When visiting Estonia, you simply can’t miss Tallinn; the Estonian capital city is picturesque with its winding cobblestone streets and layers of history. The country’s many rulers, their influence, and the wars that were waged are reflected in the city and seen throughout its historical architecture. The Viru Hotel KGB Museum provides a vivid glimpse into its more recent history, but if you want to see the soul of Estonia, head to the islands.
The island of Muhu, set on the Baltic Sea, is a mere two hours from Tallinn and only a 30-minute ferry ride from Virtsu, a village on the mainland, to the island village of Kuivastu. It’s so easy that many Muhu residents make the commute each day to work.
The idyllic island has a long history of agricultural relevance that started as early as the 12th century, and Pädaste Manor, now a destination unto itself, has a vibrant history of its own. Dating back to the 14th century, the Manor has seen its share of Danish kings and Russian barons. The most recent, Baron Axel von Buxhoeveden, an Imperial hunting master at the court of Czar Nicholas II, with his wife Charlotte brought their eclectic entourage of artists and musicians to the Manor from St. Petersburg during summers in the late 19th century. The baron’s love of landscaping made the stunning grounds what they are today; whenever he travelled abroad, he would bring back rare species that now populate the parks surrounding Pädaste Manor.
In recent years, the Manor, like many places in the Eastern Bloc, fell into a state of disrepair. It was seized in the early 20th century and used as an army headquarters, among other things. In 1996, the manor, now a Small Luxury Hotel, was brought back to life and restored to a level of elegance that evokes its old world ambiance. There are options for guests to arrive via private plane or chartered helicopter, but the 30-minute ferry ride makes it accessible for all, whether arriving from local or far-flung destinations.
Once in, drop your bags, then hop on a horse or take a long walk through the country. The area is known for its biodiversity, and the surrounding parks and shoreline are home to 23 species of rare orchids and a variety of wildlife, including nightingales, owls, sea eagles, woodpeckers, and wild boars. Or simply laze the day away in the Pädaste Spa’s steam room, sauna, or seawater hot tub. For those daring enough, the Siberian cold tub is a refreshing wake-up. It is an Estonian tradition to take a cold ice dip between sauna sessions to tone the body, and the tub is fed by streaming water from a nearby well, kept at a constant temperature of 6 ºC.
Reading and relaxing are easy in the Manor, as well as additional properties on-site, the Carriage and Farm House. The Manor is classic and grand, while the Carriage and Farm House are rustic-chic. Alexander restaurant offers smart, casual dining in a magnificent setting. The restaurant is itself a culinary destination, with fresh, farm-to-table seasonal fare featuring herbs plucked from the property’s garden and green houses. Chef Yves Le Lay is at the creative helm, and his seven course degustation menu will have you right up to speed with Nordic Island culinary culture. Expect moose and venison alongside cod, root vegetables, and greens foraged from the grounds.
The Bar is as old-world as the architecture itself, and the 100 bins of wine to choose from in the Cellar will please any palette. Yet, more intoxicating than the world of wines is the ambiance and the setting that allows for the simple act of conversation—part and parcel of the hotel’s Estonian elegance.