Haapsalu and Läänemaa
the Nest of Culture.
Did you know:
Lääne County is the westernmost county in mainland Estonia Its area is 2 394 km2, forming 5.3 % of Estonia’s territory The coastline of the mainland is 399 km There are 237 islands, the biggest are Vormsi and Osmussaar 30 rivers pass Lääne County, and the biggest estuary belongs to the river Kasari 44.5% of the county is covered by forests There are 185 lakes between the forests and plains Lääne County is also the most environmentally protected county in Estonia, with approximately 25% of its territory under protection. It has 14 nature preservation areas; the biggest is Matsalu nature preserve As of January 1st, 2010, the population of Lääne County was 27,562. There are 2 towns, Haapsalu and Lihula, 6 regional centres and 233 villages It comprises 12 local governments, 11 parishes and the town of Haapsalu The symbols of the county are: animal – the roe deer, bird – the sea eagle, tree – the oak, flower – the military orchid, fish – the roach, mushroom – the grey singer There is a ferry connection to Muhu and Saaremaa from Virtsu harbour; to Vormsi and Hiiumaa from Rohuküla harbour Grand Holm Marina ,Veskiviigi, Dirhami, Rohuküla, Sviby, Virtsu yacht harbours A bus connection between Tallinn and Haapsalu approximately 15 times a day Parking is free in Lääne County, including in Haapsalu There are free WiFi hotspots in the bigger centres
Haapsalu was granted its town rights in 1279. Its area is 10.60 km2, with a population of 11,469. The distance to Tallinn is 101 km, to Helsinki 184 km, to Riga 292 km, to St. Petersburg 399 km, to Stockholm 554 km, to Vilnius 593 km, to Moscow 966 km, to Brussels 2280 km.
To call to Estonia, dial +372 Emergency telephone: 112 Currency: EURO
Welcome to Haapsalu and Lääne County, where you can discover interesting history and exciting culture in the middle of untouched nature! “Lääne County is a safe home”, states the slogan of the county. In addition to the extremely species-rich wildlife, people are cherished here and value is placed upon everything that has once been. Come and experience the living history in the unique museums, discover the burial sites of the ancient Estonians, the Medieval bishop’s castles, small rural churches and various manor buildings! “A lot in one place” is a statement that describes the cultural life in Haapsalu very precisely, because the fine arts live here, complementing one another hand in hand: in many of the museums here, you can also discover an art gallery or a theatre hall. The gallery can, in addition to exhibitions, surprise with true pearls of cooking or a cosy chamber music concert. Lääne County is the location for creative people: many artists, writers and people with theatrical background have come to live here or built their summer houses here. The town of Haapsalu has been popular as a resort town for the last one and a half century, the royal families of several neighbouring countries and cultural personalities spent their summers here and enjoyed mud baths. Come and walk in the romantic city streets between wooden laced buildings, where Ilon used to run as a child, who later became the world famous artist Ilon Wikland, the illustrator of the Astrid Lindgren books. Admire the play of the rays of the sun on the promenade as it was experienced by Piotr Tchaikovsky. At moonlit August nights, you can meet the White Lady in the bishop’s castle. If you get chills, grab the delicate but incredibly warm Haapsalu shawl to warm your shoulders. Come and discover the lands of the Estonian Swedes in the coastal areas of Noarootsi and Nõva parish and in the islands of Vormsi and Osmussaar in the middle of incredibly beautiful nature. If the weather is nice, you will be taken on a trip in a coastal Swedes traditional boat, built following the old traditions. The events calendar of Lääne County is quite full. In high season during the summer, you have to choose events to participate at random because the selection will only confuse you. You can enjoy your favourite music here, no matter what style you prefer, and art events will not cease to surprise you. There are several international film festivals taking place in Lääne County. The joys of Haapsalu bishop’s castle as a wonderful concert location has been tested and praised by Status Quo, Robert Plant and Alice Cooper. Don’t wonder if you accidentally run into a celebrity in Haapsalu.
See you in the home of culture!
Cultural events for everyone
There is always something to do in Haapsalu and Lääne County, if you only wish to do something yourself. Characteristic to a resort town, the main season for events is during the summer, but there are concerts, festivals, shows and cultural events taking place during the winter months as well and international events are held outside of Haapsalu too. In spring, Haapsalu offers something for those who are looking for an extreme cinematic experience. HÕFF, or the festival of horror and fantasy movies in Haapsalu shows the best horror and fantasy movies from all over the world, in addition to the forgotten classic, trash and cult, freak and extreme movies, hobby activity and art projects. The beginning of summer has been celebrated in various ways in Haapsalu – by organising sea days and cycle tours, by contests for writing new urban legends. A new and a special tradition is the festival ”Open doors”. In addition to cultural institutions and cafés, many creative people living or relaxing in Haapsalu open the doors to their homes or their studios. At the beginning of the summer season, Cyrillus Kreek, a composer who lived and worked in Haapsalu for a long period, is commemorated with a music festival, carrying his name. There will be even more music events during the summer, with Haapsalu Old Music Festival and string instrument week ”Violin play” taking place. The other town in Lääne County, Lihula has also had its high level summer-time musical tradition since 2008, called Lihula Music Days, where in addition to chamber music, it is possible to enjoy art exhibitions as well.The musicians of various generations of the Järvi family help to bring the festival to life.
But not only classical music is loved in Lääne County. In the freshly renovated resort hall, bandstand and the dance pavilion on the promenade, it is possible to enjoy high-level jazz and heritage music during the summer. Those who love rock music, can par ticipate in the concer t program of American Car Beauty show and Kiltsi airport that is quite close becomes the venue for a weekend-long club music event Airport Jam. Those who love blues will meet at August Blues, with concerts and workshops taking place in the Bishop’s castle, the railway station and the cultural centre on two days. The charms of the castle as an excellent venue for concerts is increasingly often discovered by the world famous artists – Robert Plant, Alice Cooper, Status Quo, Megadeath...
