Sunday, April 26, 2009

Walk to Rivendell - Week 16 Report

Spring has Sprung here in Kuressaare and that can mean only one thing -
The start of the tourism season!

This is heralded by an annual event, now celelbrating its 10th anniversary, organised by the Kuressaare Ametikool (my old employer) -

The Vallikraavi veeralli or
The Round the Castle Moat Boat Race(s).

Like all good sporting events, this one begins with a parade, starting from the school parking lot, snaking through the town centre, no longer gray and snow-ridden (you remember THOSE photos).

and down to the Castle Park which surrounds our 14th century crusader castle.

There in the bright sunshine which always accompanies this day, teams of 4 students and 1 local dignitary race around the castle moat.

The final heat is for alternative craft. I wish I had space for all the creative variations for this heat, but....... one picture will have to tell 10 years of stories.

After a beautiful day in the sun, it's time for some STATS:
Days walked or cycled: 7
Miles : 36
Kms.: 58
Totals covered: 296 / 474
Still to go: 163 / 260
Location in relation to Frodo & Co's journey:
Trudge & camp, trudge & camp, begin to follow a wide shallow curving valley

And so, time to go home. I'm on my way to a barbeque with the local Mahe (organic) crowd. See you next week!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Walk to Rivendell - Week 16 - Muratsi part I

It has occurred to me that some of you may be wondering,'If she lives on an island, where's the ocean? All these weeks and no pictures of the sea. This is a deficiency that I set out to remedy this week.

First the STATS
Days walked or cycled: 5
Miles covered .24
Kilometres covered: 38
Total walked: 260 / 417
Total to go: 199/ 316
Location in relation to Frodo & Co.
Camp in thickets on south side of Great E
ast Road

The thing is, it's not what you see,
but how you see what you see.

Muratsi Sadam (harbour) is typical of the multitude of bays and inlets on Saaremaa suitable for landing small boats. In the 11th century the availability of these almost invisible harbours was one of the factors which made the island pirates so difficult to catch. They so annoyed the Swedish and Danish Kings that they petitioned the pope to authorize a Crusade to the Northern Lands "to bring the benefits of Christianity to these heathen pagans, and to put an end to the depredations of those damn pirates from Oesel!"

As I mentioned last week, this was accomplished,
sort of, in the spring of 1227 when the Oesel (old name for Saaremaa) islanders accepted Christian baptism to escape the wholesale slaughter visited on their Muhu Island neighbours, by the zealous Brothers of the Sword.

Muratsi sadam is a bit more than 6 kms from my home, making this an easy 13 kms. ride.

In the past I have tracked my levels of fitness by measuring how quickly I could get down and back without a rest break.

Last year the local council was able to arrange a grant from the EU for re-development of the harbour. The parking area has been leveled and sanded, a grassy lawn and flag pole installed, and a small sandy beach with changing cabin and children's play things created. Later the jetties will be improved offering better docking for small mainly wooden fishing skips.

So then, one of my favourite places - Enjoy! And yes, I do swim here once the ice is gone.

Next time - more Muratsi, a ruined - maybe haunted mansion.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Walk to Rivendell - Week 15 Report

With spring now fully in charge, I am out and about much more; thus the weekly numbers are starting to climb. This week saw me reach and surpass the half-way point, an important - for me - milestone. Whoever thought I could walk more than 229 miles in little more than 3 months? Not me, that's for sure. So....
Week 15 STATS
Days walked or cycled: 6
Miles : 23
Kms.: 37
Total distance covered: 235 / 372
Still to go: 222 / 355
In relation to Frodo & Co.
Near the south end of the path. Sam recites part of the Fall of Gil-galad.

"Love is not changed by death
And nothing is lost
And all in the end is harvest."

Dame Edith Sitwell- from "Eurydice"

Last Sunday was Easter, a time when Christians, within whose number I count myself, celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. That this practice pre-dates the Christian era by many millennia is undeniable. The desire of the human animal to rejoice in the return of light and warmth after months of darkness is a reaction so basic, so instinctive as to place it in the company of fundamental human needs.

I am very fortunate that I live near one of the oldest and most historically interesting cemeteries in Estonia - Kudjape kalmistu. Even without knowing the histories of the deceased, the ornamentation of the graves makes this a delightful place to wander.

