HAAPSALU AND MATSALU NATIONAL PARK
Known as the ‘Venice of the North’, Haapsalu is a wonderful seaside spa town on the west coast of Estonia with warm waters and an abundance of curative mud. The first Haapsalu mud spa opened its doors in 1825 and Russian aristocracy were among the first guests. The town’s narrow streets, miniature town hall and romantic wooden dwelling houses line routes that seem to always take visitors back to the sea. One of the most beautiful wooden buildings in Estonia, the Kuursaal, stands on the seaside promenade and now houses a fine restaurant. The Dome Church of Haapsalu is the biggest single- naved church in the Baltic States and the most
important historical and cultural monument of the town. In the baptistery window of the church Estonia’s most famous ghost, the White Lady, is said to appear each August when there’s a full moon. Legend says that she is the ghost of an Estonian girl, the illicit lover of a Canon, who was entombed in the wall. A small yellow house in Linda Street is the childhood home of Ilon Wikland, who later illustrated children’s books by the world famous Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren. Ilon’s Wonderland has original copies of her drawings on display.
Along Haapsalu’s seafront promenade can be found the Tchaikovsky bench where visitors can stop and enjoy the composer’s music. The worldfamousRussian composer stayed in Haapsalu in 1867 and the first notes of his famous VI Symphony (adapted from the Estonian folk song, ‘Dear Mary’) are carved into the stone bench. During the tsarist era, Haapsalu was the western terminus of the St. Petersburg line. Even though trains don’t stop in here any more, the city still has a tsarist era railway station, now a railway museum. At over 200-metres long, the covered platform is the longest of its kind in Europe and was built to be the same length as the train so that the Tsar could leave the train on rainy days without getting wet. A detour out of Haapsalu takes the Noarootsi peninsula, an early settlement for Estonian Swedes and still bearing bilingual place names. Naorootsi has a beautiful sandy beach, pine forests and is considered one of the best places for bird watching in Estonia. Matsalu National Park is the biggest and most bio diverse migratory bird stop and nesting area in the Baltic Sea region and is a wetland of international note. Observation towers for bird watching are located at Keemu, Suitsu, Penijõe, Kloostri and Haeska. The national park visitor centre at Penijõe offers an overview of the natural treasures and park history.
Source: Estonia Tourist Board – Visit Estonia
Here’s a sampling of major yearly recurring events in Haapsalu and Läänemaa region:
Haapsalu Horror & Fantasy Film Festival
A festival dedicatetd to the promotion of Estonia and neighbouring countries horror, cult and fantasy movies.
For more info visit the official website www.poff.ee
Cyrillus Kreek days in Haapsalu (Nargen Festival)
Organised since 2006, this is one of the major summer events. Concerts and other events will be performed.
For more info visit the official website www.nargenfestival.ee
Haapsalu Early Music Festival
The annual Early Music Festival is one of the most remarkable festivals in its own genre in Estonia and has caught the attention of many outstanding foreign artists.
For more info visit the official website www.studiovocale.ee/haapsalu-vanamuusikafestival/
American Beauty Car Show
American Beauty Car Show is the biggest american car exhibition in Baltics, which consists of car show, reunion and drag race. American Beauty Car Show is an all outdoor event open only for American cars, which was first held in 2001.
For more info visit the official website www.american.ee
Bluesfest “Augustibluus” Haapsalu
The main concerts of the festival take place in the courtyard of the ancient castle, presenting musicians from all over the world. There are also workshops and the traditional acoustic concert in the old railway station. Music is performed in the streets and cafes, until the early hours of the morning.
For more info visit the official website www.augustibluus.ee
White Lady Festival
The most famous legend lives between the walls of Haapsalu Episcopal Castle – the White Lady. The festival is dedicated to this legend and takes place every August in full moon. A production about the White Lady is performed as well.
For more info visit the official website www.valgedaam.ee/pages/est/legend.php
Matsalu Nature Film Festival
The festival promotes a sustainable way of life and respect for the traditions of indigenous peoples that are closely connected with nature. The festival is dedicated to nature and relations between man and nature. The best fi lms are shown in Lihula and Haapsalu, and as always, several exhibitions of nature photographs are organised.
For more info visit the official website www.matsalufilm.ee