Haapsalu stands proud of its summer theatre tradition that is the longest in Estonia. Since the town’s 700th birthday in 1979, open air performances on the legend of the White Lady are played in every summer. In addition to late night performances, many concer ts, theatrical performances and ar t events will take place during the White Lady Festival, and the streets of the old town, which are turned into a temporary marketplace, will offer handicrafts, ecologically pure food and other interesting items. Margus Kasterpalu, who is from Lääne County, has a Saueaugu theatre farm at his parents’ home in Martna parish, which offers plays based on the theatrical classics performed by the best actors in Estonia. The island of Vormsi celebrates St. Olaf’s Day in commemoration of its patron saint, on July 29th of each year, by organising traditional church concerts, markets and parties. Art life in Haapsalu has gained a huge momentum during the recent years. In June, the International Graphic Design Festival will take place, there are several courses in the Creativity Centre and in the galleries and handicraft workshops. The summer months include Glass Days and many courses in Evald Okas’s Museum as well as an event always full of surprises called Pig’s Skin, during which the artists, led by Jaan Toomik, a painter and video artist connected to Haapsalu, give a new and special meaning to abandoned provincial places during the week. Those who wish to experience a true village party can enjoy St. John’s night parties taking place in June at the swings of every parish or Peraküla folk party taking place in Nõva in August. During the Nostalgia Days of Haapsalu, taking place in September, the visitors find out about the life in Estonia during the Soviet days through a versatile and humorous cultural program. The headquarters of the high-level and immensely popular Matsalu International Nature Film Festival (MAFF) are in Lihula, but many of the festival movies are shown also in Haapsalu. Year after a year, the number and the level of the competing movies has increased, in addition to the increasing number of viewers. Parallel to the film festival, photos are exhibited, courses, lectures and workshops take place and children can par ticipate in a nature education program. Haapsalu, which carries the title of being a children and youth-friendly town, hosts a number of events all year round for children as well. There are whole family performances organised in Ilon’s Wonderland, the castle, the promenade, the cultural and creative centres as well as interesting contests and courses.
The Christmas program in December in the Bishop’s castle, churches and centres brings some light into the long and dark winter nights. Those interested in sports will find a decent stadium, universal hall and tennis courts in Haapsalu. In August, the traditional White Lady fencing tournament takes place. You can also enjoy kite surfing on the beach. One of the most important sports of the seaside town is sailing and not only in summer but ice sailing in the winter.The competitors and spectators are in abundance both at strongman contests, cycling competitions and sports events for everyone all over Lääne County. If you want to practice health sports, you can choose between tens of nature paths. The Lääne County health track built on the former Haapsalu-Riisipere railway damm is suitable for cycling as well as running or Nordic walking.
The White Lady
and walls that hide the secrets of the centuries
The Haapsalu bishop’s castle (no 8 on the map of Haapsalu), established in the 13th century as the centre of Saare-Lääne bishopric, is one of the best preserved Medieval fortresses. This mighty complex was expanded and renovated during the centuries and repeatedly put to the test in fires, but it has been renovated into a complete historical tourism attraction and the venue for cultural events. The oldest part of the castle is a square castell, a so-called small fort, which is made up of a dome church and a convent building. The latter was the location for the living and business rooms of the masters of the dome church as well as a school. It was surrounded by a set of maintenance buildings: stables, barns, workshops, the houses of workers and soldiers.
The wall of the great castle that measures 803 meters with its cannon towers was completed at the beginning of the 16th century. The walls were over 10 meters high then and 1.2-1.8 meters thick. The fort was severely damaged in the Livonian war and during the period of Swedish rule it was abandoned as a defence structure. When it was transferred to the Russian empire during the Great Northern War, the height of the walls was reduced at the command of Peter the First. The rocks from the ruins of the fort were taken to the town to be used as construction materials, they tried to discover the hidden treasure buried in the ground and the castle yard was used as a pasture.
In the 19th, when Haapsalu became a resor t town, the castle yard was star ted to shape into a park. Trees were planted on the walls to make alleys, tennis and croquet courts were built to the great moat. Noble ladies with long dresses and fancy hats and gallant gentlemen wearing top hats loved to walk and engage in sports here. A stage was built in the big courtyard, and in 1896, the first song festival of Lääne County took place there. Nowadays, there is a museum complex in the small fort. In the exhibition halls of the first floor, the findings of the fort are displayed and in the mysterious vaulted ceilings, visitors can enjoy ever-changing exciting exhibitions. On the second floor, there is a Bonifatius laboratory, where those interested can get to know the secrets of alchemy. In order to introduce the visitors to the world of medicine of the Middle Ages, the hospital will be open to the visitors as well. From the 38-metre high bell tower you can enjoy a marvellous view on Haapsalu and at noon, you can listen to the sounds of bells, reaching everywhere in the town. In the moat of the fort, there is a children’s park with Medieval-style attractions. During the summer, there is always something interesting to do in the clay workshop. More than a century, the fort has been a beloved concert venue, and on the open air stages of the small and great yard, there are many festivals, concerts and shows taking place during the summer. Especially notewor thy is the hear t of the castle: the dome church. Toom-Niguliste church, originally built to be the head church of Saare-Lääne bishopric, with its mixture of Roman and Gothic style elements, was completed in 1260s. It is one of the largest oneaisled churches in the Baltic region and the Nordic countries, with its 11.5 m wide and 15.5 m high vault and an area of 425 m².The simple interior, a rose window above the portal and no tower, which was considered haughty, asgetting too close to God, comply with the requirements set on building standards of the Cistercian monastic order. The baptizing chapel with its round floor is quite unusual in the world and similar ones can be found only in Italy. In all likelihood, this chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built in the second half of the 14th century. The windows are
placed so that when the full Moon shines in from the side window, you can see a shadow shaped as a silhouette of a woman from the middle window.This mysterious phenomen has provided inspiration for the birth of legends (see the â€œLegend of the White Ladyâ€?). As the rest of the castle, the dome church was repeatedly damaged in fires, but ceremonies were held there up until 1726.The church was reconsecrated in 1889 and it was in service until the Soviet occupation in 1940. At the end of World War II, the holy place was plundered by the Soviet soldiers, later, the building was used as a storage room for crops and there were even plans to turn it into a swimming pool. During 1970s, restoration was begun to turn the church into a concert hall and since the Christmas of 1990, there are regular services held in the church.The dome church of Haapsalu is also the favourite venue for the lovers of choir and organ music. Its acoustics, with an echo lasting up to 11 seconds, is a serious challenge to the performers and offers the listeners a unique experiences.
