Saturday, July 15, 2017

Amazing Estonia: Overnight Trip to Tartu

Beautiful Estonia!!

We also spent a couple days in Tartu, a hopping university town a couple hours south of Tallinn. We wanted to see the Estonian National Museum and also we just wanted to see a little more of this country besides the national capital. I'm so glad we did. Tartu is a beautiful small city, bustling with university presence, and we just happened to be there for Kid's Day, and the whole city center was full of kiddos of all ages having fun at about 1000 different activity stations that had been set up. It was quite grand. 

Hotel Lydia breakfast delights

We stayed at a kind of swank hotel called Hotel Lydia. We were only staying one night, and we decided to splurge. What fun! It was a really gorgeous hotel, right in the center of town. The staff was super helpful and helped us think of a bunch of restaurants that would have good vegan and non-vegan options. The hotel even had a beautiful spa downstairs. Mr VE&T went to the spa for about an hour, and were the only people there. Heck yeah! We pretended we were fancy people! 

Hotel Lydia has a huge breakfast buffet, the vast majority of which is decidedly not vegan. I was able to get soy milk for my muesli, and had bread with jam, fruit, and a few little veggies. They also made me a soy cappuccino, which was excellent. I love a breakfast buffet, even when there are just a few vegan choices, it still makes me happy. I am a breakfast fan forever. 

feeling fancy after a little time in the hotel spa!

Directly across the street from our hotel was the restaurant that we decided to eat at for dinner: Umb Roht. Wowsers. It was really good. They always have a vegan option on the menu. My mom and I both ordered the Broccoli / Crispy Kale / Snap Peas / Pine Seeds. It was very lovely - light, but very well seasoned and not insubstantial. The broccos were cooked perfectly and the kale was salty and roasted into kale chips... which made for a nice balance of textures and sweeter/saltier.  

Oh ho!
On the way out of Umb Roht, I noticed a poster advertising an all-vegan even they had coming up about 10 days after we would be there. I would have loved that, but even though we missed it, I loved that a non-vegan restaurant was interested in vegan food, and had enough respect for vegan cuisine that they would create a whole event around it. So cool. I felt like we had this experience at so many restaurants in Estonia, and I wish we had more of that where I live, here in California!! Major points for Estonia! 

More vegan options in Tartu

We only spent one night in Tartu, so I didn't have time to check out all the vegan spots that I'd found on instagram and that the people at our hotel recommended to us. Pahupidi (all vegan and gf!!), Kohvik Krempel, and Sade all had vegan options, and just walking down the street we also saw "vegan pitsa" (aka "pizza") at this spot Ruuni Pizza. I mean, really. A vegan in Tartu will be just fine. There's also a BioMarket (natural foods store with lots of vegan options) right in the city center.

We also made our way over to a very cool spot -- a "Creative City." This large building was a Soviet "widget factory" where all sorts of things were made: from zippers to submarine parts. Check out a link here for a little more info. Today it has been turned into a totally thriving community for cafes, a used book store, a printing museum, gallery space, a courtyard for flea markets and concerts, and workspaces for artists, designers, and others. It is SO COOL. The interior of the whole building was chic, edgy, super hip, and felt like it was bursting at the seams with creative energy.

In that building is a restaurant called Aparaat. For lunch time (when we were there) they have just two items on the menu: meat of the day or vegan dish of the day. The prices are extremely reasonable (I think my lunch was 5 Euro?). My dish was a rice noodles with veggies stir fry, served with a veggie cutlet, portabello mushroom, and a vegan cream sauce. So creative and interesting and unlike anything else I've had. 

For dinner, they have quite an extensive menu, including a whole lot of vegan options across the menu (appetizers, entrees, desserts...). Heck, yeah! 

Top two pictures: Estonian National Museum, outside of Tartu
Bottom two pictures: KUMU Estonian Art Museum, in Tallinn
(click here to see my post about our time in Tallinn! 

This isn't a food suggestion, but if you make it to Estonia, I really recommend the Estonian National Museum near Tartu. What a gorgeous, compelling, and incredible collection and display. This was probably the most engaging museum I've ever been too. All four of us ended up wandering at our own paces, in our own directions, for HOURS. Cultural artifacts, archeological displays, arts and crafts, meaningful object submitted directly from Estonian citizens, personal stories, political history, linguistic displays, and so on. SO much to see and learn and explore. It's also architecturally stunning. I would love to go back. At dinner that night, we were comparing notes, and we had all seen different things, been moved by different exhibits. It was truly remarkable. 

discussing the museum over dinner

a few Estonian Goodies that I kept for myself

I brought home several nice gifties for my friends and family from Estonia, and of course I bought myself some neat things too. I got a very cool Estonian tee-shirt (using up-cycled fabrics, made by an Estonian designer!), and the neat things you see here:
A beautiful little floral table runner on linen
Sporty socks featuring Estonian designs & by the Estonian sock company Etno
Sea Buckthorn fruit gums
Sea Buckthorn flour (!?)
Spruce tip powder (!?)

In hindsight, I wish I had picked up even more special things and food treats while there. Maybe I will find an Estonian vegan pal who wants to do a California-Estonia swap in the mail! In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for what to do with my two impulse purchases: Sea Buckthorn Flour and Spruce Tip Powder, I am all ears!! 

I'm sure you can tell, but I am officially a #1 fan of Estonia now, and I have been telling anyone who will listen all about it - and encouraging them to travel there as well. There is so much more that I would love to see, other cities, rural areas, the islands, cultural festivals... and on and on. I really hope to go back again someday. Until then, I'll put on my Estonian socks and dream about it. 


  1. So much fun! I can't wait to see what you make we the fancy powders... particularly the spruce powder. I saw someone using fresh spruce in Masterchef here recently and they made an infused oil, but with powder you would have a lot more options!

    1. yes! I feel like I can make something fancy and special - I kinda want to try something desserty with the spruce powder.

  2. Well now I have to visit Tartu as well! The museum sounds wonderful and I'm very impressed with the amount of vegan options you spotted.

    1. Jojo -- you've got to get to Estonia! I'd also really like to see Parnu (a seaside town) and the two big islands in Estonia. There is so much to see. I really want to go back.

  3. I'm not Estonian but I live in northern Sweden and can be your penpal and send you seabuckthorn products! :)

    1. LakkaLakka!! YES! I totally would love to do a northern Sweden & California care package swap! What a fun idea!! Seabuckthorn and licorice and other Swedish goodies. I love that!


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