Baltic States IV

Pure joy for Mike today!   We’re off to meet with 2 of the winemakers he had emailed long before our trip began. Both their vineyards  were near Kandava, Latvia.

Kaspars Sunins 16+ year old  vineyard (his wife the wine maker) were not producing this year but we got a vineyard tour.


Their winery.

The second winery, Abaxas Vineyards, owned by Martins and  Liene Barkans, was open and the tasting plus discussion about  good and bad problems from the winemakers was excellent.

While they talked about viticulture and aging,  I went to the car and read my book….it’s not fun to be the designated driver…but I’ll make it up tonight at dinner!

Then off to Cesis, Latvia  for a wonderful 13th century castle.

Cesis Center


With no GPS, the smaller towns are easier: find the Old Town Center and follow the people.

It was certainly smaller than Riga’s (Baltic State III) and far less crowded .When we ate dinner here later, a gentleman was playing the guitar and different women came to sing with him.

Our drive through town ended with the Hotel Cesis…and there we stayed.


This building maintained its 100+ old dignity both inside and out although  it did update the amenities. The dining room was regal with many windows overlooking the park beyond.  After lunch we explored the park and were delighted to find remains of the “old” 13th century castle.




Walking further, we saw reconstructed 13th and 14th  buildings. The following picture gives a better overhead view of what we found.

Cesis Castle, Latvia

Our hotel, upper left, orange roof, was very convenient to everything.  Also, free parking. We continued to  explore the site.

In 1236, the Pope, after the battle of Saule, incorporated the survivors into the “Livonian province of the Teutonic Order” in the 13th century. It became the strongest military organization in present day Latvia and Estonia. (These may have been descendants of the Knights’ Templar.?) From the 13th to the 16th century the Teutonic Knights reconstructed this Castle. But a shadow fell in 1558….Tsar Ivan the Terrible declared war on them and the subsequent history is both bloody and brave…..

Cesis Castle, #2

This recent picture of the castle shows the continuing restoration.  The newer walking bridge is just above the original (rocks and boulders) and hovers over the original moat. (left side, big rocks) with a newer walking bridge above.

Now, on to Tartu, Estonia,  the university town. There was a big fire here in 1755 so most of the city is “new”.

Barkley Hotel, Tartu




We drove to the Barclay  Hotel, stopped and stayed. We got a balcony room which over looked one of the many parks and was ideally located for walking. We loved the hotel, except for the shower- the water was not “contained” and we walked on wet towels! (Who designed this atrocity?!)

The hotel was built in 1912, forfeited to Soviet headquarters in 1944 and became this hotel in- 1995.

Tartu kissing coupleThis statue of a “Kissing Couple” was our favorite in the town square- a definite sign of the university city!

Later we walked through the university campus and found the Tartu Cathedral ruins adjoined to the back of the university library.

Tartu Cathedral ruins

Astounding that the university kept and maintained what had gone of long before. This 370 year old university is the undisputed intellectual center of the country, and 370 year most prestigious seat of learning in the Baltics.

The next day we took a ferry over to Peke’s winery, restaurant and hotel on Muhu island for dinner and overnight.

Dinner was lamb, roasted underground all day- with a multitude of excellent wines.

Photo209Mike is sitting and wine maker Peke is standing. (Aspirin needed before bed)

The next day we were driving to catch the ferry back to Tallinn when whoops—


Although we had a rental with Lativa plates our being American upped the ante from 20 Euros to 160 Euros!

Finally arrived at Tallinn. Mike, still   driving, goes through the old town to our hotel the wrong way through the pedestrian streets, (Sunday crowded- hazardous to everyone’s life and limb- he pulled into a “no parking” spot and says, “We’re here!”) And we were in front of our hotel, the Merchant’s House.


Merchants house hotelAnd then we started touring. Our concierge told us that since it was Sunday afternoon, most of the crowds would return to their ships very soon.


Tsar Alexander III ordered this Cathedral  named after the Duke Alexander Nevsky (1219-1263) who had defeated the Livonian Knights in 1242. Many Estonians disliked it as a symbol of the “Russification” policies. As a tourist and unaware of their political viewpoints, I saw this massive building looking down on the crowded square and very narrow streets below, and also looking out beyond to its livelihood :the shipping trade and visiting ocean linerson the Baltic Sea. A conundrum. But it is colorful.


Our hotel had a lovely private courtyard  and we had our lunch delivered there.


Reenergized, we walked the many pedestrian streets particularly noting the restructuring and widening of some. Around 7pm we entered the major square and found a restaurant.

Town Hall Square in Old Medieval Hansa Tallinn, Estonia

Much less crowded now- but most of the restaurants  were busy. Our roasted lamb was  delicious.

Excellent breakfast in our hotels basement “Cave”. Two hundred years, old-heavy stone walls and floor but wonderful atmosphere!

Our concierge arranged our ferry tickets to Helsinki for tomorrow and our car rental return today. Wonderful assistance!

Walking through the city, we came to Toompea castle at the very top.


Although now home to Estonia’s Parliament, for over 700 years it belonged to various occupying foreign powers. Except for the towers, the most interesting site (for me) were the original defense walls down below. You can see through one straight ahead between two of the towers.

That afternoon we toured the vineyard of winemaker Jaak Eensolu who produced some excellent wines. My tour was short lived- driven back to the car by various bugs!

Our 4 hour ferry to Helsinki was beautiful….after we found our way up the 10  floors to Deck 10…the open area on the stern and the beautiful Baltic Sea!

Arrived at our reserved lovely Hotel Rivoli Jardine shortly and the assistance of very professional Concierges. Our last meal in Helsinki was near their beautiful port….and this is what we saw…..


Helsinki Port


About carolinebotwin

Caroline Botwin and her husband Mike are retired educators who have always had a yen for travelling: he with a PH.D and teaching Architectural Engineering plus California wine education, and she having taught high school English, speech and drama. Both wanted to learn first hand about other cultures. While Mike predominately studied buildings and structures and met with winemakers, Caroline hunted for ancient sites and peoples. And kept journals of all their travels.
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