The history of Paali Cottages made up for the lack of creature comforts

By October 20, 2019Estonia, Europe

Many people would not like to stay in a place like this because it truly was a cottage from the 1920’s and was just one room with a fireplace breaking it up. The bathroom was outside and basically an outhouse. But what the cottage lacked in comforts it more than made up for in history, which the owner spent two hours showing me.

Turns out this cottage is part of much bigger manor that began in the 15th century. Unfortunately the Soviets tore down the original house, but he did show me the cellar that still exists. It was a separate room buried under ground and in olden time they would bring in large blocks of ice from the nearby sea in the late winter and cover the floor with them. This place was so well insulated the ice was still there through the summer and into fall, meaning they had a refrigerator all year long. How cool is that?

After the manor fell on hard times the lands and building were divided up and given to different families. The family that owned the one I stayed in had eight people in that little cottage. When the Soviets arrived in the mid 40’s this family owned a bicycle and radio. Apparently that was deemed to be too much and they were against communism, shipped off to Siberia, and have never been heard from again. That is how bad Soviet rule was, just letting you know.

By the time the Soviet Union fell and Estonia regained their independence the entire former manor property was in the hands of the government, which needed to raise funds to help recover from the occupation. The owner, who is Finnish, happen to be visiting Saaremaa Island (before that the Soviet military had it locked down pretty good) and the new government basically begged him to turn in a sealed bid for the manor. He was only in his 30’s at that time, not looking for property, and the manor was in such a dilapidated state he could not even see what was there. He did not really want to turn in a bid but promised he would, so he gave one of 18,000 euros (all the money he could afford to lose) and expected nothing to happen.

As you know his bid won, so he started whacking away the grass that was so tall you could not see over it. It turns out his 18K euros bought a descent amount of land, the cellar, and 4-6 buildings from cottages up to large houses. The problem was that each of them was falling apart and he had to start by repairing all the roofs to stop the decay any more. If you have ever refurbished a house you know what this poor guy was in for, but he had to do it 4-6 times over.

He is not completely there yet, but he is doing a great job restoring this manor. Like I said, the history of this place was great. Even though I was pressed for time to see the rest of the island and catch a ferry, I could not help but continue to listen to his story. It was that fascinating!!!!

The owner showing me the 15th century cellar

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