One of the Continent’s secret offshore gems
by Alexander Lobrano
“People ask what there is to do on Muhu”—a beautiful, wooded freckle half an hour from the port of Virtsu—”and we tell them, nothing. You come here to unwind,” says Imre Sooaar, proprietor of Pädaste Manor, the best country house hotel in Estonia. But, in fact, the fishing village of Koguva makes a fascinating outing—for its traditional wooden architecture, museum of rural life, and timeless preindustrial aura—as does the fortress and spa town of Kuressaare, on the neighboring island of Saaremaa. As for Pädaste Manor, it is a grand estate of fieldstone buildings on the edge of the Baltic that was previously the seat of the noble German Buxhoveden family. The Estonian president recently hosted the queen of Denmark there, and it’s popular not only with the expatriate community in Tallinn, the country’s capital (three hours northeast), but with Brits, Germans, Finns, and Swedes, who appreciate the sincere hospitality and tranquil woodland setting. Occupying a restored stable and a former cheese factory, the hotel’s 13 rooms are attractively furnished with antiques, feather-filled comforters, and hand-embroidered coverlets. There’s also a wood-heated sauna with a view of the sea and a Turkish steam room; across the lawn, the former blacksmith’s shop has been transformed into a restaurant that surprises with tasty New Estonian cooking. Upstairs is an eight-seat movie theater (372-45-48-800; www.padaste.ee; doubles, $75–$110).
Swimming in the surprisingly warm Baltic, horseback riding, boating, and a variety of other activities are also possible. But, indeed, nothing beats sitting under one of the huge beech trees with a book, watching the constantly changing light in the northern sky.
Published in September 2002.
Prices or other information may have since changed.