During the full moon nights in August, a shape of a woman appears on the window of the baptizing chapel, known as the White Lady. There have been several legends written down about the beautiful ghost, the most well-known and common of these is the one written down by Carl Russwurm at the end of the 19th century. Once, the sweetheart of the dome master was brought to the castle, dressed as a choir boy. It was forbidden for women to enter the fort and the punishment for it was death. When the secret became public, the maiden was sealed into the chapel wall, alive. The legend has inspired several stories. There have been song contests, fencing tournaments and rallies devoted to the White Lady. More than thirty years, the local theatre is performing open-air plays on the legend and these are given a new and fresh shape after every two or three years.
Living history of Haapsalu The museums in Haapsalu can be characterised by an innovative usage of space, rapidly changing exhibitions and friendly hosts.
Haapsalu town hall
The plot and the money to build the town hall to the site of the market square was given by the former owner of Haapsalu town called Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie (1622-1686). The late baroque limestone town hall building that has been preserved up to the present day was completed in 1775. There is a dolomite coat of arms of Haapsalu above the portal, with symbols representing John the Evangelist, the patron saint of the bishopry, as an eagle on the backdrop of the city wall. Lääne County Museum in the former town hall (4) close to the Castle Square gives an overview of Lääne County with its permanent exposition and thematic exhibitions: of the farm house, fishing and illegal trading up to the history of Haapsalu as a resort town. In order to evoke the days when the town was governed in the town hall, the room of Hans Alver (1887-1942), a legendary mayor of Haapsalu, is there for the visitors to see. The museum also displays the oldest surviving monument to Friedrich Schiller.
Monument to Fr. Schiller
A fan of Schiller, madam Dorothea Augusta von Helwig of Virtsu manor (1781–1826) had a monument erected to Puhtulaid in 1813. It was the second, but the only monument of Schiller that has been preserved to the present day. The monument that was damaged in the wars was brought to Haapsalu in 1957 and a copy of the original was erected in Puhtulaid. Those interested in technology should visit the Museum of Communication (20), which is devoted to the history of communication by the telephone, telegraph, television, radio and post in western Estonia as well as in other regions in Estonia.The exhibition includes telephones used in different eras, from the one with a lever turned by hand to the mobile phone, manual connection boards, pay phones and telegraph and phone line equipment. The museum is open during the summer season.
The train connection between Tallinn and Haapsalu started in 1905 and was disrupted in 1995, which makes it symbolic in more ways than one that the Estonian Railway Museum (18) is in Haapsalu. It was here that the railways of tzarist Russia began. The railway station building was built into the resort town, favoured by the tzarist family and nobility of Russia, according to a special project: in order to keep the crowned heads away from rain or other weather conditions, the unique 216 meter long platform was covered with a roof in its entirety. The train station includes a passenger building, an imperial pavilion and a passage connecting both. In addition to the unique passenger building, the most notable exhibits of the museum include old trains and engines, the storage building, the water tower, a depot, the revolving bridge and the houses of the railway workers. The house, built in the middle of the 19th century as an inn, locates Evald Okas’s Museum (16) which was opened in 2003. The passionate and multitalented ar tist Evald Okas (1915-2011) brought into Estonian painting and graphic art a mature, sensuous and erotic treatment of the contemporary woman and used bold colours. The work of this honorary member of the Florence Academy of Art belong to the collections of several important art museums of the world. Besides the work of Okas and his familiy members, who are also artists, the summer program includes other exhibitions and internationally acclaimed courses as well as other events. 10 km on the road to Tallinn, Ants Laikmaa house museum (no 22 on the map of Läänemaa) preserves the atmosphere of the artist’s era (1866-1942). On the ground floor of the architecturally interesting house, built in national romantic style, the visitors can enjoy the exhibition devoted to the life of Laikmaa, there is also the dining room and the room devoted to the artist’s daughter.The upper floor has the studio, the workroom and the bedroom. Here are six original pieces by Laikmaa, in addition to the work of his students. Laikmaa mainly practised pastel technique and contributed to the art of painting in Estonia around the beginning of the 20th century with closeness and lightness of colour, painting mainly natural landscapes and portraits of Estonian scholars and western Estonian rural inhabitants.
Laikmaa is buried in his home park, where the trees planted by the artist still stand. The artist gave the names of cultural personalities who visited him often to nine of the oaks. In the exhibition hall of the museum, those interested can hold small art exhibitions, enjoy picnics in the park, organize theatrical performances as well as concerts.
The Museum of the Haapsalu shawl (9) is located in Ehte art and handicraft house. Coastal Swedes museum (1), pg 16. Ilon Wonderland theme centre (3), pg 18.
Delicate shawls, bright floral embroidery and tiny headgear
The tradition of laced Haapsalu shawls and scarves began in the second half of the 19th century.
