Ilmar at the gate of the Kaasiku country house
We felt actively part of the village community, first of all with the family who owned the Kaasiku country house who spent all their days off there. Ilmar and his wife Marta were very hospitable and often their house was just like a guesthouse. Ilmar's circle of friends was very wide, not only in Tallinn, but also among the local people in the village.
The next company has arrived
I was a daily guest there too. Because of my profession I could offer my help to Ilmar. Very often there were birthday parties and other gatherings at their house, the largest of which was on Midsummer Day when I had the chance to perform my 'party piece' as an amateur illusionist.
Me & Ilmar
How good my performance was I'll let my audience speak for themselves but I myself was very satisfied. Ilmar, of course entertained us with his singing, his repertoire was very impressive as he could sing arias from many different operatic works as well as national songs and lyrical ballads. I regret that I didn't record his songs when I had the chance.
Another place we often visited was our neighbour's home, the Vanatoa country house, which was one of the three houses where the owners lived all year round.
Helmi (on the right) & Juta
Helmi was very friendly to us. Before we had a washroom we went there every Saturday evening to take a bath in a real smoke sauna. Most people have never had such an experience and as smoke saunas are so rare I'll explain a little about this. The very old building was situated on the bank of the narrow river. It was a low wood-beam building.
There were two rooms inside, the first room was used as a dressing room, cold, without any kind of heating. The other room was the sauna itself and was quite a big room, about 4x4 meters. In the corner was a fireplace, built of limestone. The vaporizing furnace was covered with stones which were heated by firewood. Since this furnace was very big, it took about 4 hours to heat up, but it retained its heat even on the second day. There was no chimney in the room, the smoke billowed out through an opening in the wall and through the door which was open when heated. The ceiling was covered with a very thick layer of soot. Near the fireplace there was a seating area with two steps leading up to it. When sitting there, water was ladled onto the hot rocks which caused steam to fill the whole room. A bath whisk of birch leaves
was used by bathers to whip themselves. The whip was put into water first and then heated on the hot rocks of the furnace and then people began to beat themselves. Quite hard sometimes. The best whips were made before the Midsummer Day 24-th of June. Not everyone was able to make good whips. Once I saw a Finnish man making them and they were masterpieces. The people using the sauna would after a while then jump into the river. This would be repeated three or four times depending on one's endurance. The temperature in the sauna was usually 80-90 degrees Celsius(180F). It sounds like it was self-torture, but it was not at all. Afterwards one's skin felt as smooth as a baby's! The old Estonian proverb says: there are no illnesses in the world that the sauna can't help.
If our garden looked like a flower bed then the garden of the Vanatoa house seemed like paradise due to the river that crossed the garden.
We got all our potatoes from the owner, also other vegetables, milk and eggs. The milk was like cream -5.5%. We helped her to dig up the potatoes every Autumn and as in Kaasiku I did all the electrical installation work too.
The Vanatoa country house's next-door neighbour was the Tonupere's house. The owner, Mart, was well-known for his wood carvings, he was self-taught and was a so-called 'amateur artist' and because of this he hadn't the opportunity to advertise his art. The ground floor of his two-storied house was full of furniture he'd carved from tree trunks. Above the carved table was a big lamp hanging from the ceiling.
A fragment of the lamp
Mart showing his works. Look at the lamp above the table.
There were other villagers of course but we were not in so much contact with them. Over the river was Tanatse's house, the owner, Teele was one of the indigenous villagers. Next-door was my friend, Ilmar's, Kaasiku house, then Suurejaagu, Sepa and then at the end the Pollutaguse house. They all belonged to people living in Tallinn who spent their holidays at these summerhouses.
So, after a period of 25 years our house had, of course, changed, but then so had we. A quarter of a century does not go by without showing its marks. Maybe we could go on keeping the summerhouse, but changed circumstances unfortunately made us have to leave it. We sold our dear summerhouse, the place which had been the second home to us for such a long time. We did this with heavy hearts. Juta had tears in her eyes and I was sad too. A lot of us, our thoughts, our labour of love, remained there. Even now, 15 years later we can picture, in our minds' eyes, the garden blooming, our arable land cleared with such hard work and the forest down to every bush.
* * *
In September 2003 we decided to visit the Kobru village once more to see our dearest places. This time we had our new family member with us, our little dog Passu. We chose a working day to go there, to be alone with our thoughts. The road was so familiar to us in all its detail.
The path leading up to our summerhouse greeted us with its very tall fir trees. It seemed unbelievable that years ago I had dug them up from the forest and transplanted them with my own hands. There, where the small trees edged the path - now big trees covered the gate! The gate could hardly be seen through the trees.
The house and shed looked almost the same but the garden had changed. Instead of the arable land, there was a seating area with a plastic sculpture.
The little pond was filled-in. Only big bushes around this place remained. Instead of flowers there was emptiness. The rockery we took so much care of had disappeared. The lawn was freshly cut, which lifted our disappointment a little. It was sad to stand in front of the door which had so many times opened to let us in. Now it stayed closed as if telling us that we had nothing to do with the place anymore. And we really had not. We looked around and then retreated. Before we left I embraced the birches which I had planted. We had no intention to return soon.
We visited other houses too. The small village was quiet and we did not meet anyone. There was nobody to meet anymore.
The owner of Vanatoa, Helmi and my friend, Ilmar, had died, other people in Tallinn. But, it was our decision to be alone. We walked in silence along the path where we had walked hundreds of times, looking at the empty houses and autumnal forest where the leaves of birches and maples had turned to yellow. Twenty five years, a quarter of a century, we had spent here with our joys and sorrows, with our work and satisfaction, which we always felt on arriving at our second home. This was all now in the distant past that we could never get back. But, nevertheless, without all this we would have been much poorer. Nice memories of the time will always stay in our thoughts.