Monday, March 31, 2008

A promenade in the morning

Photos: By Erik, Harju county, Estonia, March 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

In the morning dusk: portrait and hunting mice

Photo: by Erik, Harju county, Estonia, March 2008

Photo: by Erik, Harju county, Estonia, March 2008.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Winter is back!

27 March 2008 - Even when Spring officially arrived last week, it doesn't mean that The Mother Nature thinks the same... As our Estonian proverb says: "No winter remains to the sky", it's true also this year. FINALLY we're having snow... everything from lovely soft snowflakes until terrible snowstorm with loads of traffic problems... But it's fun :) Better late than never!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Eastertime :)

Dear friends!
We wish you an Easter filled with
love, peace and joy of Springtime!
With sunny greetings from Estonia -
Karin, Erik and Kert

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A looong Spa Weekend: March 13-16, Toila Spa

To celebrate Erik’s birthday, we decided to pamper ourselves in a spa hotel together with our friends Eda, Andres and their almost-1-year-old son Märt. We headed to Toila (in the eastern part of Estonia, on the coast of the sea) on Erik’s birthday – on Thursday to stay there for 3,5 days. We had a full package called „Relaxation Package” – accommodation, catering in the restaurant of the hotel and body treatments like water gymnastics, invigorating bath (I took the milk bath) and cryosauna (a cold capsule of -140 degrees of Celsius!).
It was an enjoyable weekend. About 2 years ago, the hotel was extended with Thermae (inspired by ancient Greek bath places) – which means many different saunas, pools, bubbling baths. We could go there all afternoons for 3 hours. Photo: Toila Spa Hotel

Photo: On Saturday with Andres, Eda and Märt in front of the hotel; and on Sunday morning (just me).
Photo: Erik's enjoying the bubble path in Thermae.

Photo: The end of Erik's birthday... Boys are tired!

Photo: Walking in Toila Park. I and Eda.
Photo: I and Erik in Toila Park.

We also had a „culture program” for us (=sightseeing tour) which we did on Saturday afternoon. We decided to visit the most well-known nunnery (monastery) in Estonia – called Kuremäe Monastery (established in 1891). It belongs to Russian Orthodoxy Church, and probably most nuns living there are Russians as well. It was an interesting place – a small village surrounded with long walls. It had a Russian church (called Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God (built in 1910)), many chapels, living houses, also a guest house.
After that, we drove along the coast of the largest lake in Estonia – called Peipsi Lake. It offers white sand and popular swimming places during summer-time, but right now – in March – the beaches were empty... Only us...
On our way back to Toila, we passed Iisaku – the highest place in eastern part of Estonia (as Estonia is very flat, then the highest point in East Estonia isn’t very high either – only 94 metres!). I and Erik climbed to the top of the watching tower, which was one of the highest I’ve ever climbed in Estonia – but the view was very foggy as it had started to snow. It continued snowing in the evening as well, and on Sunday morning, we woke up to a winter again! We went for a walk along the coast, it was beautiful!
Photo: I and Eda walking in the area of Kuremäe Monastery. On the back, you can see the towers of Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God (built in 1910).

Photo: Eda, Andres and Märt in Kuremäe Monastery.
Photo: The map of the closed area of Kuremäe Monastery. The tourists can walk freely in marked roads, but cannot talk with the mobile, and actually, cannot photograph either... (at least the sign told so!).
Photo: The graveyard in Kuremäe. It doesn't look like an Estonian graveyard at all...
Photo: Peipsi Lake - halfly frozen.
Photo: View from Iisaku watching tower. It was very foggy as it started to snow.
Photo: Can you notice Eda, Andres and Märt? They stayed on the ground while we climbed up to the tower.
Photo: Eda, Andres and Märt and the Iisaku watching tower.
Photo: Sunday surprised us with a nice snowy weather... In the morning, we took a small walk to the beach of Toila.
Photo: The stairs to get down to the beach.
Photo: Erik's longing a little bit warmer weather to sunbath and swim :)
Photo: To be sure everyone knows we were there...

We enjoyed the weekend in Toila a lot – even when it was meant to be a relaxing and slow long weekend, we didn’t have time to feel bored at all: all the time, we had something to do!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Marseille – Seafood Capital of Provence

I visited Marseille – the oldest town in France, in the end of February. It left me a deep impression – it’s a beautiful seaside town! Even when it’s a big city (820 000 inhabitants), it’s not crowded at all, you always feel the space there.
The guide of Marseille says: “Marseille seems somehow larger than life, its colours even brighter, the sun-soaked terraces of its cafés even sexier”.

