• Steve Wilde


Updated: Jan 9, 2019

Sometimes we chase things we cannot have and even the best travellers get homesick, especially when they're in love.

The light in Suur Straight between the Estonian mainland and the island of Saaremaa paused just long enough to make a magical spectacle of itself, on that long lonely winters day. The water was leaden, thick, as if it might suddenly turn to ice, but not quite yet. The sky, faintly pink, bisected by a headland studded row of wind turbines, hair like in the distance. A shaft of yellow grazed the horizon.

Sometimes we travel for pleasure. Sometimes we travel for love. This time it was for love.

But even in the desperate times the beauty of our world has a way of saying, don't worry, I think it's going to be ok - maybe.

A dark and moody place

The Estonian island of Saaremaa is the best place to go in these times. Dark, moody. In Winter that feeling is intensified, almost to the point where you might snap, collapse, and be found broken and wanting on the ground.

Steve Wilde on the Estonian island of Saaremaa, maybe for all the wrong reasons.

Loves broken winter dream

The ferry, the PL Muhumaa, a roll-on roll-off, gently glided the glass topped water and berthed at Kuivastu. From there the Black Alder sheltered roads led all the way to Kuressaare.

The town's streets were quiet. Too quiet.

The locals glanced, suspicious. Did they know? How could they and who cares anyway? Even the Kuressaare Christmas tree in the square looked forlorn. Its few lights strung chaotically, a distant and dishevelled cousin to its splendid official national counterpart in Raekoja Plats, the Estonian capital Tallinn's main square, some four hours away by bus.

Strolling carefully, brave face on, I made my way to the small bay at the edge of the town. The frozen moat caught my eye first. The Kuressaare Castle looked as trapped as I felt. A feeling only homesickness brings, when you cannot easily run to your warm place, curl up beneath familiar sheets and rest on a pillow that is moulded solely for your own head.

Kuressaare Castle, its moat frozen solid in the harsh Baltic winter.

Anywhere but here, please

In the sky high above, contrails. Two airliners ranged the heavens. I wished to be on one.

Two airliners race each other across the Estonian skies.

A castle with a dark past

The castle dates back to the 14th century and is one of the best preserved Medieval fortresses in Estonia. In more recent history both the Nazis and the Red Army, at different times, killed hundreds inside its stone walled courtyard.

I walked out onto the icy moat. If it held my weight, everything would be fine. But I heard a deep rumbling crack. A raw guttural crunch, a resonance of which suggested the ice was very thick, but could be broken if pushed. It was the metaphor I needed. I knew that feeling too.

Walking onto the icy moat, I heard a deep crack beneath my feet.

Soon the sun appeared from behind the scudding clouds. Its glow mellowed everything. Hope returned. Ducks quacked merrily in the bay. A cat appeared and began following us.

Ducks gather on the frozen bay ice at Saaremaa.

This feline friend keeps us company at the Kuressaare Castle on the island of Saaremaa, Estonia.

That proud little feline purred all the way, rubbing its mane against my legs. It was then that Sergei suggested we head back to the warm hotel for dinner. Maybe there was still hope?

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