Helena-Reet: Two-day trip to Setomaa and Southern Estonia + twice a slight digression to Russia – EXCITING ROUTE!

Helena-Reet: Two-day trip to Setomaa and Southern Estonia + twice a slight digression to Russia – EXCITING ROUTE!

NordenBladet – This summer we have been doing plenty of short road trips across Estonia (see the blog about Central Estonia and Southern Estonia on the route Tallinn – Rapla – Türi – Imavere – Tartu – Tõravere – Elva – Nõo – Rõngu – Koruste – Pikasilla – Suislepa – Tarvastu – Mustla – Holstre – Paistu – Viljandi – Suure-Jaani – Lahmuse – Vändra – Järvakandi – Kehtna – Saku HERE and Northwest Estonian blog, where I visited Tallinn – Ääsmäe – Laitse – Riisipere – Turba – Risti – Palivere – Taebla – Linnamäe – Sutlepa – Pürksi – Österby – Hosby – Riguldi – Nõva – Vihterpalu – Hatu – Pae – Harju-Risti – Padise – Rummu – Vasalemma – Keila – Saue – Tallinn HERE).

Now in this blog I’m gonna take you to Setomaa! Estella Elisheva (12) had a violin camp in Värska and thus I gathered that taking my child to the camp might actually be accommodated into a splendid little Setomaa sightseeing tour. Like always we started off from Saku on the outskirts of Tallinn where we have a lovely home – I am so happy that I can raise my kids in this peaceful, safe and picturesque environment. When driving I like to take the smaller and still roads – therefore I headed from Kajamaa to Viljandi road and from there through Rapla and Türi to Kabala village in South-Järvamaa. In Kabala we did the first stop and took pictures of Kabala manor house and the local A&O shop. A tiny sweet Estonian village, whenever I drive through it, I get a good feeling. Although I actually like the sea view, I must truly be an inland person at heart. All the lengthy fields, thick forests, hills and valleys are very close to the heart.

Kabala manor (with the name Cabbal in Pilistvere pastorate books) was a manor in Pilistvere parish, Viljandimaa. Nowadays the manor territory greatly overlaps with Türi municiplaity in Järva county. In the year 1905 Kabala was housing the manor owners self protection headquarters. Since the year 1923 the main building of the manor houses Kabala school, later on a kindergarten also followed. Historically the heart of the manor was tunneled by Türi-Viljandi road (today it is Türi-Arkma road), now as a result of straightening the road runs its course a few hundred meters to the West.

From Kabala we headed to Imavere where we stumbled upon a really nice sight – namely there was Sassi ostrich farm on our way! Children were very excited to see the ostriches. The fields and meadows around the farm were neat and nicely maintained – as would great Estonian folks do. A few kilometers from Sassi farm there is Imavere Knight’s Manor – I have written about it in depth HERE, but since I didn’t take photos that time then I post these now! When driving to Tartu or Southern Estonia I especially like taking this road – although passing the village houses the journey is more time consuming, but at the same time it is great to have a look around. Even though Imavere manor is halfway to ruins, left without care and the newly built part of the edifice is plainly horrible, the surroundings of the manor are private and beautiful. Not like many other manors in Estonia it has plenty of land around – fields and forest – before the neighbour can start peeping into your window. It would make a wonderful location to found a SPA or a hotel complex.


From Imavere we headed through Adavere to Tartu where my elder sister accompanied us in the car. The plan was to take Estella Elisheva to the Värska camp and then me, Ivanka Shoshana and Maris would go further on to an adventure in Setomaa and Southern Estonia. The road from Tartu to Värska is rather dull – perhaps this is because we had to be there on time and we didn’t take a good look on the signs by the road leading to various sightseeings nearby. The mood was elevated, however, so we sang in the car and were making jokes so that the eyes nearly ached from laughter. In Põlva we took photos from the Karl Kikas monument (a memorial).

For those who are not that familiar with the Estonian history of music: Kikas (born on 4 November 1914, lived in Põlva district, Valgjärve collective farm) was a legendary accordion player. Kikas is considered to be the second most influencial figures in Estonian accordion playing culture after the musical instrument inventor August Teppo. With his innovative and fascinating style of playing the instrument he made the accordion, initially known only in the Southern part of the country, well known all around Estonia.

It didn’t take long before we arrived at Lobotka village – the bus stop was so cool that I took a photo of it. By the way, the “Ancient Lights’ Night” with the main message of joining the nations around the Baltic Sea for a productive collaboration, celebrates its 25th anniversary on August 25th – as usual, along with musicians playing as well as enjoying the local cuisine. All around Estonia there are thousands of bonfires lit, and so it was also in Lobotka harbour on the banks of Värska Bay. The bonfires are lit once a year to remind people of the historical signalling lights. At the times of the Vikings this used to be a practical necessity, nowadays it conveys positive ideas and positive messages.