The old part of it – called “The Basket” is 2600 years old. In French, the old part is called Le Panier. It was found by the Phoceans 600 BC; and the Old Port (called The Vieux-Port) played an important role – “The Basket” is on the north shore of the Old Port.
I had a very nice overview of the town from the Conference Venue (where I spent the first two days) - it was a Palace (called Palace to Pharo) which was built as an imperial residence for Napoleon III in the 19th century. It was situated on a hill on the shores of Vieux-Port, and I could see “The Basket”, the yachts in the port, even my hotel.
I explored the Old Part of town in February 27. It was a beautiful sunny day, with the degrees about 20 Celsius. I was so happy, and my mood was just great! In „The Basket” the main attractions are the Cathedral, some old hotels (lovely ones), many narrow streets, and Charity House (opened in 17th century for poor people, who lived and worked there) with a lovely chapel in the centre.
Vieux Port - the Old Port of Marseille
Photo: I walking around the old part - to one side (where my hotel was) to another (where the old part of the town is situated). It's 7 a.m in the morning.
Photo: The Old Port with old town in the right shore. Photo: The Vieux Port at night.
Photo: Besides yachts, you can see a church called Notre-Dame Church in the top of Le Garde hill. The church was consecrated on June 5, 1864.
Photo: Again the port... Photo: A lot of beautiful yachts stand there.
Photo: In each morning, you can wonder around in the fish market opened in the port.
Photo: And more yachts which are chosen Marseille Port as their winter home
Photo: some people are ready to go to sail...

"The Basket" - Old Town Photo: I in front of the Hôtel-Dieu, a former hospital in the Panier, currently being transformed into an InterContinental hotel
Photo: The construction of the New Cathedral of Marseille was initiated by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte and was finished in 1852. It's 146 metres long, and the main cupola is 70 metres high.
Photo: The Hotel de Ville (the Town Hall), a baroque building from the 17th century.
Photo: Some colourful houses in the old town of Marseille.
Palais du Pharo - the Venue of the Conference
Photo: The Pharo Palace lies on a rocky plateau, built by Prince-President Louis-Napoleon as an imperial residence. The Emperios actually never used it.

Photo: Park around the Palace.
Photo: Pharo Palace taken from the cruise-boat.

La Corniche and Malmousque Village
One day, I took a picturesque waterfront road between the Old Port and the Bay of Marseille - called La Corniche which runs from Catalans cove to the Prado beaches and it was very, very beautiful!
I also visited a small village called Malmousque, which is a fishermen’ village (or used to be) with small houses, but nowadays a very a prestige living place for rich people who build more and more big villas there. In Malmousque, I was able to go down to the port and sea, too (in most places, you can just walk, but cannot have an access to sea; as the cliffs are closed (probably for safety reasons)) – it was so lovely, a narrow narrow path on the side of cliffs geting you to the sea, and it’s very easy to slip and fall down to the sea from there! As it’s not a tourist season right now, then I was all alone there! Malmousque has really nice small ports for the boats of fishermen.
Photo: The Mediterranean Sea is indeed very clean and transparent...
Photo: The view from La Corniche pathway
Photo: The days were so warm, that some people played beach volleyball already, and even took sun...
Photo: More views during my walk

Photo: A Monument in La Corniche by a sculptor Antonio Sartorio. It represents the "Gateway to the East", as Marseilles has often been named due to its geographical location, its maritime traits and the fact that it opens onto the East
Photo: The small port in the fishing village Malmousque.
Photo: A little bit larger port in Malmousque.
Photo: Nice houses in Malmousque.
Photo: I took a narrow bath to get to the sea.
Photo: I in Malmousque.
The Calanques
In the sunny afternoon, I went on a boat-cruise to the Calanques – which are long cliffs on the coast of Mediterranean Sea with many hiking tracks and beautiful views. I was that I couldn’t go hiking there (the public transport was on strike, and the buses didn’t go there, and it was too far away to talk a walk there). As it was such a beautiful day, the boat was full of tourists – from France, Russia, Belgium, Germany, Japan... It was a lovely tour, we saw many nice cliffs and saw people hiking (not many though) there, and I was so envious, we saw lovely small private beaches between the cliffs, and some people kayaking etc... If I ever happen to go to Provence region in France, I certainly want to go on a hike there in the Calanques. The hiking tracks are closed in summer-time – in order to protect the wild life there (birds are laying eggs during that time) and due to the risk of forestfires.
Photo: The small cruise-boat to go to the Calanques.

Photo: Some views of Calanques.
In my opinions, Marseille is a wonderful city with its own special vitality, antiquity, and marine fragrance. Definitely worth to visit!