FEATURE: Seek and you will find – in Estonia
We have to admit that we are not exactly known for our good climate. We tend to say ironically that we have a bad skiing weather all year round. But with our persistence and determination, we are able to defeat even some our biggest shortcomings.
We hide in spas to escape the bad weather (and mood). As chilly weather is common in the Nordic countries, spas often tend to be large, noisy, and full of people, not really offering a chance to enjoy some private time. However, the small Estonia has a small solution for this problem – boutique spas. The bad skiing weather outside could even become enjoyable while you are being pampered in a spa. And if this exclusive spa experience also included food of equally high quality, you would not need to go anywhere else. But are there spas like that out there?
To that, Estonians say, ‘Seek and you will find.’ Pack everything you need on a trip like this into your car and make your way to the Värtahamnen port in Stockholm by 4.30 p.m. An hour later, the ship will head out towards Tallinn and by 10.45 the next morning, you will arrive. Your first destination is in the Old Town of Tallinn, only a ten-minute drive away.
A night in Hotel Telegraaf, which belongs to the exclusive Autograph Collection, is in the price range of a lower middle-class hotel in Stockholm, but the milieu and amenities are incomparably better. Elemis Spa located in the hotel is small and private. During a workday, it might be yours entirely. Tchaikovsky, the restaurant of the hotel, is inarguably one of the best in Estonia. Its food is inspired by music. On the weekends, you can enjoy the harmonies of live classical music and Russian cuisine, surrounded by a unique interior.
You will not want to leave the hotel at all in the morning. The easiest way to defeat temptation is to give in to it. But there is not much to regret. It might be hard to believe, but if you set course towards Virtsu port, you are in for a similarly incredible or even better experience. Travelling there takes a little under two hours, followed by a half-hour trip on the ferry, 15 minutes by car on the island of Muhu, and soon after you will be greeted at Pädaste Manor.
As you leave your car, you will feel immediately that you have arrived to the most quiet and peaceful place on Earth. This feeling will linger for the entire time you spend in Pädaste.
Pädaste Spa is special. You will not find their treatments anywhere else. They are special, as some of them are based on old local traditions, and the ointments and salves used during the procedures are made right there. For example, you can enjoy a refreshing juniper-nettle footbath and foot massage, a full massage with goat milk cream, hay or mud wraps, etc.
The culmination of your stay is the dinner. The manor’s restaurant, Alexander has ranked first or second on the list of best Estonian restaurants in all eight years in the list’s history. Their Nordic cuisine is simultaneously rustic and fancy. The tastes of these dishes cannot be put into words – they must be experienced.
Next morning, you will think it would be a crime to leave, and it will be if you have not yet tasted the local baked bread and craft beer, the beef burger from cattle grown on the windy island, or the fish soup made from the catches of local fishermen, served in a restaurant located in a seine shed, no less.
Once you have done all that, you can leave Muhu in peace. You remember the best tastes and know for certain that you will return as soon as possible. The ferry to the mainland, however, is on a tight schedule. It leaves when it needs to and you will have to hurry to not miss it. Once you are back on the mainland, you will need to drive for another hour until your reach Pärnu, the summer capital of Estonia.
Hedon Spa is located right on the sandy beach, but believe it or not – even the best summertime weather, the sand, and the sea can barely make you leave the quiet Hedon Spa. And if the weather is bad, well, there is no reason to leave at all.
You can eat at the two restaurants of the hotel. Akord is a simple grill restaurant, where the customer can ‘become the chef’ and decide what they would like to eat. The dinner restaurant Raimond offers carefully finished dishes made largely from local raw ingredients. Be sure to taste the ciders and berry wines of Pärnu County as well as the local gin-and-tonic cocktail. When the weather is good, the terrace of Hedon Spa is by far the best place to spend time in Pärnu, should you wish to leave the balcony of your hotel room.
The feeling in the morning is familiar – you do not want to leave, but you have to. You are about to embark on the longest car trip of your journey – you will drive nearly 200 kilometres through the beautiful Estonian nature. Two and a half hours on the road passes by faster than you would expect, and you have already arrived in Tartu. You will find your next stop, Hotel Lydia, at the heart of the city, right behind the Town Hall.
While the Town Hall Square and the surrounding streets might be full of life, the noise outside will not reach your hotel room. Considering that Lydia is located in the second largest city of Estonia, the university city of Tartu, the hotel is surprisingly quiet and idyllic. Your good mood will only be improved by the lighting and the aroma therapy with a sanarium and pool of the spa-lounge located on the basement floor. Its blue light is strongly reminiscent of the famed Blue Grotto.
Hõlm, the restaurant of the hotel, is as refined as the milieu of the hotel. Its drinks menu is outstanding and the dishes are the best in Tartu. The day goes by quicker than you would like, but thankfully, the trip is not over yet. Kau Manor in Rapla County welcomes you on your way from Tartu to Tallinn.
Simply driving by this place would be a huge mistake. The manor, previously in terrible condition, once belonged to explorer Otto von Kotzebue. It has been restored and turned into a spectacular boutique hotel – it was recently awarded the Best Designed Hotel award by the World Boutique Hotel.
The design of the hotel is inspired by the travels of von Kotzebue. The milieu is peaceful and free and you can relax in the sauna and pool located in the former coach house. The wine cellar, cigar room, and absinthe house are perfect for a good time.
You will not need to leave the manor to enjoy a dinner that equals your previous experiences. Dinner in the restaurant 8 Legs might bring you down a little – this is the last night of your trip.
You can spend the last day of your trip by taking a walk in the Old Town of Tallinn and/or visiting another excellent restaurant. At 6 p.m., the ship will head towards Stockholm and you will be back home by 10 a.m. the next day. It feels as if you have been away for a month, not merely a week. You will also have some incredible stories to tell to your friends and colleagues. Even if they do not believe them, what you know now is enough. It is time to take out your calendar and choose the best dates for another trip to Estonia – there is so much yet to experience!