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Detailed Description of the Post Conference Tour

to Eastern and Northern Estonia and to Island of Hiiumaa



Start at 8:00 on 28 August 2015 from Tartu, end in the evening of 30 August in Tallinn.


Tour guides are Ülo Mander, Urmas Peterson and Kalev Sepp.



Day 1 - Friday, 28 August


Russian Old Believers' villages in Estonia - Avinurme - Narva - Sillamäe - Saka


Photo: Ingvar Pärnamäe

Russian Old Believers’ villages in Estonia


West banks of Lake Peipsi in Eastern Estonia is home to many Russian Old Believers. The Old Believers are Russians who fled to Estonia because of religious persecution. The first Russian Old Believers appeared in Estonia on the coast of Lake Peipsi near Mustvee in the late 17th century. Today there are about 15 000 members in 11 congregations of Old Believers in Estonia.


A unique 7-kilometre village street, consisting of the Raja, Kükita, Tiheda and Kasepää villages, follows the shore of Lake Peipsi. All of the houses are of a peculiar architecture and are situated in a single line.  


We will drive through Old Believers villages and make a stop at Raja village. 


Avinurme laat
Avinurme Fair



Due to location and nature conditions, Avinurme area has strong woodcraft and business traditions, which are based on knowledge passed on generation to generation.

Avinurme woodwork traditions have lasted for centuries. Even though the first written evidence of Avinurme wooden vessel fame dates back to the 19th century, the real beginning of this tradition stays unknown.Woodcraftsmanship in Avinurme is quite a phenomenon. Despite the changing times and eras, woodwork has remained as one of the main livelihoods in this region.

Avinurme laat 
Avinurme Fair today

The main products have always been wooden vessels – different household items such as barrels, tubs, casks, wooden buckets, sauna wash tubes, wooden roof chips and furniture, particularly chairs. Avinurme’s  wooden products have traditionally been traded on fairs and in order to revive this tradition and to acknowledge Avinurme as the center of Estonian woodcraft,  since the year 2000 each summer for the St. John’s day the traditional Avinurme barrel fair takes place.


We’ll visit Avinurme Wooden Handicrafts Centre.



Hermann castle in Narva, Estonia, to the left and Ivangorod castle, Russia, to the right on the opposite banks of the River Narva
Photo: Aleksander Kaasik



Narva is the third largest city in Estonia. It is located at the eastern extreme point of Estonia, by the Russian border, on the Narva River that drains Lake Peipsi.


The favourable location at the crossing of trade routes and the Narva River was behind the founding of Narva castle and the development of an urban settlement around it. The castle was founded during the the second half of the 13th century, the earliest written record of the castle is from 1277. Narvia village is mentioned in the Danish Census Book already in 1241. A town developed around the stronghold and in 1345 obtained Lübeck City Rights from Danish king Valdemar IV.


Trade, particularly Hanseatic long distance trade remained Narva's raison d'être throughout the Middle Ages. However, due to opposition from Tallinn, Narva itself never became part of the Hanseatic League and also remained a very small town – its population in 1530 is estimated at 600–750 people.

Captured by the Russians during the Livonian War in 1558, for a short period Narva became an important port and trading city for Russia, trans-shipping goods from Pskov and Novgorod. Russian rule ended in 1581 when Swedes under the command of Pontus De la Gardie conquered the city and it became part of Sweden.


During the Swedish rule the Old Town of Narva was built. Incomes from flourishing trade allowed rebuilding of the town center in two decades. The baroque Old Town underwent practically no changes until World War II and became in later centuries quite famous all over Europe. Towards the end of Swedish rule the defence structures of Narva were greatly improved – beginning in 1680s, an outstanding system of bastions, planned by the renowned Swedish military engineer Erik Dahlbergh, was built around the town. The new defence structures were among the most powerful in Northern Europe.


During the Great Northern War of 1700-1721, Narva became the setting for the first great battle between the forces of King Charles XII of Sweden and Tsar Peter I of Russia (November 1700). Although outnumbered four to one, the Swedish forces routed their 40,000-strong opponent. Russia subsequently conquered the city in 1704.

