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Published: August 15th 2014
Haapsala on western coast of Estonia 14 August 2014
We got advice from the Tallinn Information Centre, to visit Haapsala in the west coast of the country.....and we are glad we did. The roads were excellent and we got there 9.30am after stopping off over night at a little town about 15 kms away.
The town is known as the 'Venice of the north' because it is a wonderful seaside spa town with warm waters and an abundance of curative mud!!! The 1st Haapsalu mud spa opened its doors in 1825 and Russian aristocrats were the first guests.
We parked our car easily and walked through the town's narrow streets, passing old but well maintained wooden houses along the way to the beach promenade. We saw one of the most beautiful buildings in Estonia, the Kuursaal house as well as a waterside pavilion which had history of the promenade and recording strips of past sea level floods, the highest being in 2005.
We also saw a large polar bear statue our in the water which is surrounded by ice in winter. Estonia has a short summer and very harsh winter and sometimes the water between the mainland
and islands freeze over. They made 'Ice Roads' when the ice is thick enough so that people can drive over to the islands. Imagine that!!!!
Right in the middle of the town is the Kaapsalu Episcopal Castle. This was very interesting. The castle was built in 13th century and is in very good condition. After walking through the main gate, we climbed up the steps of 'Crescent Tower'. The trees were very tall so the scenery was not 'viewable'.
We could see how the medieval government buildings had served as defensive constructions against domestic and foreign enemies. We then walked to the Convent and Dome church which was built in the 13th century. More of the fortress was built in the 15th Century and was again expanded to 3 ha in the 16th century. For 300 years the castle was home of the Bishopic (Catholic). It was ruled by the bishop who was both the secular and religious leader and shared their power with the cathedral chapter, which was kind of a clerical parliament. From 1559 it was owned by the King of Denmark and in 1581 was the invasion by Sweden so it changed hands again.
After becoming the province of Sweden, the majority of Estonian castles lost their military importance and the Haapsala Castle lost its defensive status in the 17th century. The castle stood unused until the 19th century.
We walked through the Castle museum which displayed the unique collection of armory which was found in the cellar of the convent in 1989. This is the most interesting and largest collection of medieval armory in Estonia and even internationally.
We then visited the Dome Church and Convent which is used for religious events as well as other general entertainment for the public. There were a group of supervised teenagers who were weeding the internal grounds of the Convent which we were there.
One really interesting story is about the White Lady. You may be interested in reading one of the photos for the details of the story but basically a young couple became in love in the Middle Ages and women were forbidden to Episcopel Castle, but she did. When this was discovered, the verdict of the Bishop was to throw the canon (the male) into the dungeon to starve to death, and the girl was immured alive in the wall
of the Baptistery which was being built at that time. Her soul/ghost now appears at the Baptistery window and sings for her lover, particularly in August on a full moon. As we walked around the dome tower outside, we all of a sudden her a female voice start singing from inside the wall. How good is that?????
All in all, we enjoyed reading the stories that went with the history of the fortress and church. After climbing the Bell Tower for the best view of the surrounding town, and seeing the Castle Hospital, we drove SE to Parnu.
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