The unofficial summer capital of Estonia

Parnu Estonia. They have a sign, might be worth checking this town out.
Like many old cities, the town of Parnu was surrounded by a protective wall. This was the main gate to the city. Built in 1675, this gate is confusingly called Tallinn gate, even though it is nowhere near the city of Tallinn. It is the only city gate in the Baltics that has survived years of war and occupation from other nations.
If you are not stopped at the gate and are allowed entry to the city, you can enjoy many outdoor restaurants and cafes. Like much of the Baltics, it seems tourists haven’t discovered Estonia yet.
The downtown area has street art to keep you entertained as you explore the city. Like this psychedelic elephant. The elephant is the city’s themed animal. Why an elephant you may wonder, as I’m pretty sure they are not found in this part of the world? It is simply because back in the 1950’s, Parnu installed two very large wooden elephant shaped slides for kids. In 2013 they rebuilt the elephant slides and the theme appears through the city.
Another interesting building in the downtown area that shows a mix of the influences the Baltics experienced over the years.
Amusingly, people from North America travel to Europe to see the amazing old stone buildings. People in Estonia travel to Parnu to see old buildings made from wood.
There are many other interesting buildings in Parnu like this mud bath hotel built in 1926.
Or the Rannahotel built in 1937. This building has seen many changes throughout it’s life but was mainly used by high ranking soviet officials for a relaxing getaway. It was at one point even used as a hospital. In the 1990’s the Estonian government decided to restore the hotel to it’s original state and reopen it as a hotel.
But the real focus in Parnu is the natural areas. With a sign to prove it! I chose this picture as it also gives you an appreciation of the Estonian language. I could only work out how to say hello, thank you, beer and “twelve months” (I’ll save you the google search:
This fish sculpture is entirely filled with plastic that has washed up on the shores of Parnu. The people of Estonia keep their natural areas very clean and take great pride in taking care of the environment.
Which has apparently led to the return of the elusive concrete lawn fish, spotted here in a rare sighting.
There are many beautiful parks in Parnu and most streets are lined with trees.
Hiding in the shade in those parks are more of the towns themed elephants. Which disappointingly, you can’t ride.
The main reason they call Parnu the summer capital of Estonia is because of the huge sandy beaches that the Estonian people flock to in the summer. Swimming in the ocean (or bathing as they call it) wasn’t a normal activity until around 1830. In the early 1900’s the beach and ocean in Parnu was sold as a cure for disease and illness. Which given the state of medical technology at that time, was probably the better option anyway.
Back in the 1800’s all the beaches in Parnu were separated into male and female sections. Today they continue that tradition where one section of the beach reserved for ladies only. You are permitted to get completely naked in this area. I did check for naked ladies on the beach, just because I’m sure somebody would ask me about it. None found. The sacrifices I make sometimes….
Built in 1939 they called this the “functionalist beach cafe”. The concrete mushroom balcony and terraces were considered a novelty in construction at the time. The concrete was left unfinished so that there would be no question that this was a solid concrete structure. Today, the functionalist cafe houses the sunset nightclub.
The problem with having nice sandy beaches for nude sunbathing is that the sand then washes into the nearby river making it impossible for ships to come into port and engage in commerce. The Russian empress Catherine II decided something had to be done to allow ships to navigate the river and dock in Parnu. In 1863 they started to build this long row of stones called a mole to keep the sand on the beach and out of the river. If you look carefully, you can see the end of the mole on the horizon, right of center.
The mole is 2km long and sticks out over 1.5km into the ocean. If you are feeling adventurous, you can walk to the end of the mole and take a traditional summit selfie.
Looking back toward the distant land. River is on the left, sandy beach on the right. The mole is about 5m tall, 7m wide above water and as wide as 26m on the bottom. It took about 6 years to build by paying local farmers to deliver stones from their fields and push them out on ice during the winter. But I don’t care about any of that stuff. I’m just trying to remember when high tide was and get off this ancient mole as fast as possible before the sea decides it is the last summit selfie I’ll ever take. Did I make it back? Obviously, stay tuned for more! Next stop, Latvia.

1 Comment

Teditor · September 23, 2023 at 12:57 am

Keep them coming, enjoy reading!

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