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Trip 32 -- Hiiumaa Walk

Day 6: Poama to Reigi
Thursday, June 30, 2022

Today: 24069 steps/18.41 km/11.44 mi/3h 31m
Total: 220208 steps/170.03 km/105.65 mi/31h 54m

The challenge was to shower and remain dry as I left the Pauka Holiday House. The access to my cabin was still flooded, of course, so the only practical solution was to pack up; wade, barefoot, from my de facto houseboat to the shower in a separate building, wearing my backpack and carrying my shoes; and depart from there. I even returned to their proper place the deck chairs that had served as islets between solid ground and my patio.

Today's most prolific critters were not flies and mosquitoes but tiny frogs and dragonflies. These are companions I can approve of. At first I thought the frogs were beetles; they were no longer than a fingernail and took the form of small chevrons against the pavement. It was only when they jumped that I recognized them for what they were.

I didn't have a long way to go today. I got out rather late, at 10:45, so I planned on an early lunch at Meite Möte, where I ate two days ago. A chalked sign at the entrance said that the place was reserved today from 1:30; I took that to mean that food would be available until then.

"We're not serving food today until half two," the server said. He was the same person who had sold me my fried flounder on Tuesday. "We have a couple of big groups coming, thirty people."

This was, to my knowledge at the time, the only place serving lunch between the Kõpu lighthouse and Kärdla, a stretch of about 38 kilometers. I can understand a restaurant taking the money when it can, but I couldn't have been the only person relying on Meite Möte for nourishment. Hiiumaa has a dearth of eateries and the few that exist need to be dependable.

"Who are these groups?" Just so I knew whom to blame for keeping me hungry.

"I don't know. Until then, all we have is chicken salad."

"Chicken salad is fine," I said. "Does it have mayonnaise on it?"


"Great. Chicken salad it is. I'll sit outside."

I also had some homemade strawberry lemonade and three slices of serve-yourself dark bread, mainly so I could eat that fabulous mustard. The chicken salad did come with a white dressing -- not as revolting as ranch, but still bothersome -- but it included grapes and pineapple wedges, which gave it juice and sweetness.

From Meite Möte to my lodging in Reigi was only two and a half hours, but I took an extra half-hour to detour to Kõrgessaare. Another important manor complex existed here, and in the early 1900s, a factory was built here to produce fake silk. It was all ready to start operating and then World War I began. The factory was damaged during the war, partly intentionally to prevent materials for ammunition from getting into the wrong hands. It never served its purpose.

Some of the buildings remain, and an old stone vodka distillery is now a hotel and a restaurant that is open only for dinner, if at all. According to a sign, a cafe was open at Kõrgessaare harbor, an extra kilometer away. There was also a supermarket, where I purchased some herring, cheese, and a ready-made meal of chicken cutlet, cabbage, and potatoes, under the assumption that there might not be another food opportunity until Kärdla tomorrow.

From Kõrgessaare to Reigi Church a broad bike and pedestrian lane existed, with a couple of attractive bridges. The church poked out of the trees, the lily-topped steeple of a stone structure from about 1800 that replaced a wooden church located elsewhere nearby. The church contains some fine paintings bequeathed by shipwreck survivors and a Hiiumaa-made organ. It was a center of learning and, so the legend goes, a farmer once found a book and wondered why it was full of depictions of straw with bugs crawling all over it. Turns out it was sheet music!

Today's lodging -- Ratturi talu -- is much the same as yesterday's in that I'm in a private cabin with washing and kitchen facilities in separate buildings. Today's has the advantage of not requiring a raft for access and the presence of air conditioning. The owner showed me my cabin and prepared to introduce me to the kitchen. "You can leave the key," he said. "Nobody locks their doors here. This isn't Manhattan."

The cool air was the recipe for a nap, but I woke up shortly so that I could walk the remaining 15 minutes to the bizarrely labeled attraction on Google Maps that had led me to stay in this area: "Wooden copy of the Eiffel Tower."

Well now, what's that doing here?

Jaan, a shirtless man with a long beard, cargo pants, and a baseball cap that said "Sampiyon," has been building towers since he was 17. His first was for surveillance of cows and, much as the KGB kept watch over Tallinn from the Hotell Viru, they took a liking to his structure as a way to keep tabs on Sweden.

His Eiffel Tower is one-tenth the height of the original and, consisting of precarious-looking wooden staircases that beg to be climbed, it looks like something out of the Burning Man festival. The tower was roped off, but plenty of other structures abounded, including a quiz-based escape room, a "Wipeout"-worthy pond seesaw, and a mock spaceship. An open wooden staircase led to a collection of Soviet television sets and radios, with a pair of ice skates and a couple of electric saws scattered around the floor.

Families were there and the kids loved it, although nothing seemed childproof or even adult-proof. Jaan himself is a man of few words (his large, shaggy dog is more outspoken); any attempt to engage him in conversation resulted in one- or two-word responses. Perhaps he was suspicious of me; the Estonian authorities have been trying to shut down his operation for safety reasons, and the presence of a New Yorker grilling him in passable Russian might have given him pause. I didn't press it.

Ratturi talu, it turned out, operated a cafe, so I needn't have picked up from the supermarket. But the cafe closed at eight, with food ending even sooner. The guest kitchen was in an enormous red farm building with dining tables, lounge chairs, and three television sets, at least one of which was from this century. I prepared what I'd brought and managed to find an English program about Alaskan hunting on the working television set. Considering what they went through, I can't complain too much about being limited to a lunch of chicken salad and bringing packaged meals from Kõrgessaare.

Go on to day 7