ESTONIA, BALTIC EXPRESS TOURS
Mrs Kristel Rohtmets
Manors of Estonia
Estonia’s rich historic and architectural heritage includes over 1000 manorial estates established by owners of various nationalities over the period of several centuries. Each and every manor has an exciting story to tell about times gone by and about the people who used to live there.
This short trip offers a tour through some of the selected manors of North Estonia allowing the traveller to have a glimpse of not only Estonia’s history and architecture but also her still unspoilt nature.
Arrival in Tallinn. Meet your local specialist guide for the tour and head east of Tallinn along the northern coast of Estonia.
First stop is at Kiiu Tower, a vassal stronghold just 40 km from Tallinn dating back to the 16th century. Today the former stronghold tower houses a café giving you a chance to enjoy a cup of coffee and refreshments in historic atmosphere.
Located on the western border of Lahemaa National Park, Kolga Manor dating back to the 13th century and covering a territory of 50 000 hectares used to be the largest manor in Estonia. In 1581 King John III of Sweden presented this vast estate to his army commander, Pontus de la Gardie. Through marriage another grand Swedish family, the Stenbocks (Field Marshal Magnus von Stenbock used to be one of the most influential people alongside King Chales XII in late 17th/ early 18th century Sweden) became the owners of this manor in the 17th century, and it remained in their possession until the land reform of the Republic of Estonia in 1920. In 1993 the mansion was returned to the Stenbock family.
From Kolga continue to Palmse, a beautifully restored manorial estate complete with an elegant main building, park and gardens which are all open to visitors. Palmse is also home to Lahemaa National Park Visitors’ Centre. From the last quarter of the 17th century until the land reform of 1920 Palmse used to belong to the von Pahlen family whose outstanding members include Carl Magnus von der Pahlen, the Governor General of Estonia, Livonia and Kurland (i.e. the territory of present-day Estonia and Northern Latvia) in 1830-1845, and Alexander von der Pahlen who initiated and supervised the building of Tallinn – St Petersburg railway in 1868-70.
Lunch in Palmse.
From Palmse head to Käsmu, an over 500-years-old idyllic seaside village, once known as the “village of captains” as it was home to a nautical school in 1884 – 1931 and all in all 62 sea captains have lived in the village at one time or another. In the 1920s the seamen from Käsmu and other North Estonian coastal villages earned fortunes by smuggling spirits across the sea to Finland where a law prohibition was enacted between 1919 and 1932. Käsmu is also home to one of the most interesting private museums in Estonia--Käsmu Maritime Museum--and venue of the popular Viru Folk music festival taking place every year over the second weekend in August.
From Käsmu continue to Sagadi Manor, a former nobleman’s home now owned and cared for by the State Forest Management Centre. The early neoclassical main building of the manor dating from the 18th century is open to visitors as a museum displaying period interiors and furniture. The historic traditions are also upheld by hosting receptions, weddings, concerts, and conferences at the manor house.
The former granary and carriage house of the manor houses the Forest Museum that (with its unique displays) has become one of the favourite museums of visitors to Lahemaa.
Overnight in Sagadi Hotel housed in the historic circular stables building of the manor. The hotel has 28 comfortable guest rooms with ensuite facilities, a telephone, wireless internet access (WiFi), satellite TV and hair dryer.
Dinner in Sagadi.
After breakfast depart Sagadi for the seaside route of Vainupea - Eisma- Kunda running along Estonia’s northern coast. Make a short stop at the ruins of Toolse (Tolsburg) Castle dating back to the 15th century. Toolse Castle used to be the northernmost stronghold of the Teutonic Order and Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The walls that have survived to the present day are authentic-- no restoration work has been carried out there.
Arrive at Kukruse Polar Manor. Excursion of the manor introducing its history, architecture and former owners of whom the von Toll family (owned the manor from 1762 to 1923) is the most prominent one. The world famous polar explorer Eduard von Toll (1858-1902), the first person to thoroughly describe the geology and climate of North Siberia was born here.
Continue the tour to Mäetaguse (Meintack) manor, first mentioned in the middle of the 16th century. The grand main building dating from the end of 18th century is nowadays used as convention and conference centre. The former stable and coach house building has been rebuilt into a hotel complete with a restaurant and spa facilities near by.
Tour of the manor and lunch.
In the afternoon continue the tour from Mäetaguse via Illuka Manor (this manor dating back to the 17th century nowadays houses the local elementary school) to Saka Cliff Hotel & Spa located on the northern coast.
Dinner at Saka. Possibility to enjoy a spa treatments (not included in the tour price, can be booked in advance via tour operator or Saka hotel website ).
After breakfast leave Saka and head back to Tallinn via the manors of Aa, Purtse and Vihula.
Aa (Haakhof in German) established in the 15th century, has had several owners throughout the centuries: the Livonian Order (Deutsche Orden in Livland), the Wangersheim, the von Nascackin and the von Gruenewald families. The present two-storey main building dates back to the end of the 17th century, although it has been reconstructed in the 18th-19th centuries. The building serves as a nursing home.
Purtse manor also dates back to mid-15th century. About a century later the Tuve (von Taube) family built a vassal stronghold on the manor grounds. During its long history the building has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. The last renovation took place in 1987-90 and the stronghold is nowadays used as a concert and exhibition venue.
Vihula Manor in Lahemaa is a model example how the buildings of a manorial estate dating from the 17th and 18th cenuries have got a new lease on life as a spa and holidays centre complete with a luxurious hotel, spa facilities, several restaurants and opportunities for al fresco activities.
Lunch in Vihula.
After lunch return to Tallinn, arrival in Tallinn in late afternoon.
The above itinerary includes the following services:
1 night b&b in Sagadi Manor Hotel , twin or double room
1 night b&b in Saka Cliff Hotel, twin or double room
3 x 3-course lunch with coffee/tea
2 x 3-course dinner with coffee / tea
Services of local tour guide and air conditioned van / coach for 3 days
Entrance fees to Palmse, Sagadi, Purtse, Kukruse, Mäetaguse, and Vihula manors and Käsmu museum