Sunday, September 13, 2009

To Lothlòrien 4 - End of Summer Report

August has come and gone and here in the North Baltic we are well into the approaches to autumn. That means beautiful sunny days with crystalline blue skies, but days which grow inexorably shorter. At the start of August, the sun rose at 05:21 and set at 21:50 which meant we had 16 hours and 35 minutes of daylight. By the end of the month the sun was setting at 20:32 and the total hours of light had decreased to 14 hours and 05 minutes.

HOWEVER!! I did quite a bit of walking and cycling during the month.

So here are the STATS for August:
Miles traversed in August: 106
Total since starting for Lothlòrian: 273
Still to go: 189
Miles covered since start of the year: 731
Location in relation to Frodo the Fellowship: Having seen the crebain fly over, the group have started walking at night and resting during the day. They are climbing upwards on a stony mountain path and have almost reached the feet of Redhorn.

As well as my walking and cycling, this month I have been tending my garden and offer here a small photo essay on my adventures in tomato growing.

You remember what my 'babies' looked like in the beginning. This was taken on 4 April, 2009.

I had 11 little green globes and for the longest time this is how they looked.

Bit by bit, they slowly began to turn red.

And finally this is the fruit

(pun intended) of my efforts.
Of the 11 fruits 8 are now discernibly red - except for the 2 that I ate.

The days are drawing in, the nights are cooler and the sky tones warn us of what is coming. But as ever it's all beautiful. Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

To Lothlòrien 3 - July Report

Many, many apologies! Have been walking, cycling, working, swimming, travelling, writing short stories, taking photographs, growing tomatoes, keeping track of my mileage - everything, in fact except posting in my blog. This today is by way of a catch up - my report for the month of July.

Total miles walked or cycled in July: 116*
*This includes the 22 in The end of June report on Jaanipäev.
That means that at the end of July, I have covered:
Towards Lothlòrian: 167 miles
Still to go: 295
Total traversed this year: 625
Day light at start of July: 18 hours 03 minutes
- at 31 July: 16 hours 33 minutes

The rate of change is rapidly increasing and we are losing 5 - 6 minutes a day of light - the price we pay for our glorious summers.

But the hours of (almost) total darkness are still a few months away, so I want to show a bit more of what islanders get up to when they have sun, warmth and sea.

Mid July, I spent a long weekend on Vilsandi Island, reachable only by boat. This map in the information centre gives some idea of where I went.

We began by loading our boat with the supplies for the weekend. There are no shops out there and only 2 small guest houses.

Then headed out across the sea.

It was the annual Vilsandi Days, a summer festival similar to a gathering of the clans. My almost ex-boss, Neeme had asked me to help him with spit-roasting a lamb for the Friday picnic.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous - as you can see.

On Saturday, there was a ceremony at the lighthouse with music provided by the Female Choir of the National Library of Estonia and the United Male Choir of Saaremaa**. In the evening there was an out door theatrical presentation and a party - no pictures of those, as I was too tired and having too much fun. Mea culpa.

**with thanks to my friend Raigo for giving me the correct names.

No pictures of the trip back on Sunday as it rained bloody blue cats and fishes with lightening thrown in for good measure.

The island is famous for the many fossils the litter the beaches

So, come and join us some summer. We can have a beer, eat some of the islanders famous smoked fish and watch the sunset over the dunes

Sunday, July 5, 2009

To Lothlòrien 2 - Jaanipäev

St John's Day, Mid Summer, Summer Solstice, or up here in Estonia - Jaanipäev, which as I'm sure you all have guessed means, John's Day and the longest day of the year . This far north, that's a lotta light, 18 hours & 17 minutes, although not as much as further north in Finland. My grandmother who wasn't given to hyperbole insists that as a child she could read outdoors at midnight without a candle.

First the STATS
Walked or cycled: 36 miles
Total for this leg: 73 miles
Total covered: 531 this year
To go: 389

In relation to Fellowship:
Paths are few and winding; after reaching the top of a rise, we angle southeast.

So what do Islanders get up to on Jaanipäev?

Well first we go to a bonfire. This is us on the way .

Then you need a bonfire,

and dancing.

lot's of dancing

- and music, preferably traditional - 3 mature ladies playing the 'cordeen, fiddle and kandele are about as traditional as it gets.

- and you have to stay late enough for the sky to be lightening as you roll home.

Hope you're all having a wonderful summer!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

To Lothlòrien 1 - A Summer Day

After weeks of praying cursing and hoping, her majesty, the good lady, Summer has finally favoured us with her presence. The sky is a glittering ark of translucent sapphire; shades of green abound - more than you can count, or name; and its warm, nay even hot. This week I have been for a picnic in the country, at my friend Marge's place. We did a little work, had a stroll so I could take some photos and grilled sausages on our work fire.

First some STATS - I have now set out from Rivendell, and in this slightly extended week, have covered quite a bit of ground. Remember, Lothlòrien is 462 miles from Rivendell.

Miles walked or cycled: 37
Still to go: 425
Total walked: 495
Days walked: 8
In relation to Frodo and the Fellowship:
Empty country, rough and barren;
camp in hollow during the day.

One of the things we looked at was a small very carefully tended cemetery, dreaming in the sun, virtually in the middle of nowhere. This iron cross is typical of funerary ornaments from the 19th century on the island.

Wild flowers are still around in abundance. Soon it will be time to go orchid hunting, but until then this humble echium vulgare common viper's bugloss or ussikeel in Estonian will have to do.

