Sunday, January 25, 2009

Walk to Rivendell - Week 4 Report

Above, sky the colour of an old knife

Beside, dusting of white

on winter-blown grass

Stranded inland ocean, folded-over waves of straw in

chromic scale from grey to faded olive

to ochre and back again

Cold blasted land – desiccated air

For most of the year, Kuressaare is a town of slightly more than 14,000 souls, the capitol of the island of Saaremaa with a population of about 37,000 and falling. For some reason we have become the Cinderella for five largish food retailing companies offering uncountable culinary delights - maybe. Personally, I wonder where they expect the customers for all these shops are going to be found. So this week rather than still another rant on the awfulness of the weather, I have produced a little essay for your edification on:

The Supermarket Wars – Greed or Lousy Planning.

The first proper supermarket in Kuressaare was the Rae. It grew out of the original corner market on the main square and moved into its present location beside the library and cultural centre as part of the redevelopment of the town centre. A part of the STÜ (Saaremaa tarbijate ühistu), which operates several food markets around the island, it is the most upmarket of the lot and has far and away the best produce selection. Last summer they sold organic potatoes grown by local Saare Mahe members and have stocked local apples all through the autumn. They also sell radicchio – the only shop on the island to do so. Its enviable location and wide and varied product ranges earn it my vote for No 1.

Next on the scene was Säästu Market, which belongs to the Rimi Group. They set up their simple barracks conveniently near by a major enclave of middle-income apartment housing. The name itself means ‘economy’ in Estonian. They do a good job of meeting the needs of ordinaryfamilies with lower prices on good quality products. They selldecent vegetables loose without unnecessary packaging. Last summer, they opened a second store on the other side of town. I think they will continue to hold onto their market share.

Then came the gang from Tallinn and their SELVER. The Tallinn and Tartu Kaubamajad (Department Stores) are part of this group. It’s big; it’s posh. They have lots of stuff and is a complete madhouse on summer weekends with visitors buying supplies for their summer cottages. I try not to go in there because I always spend more than I should. Some kind of deeply buried sympathetic magic forces my hand – every time. The product range is vast and the staff are very friendly.

The newest, Rimi has the advantage of being imbedded in the new Auriga Centre, Saaremaa’s first real shopping mall. It’s partly owned by The mega Finnish retailer Kesko and partly by a Swedish company ICA. I think they should do something about staff training. When I went to take a photo, the security man, a short bloke with a round, red face and a fringe of blond hair like a halo around his head glared at me. Then he followed me around scowling to make sure I didn’t put an apple in my pocket. The management might consider that, with local customers thin on the ground in the winter, it doesn’t do to drive them away. After this nonsense, I went down the road to finish my shopping at Säästu Market.

And the newcomer into this circus will be – MAXIMA MARKET. Spawn of a Lithuanian company which claims to be the largest retailer in the Baltics. It is setting up shop just beside the original Säästu Market. I have no idea what will be the outcome but the building, still under construction looks like a large pewter bunker. When that opens – this spring I guess, six large food shops will be trying to make a living from 14,000 clients. It’s going to be fun.

Week 4 – STATS

Finished First book (of 3) of LotR’s. Am I the only person in the entire Western Hemisphere who DIDN’T know that some of the names in Harry Porter are taken from LotR?

Total for week – 13.3 miles / 4 walking days

Total walked to date – 46 miles

Location in relation to Frodo & Co.:

Camp at Woody End, a green floor in the wood, roofed by boughs of trees. To the east a steep shoulder falls, and they can overlook the river valley. The lights of the village of Woodall are seen below (ca. 11 p.m.).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Week 3 Report

Abandoned bicycle - to cold to ride

It’s Sunday, start of a new WtoR week. I had planned to head into the forest today, but the weather sucks – No – worse than that! The temperature is above freezing so it continues to eat away at the snow. That will make forest walking and photographing a lot easier later in the week. But the sky is leaden again, welcome back – not; and there is a strong wind, which makes it feel colder. The winds are picking up even more now; my windows are rattling like a giant’s hand is shaking the frames. Walking home from the market, there were a few times when I felt like I would be blown off my feet.

Tuesday: doom, gloom and more gloom – hardly a good excuse, But an afternoon session in La Perla solving the problems of the restaurant business with Kristo the Head Chef seemed like a good idea – at the time. It’s amazing how much less important our problems seem after a few glasses of good wine. Fortunately I accomplished my goal of taking a picture of the old building mentioned last week.

The offices of our local newspaper, Meie Maa, built 1897.

Walked home in the gathering darkness, bringing my total for the day to 5,4 (for week so far = 8,9)

Today is Thursday and I needed to make a food run. I had expected to add to my weekly total but it was so bitter and miserable: sky, the musty colour of long neglected stainless steel, temperatures barely above freezing with an icy wind blowing from the sea. I gave in and took the bus. By the time I’d finished my errands including a visit to our super new library, it seemed that perhaps the Weather Gods have been listening. The temperature has fallen below – 2 and a light dusting of powdery white was appearing in several places. We’ll see what happens overnight. There’s no wind – yet.

No snow, but Friday brought a day of blue skies and sunshine, so I abandoned all of my other plans and headed out into the forest. It was exquisite, as always but quite changed from the snow-mantled playground of two weeks earlier. For a change I did remember to bring my ‘Walking Notebook’ and here are some to the things I wrote down:

'This is a journey of the mind - of the imagination, not of the body. In the magical forest no thing is ever exactly what it seems to be; and what is here today may not be tomorrow where it was yesterday.'

'The fertile mind can turn a tree branch into a chicken’s foot.'

And best of all on Saturday I went into the post office to collect my three-volume set of LotR. I LOVE IT!!!!

