Friday, January 16, 2009

A Magical Estonian Retreat

As soon as I set foot on the property, I knew that a one-night stay wouldn’t be enough. All week as I traveled through Estonia, the weather couldn’t be bleaker. Yet, though the cloud cover remained and storm clouds hovered on the horizon, the Nami Namaste property conveyed an air of sunshine.

The name that literally means "yummy, welcome to my heart" just about sums up my visit to Nami Namaste, a country inn on the small Estonian island of Muhu. Owner Sikke Sumari, who once owned a cooking school in Finland, told me that she found this enticing property under somewhat magical circumstances: Seeing the property for the first time and still undecided, Sikke noticed that the black tulips bent in the direction of what would become the main house. The magic continues with her property that entices all the senses. She walked me through the aromatic herb garden that grows lavender, sage and oregano that are used in the inn's recipes. Most everything is locally sourced, including the meats and eggs, with many of the vegetables, from parsnips to onions, also coming from her property. Snuggled amidst the lush foliage incongruously stands a Tuscan stone pizza oven. I found out that Italian chef Davide Alberoni built it and now presides over the kitchen, dishing up tasty recipes derived from his hometown region, Abruzzo, and other parts of Italy, with a hint of Asia for a more international flavor. (Like Sikke, he couldn’t be friendlier and more welcoming. If my Italian was more proficient, it would’ve been fun to practice with him.)

This 18th century fisherman's farm is outfitted with an outdoor hot tub that sits under age-old apple trees, a white-on-white presidential suite that has hosted the president of Estonia, and a sauna that's housed in a former blacksmith's shop. This is truly a place to spend at least a few days relaxing in the garden and taking day trips around the woodsy, placid island.

Sikke is very much into a "back to basics" mode, whether it means having guests learn how to make pasta in one of her cooking classes or relaxing in the former barn, now a lounge, beside a lovely stone fireplace. She’s the model hostess, providing me with a thick blanket and warm wool socks to snuggle up with while I listened to jazz and browsed the design magazines stacked on the tables.

While on Muhu Island, we drove roads that wend past dense woods and paths leading to limestone cliffs. In Kogura Village, that preserves buildings dating to the 1500s, former farm buildings that once belonged to the family of Juhun Smuul, a noted writer, were transformed into an open-air museum. Here you can see the old school house, as well as a contemporary art gallery exhibiting works by local artists and an ethnographic museum displaying traditional clothing and other textiles.

I plan on returning Nami Namaste for a weekend of cooking classes with time to check out the horseback riding, bicycling and canoeing in the area.


Anonymous said...

Nami Namaste="yummy, welcome to my heart"


J The Travel Authority said...

Yes, I can't wait to return to this spot and spend a lot more time enjoying the property and the surrounding area.