It acquired the status of a special luxurious item thanks to the rich German elite.The nobility needed to own fancy scarves and that was why the simple woollen scarf yarn was switched to a thinner woollen one. The skill of knitting a shawl that is delicate enough to fit through a ring has been given from one generation to another, and thanks to enthusiastic teachers, it is now in the curriculum of handicraft classes of the local schools. You can learn knitting skills in courses as well as from a book that has become an international bestseller, called ”Haapsalu shawl” (Haapsalu sall) by Siiri Reimann and Aime Edasi. Each summer, as part of the White Lady events, a shawl knitting contest is held and handicraft enthusiasts from home and afar can join in.The shawls and scarves have travelled from one exhibition to another in many countries.The oldest examples of the rich heritage of patterns has been inspired directly from nature: there are patterns resembling the dane’s blood, lily of the valley and butterflies. Many patterns illustrate a piece of the world’s cultural history: if you wish, you can buy or knit a scarf with a pattern that has been dedicated to the actress Greta Garbo, the members of the royal families in Sweden and Spain and the first ladies of Estonia. Floral embroidery has decorated the sled blankets and carpets of Lihula and Kirbla parishes since the end of the 19th century. The blankets with floral embroidery have been the markers of wealth and pride.The art of embroidery spread from
Lihula to the neighbouring parishes, reaching the island of Muhu. At the beginning of the 20th century, the handicraft maker Marie Mustkivi embroidered her first red skirt with floral embroidery on it, and it became a fashionable garment among the women of Lihula. The tradition of embroidering blankets began to wane after World War II, but the red folk costume skirts are still worn with pride.Today, the historical embroidery decorates pillows, jumpers and purses as well. The folded skirts, short sleeves and miniature headgear of the women from the island of Vormsi stand out among very bright folk costumes with their remarkable simplicity.
Lääne County – the meeting place for
artists and art lovers alike
Haapsalu art street
There is a high number of galleries and handicraft workshops, if you consider the relative size of Haapsalu, and the streets of Posti, Karja, Ehte, Jaani and Kooli passing through the old town form a sort of an artists’ quarter. In many places, figurative or practical art is smoothly combined with the art of cooking, which brings enjoyment for both the soul and the body. More and more artists choose Haapsalu or the surrounding parishes to spend their vacations in or even go there to spend their entire life. Haapsalu Town Gallery (17), situated in the cultural centre, is devoted to displaying professional art. The exhibitions are generally changed after a month or two, and due to the great exhibition conditions, the gallery is usually booked long in advance.
Walking towards the Castle square along the main street, you can see the freshly opened Gallery Centraal (15) on your right, where exhibitions with an emphasis on Haapsalu and Lääne County are organised, several workshops and courses take place, the souvenirs and jewellery has been inspired of the area’s culture and nature. Not far away is a small shop and ceramic workshop Tigukass, which is run by two artists – a mother and a daughter May and Ursula Aavasalu. If you wish, you can observe the making process of the pieces or make your own item.
Across the road from the previous, you will find Evald Okas’s Museum (16), pg 8. Epp Maria Gallery (13) is a unique family gallery not only in Haapsalu but also internationally.The new hosts of the former famous Valdmann’s cafeteria have accepted the moto of a famous Russian artist, who visited Haapsalu, Nikolai Roerich (1874-1947), that knowing about beauty saves the world. In the rooms located on two floors, not only the works of the three generations of artists of the family are exhibited but the art of cooking as well, and the interior of the rooms is a part of the entire gallery. Various pieces of handicraft can be bought from a tiny store called Mari-Mirt handicraft (14). In the building of Haapsalu Art School (11), there is the gallery of the school as well as a small and cosy Kuke gallery with their changing exhibitions and works of art for sale. You can also buy gold and silver jewellery and quality handicraft and relax in front of the fireplace in the winter. There is a large selection of wooden handicraft on sale at Ehe ja Ehtne (10) handicraft shop. Müüriääre café (7) and Hermannus building (6) with their art friendly hosts and atmosphere are used as an exhibition sites as well. From Ehte handicraft and art workshop (9) located close to the Old town circle road, you can buy the products of of the local art and handicraft makers. In the same house, there is the art business of the painter Ülo Telgmaa, where those interested can have their portraits painted, and also the Museum of Haapsalu shawl (pg 9). The first stage of Haapsalu creativity centre (5) was opened in summer 2010. The purpose of the creativity centre is to be the heart of the ever-evolving art life in Haapsalu: artists can rent studios, get marketing and sales advice, organize exhibitions, seminars and workshops. It is open during summer time. The gallery of Ilon’s Wonderland thematic centre (3) (pg 18) displays the work of Ilon Wikland, who spent her childhood summers in Haapsalu. The studio of the textile artist Liivia Leškin (open only by appointment) is also situated in Haapsalu. Her ladylike hats and caps have captured the hearts of women of various nationalities. Le kin’s husband, Icelander Siggi Brynjolfsson is a caricature artist.
In Palivere, 20 km towards Tallinn from Haapsalu, there is a studio called U-Stuudio (1). “U” and “S” are the initials of the glass artist Urve Sikemäe and her entire work is born in her workshop. Her inspiration comes from simple pieces of glass, which, when connected by melting, form unique dishes, glass mosaics, lamps, bottles and figures. In addition, U-Stuudio offers painted porcelain and silk products. There is a small art gallery also in Kullamaa.
A walk on Haapsalu promenade Starting the journey from the former town hall, the present Lääne County Museum (1) along Kooli street towards the sea, the first objects you will meet in your way are Ilon’s Wonderland (2) and St. John’s church of Haapsalu (3). What makes this holy place, rebuilt from a 15th century warehouse, unique, is its north-south position. The tower bell is the oldest in Lääne County and one of the oldest in Estonia.Then, as you go along Vee street, you will reach the Promenade with its beautiful and fascinating history. On your right, you will see Rudolf Tobias park and monument, dedicated to the eponymous composer (Roman Haavamägi, 1929) (4). Tobias, who attended the regional school in Haapsalu and studied the piano here, wrote the first overture, cantate, a piano concert and a sonata, a string quartet and an oratorium called „Joonase lähetamine“. His spiritual choir pieces are very popular and much loved. In the distance you can see the Afrika beach: the main bathing beach of the first half of the 20th century. Right now, there is a bird watching tower (5), a dance pavilion (6) and a children’s playground with many attractions (7). Walking along the Promenade towards the resort hall, you will pass the Sun clock (8) (Haavamägi, 1924).The facets of the supportive pillar of the sun clock are decorated by the allegorical relief representing the way human life passes in time. In the Fountain pavilion (9) close by you can see the photo exhibition introducing the history of the promenade and the resort of Haapsalu. The opening of the Estonian apostolic orthodox Mary Magdalene church (10) of Haapsalu in 1852 took place in the presence of the empress Alexandra Fyodorovna with the future emperor Alexander II.The wooden facades of the two congregation houses from the second half of the 19th century next to the church have been preserved in their original form. In the 1930s, in one of them, the later famous Swedish artist Ilon Wikland, lived there with her great-grandparents (11). There is another old wooden building in Linda street, which was where the Russian Tzar Peter I (12) stayed at in 1715, while visiting Haapsalu.