When we finished our work we had a wonderful al fresco lunch.

It's not hard to understand why Saaremaa islanders have retained such strong ties to the land and to their old myths and traditions, when you meet this kind of creature on a stroll through the woods.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rivendell - I'm here!

From 29 December 2008 to 19 June 2009 - five months and 22 days - that's how long it took me to complete this journey. To the reporter for Meie Maa who asked me back in the winter if I thought I could do it, I answered, 'Ask me that in August.' But I made it! ... and in less time than I expected. In case you have forgotten what the starting conditions were - here's a photo.

Somehow the weekly STATS don't seem so relevant this week. Still, a few might be interesting. When I began, the days had barely begun to grow longer. Up here we had just 6 hours and 11 minutes of daylight. On June 19, 2 days before the Solstice, that had increased to 18 hours and 27 minutes. In truth it hasn't gotten totally dark for more than a week.

The last weeks of the Rivendell challenge were difficult. Rain and high winds made walking and especially cycling extra unpleasant. We did get one day when the clouds broke enough to make riding and picture taking tolerable, so I headed out in search of lilacs, one of my favourite spring flowers.

For a few glorious weeks, our whole town is awash in their colour and intoxicating perfume. That includes our castle and its surrounding park.

Summer, prayed for, cursed at and longed for has just about arrived, the sea and the beaches are waiting for us.

So, as the sun sets, on this adventure, my eyes and heart are already onto the next challenge - Lothlòrien!
Summer is here- finally and there's much more to see and to do and to show you. See you all on the trail!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Walk to Rivendell - Week 22 Report

As I said in last week's post, I recently spent a weekend in Tallinn. I was very lucky as the weather was gorgeous that weekend. The team who went last weekend described themselves as - cold and wet! Above is a photo of the main square or valjak in front of the town hall. As you can see, on a good day, of which there are many in the summer, I promise, the square is full of visitors and Tallinners strolling around, looking in shops and enjoying a glass of beer or wine, or maybe a shot or two of viini - which is Estonian for vodka - not to be confused with veini - which of course is wine.

After the STATS, there'll be more photos of this gorgeous medieval city that is our capital.

Week 22 STATS
Miles walked or cycled: 18
Total covered: 428
Still to go: 30
Days walked: 4
Location in relation to Frodo: We cross a small stream before taking a rest stop

This wonderful piece of 16th century carving is on the wall
of a church in the old town, very near the valjak.

Tallinn is one of the oldest cities in the north Baltic. The name Tallinn is said to be a corruption of the expression Dani - Linn or Danish castle, for the kingdom that conquered it in 1219.

It's 14th century medieval walls are still intact, making it possible to see what life in a fortified town might have looked like - minus the cafes, restaurants and shops, of course.

Kateriina Passage, reached through a tunnel in the walls, still has the feel of the past.

The grave markers of some of the ruling Teutonic Knights have been attached to the walls near one end of the passage.

The city's fortunes went through many changes over the years. It was a part of the Hanseatic League as well as an important agricultural trading centre after WW I allowed Estonia to wrest its independence from the Soviets in 1918.

This building facade, reminiscent of The Netherlands show the influence of the city's trading past.

In the early 20th century as the Art Nouveau movement was spreading it's curlicued tendrils all across Europe, the north Baltic was also affected by this fever, but changing and adapting it into a peculiarly Northern expression - Jugendstill.

While Riga has many more of these extravagantly decorated buildings, the few that are here are especially interesting .

So, Tallinn rooftops sleeping in the sun as they have for so many hundreds of years. That's it for this week!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Walk to Rivendell - Week 20 and 21 Report

I realise that I have been terribly remiss about posting my activities. I have been walking and cycling and keeping records, but somehow the act of sitting down at the computer and writing it all out had sunk to the bottom of the fish bowl. To prove to you all that I have been doing my bit, I am posting the results of two weeks of walking AND a report on my adventures in our capital city Tallinn last weekend.

Weeks 20 and 21 to end of May
Days walked or cycled: 9
Miles traversed*: 38
Miles traversed in May:
Total miles covered: 410
Miles to Rivendell: 40
31 May - Sunrise: 04:36 / Sunset: 22:21
Hours of daylight: 17 hours 45 minutes**
*Isn't that a wonderful word
** Something I love about living up here.

Since I retired (Ho, ho, ho) one of the things I have been able to do, is give more time to our local organic farmers group (Saare Mahe).Last weekend I went with my friends Karen and Alar Alas, to the opening weekend of the Rottermann Quartiere Local Foods Fair.

This is an initiative to provide more activities for visitors and Tallinners as well a offering artisanal food producers from all around Estonia a chance to sell their products.

The Rotermann Quartiere is a collection of old and new buildings which are being restored and raised up in a location just beside the edge of the Tallinn Old Town.

We were the 'B Team' which meant we would be working Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. This meant getting up at the ungodly hour of 04:30 to catch the 06:00 ferry crossing to the mainland.

The Saaremaa group had taken two of the especially built karts on which we laid out a range of island products:

Pirukas - small filled pies similar to Cornish pasties.

Rhubarb cake made from whole grain flour, flavoured with cinnamon, ginger and grappa.

Knock your socks of mustard from Mustjala and island honey.

...and that traditional favourite of islanders and Estonians - dried fish

We stayed overnight in the city which meant that on Friday night we were able to see Star Trek in the Coca cola Cineplex in ear shattering surround sound. I loved it!

Finally by 15:00, we had sold everything, the market was over - for this week and tired but happy we headed back to our island home.