Pärnu, Estonia

Pärnu

After two nights and one full day in Tallin, Gea and I take a trip to Pärnu, a quaint resort town two hours south of Tallin, bordering the Baltic sea.

Let’s start with where Estonia is. Although physically next to Russia, Estonian’s prefer the phrase “close to Finland”. Remember that.

And, now here is Pärnu.

We begin the journey by taking a two-hour bus from Tallinn, lugging our bikes along the way. Once we arrive in Pärnu, we immediately head to the shopping center to pee and find a new bite valve for my camelbak that has been consistently leaking everywhere.

Afterwards, we head to the beach, where we find many interesting play attractions:

Traditional Estonia see-saw. Gea and I totally (did not) master it

So fun!

Until I fell.

After mastering the swings, Gea & I have a quick picnic of lox and cheese sandwiches, and continue the bike ride to our rented lodge in Markna, near the Tammiste village. A few miles in, we break to ask directions and the nice cyclists offer to guide us to the village.

As we’re cycling, I stand up to pedal and am distracted by a noise/shiny object in the corner. The weight of my backpack swings me to the right, and my hips go the left. I feel my front tire quickly turn perpendicular to the pavement, and next thing I know, I have landed face-first into the cold, hard pavement. Ouch. Gea provides her assistance in untangling me from my bike, an unknown passerby provides his assistance in fixing my bike, and we’re off again!

One problem: the gear is stuck in a rather difficult position, typically used for coasting down hills. This will play a major role in the rest of the trip…

But for the rest of the day, all is good! We continue on our way, find a sign leading us through the woods to a quaint lodge in the middle of the woods – our home for the evening!

Path through the woods

Our home for the evening

Complete with private sauna!

Unfortunately, the sauna did not come with a whipping branch, which Gea deemed absolutely neccessary. The whipping branch is exactly what it sounds like: a branch to whip yourself with, while at the sauna. It’s tradition…Gea says.

Although traditional whipping branches comes from birch trees, we improvised by cutting branches off trees in the nearby forest. We head back to the lodge where Gea trys to convince me going au natural in the sauna is the Estonian way. I convince her wearing clothes is the American way.

After a few rounds of beers and sauna, we sit outside to enjoy the weather. While the door is open, a very stealthy neighborhood cat sneaks in the front door and I learn Gea does not fancy cats. We kick the cat out, and head to bed.

I liked him

The next morning, Gea makes herself a lovely breakfast of herring (fish), which I politely refuse, in favor of chocolate. Before we know it, we have only 25 minutes to bike the 15km back to town, and catch a bus to the marshlands. Gea and I have a very brisk morning bike ride to town (keep in mind, I am in the most difficult gear). We arrive just in time to see the bus pull up to the station! Gea and I hop on, and she has a conversation with an old woman on the bus; judging by body language, the conversation sounds like this to me:

Old woman: “You are trying to get to Tori and back by 5pm?”

Gea: “Yes, my friend is catching a bus to Latvia at 5:30pm. Also, we have our bikes and need to place them under the bus.”

Old woman: ” Oh, you definitely can’t do that, here! The buses back to town are local buses, and you will not be able to place a bike underneath.”

Gea: “Oooh…shoot”

Old woman: “Also, this bus is going to Russia! You’re screwed! But have a seat anyway!”

At this point, Gea turns to me, gestures to have a seat, to which I think “What! No! What’s going on?!”, but I just shrug my shoulders and sit down.

We successfully arrive in Tori, and spend the rest of the afternoon biking along glorious country roads, until we reach the marshlands in Riisa.

Entrance to the marshlands!

We have a quick cake break, and hop back on the bikes, destination: Siberian Husky Farm! The husky farm is used as a training grounds for sled racing, and the girl working there is very friendly and takes us around to play with all the dogs. Super fabulous!

Jessica, the husky

We mention to the girl working at the farm, that we are trying to get back to Pärnu, with our bikes in tow. She offers to look up the bus schedule to see if any bigger buses from Russia are coming through the area. She pulls up the schedule and very calmly states we have 7 minutes to catch the next bus, and she does not know if we will make it. Always the ambitious one, I declare we will make it! I shout out a thanks to our new friend and Jessica the husky, as I hop onto my bike and begin pedaling as fast as my little legs will take me, for the remaining 2km back to the bus stop.

Right as I pull up to the bus stop, so does the bus! Perfect timing once again, which only means I am soon bound to miss an important train/bus/flight by 2 minutes…

70km later, Gea and I have ended our Estonian tour. We have a final picnic at the beach, say our tearful goodbyes, and part ways as I head out on my first solo backpacking trip: Latvia, here I come!

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