Lüllemäe and Sangaste

Lüllemäe looked like a ghost town. There wasn't a soul there, except for the shopkeeper who sold us some groceries. I suppose everyone was in the fields. We walked over a pleasant, shady area of grass on the way to the church, and I thought at least someone must live here because it had been recently mown. We looked through a window of a huge barn, which was full of abandoned agricultural implements. The church itself was huge, like all the Estonian churches we saw. It had been devastated several times by bombs or invading armies and had no roof. The space between the walls was a wasteland of tall, impenetrable weeds.

Sangaste - Photo: Sean Knight

We stopped off on the way to Soomaa at Sangaste, a Victorian castle. Mark said there wasn't time to go inside, so most people spent their time trying out the peculiar echo in the porch, which, the guidebook says, 'invites all visitors to try it'. This is putting things a bit strongly, but it at least replies if you do. Creina was determined to go in, so I went with her.

The castle made an interesting comparison with Cardiff Castle. Both are Victorian fantasies, but the mood is very different: Cardiff is exuberantly ornate, while Sangaste is austere - though perhaps it will be less so when the restoration is finished. It was built by one of Estonia's German aristocrats, Count Friedrich von Berg, who is now mostly remembered for developing a strain of winter rye named after the castle. (A handful of it was planted on his grave.) We liked the blue-and-white tiles in the library, decorated with the cartoon-style adventures of an imaginary English squire (fighting a duel with riding crops at dawn etc).

We returned to the coach and arrived at Soomaa National Park in time for lunch.

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