It is an ice cold day: when we step outside the temperature is 17 degrees below freezing point, and it seems foolish to visit an open air museum. Yet, that is precisely our plan for the day. We take a bus from the city centre, which drops us off right at the entrance of the museum at Rocca al Mare. Even with all the layers we have dressed up in, we feel cold, and when we step inside the Sassi-Jaani farm, we are happy to find it warm and cosy. An old Estonian woman dressed up in traditional clothes welcomes us inside, shows us around the living room which looks just like it must have a long time ago. We make sure to close the door properly before leaving the house with its sturdy wooden beams, and step into the biting cold again.
Not all buildings are open in winter, and we walk towards the west, passing some closed farm houses and a windmill, before arriving at Seto farm. It sits in an opening in the forest, and is an extensive building made of fair brown coloured wood. Inside, we have to put a plastic bag over our shoes, and then explore the house. We notice again how clever the big fireplace is made: it is a big stove on which pots are heating up, but also has openings to other areas of the house. Next door, we step inside the Russian house of Peipus, which was actually taken from Kallaste, a town on the western shore of Lake Peipus. Another lady in traditional clothes tries to keep her goats inside: we can just prevent them from running out. We are herded into a small room which turns out to be a mini-cinema, and watch movie about the Old Russian Believers who fled from Russia in the 18th century.
We are close to the shore, and walk to the wooden net sheds to get a better view. Ice is floating on the water and has covered the beach, and I cannot resist the temptation to walk down for a closer look. In the distance, strange shaped clouds are hanging over the peaceful sea. From the sheds, we walk past more farms which are closed to a windmill, and then up, over a frozen pond, to a row of wooden windmills, before continuing east. Crossing a pond with the Kahala watermill, we reach the Orgmeta fire station and Kuie school buildling, visit the Lau village shop which looks like nothing changed in more than a century, and the Swiss Villa and the Sutlepa chapel, a small wooden church building which unfortunately is closed. Walking down the lane to the entrance, we pass by some more large wooden buildings, one of which is Kolu Inn. Even though visiting in winter inevitably means you will be cold, it does give a good impression of traditional life in Estonia: after all, winters here are severe, and part of life.
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