour cruise from Tallinn to Helsinki, the capital of Finland.
The loop around Estonia must be ended in Pärnu, which is deservedly called the “Summer Capital of Estonia”. The city was founded in 1214 and for many years was the northernmost Polish voivodeship city. During the “Deluge” it came under Swedish rule, and then until 1918 it was under Russian rule, and after 1945 Soviet rule. Pärnu is a real summer resort that attracts crowds not only of Estonians, but also tourists from other countries, who are attracted by the wonderful, wide beaches and the calm and shallow Baltic Sea.
Due to their temperate and climate, Latvia and Estonia are worth visiting, of course, in summer, the air temperature, especially in the northern regions, does not exceed 20 degrees Celsius. We recommend going to the Baltic States at the end of August or September, when the cities are a bit empty after the holidays and sightseeing becomes more enjoyable. Modern and safe cars from PANEK Rent a Car are recommended for autumn trips.