Kreenholmi manufaktuur
Krenholm Manufacturing Company, 2009

In the middle of the 19th century, Narva started to develop into a major industrial town. Ludwig Knoop established the Krenholm Manufacturing Company in 1857. The factory could use the cheap energy of the powerful Narva waterfalls and at the end of the century became, with about 10,000 workers, one of the largest cotton mills in Europe and the world.

At the end of the 19th century, Narva was the leading industrial town in Estonia – 41% of industrial workers in Estonia worked in Narva, compared to 33% in Tallinn.

Heavy battles occurred around Narva in World War II. The city remained relatively intact until February 1944. During the battle of Narva the city was almost completely leveled. The most devastating action was the bombing of 6 March 1944 by the Soviet Air Force, which destroyed the baroque old town. The civilian casualties of the bombing were low as the German forces had evacuated the city in January the same year.


After the war, most of the buildings could have been restored as the walls of the houses still existed, but in early 1950s the Soviet authorities decided to demolish the ruins to make room for apartment buildings. Only three buildings remain of the old town, including the Baroque-style Town Hall.

 The former inhabitants were not allowed to return to Narva after the war. The main reason behind this was a plan to build a secret uranium processing plant in the city, which would turn Narva into a closed town. Although already in 1947 nearby Sillamäe was selected as the location of the factory instead of Narva, the existence of such plan was decisive for the development of Narva in the first post-war years and thus also shaped its later evolution. The planned uranium factory and other large-scale industrial developments, like the restoring of Kreenholm Manufacture, were the driving force behind the influx of internal migrants from other parts of the Soviet Union, mainly Russia.


When Estonia regained its independence in 1991, Narva became again a border city. On 1 January 2011 Narva had 64,667 inhabitants. The population, which was 83,000 in 1992, has been declining since then. 93.85% of the current population of Narva are Russian-speakers (82% are ethnic Russians), mostly either Soviet-era immigrants from parts of the former Soviet Union (mainly Russia) or their descendants. Ethnic Estonians account for only 3.86% of total population.


We will visit Hermann castle and have a lunch in Narva.  After lunch we will have a city tour. 


Photo: Vladimir Shurmin



In the 1800s, Sillamäggi developed into a resort village offering a more tranquil experience than the nearby resort town of Hungerburg (Narva-Jõesuu).


In the 1920s and 1930s, Sillamäe and surrounding countryside saw the rise of the oil shale mining industry in the area. In 1927–1929, a Swedish company Estländska Oljeskifferkonsortiet built an oil shale processing plant and a power station.


In 1946–1948, the former oil shale processing plant in Sillamäe was rebuilt by Soviets to extract uranium oxide from the locally mined Dictyonema argillite ore (a type of oil shale). During that time, many war prisoners were employed at the construction and mining activities in Sillamäe.

Sillamäe jäätmehoidla
Waste dump site at Sillamäe

The uranium extraction process at the Sillamäe plant was developed in collaboration with a nearby Narva pilot plant (known as Cloth Dyeing Factory) and produced mainly a 40% uranium concentrate at the onset of plant production. The local mining operations continued until 1952. In the following years, richer uranium ores were imported to the Sillamäe plant from various locations of Central Asia and the Eastern Bloc, mainly from mines in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania. 


In 1970, the plant started to process loparite ore from Kola Peninsula producing tantalum and niobium chemicals. Later, it also started to extract rare earth metal oxides. In 1982, the plant began the production of reactor-grade enriched uranium (2–4.4% 235U) in form of UO2


Uranium production at Sillamäe continued to supply nuclear materials for the Soviet nuclear power plants and weapon facilities until 1989. In the years of 1950–1989, the plant produced about 98,681 tonnes of uranium (mostly as U3O8) and 1354.7 tonnes of enriched uranium.


During the Soviet regime in Estonia, Sillamäe remained a closed town due to the secrecy and security measures related to the uranium production activities at the local plant. Sillamäe is famous for it’s whole and well preserved city center that reminds a dream of life in a well-functioning communist society. That dream actually never came true in reality.


We will have a short stop at Sillamäe city center.