The wooden-laced resort hall (Kurhaus) (13), built at the end of the 19thc century, is the only one of the resort halls in Estonian resort halls that has kept its original form. The bandstand (14) next to it has undergone repeated renovations but the musical pavilion stood there already decades before the resort hall was built. The resort hall and the bandstand were the favourite places of the Russian imperial family and the high class of St. Petersburg, who spent their summers here at the end of the 19th century and at the change of the century, the location was popular also during the years of the pre-war Republic of Estonia. Since 1997, the resort hall is opened again as a summer restaurant and concert venue. On both sides of the resort hall, there are decorative steps, and in the distance in Tagalaht, you can see the statue of a polar bear (15) built on the model of the wooden decorative sculptures, which stood here during the 1930s. When you walk past the bandstand, you will arrive at the monument (Haavamägi,1928) of Carl Abraham Hunnius (1797-1851) (16). Hunnius, who worked in Haapsalu as a doctor was one of the first to notice the habit of the locals to alleviate their health problems by using the sea mud, and started to study the properties of the mud scientifically. In 1825, he led the establishment of the first curative mud center to Haapsalu. Next, on your right, you can see the pier (17), restored in 2010, you will pass Villa Friedheim (18), completed in 1885, and you will then reach to the Tchaikovsky’s bench on the Chocolate promenade (Haavamägi, 1940)(19).The composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) stayed at the small house in the garden in Suur-Mere street in the summer of 1867 with his twin brother Modest and brother Anatoli.This summer is described in the piano cycle „Memories of Haapsalu“. The melody that decorates the back of the chair and that can be heard in the 2nd part of Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony is reminiscent of the Estonian folk tune „Dear Mari“. The visit of the composer is thought back on with a good word: there are music days named after him and historical theatrical performances connected to him. Sitting on Tchaikovsky’s bench, you won’t miss Peltzer’s villa (20), with its fabulous tower, built in 1859 as well. Right now, there is a hotel in the renovated building and the modern extension.
There are two smaller bays between the Holms – the two long peninsulas – called the Great and the Small Viik. The sculpture “Stick breaker” (21) (by sculptor Juhan Raudsepp, 1933) close to the spa „Laine“ on the shore of the Small Viik symbolises the curative power of the sea mud of Haapsalu.
Legendary men and women from Russia
In 1715, Haapsalu and its surroundings were visited by the Russian Tsar Peter I, who was looking for a location for the new military harbour. The visit is reminded by the board on Jencken house (2), where the Tzar stayed. It became evident that the location was not good enough for a harbour and that is why Peter I told workers to destroy the existing defence structures, including the destruction of parts of the castle walls to make these lower. Peter I also visited Ungru manor. According to a folk tale, his carriage was flipped over at one big stone and that is why the rändrahn in Paralepa forest was named Peter’s stone (19).
The visit spawned other legends as well and these are often treated in theatrical performances at traditional town events. According to one story, the emperor had seen a dark spot on the wall of Ungru manor and found the portrait of Carl XII – his enemy – behind the closet. Peter then hung the portrait back and said: ”If you had won, it would have been my picture you had kept hidden”. The empress Catherine II appears in much darker legends in Lääne County. In 1771, she gave Koluvere castle (3) as a present to her lover, Grigori Orlov, but did he ever visit Koluvere at all? After Orlov died, Catherine got her castle back and in 1786, she sent Augusta Carolina, the young princess of Wuerttenberg, there either out of sheer jealousy or due to political intrigues. Due to mysterious circumstances, the woman died and was buried in Kullamaa church (4). After the death of the empress Catherine II, Koluvere castle ended up in the property of Friedrich Wilhelm von Buxhoevden as a gift. It is thought that the wife of Friedrich called Natalya Grigoryevna Alekseyeva was the daughter of the empress Catherine II and count Orlov... For the last century and a half, Haapsalu has mainly been valued as a resort town. In addition to the warm sea water and the clean sea air of the idyllic town, there was a rumour that spread at the beginning of the 19th century of a new miracle: the curative mud. It was studied by a famous Russian surgeon, anatomist and pedagogue Nikolai Pirogov (1810-1881). The first curative mud centre was opened in 1825 and this healing method is still popular today.
Thanks to the fame of the wonderful healing mud, other members of the Russian royal family have visited Haapsalu: in 1804, Alexander I, Alexander II on four times (1852, 1856, 1857, 1859), Alexander III in 1871 and 1880, last time accompanied by his son, the future Tsar Nikolai II.
