The White Lady of Haapsalu

1-august_2013-128When you are Estonian and you live in Haapsalu, everyone knows that you are sharing your hometown with the White Lady. The White Lady is our own ghost who has been living in the Castle walls for centuries and only on one August night when the full moon is in the sky, she appears on the window of the Chaple to seek for her lover. And for that rare appearance, our town has started a tradition of White Lady Days, when the whole main street is a big market, musicians are playing on different stages and in the back gardens, you can find small garden markets and theatre groups performing. All the cafes are full of people and at night you can go the see the performance which of course, takes place in the Castle Yard.

Of course, it is a romantic love story and who doesn’t like romantic love stories of beautiful sad girls, so the performance has been played in the Castle Yard from 1979 when Haapsalu had the 700th anniversary.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYears and years ago, when the Episcopal Castle of Haapsalu was the residence of the Bishop, there were only religious men, called Canons living there and it was not allowed to the women to enter the castle. But the Canons were young lads and so it happened, that on of them fell madly in love with an Estonian girl from the neighborhood. As they wanted to be together, they had made up a plan and the girl, dressed up as a choir boy, stayed in the castle, helped in the stables, sang in a choir, because she had a marvellous voice and at night time met her lover. For some time they were happy and safe but of course, their happiness was discovered and the church laws were very strict. So the poor girl was immured into the walls of the Chapel of the dome Church and the boy was thrown into the dungeons of the castle to starve to death. And every year, in August, when there’s full moon, she comes back and shows herself on the castle window to see if her lover has come. If you don’t believe it, you have to come and see it with your own eyes.

After every 2-3 years the play is changed, but the story stays the same – we have had 3-hour long performances with horses and houses on fire, we have had real fighting scenes, dance performances, a musical and now even a time travelling story. So it doesn’t matter, if you have seen one, the next time it can be totally different. And when the show is over, the crowd gathers under the Chapel window and starts to wait for the appearance of the shadow of the White Lady. 🙂 Haapsalu is quite like a Storybrook, you never know what you get here.

Haapsalus on hea

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Sitting on the terrace of Cafe Hugo on the Promenade

“Haapsalus on hea” means “It’s good in Haapsalu” and it’s the theme sentence of our town because it’s true.

Haapsalu is a really nice summer resort and it is hidden on the western coast of a small country – Estonia. Haapsalu has a long history and it was first mentioned in written documents in 1279. So that year has been considered the birth year of the town and in 2016 it celebrated its 735th anniversary. The main thing that reminds you that you are in historical town is the old Episcopal Castle which is also the venue for lots of well-known and amazing summer events.

Haapsalu became a summer resort in the middle of the 19th century when the local doctor Carl Abraham Hunnius discovered that the local sea mud had lots of treating ingredients in it and after some research, he founded the first sea mud spa in Haapsalu in 1825. In these days Estonia belonged under the rule of the Russian tzar and Haapsalu became the beloved place for the Russian nobility to prove their health and rest from their busy lifestyle. Because of that, the railway was built, and even if the trains are not in run anymore, we have the most beautiful old railway station, which platform was once the longest in Europe. That was the birth of the summer resort which is one of the most peaceful places in the world and still famous for its sea mud and spas.

In summer time the small town, with only about 10 000 inhabitants, is full of small street cafes, concerts, festivals and summer people, who might be the tourists, visiting the town for the first time, the youth who have been brought up here and come to enjoy the summer in their hometown, people who go to the islands and stop for a cup of coffee and tasty range of cakes in their favourite cafes, and lots of fans all over the world, who keep coming back, wherever their life takes them. The most well-known events are the Festivals of White Lady and August Blues, which have been held here for ages, but also the newcomers like the Street food Festival, Italian Wine Days, Yoga Festival, Old Music Festival and lots of others.

Did I say that we don’t have a train anymore, actually we have one and it takes you slowly through the whole town and introduces you with the sights where you can come back walking when you have taken your coffee and cake from your favourite cafe and ready to go and discover this seaside town on your own. The train is called Peetrike, which is a childhood nickname for Little Peter and it starts from the real old train station.

But if you really really like trains, then just turn around the corner, behind the Train Station, and have fun with the old engines which belong to the Haapsalu Railway Museum, which is located in the same building. We did it some years ago.

