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Black Tie International Travel  1
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Black Tie International Magazine - Travel-
Estonia and Latvia with Gloria Cressler

 Old town of Tallinn, 
Old town of Tallinn,

 Estonian National Dress
 Estonian National Dress
Riga, Latvia
Riga, Latvia
Tallin Estonia: Defence Building and old town gates
Tallin Estonia: Defence Building and old town gates
Fat Margaret was built starting the 1300 and the fortifications of the Big Strand Gate in 1510 - 1529. Building was finished by master Gert Konigk from Münster  in 1531
Kadriorg Palace
Kadriorg Palace
Estonia and Latvia
 Black Tie International Magazine

Photos by: Steve Bergsman

I just came back recently from a wonderful trip to Estonia and Latvia. We were accompanied by Ms. Krista Altok Tassa, President of the Estonian American Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

First we landed in Helsinki, Finland, our port of entry, where we passed  through immigration, and then took a plane to Tallinn, Estonia,
which is  only a short 25 minute flight.

You can also travel by ferry to Tallinn, Estonia, from Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden, and vice versa.

 Estonia is in the northeastern edge of the European union. And is in the Schengen area so  it has open borders with the rest of Europe.

We landed at Leonard Meri airport,which is named after the late Estonian President. Planes fly from many European and other countries to this airport. Americans, British, Canadians and Australians do not need a Visa to enter. Just like the members of the European Union, euros and dollars are accepted.
Estonia has a population of 1.3 million but it is larger than Denmark and Holland. We were met by a representative of the Estonian Tourist Board, Ms. Kristiina Ojamaa. Everyone that is connected to tourism in Estonia speaks good English and some German, Finnish, Russian and Swedish. 

 Estonian has achieved independence twice, the first in 1918 from countries that invaded their country earlier, from the Germans to Russians, Danes, Swedish and so on, and the second in 1991 from the Soviet Union; they were the first country that got there independence from the Soviet Union among  other countries that were under
Soviet rule.

Since then, they have worked very hard to rebuild their country and are known as the “Most High Tech” country in all of Europe.

 Even though Estonia was part of the Soviet Union for half a century, Estonians are more influenced by Nordic tastes and traditions. They have great food and also serve marinated Bear in some local restaurants, however there are no polar bears in Estonia! 

This year, Tallinn has also been named the 2011 CULTURAL CAPITAL OF EUROPE. We were dropped  by our hotel to rest and change,
Savoy Boutique Hotel, which is in the old town of Tallinn. and that evening we were welcome with a toast of Champagne and a tour of the hotel by the Sales Manager Ando Saar, the chef and also the Food and Beverage Manager.
From there we walked several blocks to this restaurant named Nano, which is owned by a former model Beatriz and her husband, an artist and a musician. They served us a great spread: including 10 types of appetizers before we had our soup, entree and dessert. I am glad that I only had a little food each time they brought out the food or else I am sure I'd never have been able to get up from my seat! It was very good traditional Estonian food.

The nightlife is as wonderful as any other capital city in the world. In the old town they have good restaurants, many places that have live music, bars that are open for 24 hours and nightclubs for dancing.  And, we went to few of them , including Clazz, which  that night featured Motown music and other nights 60's music; as well as places where they perform both traditional Estonian, as well more modern music. Many people from European countries visit these places till late at night, so visit and experience the nightlife yourself! 
The following day we were given a tour of the old town tracing the history of Tallinn through music, beginning with a stop at the Music Museum.
The Museum curator demonstrated and played different local instruments dating to medieval times, some 9 different types.
Next, we stopped by an old building that was built by the first German Merchant that came to Estonia during the 13th century. and they called their group the Black Heads Society.  In fact, when the TV Show AMAZING RACE went to Tallinn the building was one of the stops for the teams.

Later we visited the Maiasmokk cafe where famous poets and artist have hung out since 1864, followed by an encounter with a man dressed as a KGB offier who interrogated, recalling the Soviet era in Estonia."  Believe me it was scary!" Next, we took a very old bus, (the same bus used to transport prisoners to the KGB cells)  The soldier served us vodka in the bus and we sang  Soviet songs with him along with sheet music.

From there we headed to lunch at Kaera-Jaan Restaurant which featured modern Estonian food.
 It was very good.
Next, we visited The Bastion Tunnels under the Old Town, and then to the Sokos Viru Hotel, which features the KGB MUSEUM. During occupation, the Soviets kept a secret office on top of the hotel and they put bugs in between the paneling of certain hotel rooms so they could listen to conversations of the guests , who were staying at the hotel. Now the hotel is renovated and a lot of tourists from Scandinavian countries
stay there.

That night we went to a very modern and nice restaurant called Restaurant O www.restoran-o.e where they served fusion food similar to high-end restaurants in
the States.
The following morning most of the people in the group went bicycling along the seashore to Kadrioru Park; yours truly does not ride bicycles!
So I was in a chauffeur driven car during the tour as we stopped at Kadriorg Palace built by the Russian Tsar Peter I as a summer home for his empress, Catherine, today a museum.
We stop by the Estonian Art Museum called KUMU, a museum of modern art featuring local artists, and next we visit the Estonian Song Festival Grounds.
The Estonians have a song festival every 5 year where Estonian communities from throughout the country gather and perform. Participants dress in their colorful native costumes and 30000+ fill the open-air amphitheater and grounds and they sing for several days.

