Monday, May 21, 2012

Pagan Churches and an Island Escape

So those people who make three-day weekends are seriously on to something!

This was the first full weekend I have had off in a while, so I took an extra day and M and I headed to Saaremaa, Estonia's largest island. It wasn't my first time there, but the last time was in November when I did a quick out and back to speak at our American Corner there. I literally saw nothing of the island.

So this trip, we spent the whole long weekend there and it was just what doctor ordered! And we planned our trip the way all my favorite trips end up being planned: we picked a few highlights that we wanted to make sure we saw and otherwise just explored.

We stayed at Georg Ots Spa (and I highly recommend it!) and could see the Kuressaare Castle from our window. 

We explored the castle our first night and then headed to an Italian place, La Perla, in town, for dinner.

The next day, we just drove, first down to the peninsula, then up to Panga Cliff, then back down into the interior of the island, stopping at things that looked interesting.

I decided I wanted to visit the church in Kaarma because it has a plaque on the entrance that was written in 1407 and is thought to be the earliest example of the written Estonian language. Even cooler? I can read it.

It says, if you are curious, "In this year, this church was completed. Peter and Paul in the year 1407."

When I got back to the hotel, I looked for more info on the church on the internet. And then I realized that I had missed the GIANT PENTAGRAM on the wall. I stood right next to it, and totally missed it. Doh!

And what is sad is that the pagan overtones to Estonian belief is something that really fascinates me. I knew that they are one of the most recent societies converted to Christianity (roughly in the 1200s). That I didn't know is that they put pagan symbols in some of their earliest churches.

So today we went to another church, in Karja, to see the pagan symbols there. This time, I didn't miss them.

We also went to the church in Valjala, the oldest church on Saaremaa and in fact in all of Estonia.

 It was while there that I got the idea of trying to see and photograph as many of the historic churches in Estonia as possible during my tour here. I already have a good start. I like photograph churches, so through my travels in Estonia, I have taken lots of pictures of old churches. I have now organized them into a folder of Estonian churches.

Now I just have to find out how big a project I have just created for myself.


Shannon said...

Looks like you had a fabulous time. The idea of a pagan church tickles me.

Can I ask a favor? We are doing preliminary research in anticipation of our bid list this summer and Tallin is on the list of projected vacancies. We have three boys so I would love to get a view of Tallin from someone who has kids, preferably at the school. Do you know any family bloggers in the area? They don't necessarily need to be FS. Thanks!

Daniela Swider said...

I too like churches or temples of any religion. Not really religious myself but I find them fascinating. I try to take pictures of the ones I see. Good luck with your project!

Digger said...

Shannon, look for multitasking on my blogroll. She is half of a tandem with kids. Hers aren't in the Int. School yet, but I think she is up on it. Which position are you looking at? Send me an email if you want to chat more about it (though it is probably pretty clear I love it here).

Shannon said...

Thanks!!! I'll check out that blog. I thought I remembered seeing a family blog from Tallin but I couldn't remember the name of it.

My husband is looking at the IMO position provided it actually shows up on the bid list. I think it will rank pretty high, as long as the school looks good. We like to start looking at the projected list and reach out well before bidding begins.

Anonymous said...

I think it says : This church is completed in peter´s day at the year 1407 (Peetripäev). And mayby you find it interesting to know that on the last picture there is Estonia´s only example of roman architexture style.