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

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.