In the square in front of Kullamaa church, there is a commemorative stone for the Estonian doctor born here: Gustav Reinhold Hirsch (1828-1907), who worked as a private physician of the Russian tsars who visited Haapsalu: Alexander III and Nikolai II. He is one of the very few Estonians who have been given the highest award of Russia, the award of St. Andreas. In 1904, Hirsch was selected to become the honorary citizen of Haapsalu due to his services in the popularization of the resort. None of these people have left behind as many legends as Peter I and Catherine II, but there is one interesting story that is connected to Alexander III.The nobility used to have picnics in the 19th century in Pullapää peninsula. Alexander III attended one of such events, baked potatoes in the fire and drank a cocktail which was made up of vodka and champaigne in equal quantities, later known as “Imperatorskoje”. There is a monument to Alexander III (5) in Pullapää. There is a commemorative board dedicated to the foreign minister count Alexandr Gortchakov (1798-1883) in Haapsalu, on the wall of the present children’s library in Wiedemanni (12) street. It does not matter that the historians cannot reach a decision regarding his actual date and place of birth: the count definitely deserved the legends about him. It is interesting to know that Bismarck’s friend and Pushkin’s mate at school has written himself into the history of not only Haapsalu, but also Estonia, as a model: Johann Köler, one of the first Estonian professional painters painted Gorchakov’s portrait in 1867. By the way, the oldest autograph by Pushkin has been discovered in Gorchakov’s archive. Since 1905, it was possible to reach Haapsalu by train (18) but steam boat connection to St. Petersburg had been established already in 1845. In June 1867, the steam boat “Konstantin” arrived, with a 17-year old law student called Anatoli and a 27-year-old lecturer at a conservatory, soon to become a world famous composer Piotr Tchaikovsky (18401893) (pg 13) on board. They were met in Haapsalu by the latter’s twin brother Modest. In a small garden house in Suur-Mere street,Tchaikovsky completed the orchestration of the first act and scenes from the second act of his first opera ”The Voyevoda” as well as the piano cycle ”Memories of Haapsalu”. The artist Nikolai Roerich, who visited the seaside small town in 1880 and 1910, was inspired by the place. In his ”Diary”, he has only good things to say about Haapsalu and in a more indirect way, we can sense the mood in his paintings that were completed here, called ”There are great countries behind the seas” and ”Varangian’s motif ”. Thanks to the Russian high nobility, the heyday of the Haapsalu shawl began. According to the legend, the empress once received a delicate shawl which could fit into the shell of a nut, but once it was laid out, it covered the lady’s shoulders entirely. This type of handicraft cannot fit into the shell of the hazelnuts that grow in Estonia, but in order to test its originality, you can easily pull it through a ring. If it works, you can go for a relaxing walk on the promenade (pg 12) and listen to a concert in the resort hall – at the heart of the imperial social life.
On the trails of the coastal Swedes Estonian Swedes or the coastal Swedes (rannarootslased) as they were known lived on the coast of North-West Estonia and on the western islands for more than a thousand years, according to various sources. Most likely, the seafarers back then were interested in settling the shores in order to find new support and in the settlement of empty coastal areas; the Baltic German nobility preferred Christian peasants.
The coastal Swedes remained quite isolated due to their settlement areas, different privileges and the language barrier.They considered their heritage and culture very important but during World War II, most of them was forced to leave their homes and escape to Sweden. In order to keep the heritage of the coastal Swedish culture, there are several institutions and societies who have accepted this immense task. In the coastal Swedes museum (Aibolands museum) (1) in Haapsalu, the first exhibition was opened in 1998 with an extraordinary performance of a Vormsi wedding. The museum was officially opened in 2002 by the Swedish royal couple. In addition to that, also the weddings of Pakri and Vihterpalu have been celebrated.The most interesting item on display is definitely the 20 m embroidered carpet on the history and life of the Estonian Swedes. In addition to the ordinary museum activities, the art of the old shipbuilders is still kept alive. Spectators have witnessed the building of several traditional coastal Swedish ships, which are used to provide both trips for pleasure as well as culture. The traditional boat of Ruhnu was used to deliver a letter to the Swedish king in 2003. During the same year, the Vikan wooden boat society built a traditional boat called Runbjarn, which was used to take the flame of 2009 General Dance and Song Festival from PĂ¤rnu to Tallinn. The society is preparing the construction of a third ship.
At the museum across the Tagalaht, there is Noarootsi peninsula (NyckĂś). Between the villages with Swedish red houses, St. Catherine church (6) and a pastoral building with a unique interior stand out. Saare (Lyckholm) manor (7) was restored by the baron Gustav von Rosen during the 1990s from ruins, Lyckholm museum situated in a stable gives an overview of the history of Noarootsi, farming tools and cooperation between the local Estonians, Swedes, Germans and Finns.
In the parish centre Pürksi (Birkas) the manor building and park is located (43).The rooms of the manor are used by Noarootsi upper-secondary school, where students can study Swedish in depth and the cultural history of the Scandinavian countries. A former outbuilding in the Pürksi manor park houses the Nature Information Center (45), with the permanent exhibition introducing many natural treasures of the region. In Elbiku (Ölback) village, there is a soft and sandy Roosta beach and holiday village (8). The history of Rooslepa chapel and graveyard (Roslep) (9) goes back into the 17th century, the present holy building was built in 1834. The chapel that became dilapidated was reconsecrated in 2007. On the stone in front of the entrance, there is the autograph of the Swedish king from the year 1932. From Dirham (Derhamn) (10) harbor, it is possible to reach Osmussaar (Odinsholm) (11) that sprung from the sea 3000 years ago. The active coastal Swedish community was replaced by a military base during the Soviet years. The pearls of the windy island standing alone in the sea are its rocky coastline, boulders, junipers and a lighthouse. Unfortunately, only the ruins have survived of the chapel. In the sea close to the island lies the biggest Neugrund meteorite crater (12) that was created almost 540 million years ago, and this offers excitement for divers. In the neighbouring parish of Noarootsi - Nõva (Neve) – has long beautiful sandy beaches and forests full of mushrooms and berries as well as the scenic Veski and Allika lake (13). In Peraküla (14), the centuries old cobble stone road and beach fort survive. St. Olaf’s church of Nõva (15) originating in the 18th century, is in the type of a beach chapel and has unique glass mosaic imitations and it is one of the few surviving wooden churches in Estonia as well as one of the smallest, measuring 13.6 x 7.1 m. The benches for men and women are shaped differently. A local manor lady Josephine von Baggenhuffwudt is considered to be the author of the wooden altar carvings. Her final resting place on Nõva cemetery is also an interesting sight. Põlluotsa homestead museum (16) in Peraküla introduces the old collectables of the farm, and there is also a display of handicraft. Põlluotsa homestead is considered to be one of the best kept homestead complexes in Lääne County: the work building, smoke sauna, the cellar and the barn.