So why would I bring out The Ancient Lights Night in connection to Lobotka village? For that we would need to know a few background details about the village.There are 75 people living in the village and the territory of the village is roughly 500 hectars. Lobotka village people organized the first Village Day in 1998 with financial support from Värska rural municipality government. The Village Day was attended by former and current village people, all in all more than a hundred people. The village society was created in 1999 in order to divide the duties and responsibilities regarding the events organised in the village. In cooperation with Värska municipality a new setting for the village square was found. The big village swing was built together and the square was taken care of. The first event ever to take place on this little square that had been fought for so ardently, was “Ancient Lights’ Night”. It is really great that even in the more distant places in Estonia the old traditions and the culture is kept alive, showing that there can be life outside the capital city! I like it!

Once we had taken Estella Elisheva to the camp we thought we might look around a bit in Värska. From earlier times I had heard a great deal about Värska Sanatorium – once this had been a really popular destination. We decided to check it out with our own eyes. We didn’t have to go very close to see that there was nothing that popular left from those times.- it was just a memory of earlier times. The sanatorium badly needs a renovation – even better to be pulled down completely and the starting from scratch. In the current sanatorium I personally would become even more sick – the beautiful pine tree forests and then suddenly this horrific stagnation period crap. So ugly that I even didn’t wish to take a photo. However, a slightly better impression was made by Värska Water Park. For once I even thought we might stay overnight there, but no — I had intended to go to the extreme and visit some strange unfamiliar place. That was the right decision!

Further on we decided to visit Saatse – I wanted to see with my own eyes what are the events there and how does the South-Eastern town in Estonia that is the closest to Russia, look like. It can be reached only when one crosses the border twice. On the way there was Üüklubi (an alphabetical joke), the advertising sign of which amused us a lot (in Estonian mainland the discotheque is ordinarily called Ööklubi) and the Setomaa Farm Museum, there in the courtyard we also had a meal. We didn’t understand much from what we read in the menu, it seemed as if we were abroad – Seto language is so different from the Estonian language. For example, suulliim means cold soup… I also dug into the newspaper on the cafeteria’s table, and that, too, seemed much like Chinese language. Some parts of it I certainly understood, but it was really weird to read. Like another Estonia. While in Võru they have just a minor dialect – instead of warm (soe) they say hot (lämmi), and a few other examples – then in Setomaa it is rather a different language. Surely it would be possible to get used to it, but as someone coming from the capital it does seem strange.

The food was delicious and service was delightful, the prices were suitable, yet slightly higher than near Võrtsjärv in Mustla or not far from Võru in Rõuge, however still a great deal cheaper than in Tallinn. The menu that stood out from the ordinary ones as well as the names of the dishes in Seto language gave a good impression and wouldn’t be forgotten easily.

Seto Museum was open on July 17 1998. In Seto Farmhouse Museum one can have a look at farm house architecture from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. The exposition accommodates a half closed courtyard, a dwelling house, a storehouse for clothing, a granary, a storeroom for food, a stable and a hay barn, a working area, several shelters, smoke sauna, a pottery workshop, a blacksmith’s workshop, a barn and a teahouse (dinner on the farmyard). Most of the buildings are original, from Northern Setomaa. The branch of the Farmhouse Museum is located Saatse, founded by the local schoolmaster Viktor Veeber and open since 1974. From May 2004 the unique teahouse (tsäimaja) stands there.

After the meal we headed toward Saatse. It was somewhat frightening to drive via Russia twice. There was nothing we could do, but I thought to myself – is it really so difficult to build the new road (gravel road) with a slight bend, and why would i have to read – whiled driving to a small Estonian village – that soon you will be trespassing the Russian territory and therefore stopping the vehicle and walking outside is prohibited. Before Saatse there was even a police patrol asking us where we were going. So that’s where we answered: “We are discovering Estonia!” 🙂

Saatse (in Seto language Satserina; also Satserinna, Satseri, Korki and Gorki are used) is a village in Võru County, Setomaa municipality. The village hosts a middle school, a folk house, Saatse Great Martyr Paraskeeva Church, a cemetary and a border crossing point. Saatse postal office was closed in 2007. Saatse Orthodox Church is a memorial building. It has been consecrated in the honour of the Great Martyr Praskeeva. The stone church was erected in 1801 near the earlier wooden church. In 1839 a wooden belfry was added that in turn was substituted by a new belfry in 1884. The history of the school dates back to 1895 when it was open as a parish school in Linnaste village. From there it was soon shifted to Saatse and was there changed into a national elementary school in 1918. In Saatse cemetary one can find a few historical stone crosses. Close to the village in Samarina there is a museum of local history – the Saatse Seto Museum. Saatse-Petseri Road passes through Vassili (Solovski) village and within the area is joined by Saatse-Pattina Road and Saatse-Perdaku Road. Near the village on Värska-Ulitina Road between Sesniki and Lutepää there the so-called Saatse boot where the road continues through the Russian territory for an entire 1 kilometer.

To be continued…

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