Thursday, 21.09.2017

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Saare county

 

Saare County consists of the islands of Saaremaa (Ger./Swe. Ösel), Muhu (Ger./Swe. Moon), Ruhnu (Ger./Swe. Runö) and numerous other smaller islands, the centre is the historical Kuressaare.

 

The Saaremaa people have always had their own head and way of being, trying to make a difference between their folk and the others on the mainland. And this has a reason. Saaremaa is very unique and difference, full of surprises not only for vacation, but for everyone interested in wandering, culture and nature.

 

The island has changed many masters through centuries, which has left a unique mark on Saaremaa.

 

After the II World War Saaremaa fulfilled a strategic military role, followed by decades of isolation and being a closed military zone.

 

The nature and flora climate of Saaremaa is diverse due to its climate. Good examples are Viidumäe nature reserve as sell as Vilsandi National Park. Especially famous is the Kaali meteor crater.

 

Kuressaare (Ger. Arensburg) is the historical centre of Saaremaa with its lovely old town and fort-type square fortress. The old town houses 2 historical churches, Laurentiuse and Siioni), as well as the historical old mill, trade-yard and several houses of the bourgeoisie. The historical City Hall and the Weighing House date back from the 17th century (‘the Swedish Era’), the House of Knighthood from the 18th century.

 

The Kuressaare Bishops Castle is the most important sight and probably the most visited object in Saaremaa, dating back to the 14th century almost in an unchanged form – do visit the Museum of Saaremaa located there. The surroundings of the castle is remarkable, especially the moat with the great possibility of renting paddle boats to discover every corner.

 

As for other special sights, visit the windmill hill in Angla, where even in 1925 still 9 windmills operated, 5 have remained so far. It’s surely one of the best examples of windmill ensembles in its original location in Estonia.

 

Close to the Panga village you’ll find the Panga bank (cliff) stretching 2.5km wide and with the height of up to 20m, it’s the tallest of Saaremaa’s and Muhu’s northern cliff-banks.

 

In Kihelkonna hamlet 30km from Kuressaare you’ll find a historic church (church and interior paintings from 13th century!) with a cemetery, the singing grounds and the famous Kihelkonna clock tower.

 

As for manors, one should bring up Loona manor (Ger. Kadvel) – which is a knight’s manor in Kihelkonna hamlet. The early-classical main building was built in the beginning of the 19th century, housing a guesthouse and the visitor’s center of Vilsandi national park.

 

In Orissaare parish visit the Maasi village, being the administrative centre of Muhu and East-Saaremaa in medieval times. There was the Maasilinna Order’s fortress (Ger. Soneburg), which lies in ruins since the 16th century but has nevertheless played an important role in Saaremaa’s history. The ruins have been restored since 2001 with large scale excavations and conservation. Orissaare hamlet has a port and the Upper and Lower lighthouse.

 

Saaremaa has numerous well-preserved medieval churches, which you’ll find in almost every village or hamlet, the most significant being in Karja, Kuressaare, Valjala and Kaarma.

 

The island of Muhu (Muhumaa), which is the third largest Estonian island located North-East of Saaremaa, is linked to Saaremaa with the dam of Väik Väin (trans. the Small Straight). Muhu has a lot of islets, the biggest being Kõinastu, Kesselaid, Suurlaid, Viirelaid  and Võilaid. Muhu has shared a similar history as Saaremaa.

 

Koguva village has the Muhu museum with good examples of past wealthy life of the coastal villages, it’s also the birth house of Juhan Smuul, old village school and a textile exhibition. Liiva is the biggest village and center of Muhumaa. Muhumaa has a lot of cliff-banks, such as Kautliku, Kesselaiu, Kiigari, Panga etc., as well as numerous smaller islands and peninsulas. Muhu’s specialty is its unique national costumes. Additionally worth seeing is the Eemu windmill, Võiküla village (coastal defense cordon and historical cobble stone road), Mäla stone tumulus, Rinsi Kaasani God Mother’s Church and Sepamäe cemetery. For the ones into hiking, go to Kesse hiking trail on Kesselaiu.