Saka Manor



We stay overnight in Saka Manor – at a place high up on the limestone bank. The mansion is in neo-renaissance style, it has been built up from ruins,  and the limestone bank is considered to be one of Estonian national icons. The village of Saka is mentioned as early as the year 1241 in the Danish Census Book.


Walking in the Baltic klint area and klint forest at Saka.


Accommodation and dinner at Saka Manor.



Day 2 - 29 August 2015


Sagadi - Rebala - Haapsalu - Hiiumaa Island - Kõpu


Sagadi Manor complex



Sagadi Manor complex is located in Lahemaa National Park. The history of the manor dates back to over 500 years ago. For the time being Sagadi has become the centre of tourism and natural and cultural education. The complex is extraordinary for its unity: lots of outbuildings with repaired roads, parkways, park and ponds. The complex was restored by our forestry system and even at this point it is being managed by foresters, more precisely by RMK.


In Sagadi forest centre we will visit forest and manor museum.




kalmed kodukale.jpg
Jõelähtme Stone Graves



Over three thousand years ago major changes began in Estonia. People got used to settled lifestyle, built farms and fields – agricultural landscape took on a look that has survived to this day. Changes took place in people’s ways of thinking and habits. They began to erect monuments to commemorate their dead. People became more vain, began to adorn themselves with expensive bronze objects.


In the vicinity of Jõelähtme we come across the oldest witnesses of the new age – fields and stone graves. To protect this unique landscape, Estonia’s biggest, Rebala Heritage Conservation Area, was established. Jõelähtme stone graves were built over 3000 years ago. Originally built on the ground, the graves got buried under the ground over thousands of years. In the 1980s the graves became exposed in the course of roadworks when  the then Leningrad highway was being expanded. The graves were partially reconstructed next to the road.


Men, women and children have been buried in the graves. Unburned deceased were placed into a stone coffin, which was covered with limestone slabs and surrounded with a stone circle. The placement, direction and round shape of the coffins refer to the cult of the sun. Aside from the skeletons, various items were found from the graves, of which the most unique are tweezers and a razor – Estonia’s oldest beauty kit, which possibly belonged to a religious leader.


Haapsalu castle
Photo: Sander Säde



Haapsalu is a seaside resort, located on the west coast of Estonia. Haapsalu has been well known for centuries for its warm seawater, curative mud and peaceful atmosphere. Narrow streets with early 20th century wooden houses invariably lead to the sea.


The town dates back to 1279, when it was chartered and became the centre of the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek, which it remained for the next 300 years. Buildings from those early days remain today, including an episcopal castle - Haapsalu Castle -  which has the largest single-nave cathedral in the Baltic states, Haapsalu and the surrounding area was the center for  Estonian Swedes from the 13th century until the evacuation of almost all ethnic Swedes from Estonia in 1944.


A pavilion at Haapsalu seaside promenade
Photo: Ruta Badina

For many years, locals have claimed that the sea mud has a curative effect. A military doctor, Carl Abraham Hunnius, founded the first mud cure resort in 1825. News of curative mud quickly reached the aristocracy of Saint Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire. Ever since then, Haapsalu has been a popular summer destination where people from all around the world come for medical treatment. Today, there are three mud cure establishments in Haapsalu, varying in size and location.


Haapsalu shawl. In the 19th century, Haapsalu became famous for its shawls, a delicate craft made by local women.


We will have lunch in Haapsalu.

Ferry to the Island of Hiiumaa.


Hiiumaa Island


Hiiumaa is the second largest island (989 km²) belonging to Estonia. It is located in the Baltic Sea, north of the Island of Saaremaa, a part of the West Estonian archipelago. Its largest town is Kärdla.


Transport from Estonian mainland to Hiiumaa involves a 90-minute (28 km) ferry crossing from Rohuküla to Heltermaa, which is 25 km by road from Kärdla. In the winter, the island can be reached, conditions permitting, via a 26.5 km ice road (the longest in Europe) across the frozen Baltic Sea.


Kõpu Lighthouse
Kõpu Lighthouse
Photo: Sander Säde

Kõpu lighthouse


Kõpu Lighthouse (Estonian: Kõpu tuletorn) is one of the best known symbols and tourist sights on the Estonian island of Hiiumaa. It is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world, having been in continuous use since its completion in 1531.


