Low on food and water, tired and with my overly packed backpack hanging on my sore shoulders I walked down the road, keeping my ears open for the sound of a car approaching. How is it possible that a road made for traffic, as smooth as a summer lake at dawn withthout a crack or hole to be found, a perfect strip of pavement merely leads to a village smaller than my backyard and with less cars passing on a day than the amount of fingers on my hand.
Unexpecting of what the day would bring, I once again stood along the road with as always a huge smile and my puppy-eyes bright and shiny. This was after standing at a gas station busier than schools during holiday, where two ladies celebrating this new gas station had approached me for a small chat and offered me some bottled drinks, which would later be my saviour in thirsty times. Leaving the desolated fuel station, I had gone to said road, where the cars don’t drive too fast just yet. Which gives me more of a chance to convince them to stop. A guy on his bike jokingly gestured an apology for not being able to take me with him. The jester. It helped however, with keeping up my polite smile as all the cars raced past me. Eventually, a small sportscar pulled over however. The man seemed to find it hard to comprehend that someone would be travelling without a plan of a next destination. Nonetheless, he swung open the door and was willing to drive me to his city, which turned out to be a sudden twist in my travels as only an hour later the two of us made our way onto a ferry. Excited I stared over the sea from the deck, amazed by how well things had worked out for me. Aigor, my driver, was on his way to his home where he returns one weekend in the month from his flat in vilnius where his HQ is located. He lives on Saaremaa, Estonia’s biggest island. The ferry was heading to Muhumaa, from where we had to drive over a long bridge to the main island. About 33.000 people inhabit this land, of which nearly 20.000 live in the capital city Kuressaare, where we were headed. The militairy guy told me how there used to be more people. Before the war that is. During the Russian occupation, this island held many nuclear weapons and with that came a lot of bases and checkpoints and a total of 20.000 soldiers. Different times.. I could crash on his couch for the weekend in the small village Ilpla, small being four houses, which was not too far from the capital. There him and I talked in the evening for a while over a beer, watching the crisping fire. An interesting and kind man, yet hard to read. Aigor was somewhat to himself, getting to rest after, what I am guessing, a long week of work. I must say, with nature surrounding us, this place was perfect for a rest. That is when the mosquitoes weren’t bugging the crap out of us. Pun intended.
– – –
With pride and joy, Aigor went to show me some of the hotspots in the area. Two churches, whereof I have forgotten the name, built roughly 800 years ago were up first in my free guided tour. They are still in use and for their age the buildings were in decent shape. Up next were the remainings of a destroyed stronghold. Practically nothing. On our way to the next destination of the tour, we taught each other a few words in our native language. To be honest though, I can’t remember a single one. I suppose, that when only around one million people speak the language, whom are decently good at English, you can’t blame me for not putting in a lot of effort. Kaali meteorite craters, 9 in the area but we only went to see the main one, being the largest in the family. A huge crater moulded into the ground in the small forest by a large meteorite, or God himself depending on who’s telling the story, that made a less than soft landing. To protect this holy place, a stone wall, with the height of my sneakers, was built around the area. Pretty sight. To end this exclusive tour, the must of a Saaremaa’s visit, the Bishop’s Castle, was our final destination. Located in the capital city, the renovated castle stands tall and mighty, with view on the calm sea. Having a host with connection gave for a free visit to the museum inside the castle. Entering, I read the story of a knight that had been immured for falling in love with a woman. The lady got her fair share of punishment as well; shaven head and send away. This love knew no happy ending. I hadn’t expected this museum to have so much information, original furniture and huge amounts of tools, clothing and equipments from the Danish, German and Russian occupation. Also banners and epitaphs of knights and high lords were displayed in the dormitory rooms. This made for a time well-spend.
