25 Jul Bicycle touring Estonia
Today, we are going to enter another country and start bicycle touring in Estonia. Leaving and entering new countries within the EU or within the Schengen zone is pretty uneventful, if not plain boring since there are no more passport controls. If it were not for the blue, plain signs announcing the start of a new country, we wouldn’t even know, that we had entered a new Baltic state.
Cycling through Estonia was pretty uneventful. We mostly stayed on the EuroVelo10 along the coast, which led us through a few small villages. It followed small quiet country roads and took the occasional detour on dirt roads closer to the coast. Estonia was just as flat as the previous Baltic states we have cycled through, which made it easy to go long miles.
The wooded areas were carpeted by blueberry bushes and wild strawberries, which made delicious sweet treats during the unusual warm day.
We also met several other bike tourers and cyclists along our path: there was a young Norwegian who started in Norway, following the “Iron Curtain Trail” and was heading to Turkey. He gave us a few tips on which way to head North and what to see in Norway. We chatted with an Estonian cyclist, who is a sports journalist and had covered 13 Olympic Games in his career, we had a few pastries together at the local bakery, where he likes to take a break during his cycle-regiment… and we also met Rita and Rimas, a Lithuanian couple, who are touring through the Baltic States. The two are dreaming about going on a long term bike tour themselves and had lots of questions for us. They were very happy to have met us for a little inspiration.
This must have been the most cycle tourers we have seen in one day, in a long time!
Once, we finally made it to Pärnu, we noticed two more bike tourers outside a store. We stop and chat for a little while. Paul and Artur came from Poland and were looking for the campground in town. Unfortunately, their GPS gave them some trouble, so they were not sure which way to go. Luckily, our GPS works…at least most of the time…and we were able to point them in the right direction.
We did not really plan on camping in town, but after chatting with the guys and showing them where the campsite was after they passed it up once more, we decided to get a couple of beers to share with our Polish pals.
The campsite itself was very disappointing, to say the least. Camper vans were lined up on what looked like a huge parking lot– one right next to the other–like sardines in a can.
The tent space consisted of a tiny patch of green grass, where the management tried to cram as many tents as possible on top of each other. It’s unbelievable that some people would actually take their vacation here!
Maybe we are just spoiled! But we’d take a quiet wild-camp-spot in the middle of the woods, next to a lake, or on top of a hill, with an ‘outdoor toilet’ anytime over one of these campsites. There, we would get to listen to birds, the wind, or mountain streams instead of people snoring, banging car doors, or partying.
But at least we had fun hanging out with our new Polish friends!
The next morning, we broke up camp and checked out Pärnu with Paul and Artur, before going our separate ways.
As we left town, we could already see the dark clouds rolling in. Shortly after turning into a rest area with a small restaurant, which seemed popular with the touring buses, it started to open up on us. Luckily, we were able to finish eating our bread and canned fish before it started pouring on us. We packed up quickly and looked for cover under the couple of scrawny trees in the parking lot. While waiting out the rain, we watched the tourists hustle from their buses to the restaurant and back. Every once in a while we would even wave to a few, who would take pictures of us….yes, sometimes we feel a little bit like a tourist attraction ourselves!
Eventually, we decided to keep our rain gear on and kept riding. After getting more food supplies in a small town, we met a couple of Estonians from Tallinn, who invited us to stay at their vacation spot in town–a very nice offer, but we were not done riding yet for the day. Instead we thought, we could hit a campground a group of Spanish cyclists have told us they have seen on their way into town. It was about 25 more kilometers to go, which was perfect. So we kept riding.
About 25km down the road, we spotted the sign for the campground. Apparently, it was a hotel with a campground attached. We stopped, located the reception, and found a grumpy looking lady at the desk.
After asking her about camping she replies:”Camping?! there is no camping! This is hotel!” She points to her surveillance camera monitors on the wall and asks: “Where do you see camping? There is NO camping!”
Funny, because behind the hotel building is a huge field with a picnic shelter and a small camper van!
Confused by her answer, we first try to point out, that the sign at the entrance states that there is camping available. Yet, after her adamantly denying that sort of accommodation we head out and go behind the building to ask the camper how he got to stay there. Apparently, he talked to the same grumpy lady, but somehow got his point across by showing her money.
We head back to the reception desk and try again. We even take her outside to show her the other camper. That’s when she asked:”You want to camp with him!?” And then protested “That is impossible!”
With our best traveler’s sign language and almost at our wit’s end, we try explaining that we have our own tent and that we would NOT camp with the other gentleman in his camper. After a moment of thinking, she said. “He paid money!”
“Well, yes, so would we! How much is it?!” We ask.
Well, it was way too much! So not only did the grumpy, crazy lady not know she had camping services, she also did not know how to charge for such services…so we left and found ourselves a nice cozy place in the woods.
The following day, we continued our bicycle tour through Estonia but only had a short ride into Tallinn.
We arrived there just in time to fight our way through the groups of bus tourists unloading in the historic part of town. Getting tired of weaving through the masses of people with our fully loaded bikes, we decided to go to the harbor to check on a ferry to Helsinki the next day and then find the city campground instead.
The campground was quite disappointing, just like the one in Pärnu, it resembled more of a parking lot than a campground. At least the girl working the reception, was very cool and told us a lot about Estonia, the famous Tallinn Singing and Dancing Festival, which she participates in and the historic Singing Revolution.
Toward the evening, we decided to check out the beautiful historic part of Tallinn…without all the bus tourists!