October 2023

After the bridge workshop in Riga finished, we left with very mixed feelings as the little news we received from Israel became more worrying and frightening. But there were no planes flying to Israel so we had to continue with our original holiday itinerary and flew to Estonia. This was our second visit to Estonia. We had previously visited in November 2017.

On our first evening we had dinner at Goodwin’s, a steak restaurant we had enjoyed on our last trip to Tallinn. The next morning we wandered around the delightfully picturesque old town and could photograph the statue of the bull sitting on the bench in front of Goodwin’s restaurant, this time with Eitan only.
It was cold and rainy. Because we had not thought to take our umbrellas with us we bought two more – adding to our collection of ten back home.


We really didn’t feel like touring but in the evening we were pleased to meet Heini and Tina Drue, our Estonian cousins. Heini is Doreen's second cousin.They took us to Harg, a Michelin Guide restaurant right around the corner from our hotel. The food was delicious and the company excellent while the conversation centered around catching up on our respective families.


The following morning they fetched us and together with Heini we took the train to Tartu, where Doreen's paternal grandmother Nessie was born and where much of my grandmother’s family had lived. Heini warned us that very little remained of the town before the War. We took a taxi to where the synagogue used to be; now a parking lot with an indoor water park dominating the square. We found the little sign recounting the history. On the other side of the road were apartment blocks, built by the Russians after the war, replacing the houses of the Jewish quarter. I could picture the wooden houses, each with a small area, perhaps with a chicken or two, a place for growing vegetables. The slanting roof of the house would have had a chimney piercing it with smoke rising up in the cold winters, when temperature could drop to below 20 degrees Celsius.


We walked along the Emajogi Rver while Heini recounted how his grandfather would take him fishing in his grandfather’s boat.

TartuTallinn bridge


We then went to town square, admiring the huge letters Tartu 2024,
because it will be the European cultural capital of the world next year.

After lunch we walked uphill to where Heini's grandparents and his father his and aunt Hanna lived in one room in the house in Lossi Street 34. Another aunt, Mussi Drue (see Schank family tree), studied piano at the music school opposite the house. She and her two sisters later emigrated to Israel and her brother Benjamin (Heini's father) remained in Estonia.

TartuTartumusic school

Our next stop was at the Estonian National Museum, devoted to Estonian everyday life. The most impressive part was a display of huge agricultural equipment prepared for an agricultural exhibition. 


The museum itself was mainly about Estonian history and culture.  Interesting to read that under Russian occupation blue jeans were a most sought after commodity, reflecting disdain for the Russians. What impressed Eitan most was that we each were given a language card. By placing it on the Estonian text next to a display, an English translation immediately appeared. There were other cards that translated the text into another six languages.  I found the text at a level more suited to children so we had to bend to read what was written. I found it disappointing.

Tartu  cemeterty

We then walked to the Jewish cemetery which should have been open, but wasn’t.
Fortunately the one side had a fence that we could look through,
but hopes of finding family names were impossible.

We all slept on the 2- hour train ride back to Tallinn.

The next morning we took a guided tour on the way back to Riga. It was cold and rainy and we really weren’t in the mood for touring. But we saw ruins of ancient castles from Crusader times and of ‘noble’ families in Viljandi. Something we are not familiar with.


We visited a military museum in Valga mainly devoted to the struggle by the Latvians and Estonians against the Russians. As we left Estonian Valga we crossed the road and entered Latvian Valka.In 1991 when independence from Russia was gained, borders between Latvia and Estonia were drawn, dividing the village into two, although passage between the two countries is quite open.

We drove to the Gauja National Park bordering the Gauja River. We walked along a trail bordered by tall pine trees and birch and some oaks. The path had many steps going up and down and past white sandstone outcrops, a major attraction, especially for those with an itch to carve their names and the date of their visit.


We drove to the Gauja National Park bordering the Gauja River.
We walked along a trail bordered by tall pine trees and birch and some oaks.
 The path had many steps going up and down and past white sandstone outcrops,
a major attraction, especially for those with an itch to carve their names and the date of their visit.

We visited Cesis for more castles and manors of the nobles. In the town we saw a shoe memorial, somewhat suggestive of the shoes on the Danube memorial in Budapest HungaryCesis’ 200-strong Jewish community was decimated in 1941- first by deportation by the Russians and then destruction by the Nazis. Today concrete replicas of modern shoes of people living in Cesis are neatly placed on the sidewalks next to houses where Jews had previously lived.


Stopping at Sigulda we were somewhat dismayed by the large walkway towering above us – oh no! More steps to climb. Sigulda is a bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track with an elevator to the top. There is also a smaller track for beginners. Happily the track was closed so we were not invited to try out our skills!

Arriving back in Riga we then had to find a way back to fly to Israel, which Eitan did. After leaving our hotel at midnight on Friday night we arrived back in Israel, via Athens and Larnaca early Saturday morning - a 21 hour trip. Flying to Ben Gurion airport entailed a long path over the West Bank. The plane was dark without the usual lights on. It was tense, especially as the pilot, after hearing that there had been sirens in Tel Aviv, assured us that the plane had plenty of fuel and could remain in the air as long as needed. But what if we were hit….?

Kol Hakoved to the crew who had to do this nerve wracking journey twice a day.

It was very good to be back home in spite of the terrible events.