You Can Leave The Island

Over the past few days I have been working on the logistics of the Feast of Tabernacles with my mother, who really ought to have been a travel agent given the way that she can ferret out inexpensive flights. When we had originally thought to go to Estonia for the Feast, I had thought that the feast would be where it has been in the past, the city of Tartu, which is not far from the Russian border and allows for easy trips to St. Petersburg. As it happens, the feast will instead be held on the island of Saaremaa, which is just across the Irbe strait from Latvia. Although I had been a bit disappointed that the distance would make it hard to take a trip into Russia, my mother had apparently sleuthed out a very inexpensive flight to Tallinn that required changing planes each way in Moscow, which is a tricky airport for those who travel through it without a visa, as I will likely be doing. I was strongly discouraged from wandering around the airport and writing any blogs while I was in the airport so as to avoid creating an international incident. This seems like wise advice, and will be taken, as it will be far more enjoyable to blog either from Estonia when I arrive in Tallinn or from an airport stateside than to blog from a country that is unfriendly with the United States and not very friendly to loud-mouthed bloggers.

That aside, I was pleased to look up the island where the Feast will be held in Estonia. As is my habit, I quickly ordered more than half a dozen books, ranging from a Lonely Planet guide to the Baltic States to an Estonian folk tale to various histories of Estonia and her neighbors to a book about gardens that apparently included some gorgeous Estonian gardens to tour at one of the local libraries to add to my reading list. When I go to new places, after all, I tend to do a lot of reading to be mentally prepared. I also did some research of the island itself, finding it to be accessible to the mainland by ferry or a small regional airport except in the winter when it is accessible via a couple of ice roads (!) to the mainland portion of Estonia. There are plans for a possible causeway or tunnel to be built from Saaremaa to the mainland, but that will certainly not be done before the autumn. The island itself has some gorgeous sites, many of them related to its lengthy history as an outpost of Danish imperial control in the Baltic area [1], including a castle, an odd World War II memorial, the ruins of an airfield, and the ruins of an old ring fort dating back at least to Viking times, aside from a lot of gorgeous countryside and some old churches. It promises to be a pretty relaxing place, and a quiet one as well since the whole island only has 30,000 people, half of whom live in the provincial capital, the town of Kuressaare (formerly known as Arensburg in the history of the Baltic crusades). There are cliffs and meteorite craters as well which look promising for exploration.

One of the most striking things I found out the island is that it participates with a group of other islands, some of whom have been a part of other games [2] involving small states. Specifically, the island of Saaremaa plays in a biennial competition known as the Island Games, along with Aland, Alderney, Bermuda [3], the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands [4], the Faroe Islands, Froya, Gibraltar [5], Gotland, Greenland [6], Guernsey, Hitra, the Isle of Man, the Isle of Wight, Jersey, Minorca, the Orkney Islands, Rhodes, Saint Helena (famous for being Napoleon’s place of exile), Sark, the Shetland Islands [7], the Western Isles of Scotland, and Ynys Mon. A few island areas, namely Iceland [8], Malta, and Prince Edward Island [9]. While the Island games are played in odd years, and thus we will be unable to see them, from what I could gather Saaremaa is one of the more successful islands in the game, earning 77 gold medals, 86 silver medals, and 77 bronze medals since it began participation in the games in 1991 [10], the first games it was eligible to do so upon Estonia’s independence from the Soviet Union, which allowed Estonians on the island, as they had been prohibited from visiting for security reasons while Estonia was under Soviet domination and oppression [11]. To put that in perspective, Saaremaa’s 238 total medals in the Island games puts it at 9th place overall, between Bermuda and the Cayman Islands in terms of overall success. I wonder why none of America’s islands, like Key West or Kodiak Island or Kauai, to give a few examples, have ever participated in the Island Games.

So, it is unclear exactly what activities are planned for the Feast of Tabernacles. Will it be a restful feast full of fellowship and food? Will there be tours of the obscure but lovely natural and historical sites to be found on the island, or will there be trips to other areas nearby by bus or ferry? That remains unclear. It is clear, though, that the festival location in Estonia this year, even if it is a late feat and likely to be a cold one, is in a beautiful area that has a long history and is full of many places of interest. That is enough, even with the danger of creating an unintentional international incident in Russia, to make it an adventuresome feast that is simultaneously restful and peaceful. That sounds like a good combination to me, especially as it can be done with a reasonable place. There are few times where one can go to obscure and lovely places at low cost, and such occasions are to be taken advantage of. Here’s hoping this is a good opportunity to spend the feast traveling with my folks, something I have not done in quite some time. It just means that more logistics planning has to be done, to work out flight arrangements, to take off suitable amounts of time from work, and to work on all the other details like hotels and service in church and so on an so forth, the sort of work that is often enjoyable to do.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:


[4] See, for example:


[6] See, for example:


[8] See, for example:




About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to You Can Leave The Island

  1. Pingback: Book Review: A History Of The Baltic States | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Culture Smart!: Estonia: A Quick Guide To Customs And Etiquette | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: The Rough Guide To Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: A City For People Who Hate Cities | Edge Induced Cohesion

  5. Pingback: Book Review: Atlas Of Remote Islands | Edge Induced Cohesion

  6. Pingback: Whatever You Call Me, Don’t Call Me Late For Supper | Edge Induced Cohesion

  7. Pingback: Exploring Saaremaa | Edge Induced Cohesion

  8. Pingback: Exploring Kuressaare (Arensburg) Castle | Edge Induced Cohesion

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