The lighthouse marks the Hiiu sandbank (Estonian: Hiiu madal, Swedish: Neckmansgrund) and warns ships away from the shoreline. Light from Kõpu Lighthouse can be used for navigation as far as 26 nautical miles (48 km; 30 mi) away, although in 1997 a radar lighthouse largely took over its role as navigation aid.


Kõpu Lighthouse was previously known under its Swedish name, Upper Dagerort lighthouse. The lighthouse is built at the top of the highest hillock of Hiiumaa Island, Tornimägi (English: Tower Hill, 68 metres (223 ft). The height of the building itself is 36 metres (118 ft), and the light is 102.6 metres (337 ft) above sea level, making it the highest coastal light on the Baltic Sea.


Kõpu Lighthouse has the shape of a square prism, with massive counterforts in the directions of principal divisions of the compass.  The tower is laid solely of stone up to the height of 24 metres (79 ft). The outside layer of the walls is supported by lime mortar, with the body itself built without mortar.

KopuLighthouseStairs suur.jpg
Kõpu Lighthouse Stairs
Photo: Sander Säde

The body of the tower contains roughly 5,000 cubic metres (6,500 cu yd) of stone, with its total weight reaching 12,000 tonnes (26,000,000 lb). Local limestone and glacial erratic stones were used as building material.


Originally, the base of the tower was solid stone without any rooms; the top of the lighthouse was reached using external wooden stairs, which were later replaced with iron ones. During reconstruction in the 1800s, a stairway was cut into the tower and has remained in use since.


Construction of the original tower

The most important East–West shipping lane in the Baltic Sea passed the Hiiu sandbank. Already before the year 1490 Hanseatic merchants were seeking permission to mark this peninsula with an outstanding landmark. 

A fire was first lit in the autumn of 1531; it was simply a bonfire on top of the tower. The 20 m (66 ft) high and 8 m (26 ft) wide tower was visible on a clear day up to 20 kilometres (12 mi) offshore. In August 1649 a wooden staircase was built to the outside wall of the tower and an open iron fire grate affixed to the top. Originally it was planned to burn coal in the lighthouse, but due to high transport costs of coal, wood was used instead. The fire consumed up to 1000 cords of firewood every year during the 180-day navigation period, a quantity so great that it led to deforestation of most of the Kõpu Peninsula. A team of six was on guard every night, but storms often extinguished the fire. A rule passed in 1652 decreed that the fire must be strong and a fathom (~2 yards (1.8 m)) high.


Current status 

Kõpu Lighthouse only lost its important role as a primary navigation aid in 1997, when a radar lighthouse took over its duties. Recreational craft and small fishing vessels continue to rely on Kõpu for navigating, as a backup to electronic navigation systems. The Estonian Maritime Administration still classifies it as an active aid to navigation. Its future is ensured by its status as a protected cultural memorial.


Accommodation at the westernmost point of Hiiumaa Island, at Cape Ristna at Hõbekala Guesthouse and at Kalana camping-houses. 

Dinner at the boathouse of Kalana harbour. 

Boathouse of Kalana harbour
Hõbekala guesthouse.jpg
Hõbekala guesthouse
Kalana Camping Houses



Day 3 - 30 August 2015


Hiiumaa Island - Kassari Peninsula - Varbola Stronghold - Tallinn


Walking and sightseeing on Hiiumaa Island and on Kassari Peninsula.


Lunch on Kassari Peninsula.


Ferry to mainland Estonia.

Varbola Stronghold

Varbola Stronghold


The Varbola Stronghold (Latin: Castrum Warbole, Estonian: Varbola Jaanilinn) was the largest circular rampart fortress and trading centre built in Estonia, in Harju County (Latin: Harria) in the 10th – 12th centuries. Partly the ruins of the 580- metre long and 8-10- metre high limestone wall of the fortress stand until this day.


The long gateways with multiple gates were built to defend the entrances. In these sections higher defensive towers were erected. There was a 13- metre deep well in the middle of the fortress and the territory held about 90 structures with furnaces for accommodation built with limestone floors and foundations.


End of the field trip on 30 August 2014 approximately at 19:00 in Tallinn.

Text and images: Wikipedia