The earliest signs of human settlement dating back to the 3rd-5th centuries AD have been found on the present theatre hill. Probably to protect that settlement, a wooden stronghold was built on the present Vallimägi. When it changed owners in 1220, the Danes started to erect buildings from stone. A settlement called Tarvanpea was first mentioned in the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia in 1226. The new Danish stronghold was called Wesenbergh in Middle Low German for the first time in 1252. The Battle of Rakovor between the Danish and German knights and Russians occurred nearby in 18. February 1268.
On 12 June 1302, Rakvere was granted Lübeck rights. When the Danish king sold Danish Estonia to the Livonian Order in 1346, a large castle was built on top of the previous stronghold. The Ordensburg was protected by towers and courtyards. The building of a Franciscan monastery was started in 1508.
During the Livonian War from 1558-1581, Rakvere was under Russian rule and was heavily damaged. Sweden ruled over the town briefly before it passed to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1602; Poles destroyed the castle in 1605. After being returned to Swedish control in that year, a mansion was built on the ruins of the monastery. During the Great Northern War, Rakvere was burned down in 1703. With the Treaty of Nystad, Rakvere passed to the Russian Empire, where it remained until Estonia's independence in 1918 following World War.
At the moment, there are around 17.000 people living in Rakvere, which makes it quite a big town for Estonia. It is among the ten biggest urban areas in Estonia.
Tourists will probably first notice the mighty knight's castle of Rakvere. It is an ideal destination for families with children who want to spend a nice day out.
The maze of tiny corridors and numerous medieval attractions make the castle area particularly exiting for children. Archery and a gunshot for every birthday child transform the castle into a historic playground.
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Rakvere! Of all the places in Estonia, this small town, my old home town, is the closest to my heart. I am sure you will understand this, because I spent the first ten years of my life in Rakvere, and although I have no ties with this town anymore, every time I return there I feel a sense of excitement. On arriving in Rakvere I always go past the house in which I lived with my parents. The next place I pass is my father's old office in the County Administration Hall. Then the theatre, the stronghold on the hill and my favourite place - the Rahvaaed (National Park). I remember all my childhood friends, who all must be somewhere in the world, but I have heard no word from them in many, many years.
A lot has changed, however, and many new houses have been built and one can hardly recognise our old haunts where we used to play. Where are all my friends? Do they also remember those good old days, when the grass was green and the sky was blue?
My old home cannot be very proud of its appearance, even tens of years ago it was not the most attractive of buildings, but now it seems to be in a much worse condition. Do some people hate their homes?
The front door, which I have opened and closed so many times ...
.... and the door to our flat, which offered me the feeling of security when I closed this behind me, and the new interesting expericences before me when I opened the door to go out. Now other hands are opening and closing those doors.
The home of my best friend (Vello), which has not changed at all. This yard was a very nice place to play and the currant bushes were so full of sweet berries!
My father's work place, the County Administration building has got a new nice look. I have been to this place many times, visiting my father at his office.
An old park, called Rahvaaed (National Park), has changed too, but in a good way. Due to its well-kept tidiness it can easily be compared with bigger parks in Estonia. The ducks and three swans on the ponds are new inhabitants. Does every spring still see the park lawns covered with an huge carpet of Pot Bluebells?
Here, behind the theatre there was a gentle slope, where we had our first experience of skiing, and where in the summer we, with excitement, watched open-air performances.
The source from which we used to drink, even though we weren't thirsty, and which is framed now by solid limestone.
An old friend of mine still remains, which reminds me of the good old days - the table of an old mill stone - only its stand seems to be new.
The thick undergrowth still covers the banks of the pond. Does anyone still make caves and hideouts in it?
At the top of Vallimagi there are ruins of an ancient stronghold amongst which we used to play. The whole place has been changed completely. It is good that Rakvere has got a new life and a better appearance.
On the edge of Vallimagi, where we boys used to climb up a path made by ourselves, a huge statue of an ancient aurochs has been erected. It has caused a lot of dispute although it is difficult for me to have an opinion on this. The old name of Rakvere - Wesenbergh in German means The Head of the Aurochs, and was mentioned as early as 1226. On the other hand I'd prefer a more modest design, and maybe for this reason this giant seems to be an unaccustomed foreign entity. As a statue it is perfect.
The next walk takes us to my old school. On the way we pass the old smithy where we boys often watched the blacksmith working, from a respectful distance of course. Memories of this old and small workshop are strong, and every time I hear someone talking about a smithy I see in my mind's eye just this very same attractive building.
There is no long path to the school anymore. The street ends in front of my school.
In this modest two-storied wooden school house I had my first lessons under the care of our motherly teacher Gerda Lindma. I can recognise the windows of my classroom. I am sure the interior of the school has changed a lot. It is good to see that my first source of wisdom is in such a good condition. How many of my classmates are still around I wonder. Sixty years have gone by since I last saw them.
The photo taken against this wall is one of only a few photos I have of my time at school. Unfortunately I was ill that day.
Does anybody recognise themselves on this photo taken in 1949?
On one of the side streets leading to the railway station are many nice private houses. Some of them are new of course, but most of them are very well renovated.
An human who is used to living in noisy, busy Tallinn can appreciate the silence and peace of these streets.
Our first home was somewhere on here on Voidu Street.
Was this house the place where one of the two of Rakvere's cinemas was situated, and where I had my first experience of 'moving pictures'?
Now, back to the centre. The hotel on Tallinn Street is the same, where I lived for two days in 1967 being here on a duty assignment. Like most of the houses this one is in very good condition too.
New houses are without any architectural extravagances, unlike those that can be found too often in Tallinn.
Simple, straight lines, but very nice.
The central square is presentable and distinctive.
When the square was built the town administration was blamed for wasting money, but the result speaks for itself. The town got a new attractive sight.
The old market house is masterfully renovated.
I remember nostalgically that I have been in this house with my mother.
Somewhere here was my kindergarten, where I spent one summer, but can be wrong too.
There is quite a lot of greenery as well as water in Rakvere.
Rakvere does not belong on the list of big towns, but one cannot see everything of the town in one day. On this visit we did not have time to see a great deal, which must be corrected next time. We did not visit the Tammik (oak forest) or the cemetery where my grandmother is buried. We did not see the railway station where we got out of the bombed and burning train in 1944 just in time. We did not have the time nor the energy left to visit the museums. And finally we did not just amble along the streets with no destination in mind, just for fun... perhaps just for nostalgia's sake? Yes very much so! To me Rakvere is much more than my home town. It is part of me. A big part! Goodbye Rakvere and good luck inhabitants of my favourite town! We will meet again.