The true natural pearl of the coastal Swedish areas is the island of Vormsi (Ormsö). The coastline of the island, with an area of less than 100km2, is ragged.The beaches are generally rocky but there are some sandy swimming spots as well. Between the junipers of the romantic Rumpo village, there is a long rocky piece of land stretching far into the sea.The dedicated nature enthusiast can enjoy the richness of species of the island.There are coastal pastures, fields and junipers as well as good forests for picking berries and mushrooms. It is worth remembering that the name of the island means ”the island of snakes”. St. Olaf’s church (17), located in the biggest village of Vormsi – Hullo – originates from the 14th century. The main building has a unique square floor, there are old ceiling paintings surviving in the ceiling of the altar room. Over 330 circular crosses made of limestone and sandstone survive in the graveyard.
– the favourite location for creative children and parents
Ilon’s Wonderland is a themed centre for families, which was created in cooperation with Lääne County Museum and the artist Ilon Wikland. It is believed that in a friendly wonderland creative activity helps to keep a safe and child-friendly worldview. In 2004, Ilon Wikland, who spent her childhood in Haapsalu, decided to give the originals of her book illustrations to the Republic of Estonia. A suitable location for the exhibition of the work was found in Kooli street in Haapsalu, close to the childhood home of the artist. The castle of Haapsalu, the wooden laced buildings
and the sea have been the inspiration for creating Wikland’s most famous works, the illustrations for books by Astrid Lindgren. In June, 2006, the gallery for exhibiting the book illustrations created by Wikland was completed in its first part. In 2009, the whole complex was opened, consisting of a three-storey building, thematic smaller buildings and a courtyard with attractions. In the cinema and reading hall of the main house, you can watch a film about Ilon, see a travelling exhibition, read books, listen to fairy tales and sometimes see a theatrical performance the whole year round. In the kitchen of the third floor, you can play, practice playing theatre with puppets, crawl into Sammeli’s kennel, peek into the rooms of Karlsson and the dwarf and try on interesting costumes in the wardrobe. On two Saturdays a month, you can bake something
Ilon Wikland, born Maire-Ilon Pääbo; in Tartu on 05.02.1930, is a Swedish artist and illustrator of Estonian origin, who has gained fame mainly as the illustrator of books by Astrid Lindgren. Ilon spent her childhood at her great-grandparents, in a small wooden house in Haapsalu, close to the Mary Magdalene church. In 1944, she escaped to Sweden from the Soviet occupation, where she devoted herself to drawing and art studies, living at her aunt, who was an artist. When she was 20, she met Lindgren and started a long and fruitful cooperation with her. Wikland has illustrated books such as “Mio, my Mio”, “The Bullerby children”, “Karlsson on the roof ”, “Ronja the robber’s daughter” and “The brothers Lionheart”. She was able to return to the land where she was born only at the end of the 1980s. In 1995, a book „A long, long journey“ was published, describing her childhood in Haapsalu and the escape to Sweden; in 1997, it was followed by „Sammeli, Epp and I“, which described her schoolyears in Tallinn.
delicious in the kitchen. You can discover the secrets hidden in the house quietly by yourself or by engaging in an adventure that covers the entire thematic centre. In addition to all that, there are interesting thematic days organised each month. Of course, you can draw in the artist’s house as well. During the summer, it may be interesting for you to practise handicraft in the handicraft workshop located in the yard and in Mattias’s house, to listen to fair y tales from the magic well, try shooting with a sling, practise walking on crutches, swing and snack at Ilon’s café.
Hidden treasures along the village roads
In order to discover the exciting areas located in the parishes of Lääne County, we need to circle the town of Haapsalu and then head off in every direction until we are met by the sea. There is plenty to do in any direction. In the planning of Ungru castle (18) situated close to Haapsalu, on the road to Rohuküla, inspiration has been sought from the facades of Merseburg castle in Germany. Ungru castle is one of the most impressive neobaroque buildings in Estonia. However, it has not been treated well by time. The beautiful building was not completed and it was further damaged by the Soviet power: almost a third of it was removed to provide filling for the army airport runway. Beside the ruins of Ungru castle that have been restored, there are the ruins of Kiltsi Soviet airport (19) buildings, which form a stark contrast to the preceding attraction. The airport is situated on an area of around 800 hectares. The concrete surface runways are 2500 m long and there are 28 hangars for the planes. Those who are after exciting experiences should exercise caution and not climb on the buildings because of the danger of the buildings collapsing. Mary Magdalene church in Ridala (20) is one of the most beautiful churches in western Estonia and has the richest interior regarding the artistic value.The statue of the eponymous saint in the niche of the church’s western portal is one of the oldest sculpture figures in Estonia. The Medieval paintings have partially survived, and the group of the churches victory arches is worth seeing as well as the unique painting in the ceiling in the choir room. There are two grave markers carrying the motifs of the sun’s wheel and elm, originating in the 13th century. In Saanika village (46) there is a birthplace of Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962) marked with a special sign. Cyrillus Kreek made a truly invaluable contribution to the Estonian music history. The active village community has established a village museum, nature centre, lookout tower and a nice picnic area in Kiideva village (21), located on the northwestern shore of the Matsaly bay and the centre of Lääne County fishing since the 16th century.