Why have I never read this before?

My walking companions

Weekly STATS

Days walking - 4

Miles walked this week: 11/ kms.17.7

Total walked: m. 32.7 / km. 51.6

Location in relation to Frodo & Co. :

The road ahead runs fairly straight and level. Behind them it curves slightly. BLACK RIDER. Sam and Pippin hide in a hollow. Frodo hides behind tree by road (ca.5 p.m.).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Week 2 Report

This was a week of (almost) totally mundane activities: teaching, mentoring a new student (cousin of a friend who is starting a Distance Learning program in Modern Farm Management), three treks into town for provisions and two to the nearer Star Centre Mall (It is the start of a new pay period and I had run out of everything!). Both of the week’s sterling events occurred on Wednesday.

The road marker that is half a kilometre from my home.

A reporter for our local newspaper, *Meie Maa ( found and read my Week 1 report and contacted me about doing an interview for the paper. ‘Why not!’ So in I went. The newspaper offices are housed in a 100++ year old building (1897 to be exact) possessed of twisty corridors, flights of stairs going every which way, and even a wooden bridge structure over the entrance to the courtyard connecting the two sides of the building; a style of building which seems to have been typical in Estonia at that time.

This is the the local Lutheran Church (kirik) which is now in the centre of Kuressaare.

After the interview I went round to my friend Bill’s Café Bruno for a degustation of breads and patisserie products. Already in January, clever hoteliers and restaurateurs hare starting to make plans for

the next season. It was fun but after two glasses of white wine and innumerable little tastes, I felt stuffed.

Thursday I was feeling tired and stiff and didn’t want to do any thing, much less walk into town. Nevertheless, I still had things to do. A leaden sky sneered down at me, so I was going to take the bus. However, as soon as I started to get ready, bright sunshine began to kick its way through to clouds. I set off on foot. Clearly the Sun God was pleased with this decision, expressing his approval by flooding the sky with light as I trudged along. Still, this being Saaremaa, the weather gods here have an evil sense of humour, if not outright irony. As soon as the bus passed me, cobalt and silver knives slashed across the sky, cutting up and dismantling all the lovely blue.

Some of our Weather Gods’ other work:

The start of the forest trail

The way into the forest

When the Friday morning sunshine edged its way into my consciousness I would fain have told it to bugger off. Alas I still had errands to run, so, once more into my walking clothes and into the breech. Actually I exaggerate. The day was lovely; hazy sunshine and a balmy breeze chasing away last of the snow leaving shallow puddles and wet sidewalks the were starting to freeze over as I struggled home with the last of the week’s shopping. I never made it into the woods this week, but I have a pile of beautiful snow pictures which I didn’t use last week, so……..

So many choices

A blue tree

*Meie Maa means Our Land, which probably tells you as much as you need to know about saarlased (Saaremaa islanders)

Into the Winter Cathedral

Some statistics

I walked four days and managed 8.9 / 14 kms .That means I have covered 21.9 miles so far and have 436 to go " The road rolls up and down"

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Walking to Rivendell – Week 1 Report

Late in December, my MuseMugger’s friend, who shall be identified here as ‘D’, began to talk about a mental and physical fitness challenge roughly titled ‘Walking to Rivendell’, which as some of you know, (but not me, at the time) is the start of the journey undertaken by Frodo and friends to the traditional home of the Elves. The distance was said to be 458 miles (or 737 km for us continentals).

The idea for this challenge with more details than you probably want can be found at:

D and I have agreed to undertake this challenge (electronically) together as Companion Shieldmaidens. We estimate that at the rate of about 10 miles a week which we think we can accomplish, we should reach Rivendell by mid-November, or as D says, ‘mid- NaNoWriMo.

So what in the name of Albert am I doing? Maybe a better question is why am I doing it? It’s not as if I don’t already have enough to keep my self occupied, and if I should leak any sign of having extra time, the Organic Farmer Folk have a list of things for my attention longer than …… well, longer than your whatever……

One objective is improved physical fitness. Some of you know that I have been trying to lose weight. My Doctor’s assurances that this would diminish the arthritis symptoms have proven accurate. But with the arrival of winter this positive trend has diminished to a trickle. So committing to this will get me out and about at a time when motivation is normally not about. A real fair-weather friend – that Motivation.

Also after a quick glance at my projected financial situation, I think it unlikely that I will have cash to travel corporeally for quite awhile. So, if I can’t travel in the flesh why not take a journey of the mind and imagination? Why not?

So, why not – indeed!

One week on, how am I doing? Well, I began by messing up the math. I used the wrong number to convert km’s to miles and have walked 13 miles instead of the agreed 10, other wise I’m having a ball. Take a look.

Every journey has to begin somewhere Beginning =Algus in Eesti*

We also need to have a map. Oh, Kudjape is the village where I live

Terviserade are health trails, some

thing Saaremaa, my island is rather keen on.

On my first day I encountered the King of the Winter Forest. This is his throne

and this the seat reserved

for interrogating travellers who wish to pass through his kingdom.

Be careful – Trick, ahead. This is a short cut through the under kingdom to the home of the Elves. Although full size beings may find it hard to get out once they have gotten in.

I must have answered correctly as I have now been given permission to continue onto the snow forest.

Some statistics: The journey of 458 miles begins



Algus - begin at the beginning



Enter into the Kingdom of the Winter

People. Receive the Winter King’s

blessing for the journey



Into the Citadel to repair my chariot,

Marlene. The Blue Angel needs new




Into Crane village for supplies,

arrange funds for the journey



Through the Snow Forest:

stare down the red witch

*Please forgive me if I try to teach you a little of my language as we travel.