The high point for the cemetery was in the 18th century when the powerful Von Buxhoeveden family, descendants of the Bishop Albert who, with the crusading Brothers of the Sword, conquered Saaremaa and Christianized Estonia by marching an army across the ice from Riga in 1227, built two mausoleums which are the first things you see when you approach the front gates. This solidified Kudjape cemetery's position as the place to be buried. A mini war ensued for plots near the Von Buxhoeveden family's mausoleums.

A curious feature of the kalmistu are the exit steps. During the funeral, the deceased is carried in his coffin through the open gates. After internment, the mourners walk up and over these sets of steps. Local belief has it that the dead in their coffins will not be able to negotiate this barrier on their own and so must remain within the cemetery grounds. Personally, given the peacefulness and beauty of the grounds, there are days when I would be delighted to remain under the trees and among the ancient crosses myself.

During the occupation period the monuments and grave markers were allowed to deteriorate. Since the return to independence, much work has been done to renew and restore many of the grave sites. Any visitors to Saaremaa could do worse than spend a quiet hour amongst the elaborate crosses and funerary urns. The names and dates tell a silent story of the history of this island. Nearby are also the cemetery for the German war dead as well as the memorial to the islanders deported in 1941 and 1949. But that is a story for another post.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Walk to Rivendell - Week 14 Report

Sorry about the lag in posting this - the return of fit-for-humans weather has made me more than a little antsy. I'm out walking or riding my bike most days, then too tired or too distracted to post my findings. But I promise to do better. (When have you read that before?)

So, first some STATS:
Days walked or cycled: 3
Distance in Kms.: 31
Distance in miles: 25
Distance covere
d: 213 / 347
Distance to go: 245 / 436

Position in relation to Frodo & Co.
Camp by a stream, among stunted alder trees

This is my trusty companion - Marlene.

Those who live in a rural environment know that their lives and activities are shaped by the cycle of the year. In cities, this connection to the cycles is often over-ridden by technology. People tend to forget (and that included me) how much a part of the land and the sky we are. Here on the island, even those of us who are not farmers or fishermen live lives that are bounded by and determined by the seasons.

In old times, the agricultural year began on 17 January, Tõnupäev, with offerings to the household fairies. As Tõnu was a god of the harvest and of pigs, often a half a pig's head was eaten.

Ploughing day came 3 months later on 14 April while St George's Day, 23 April, celebrated the God of Agriculture. By now sowing and planting were in full swing.

Man may become tired but the days flow on inexorably.

21 June, Mid-summer brought the start of haymaking which would end by St Joseph's Day, 25 July and the beginning of rye reaping.

These were not and are not arbitrary dates. A farmer who left his crop in the field too late might well see it destroyed by an early storm.

So, once again, Spring has come and the land,
maa is waking up.

And here a visual progress report on the state of my own garden.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Walk to Rivendell - Week 13 & March Report

Well, March indeed came in like the proverbial lion (We had more snow in March than in the whole of the preceding winter.) and adopted a lamb-like face for its retreat - temperatures above freezing - even at night - and snow all melted. Week 13 acquired 2 extra walking days so the
STATS look like this
Days walked: 6
Distances walked: miles - 22 / kms. - 36

Average walk per day: 3.6 / 6


Days walked: 19

Distances walked: 76 / 126

I have now covered 194 miles - not quite half. I reached the first major milestone that I set for myself - Bree, a
nd managed to continue without losing my horses, breaking any bones or encountering any reasonable reason for giving up. With Frodo, I am camped in the eastern part of the Midgewater Marshes. The flashes of light I saw in the east during the night unlike Frodo & Co.(Gandalf on Weathertop) were from a brilliant first quarter moon.

So, what have I been up to, since last we met? Precious little, I'm afraid. The only major accomplishment has been to start propagating seed for my balcony garden, using S.'s plastic bag suggestion. It doesn't seem like much but the prospect of a ready supply of basil during the summer has me quite chuffed.

This nondescript item is hopefully going to produce cherry tomato seedlings
that I can later plant in a hanging basket.

Finally, Neri, fed up with my lethargy is utterly and totally bored.

That's All Folks!!!!

I promise to try and do better next week.