The L’s (Leonore and Laurie) are taking us (Oihana and myself) to Lahemaa National Park today. Encompassing bogs, beaches, manors and bays, it is Estonia’s first and largest national Park.
Our first stop is Viru Bog. We wander through a type of forest completely foreign to a mid-Missourian (massive trees and limited underbrush), until we get to the edge of the bog.
Across moss and leaves in shades of flame, I clank along wooden-plank trails until we reach a tall viewing tower. At the top of its wooden spiral staircase—silvered by time and weather- views of marshy land painted in vibrant hues of green and red impress. If I had to title the view, it might be “water on fire”.
Wooden-plank pathway through Viru Bog
Viru Bog from the Viewing Tower
After the bog we continue along the coast in the car. Laurie drives. We park near the beach and break for lunch in a nearby restaurant housed in a log cabin.
Interior of Restaurant
Rustic Restaurant in Estonia
Leonore brings me a drink that I can only describe as barley juice.
Sort of like beer, just no fizz, and no alcohol, and helps me order some sort of potato dish. The fluffy mashed potatoes mixed with oats, cream and bacon melt in my mouth, and before I know it, it’s time for the beach.
“Forget about palm trees and white sands,” I murmur to myself, squinting my eyes to see in the bright sunlight, as fierce winds whip my hair into a frenzy. Deep green forests blend into fields of gold that lead up to a bronze coast littered with rocks of every shape and size, ranging from pebble to boulder. A frog hops out from among the straw-colored grasses and rocks. Since it doesn’t seem to want to cooperate for my photo-op, Laurie catches it for me. Poor little amphibian.
Some sort of Estonian Frog
The Grassy Coast
Swans in the sea
Wonder of wonders, there are swans in the sea. Never before have I seen swans in the sea. They make me think of the fairy-tale “The Wild Swans” by Hans Christian Anderson, and the much more grown-up book based on the tale, “Daughter of the Forest” by Juliet Marillier. The long-necked birds pair up for life, or so the story goes; I have yet to interview an actual swan about the issue.
Rocks scattered along the beach
Boat near the Estonian Coast
Rosehips growing near the beach
Trees along the coast
Leonore points out a large pile of rocks, and explains that I can add my own and make a wish. Leaning against a gnarly tree, watching swans swim in frothy blue waters, at first I’m at a loss at what I could wish for. Then again, I think, and picking up a fist-sized stone, I place it at the base of the mound.
I drink in my surroundings with my eyes, doing my best to memorize every detail. When I shut them and the pictures remain, I know that my wish will come true.
The Rock/Wish Pile
Recipe for Mashed Potatoes with Oats, Cream and Bacon (serves 4-5 as a side dish)
5 medium sized potatoes
1/2 cup oatmeal
2 slices of bacon
1 cup heavy cream (to reduce the fat, use 2% milk)
Salt and black pepper to taste.
1. Boil potatoes until tender (about 20 minutes) 2. Cook oatmeal in heavy cream (steel-cut oats will take longer than quick oats) 3. fry or bake 2 slices of bacon until crisp. 4. Peel potatoes (if desired) then blend with a food processor or hand-mixer until there are no visible chunks. 5. Mix in the heavy cream and quick oats. 7. Mince the bacon and fold into the potato and oats mixture. 7. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.