Uuemõisa manor (44) located a couple of kilometers away from Haapsalu centre to the north and northeast, was mentioned for the very first time in 1539 as a bishopric manor. In the 17th century, the manor belonged to the de la Gardie family. The building, which was used by the Soviet army during the Soviet
era and later as a production facility, today houses a primary school and chamber music concerts are held in the white hall. In addition to Ants Laikmaa house museum (22), (pg. 8), situated in Taebla parish, there is also the Koela homestead museum (23). The work building, storage and the sauna with tools and equipment provide an overview of the life and work in a Lääne County farm. The interior of Western Nigula church, dating from the 13th century (24) is dominated by a powerful empire style altar wall, which was made by master Sigismund of St. Petersburg, and the altar paintings “Last supper” and “Resurrection” are copies of Leonardo da Vinci’s work. In Võntküla, on Ääsmäe-Haapsalu road, there is a merry ribbon pole (25): according to folk legends, storks bring children into this world and if you tie a white ribbon under a stork nest, you will have many children. The highest point of the county is Pikajala hill (51 m) in Palivere (26). In the winter there is always a lot of snow in these parts – just right for skiing and sledding enthusiasts! This is a great place for cycling and for allyear hiking. Beside Risti-Vir tsu road, there lies the mysterious Marimetsa bog (27), one of the oldest bogs in Estonia, with rare plants and bird species.There is a boardwalk with information stands and lookout towers in the bog. Kullamaa (28) is an area of a long cultural history: the name in Estonia means ”land of gold” and that seems to characterize this region quite well. Several people, whose importance to Estonian language and culture has been significant, have been born or spent their lives here. Koluvere castle (3) with its colourful history has been the residence of the Saare-Lääne bishop as well as a retirement home and hides many exciting legends. The castle was bought by Catherine II of Russia in 1771 and she gave it to her lover, Grigori Orlov, and since then, the castle was used by the Russian royal family until 1917. In the rich interior of Kullamaa church (4), there is an epitaph written to pastor Heinrich Göseken (16121681), who was the first to write the rules for Estonian grammar. In the churchyard lies possibly the oldest dated circle cross with the inscription “Sitta Kodt Matz”. Sitakoti Mats was a wealthy Estonian farmer, who bought himself free of serfdom and gave a chandelier to the church as a present. The name is ironic, however: ”sitakott” in English would translate as ”a bag of shit”! The name might originate from the name of the homestead – Sitakoti, but could also be of coastal Swedish origin, meaning ”Matz is resting here in God”.
Rich southern Lääne County in the midst of
When travelling in southern Lääne County, it is worth making detours from the Risti-Virtsu road every now and again. A big part of Martna, Lihula and Hanila parishes belongs to Matsalu National Park, it has many hiking trails and bird watching towers. The extraordinarily species-rich wildlife entices birdwatchers and botanists all across Europe every year. Those interested in history can visit the ancient town hills and manor houses. Designed by Karl Gustav von Baranoff in early classisist style, Suure-Lähtru manor (1778) (29) in Martna parish is surrounded by a park with romantic old trees and a pond. The visitors can visit the museum and hunting hall, restored to its original appearance. The small Keskvere manor (30), and for a one-aisle church – the uniquely wide St. Martin’s church (31) are both located in Martna parish. The collection of epitaphs in the church, which was built in the 16th century and has a Gotland-style baptizing stone and an empire style pulpit, is the third largest in Estonia. Rannajõe bird watching tower (32) in Martna parish is accessible by wheelchair as well. The old bridge of the river Kasari (33) was completed in 1904.The bridge, which is now open only to pedestrians, with a length of 308 meters and a width of 7 meters, was the longest reinforced concrete bridge in Europe. The bridge has a nice view on the river, which is the fourth in Estonia in its length and an abundance of water. On the castle hill of Lihula (34) , an ancient Estonians’ fort was located. In 1211, Lihula became the centre of the Estonian bishopric and in 1238, a stone fort was built there. Unfortunately, only ruins survive of the unique defence structure that once belonged to the Danish, Swedes, Germans and Russians.
The history of Lihula bishopric and order manor dates back to the 13th century. In the master’s house, completed in 1840, Lihula muuseum (35) is located, which introduces the history of southern Lääne County, exhibits the more interesting archeological findings from the surrounding area, folk costumes, sled blankets and tools. The exhibitions change in summer.
Penijõe manor, built as an addition to Lihula manor in 1835, is the location for the museum and centre of Matsalu national park (36) , where you can see slide programs and video films about nature, the permanent exhibition introduces the nature and history of Matsalu. Kõmsi apostholic orthodox church (37) is close to an ancient burial site, more than 2500 years old. Karuse church (38), one of the oldest religious buildings in Lääne County, was built in 1260 as a chuch fort for the Livonian Order. The interior of the church is decorated by a baroque-style pulpit and altar. Karuse church is probably the burial site for the master of the Livonian Order Otto von Lutterberg, who was killed in a battle with Lithuanians around the year 1270. Hanila church (39) , built around the 13th century, is one of the more stylish examples of the early Gothic in Saare-Lääne bishopry.The graveyard boasts with the grave markers from the early Middle Ages. 18 tombstones, shaped like a trapezium, carry the symbols of paganism. According to the legend, the builders had once sealed a goose inside the church wall, and that is where the name comes from (Hanila: ”hani” in Estonian means ”goose”). The buildings of Vatla manor ensemble (40) are among the most presentable in Lääne County. According to legend, the master of the manor had made a bet with his neighbour that he could build a building so that when you stand at one corner, you cannot see the other corner. Indeed, you cannot see the other corner of the carriage house and the storage houses, which have slightly rounded walls. In the hall of the main building, you can see a grey finial with triumph symbols on it; and the master bedroom, built into a former chimney and resembling a grotto is unique as well. In the homestead museum for old vehicles in Virtsu (41) , located in a Virtsu manor building, visitors can see unique horse carriages, wheels and automobiles from Valeri Kirss’s private collection. In the old schoolhouse in Hanila, there is the August Tampärg museum of Hanila (42) where you can see various items from Porsiku homestead, collected through several generations.
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Haapsalu Tourist Information Centre
Karja 15, 90502, Haapsalu, Estonia +372 473 3248 +372 473 3464 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Open: 16.V-15.IX Mon-Fri 9-17 Sat-Sun 10-16 16.IX-15.V Mon-Fri 10-17
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Publisher: Läänemaa Turism MTÜ Text: Anneli Aken Photos: Jaak Sirp, Arvo Tarmula, Angela Lepik,
Madis Lepik, Karin Miido, Lii Parts, Tõnis Padu, Andres Palm, Aivi Kivisild, Kemo Jürgens, Priit Kägu, Kalev Viik, Marika Räst, Anu Kari, Läänemaa Muuseumi kogu, Milvi Kivistik, Janika Savi Design: Areal Disain Printing: Aktaprint