Thursday, 21.09.2017

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Lääne county


Lääne County (also Läänemaa, the ‘West Land’), as the name already says, is situated in the western part of Estonian mainland. The centre of the region is the historic health resort and bishop’s residence – Haapsalu.


Lääne County is even, situated fully on the lowlands is West-Estonia. Having a long coastline, sea has always influenced the life of people in the Lääne County. Specific to Lääne County is the long tradition and history of “coastal Swedes” (Swedes who settled to West-Estonian coast centuries ago), reflected in local names like Aulepa (Dirslätt), Dirhami (Derhamn), Einbi (Enby), Elbiku (Ölbäck), Fällarna, Förby, Hälvati, Höbringi (Höbring), Hosby (Noarootsi), Kudani (Gutanäs), Norrby, Osmussaare (Odensholm), Pürksi (Birkas), Saare (Lyckholm), Suur-Nõmmküla (Klottorp), Sviby, Söderby, Tahu (Skåtanäs), Tuksi (Bergsby), Gambyn, Väike-Nõmmküla (Persåker), Österby and many more.


Let’s start in Haapsalu, historically Hapsal. Make sure you will visit the mighty bishop castle from the end of the 13th century, which is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Estonia. Until the 16th century the centre of Saare-Lääne diocese was situated in the castle, which is surrounded by a over 800m circular wall.


The Haapsalu Cathedral has excellent acoustics, therefore it’s a great location for concerts and performances. The baptizing window of the cathedral is famous for the legend of the “Whine Lady!, who reveals herself on the window during the nights of full moon in August. In the watch tower you can have a great view on the surroundings, from the castle square move towards the city. Its street network has preserved almost the medieval formation.


Visit the Lääne County Museum, St. Jaani church from the beginning of the 16th, Peter’s House and the Orthodox Church from the 19th century. Haapsalu’s beach (so-called ‘Aafrika beach’) and the beach promenade are the most important places in the city – visit the historical Haapsalu Kuursaal (“The Sanitarium Hall”), various monuments and also drop into the Coastal Swedes Museum. Haapsalu was the proud capital for the coastal Swedes of Estonia until the II World War. You’ll find the Haapsalu railway station (Railway Museum) impressing, as it was erected especially to welcome the Russian Czar Family and at that time it was had the longest roof-covered railway platform in Northern-Europe (216m).


You should head towards Rohuküla to visit the Vormsi (Swe. Ormsö) island, which for centuries has been home to coastal Swedes. It’s the 4th biggest island of Estonian and has from old times been linked to the Vikings. The coastal Swedes were forced to leave Estonia with the m but their old spirit is still there. You’ll find typical pine forests on the island, the centre is the village of Hullo and the coastline stretches ca. 100km. You’ll surely find a nice place for resting, there are several pensions on the island. There are also various unique plant and animal species on the island found rarely in the rest of Europe.


Do visit Noarootsi (Swe. Nuckö), which is a peninsula and a parish, visit the local St. Katariina church with the church yard, established probably on the 13th–14th century or the Liberty War monument and the pastoral building. All of Noarootsi’s 22 villages (also) have Swedish names, most interesting of them might me Dirham with a port, post office and the station for the Institute for Estonian Meteorology and Hydrology. Osmussaar has an old lighthouse from 1765. Since 1940 when the contract of military bases was forced upon Estonia by the Soviets, the Soviets started to erect the coast defense there and during the war there were heavy combats and bombardments in the region. During Soviet times Osmussaar was a closed military territory.


In Paslepa, which used to be the largest village of Noarootsi with its best fields, has the Paslepa manor. Make a stop in Pürksi, which is the center of Noarootsi with a school, manor and a beautiful port in Österby, where you can enjoy a beautiful view on the silhouette of Haapsalu. Right of there, there is the cape of Ramsi, the most northwestern tip of Estonia with rare plants, which may have come here with Vikings.


You could head towards Riguldi, with juniper forests, holiday villages and sandy beaches.


Nõva parish is interesting in its nature (center is the village of Nõva) with its partial 3 nature preservation areas – Leidissoo, Nõva and Läänemaa Suursoo. Of interest is the Kürema natural protection area of stone sowing.


In Lihula you will find natural locations, Lihula marsh and Matsalu national park. Lihula is mentioned already in the 13th century and since then the area has been an important military point. The Lihula manor house dates from 1840-s.


If you are more for outdoors activity, you can visit the Marimetsa hiking trail, there are good possibilities for swimming in Kullamaa lake. There’s a church complex and an old watermill from 19th century.