 In fact, even during the time of Soviet occupation Estonians found a way to celebrate their song festival by singing a few patriotic songs at the end of each festival.  Today Estonians living in other parts of the world return home to Estonia to participate in the the music festival.
Later, we had lunch at  another modern restaurant called Restaurant Kadriorg.  They served us Italian food and it was good. Most of the restaurants in Estonia serve a lot of Italian and Spanish wines but they also serve French wines and Champagne. In fact they have good wine selections and, of course, vodka. Estonians produce numerous vodkas, such as Turi, The Tall Blond, and Saaga and Ston, all of which were produced for import to the United States. They also have a special drink called Vana Tallinn, a liquor; I had it and loved it!
That evening we embarked on a 3-hour sail on Tallinn Bay where we boarded an ice cutter and saw a World War II submarine and enjoyed Baltic salmon sandwiches along with champagne.
The following day we left Tallinn and drove to the port of KUIVASTU, 90 miles from Tallinn,and took the ferry to MUHU ISLAND. 

We had a hands-on cooking class at Nami Namaste farm and home restaurant a,  which is also a place that is frequente by the President of Estonia and his family. The farm is owned by a husband and wife, originally from Finland. The wife’s name is Sikke Sumari who hosts a tv cooking show and her husband is a Publisher.  They have numerous a-frame style cabins and country-style rooms for cooking class participants.

From there we went to an ostrich farm. Lots of ostriches and also many different types of animals. including kangaroos ,  and wallabies, which I  had never seen before. 
We arrived in Kuressaare the capital of Saaremaa island and checked into the  George Ots Spa Hotel , a very beautiful hotel with modern SPA facilities as big as some hotels in Dubai, by the beach, with swimming pool and lots of amenities.  I had a very large beautiful room. And several similar hotels line the beachfront. with just a short walk along the seaside to Kuressaare ‘s Episcopal Castle.
  We were treated to a tour and dinner at the castle.  Earliest mention of the castle dates to the13 and 1400s.  The hosts were dressed in medieval garb , and the table adorned with utensils, glasses a l a knights of the roundtables, and musicians performing music of that era.   The experience is really great  and you will feel like you are in the movies.
The following day some in our group went kayaking on Kuressaare Bay. Yours truly enjoyed the hotel and the different SPA TREATMENT at the hotel,which I love. Then everybody went to Good Karma Soap Farm where the husband and wife team taught us how to make soaps and then back to MUHU ISLAND.  

There we checked into PADASTE MANOR which is a very beautiful MANSION built by German Royalty. In addition to the main mansion they have several buildings that surround the Manor, one that houses a spa and duplex-style guest rooms, as well as the gatehouse.
We stayed at the main Mansion and I was very lucky to be given the large master bedroom like a bedroom in a palace on the ground floor and right outside the garden, and next to the garden, the beach; it was heaven,  you can check their website to see how beautiful it is:
The featured room  by the garden was the room where I stayed, lucky me! 
We also had dinner at their restaurant Alexander which was voted #1 Restaurant in Estonia in 2010. It has a glass ceiling and walls which looks out on the forest.
We left Muhu Island and took a ferry to the mainland and drove  to Parnu the ESTONIAN SUMMER CAPITAL.

 The town is  surrounded by old castles, which were  built by occupying forces of the many countries (Sweden, Russia,amon others) which invaded Estonia.

 We were able to do some shopping around town there are a lot of old remnants of the Swedish era, as well  as churches.

After that we went to have lunch in Ammende Villa by the beach. The Villa is a century old mansion, which has been renovated into a wonderful hotel, featuring a private restaurant on the top floor with marvelous views of the town. and also a restaurant on the ground floor.
Then it was time to leave Estonia,  beautiful Estonia.
From there we drove to Riga Latvia which took us 2 1/2 hours.  We stayed at the Guterbergs Hotel  in the old town Dome Square 1.
 The town is surrounded by large domed Lutheran churches that look alike. One afternoon I got lost because I thought the church close to our hotel was the same church that I was following. They used to have catholic priests in the catholic churches but they were run out.
That night we had dinner at RESTAURANT ZILA (BLUE COW),  in old town of Riga surrounded by lots of restaurants in the nearby plaza.
The next day we were picked up by our tour guide Juris who gave us a tour of Riga. The Latvians also suffered a lot at the hand of the Germans and Soviets.
We ventured through the Old town and saw the replica of the building originally built by German merchants called the Black Head Society in 1344, today used for social functions. Next we visited a store that sells traditional Latvian folk costumes and perused the Riga Central Market , which consists if 3 large hangars.
We strolled through the Art Nouveau District and Alberta Street which has row after row of Art nouveau buildings built by German architects and other European and Latvian architects.  They also have a museum there to show how people lived during that time.

From there we went a little shopping  spree and then we drove to a restaurant along the Daugava River named Ostas Skati.  Afterward some people went shopping and others to the museum, They have several museums there, an art museum and the Occupation museum. featuring pictures and other materials depicting life under Nazi and Soviet occupation. Estonia also has a museum of occupation. and it shows also how they were treated badly by these two groups.
That evening we had dinner on the rooftop of the Gutenbergs hotel, which featured a beautiful spread.  We started with different types of appetizers from seafood to pasta and vegetables, and of course good wines, which we did at every meal in both countries, and I ordered a very good thick juicy steak,

 Most Europeans love meat and potatoes and it is the same in Estonia and Latvia.  Then the following day it was time to go home to New York City, but I will  never forget the good times and experiences of this trip.

 I had a very good friend who was the former Consul General of Estonia and he kept on inviting me to visit Estonia and I kept saying I was busy.   If I only knew what I had been missing I would had done it sooner.

I would like to thank all the people and companies and the country of Estonia, the Estonian Tourist Board, Finnair, and  who made our trip possible.

 To make your plans to visit Estonia consult

and Latvia  

You are going to love it, Just like us!
 The people in Estonia and Latvia are the warmest and nicest people.
You will have a wonderful trip trip.
 For more information please click on the site that we provided including the sites of the  different hotels and places or feel free to send me a message at or
 this is Gloria Cressler signing off, till next time. 
Joyce Brooks

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