We are definitely ready to head for the barn. This is our last night in Estonia and tomorrow morning we drive to the airport, turn in our mud splattered Opel sedan, and fly to Frankfurt. Yesterday afternoon we arrived back in Tallinn after a short drive from Muhu and Saaremaa, the country’s big island in the Baltic. There our stay in Pädaste at the renovated manor cum luxury hotel was most pleasant. On Friday night we ate in their gracious dining room, this time with sharing it with guests that had arrived for the weekend.
The five course dinner was a “set table” wherein the entire meal was designed by the chef. This was a good thing because I probably would have blown the whole thing and ordered stuff that wouldn’t go together – I can imagine the twittering at the neighboring tables. But seriously, the food was expertly prepared and the portions, which initially caused some internal panic, turned out to be more than sufficient – even for a pudgy old Viking like me. The only problem with the dinner was its extended elegance – it started at seven and lasted until almost ten – which was camouflaged by the long summer evenings’ light at this high latitude of almost sixty degrees. Jo Ann and I are early eaters, and they sent us to bed with very full bellies.
One of the gentleman guests ordered a glass of port and a cigar as the dessert was being cleared and the last coffees served. He properly went to enjoy his smoke and drink on the nearby steps just outside the big glass-enclosed patio. This stirred up some long-dormant juices, for once long ago I too enjoyed those pungent delights after such dinners. But today, seeing such pleasures from a distance, all I do is pine and start telling stories of when I too … . As we left the dining room, I decided to stop by the cigar case for a last, longing look, and discovered another little commentary on Estonian culture – their mandated warning label on tobacco products. The government here doesn’t go into twisted tirades about tobacco causing, perhaps, lung cancer, or possibly aggravating your emphysema, or maybe having your baby born with its three legs in a knot. No sir, in very big, black-bordered print they get right to the point – “Smoking can kill.”
So yesterday morning, after saying goodbye to the owner, Mr. Martin Breuer, and a couple of especially helpful staff, we drove to the ferry port Kuivastu and got on to the ferry that was just ready to depart. Half an hour later we were back on the mainland and on our way to Tallinn. We took some back roads so that I could visit Vasalemma, the small town outside of Tallinn where my aunt once lived. My dad took mom and me there during an interval in 1943 when the Soviet bombers were hitting the capital every night. The old train station was the only building there that I could say with certainty that I had passed through, we no longer have my aunt’s old address. Oh yes, this report would be incomplete without mentioning the obscene field of wildflowers we drove by. It’s amazing how fast I can still react to an authoritarian voice screaming that I stop the car so we could take a picture.