Having seen all the corners and all I wanted to see in this town, I began hitchhiking towards the small village Sääre, not yet aware of how small, for my interest had gone to a lighthouse. I took off from the family’s garden where I had put up my tent, thanks to the young girl who with enthusiasm convinced the mother, pointing to all the room they had. The son around my age had given me extra water on my departure, which I had given to a hardworking man sweating in the hot sun who deserved it more than me, and the girls of 10 and 8 had a dreary look on their faces as they waved me off. The coming days I spent endlessly hiking, surrounded by nature and being terrorized by mosquitoes. Apart from the flying devils, I absolutely loved the physical endurance combined with some solitude, the nature and the occasional fox or raccoon. Two massive deer came upon my path as well, sadly they had fled the scene before my camera was out. A campfire in the evening and waking up to the calm sea as a view in the morning. Soon, I had ran out of water, thinking I still had a bottle from the ladies at the petrol station. Not to worry, I’ll just ask someone at these houses. Which houses? Progressively making distance and squatting insects in the meanwhile, I eventually saw the roof of what seemed to be a house. No two houses! Finally! I dropped my backpack and rushed to there holding my bottles. The closer I get, the more abandoned they look and the more hopeless I get. Fuck, nobody here. Back where I left my stuff, I notice the hole in my plastic bag where I keep my boots is getting bigger. Wait a minute, those are not boots at the bottom, it is a bottle! I sat down and drank, thanking the Petrol Ladies as I drank the vitamined drink. A little later I put up my tent, when I see a woman walking her dog. Turned out, only a little further down the road was a small village, where I refilled my bottles.
Early in the morning, my tent had already reached its boiling point with the sun out and bright, making for another great day on Saaremaa. As I brushed my teeth in my birthday suit with my sluggishly morning look, a jolly man spurted past waving me a good morning. As I arrived at the village I seeked, I realised that the lighthouse – and a small restaurant – was the village. I had been told there was a museum too somewhere and that was it. After a decent meal at the restaurant, I walked to and past the lighthouse to where the land stopped and the water began, where the calm and active part of the sea meet. Two fishermen were standing in the water and a girl was enjoying the sun. I picked up a few small stones and began skipping them over the sea on the side where the water was more still. I don’t know why, but throwing rocks over the surface of the water and watching it bounce as it ripples the water, makes for such a satisfying feeling. I kept doing it for some time before taking off again.
I kept mistaking the sound of the sea for approaching cars. Focused on pushing through, I didn’t notice the car that was coming from behind and as it flew by, the only car I had seen for hours, I in a desperate attempt shot my thumb in the air and a little later they stop and a middle-aged couple comes out of the car. They welcome me in English, as they put my bags in the trunk. The man begins laughing, ridiculing me in a non-offensive way and the woman tells me how lucky I am, as Jarno is not a guy quick to stop for lifters. I was the exception, as they had seen nothing or no one for the past hours driving around. Daîne is the lady, from Lithuania and her husband is from Denmark. We came to find out that villages that are worthy of a dot on the map larger than others, sometimes are still small enough to not even have their own shop. The three of us peered out the windows with hawk-eyes looking for an entrance to the sea and a shop to buy some beer. “As there should always be a cold one at 12’00”, spoken by the man. As we sat on rocks watching ducks and swans gallantly moving over the water, I couldn’t disagree. “This reminds me of the lake at home”, said Daîne. “Then why the fuck,” half joking Jarno begins, “did we drive all the way here where there is nothing or nobody to look at the same lake?”. The man reminds me of John Lithgow (‘3rd from the sun’), both in appearance and with his behaviour.
– – –
Back in Kuressaare, with a pizza-filled tummy, I made my way back to my previous hosts. The youngest girl was at the door with a shocked face, happy to see me, calling Kristover the big brother down. I asked, and as a response I got a look that made clear I didn’t even have to ask. Sitting outside, resting, I am handed a drawing by the 10 year old, as she tells me in her best attempt of English that her little sister wants me to have it. The three of us end op playing a few games, including tag, hide and seek and advanced hide and seek. A little later I sit upstairs with the brother, the Xbox on. He tells me he wants to join the police academy and train to eventually join the special force. The Baltic people have a lot of pride, I have come to learn, and during the Soviet times they never gave up in the fight for their freedom and not sure what the future will bring, slightly worried I could see, he wants to defend his country. He has my respect. As the time flew by, I made way to my tent. The day after I left the beautiful and friendly island with the same couple that saved me from the tormenting bloodsuckers.
I really hate mosquitoes. Really hate them.