 

The Fiddler on the Roof

I found the  version from “The Fiddler on the Roof” from 1989 when Helgi Sallo played Golde. This time, in 2016, just after her 75th birthday some days ago, she was the Matchmaker and her daughter Liina was playing Golde. It was good that I had time to give some guidelines about the familiar relations of these two actresses, so it was interesting to Sean to watch them together on the stage. He noticed the things that I didn’t and as the musical had Eglish subtitles up on the wall and as he has seen this musical lots of time, and as we watched the movie together at Christmas time, it was easy for him to catch up. And I am happy that he liked it – but the musical was really well done, with such a good choreography, decorations, and good actors that it was impossible not to like it.

After the musical, we had a light dinner in a Babulja cafe near the Opera House. Babulja is a Russian food cafe and has also a restaurant part, but we had to drive back home to Haapsalu and so we chose the cafe. We tried seafood, plinis, which are small Russian pancakes and of course the Pavlova cake, which was the most delicious Pavlova, I have ever tried. It was so tasty, that I even forgot to take a photo 😀

 

Sushi night in Estonian Summer Capital

parnu_1When you are in Estonia you definitely have to visit the Summer capital Pärnu. We are lucky to have some friends there and this time, we spent our night together with making sushi. 🙂 We felt already like profs because for us it was the second try but we wanted to try something new too and this time we were making also the hot sushi and we didn’t have to be disappointed, it came out really delicious. Just with the help of some youtube videos and a great desire and now I can say that it’s one of the best ways to keep up with your friends whom you haven’t met for a little while. So here’s a bit of Irish-Estonian sushi night captured with a smartphone just somewhere in the middle of the whole tasty and fascinating process.

 

August Blues Festival in Haapsalu

The August blues festival in Haapsalu was already the third for us together. Last year we had to miss it and so it was nice and fresh feeling to jump into all this music, parties and fun again. I have been going to this festival so many times, that it’s hard to count already, it has been held in Haapsalu 22 times already and has become one of our most famous music events and there are lots of fans from different countries who come back every year. 3-13932816_10205159865835578_2791810301530168709_n

For example, our Finnish friends with whom we have special Festival Traditions and so we start our Festival every year from Riika’s garden and then head to some nice place to have the Festival Dinner and get into the right mood.

August Blues Festival starts on Friday with lots of concerts all over the town but the main events take place in the Castle Yard, inside the old episcopal Castle, and I am pretty sure that the medieval walls give this festival a special taste and vibe. When all the performers have been on stage the party continues i the Blues club, which has always been the old Culture House from the 70-s, where some not so well known bands are playing and sometimes they form totally different bands from the musicians who are there. this year we had even two Blues clubs with two after parties, the other one took place at the Old Cinema, which is kind of a night club now, but years ago it was a real cinema.

The festival continues on Saturday with lots of concerts in cafes, on the streets, and of course, in the Castle Yard, and ends with afterparties at the night clubs. So everyone can find something, even if you are not interested in buying the Festival Pass but want to see just some of the musicians.

National Botanic Gardens

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My last summer day in Dublin ended up in the National Botanic Gardens which I had only glanced when we drove past of it in July. The Botanic Gardens are like a big park with nice old greenhouses and totally free to enter, so again, a perfect place for families to spend a lovely day outside and teach their kids something new when enjoying and having fun together.

We are a small family without young kids but always able to enjoy new things together and have a lot of fun every single time. This time, I didn’t forget to bring my selfie-stick, so we tried to use it as much as we could and now I have such a collection of flowers and us among all this beauty.

The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland are old, they were founded in 1750 by the Dublin Society. for example, our first Mud Cure resort of Haapsalu was founded 75 years later (1825) and our Promenade and the park around it even after that. Nowadays it inhabits more than 20 000 living species and I think the best part are all these big old trees with labels and stories besides them so every time you feel that you want to get to know a bit more, you just have to walk to the tree and read about it.

The old glasshouses,  the Palm House and the Curvilinear Range are amazing too, especially because of their architecture, both build in the 19-th century. The whole park is divided into different gardens and it is easy to follow the signs and walk around. I am sure we have to come back in May or June when everything is really blooming because this place is worth to visit more than once.

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