Friday, July 21, 2006

A perfect holiday & a nostalgic hunt for wild strawberries

Once again, I'm back in Edinburgh. I had a lovely weekend in Stockholm - starting with a very sweet surprise, and then spent some wonderful days back home in Estonia in the company of my family and friends. The only downside is that it will be at least another six weeks before I'll go to Estonia again!

I will tell you all about the delicious wedding lunch in Stockholm (and that unexpected surprise from a fellow food blogger) soon, as well as about my first dinner at Stenhus (a restaurant based in the cellar of a 13th century building; voted the Best Gourmet Restaurant in Estonia last year), some lovely dishes that were lovingly prepared for me, as well as about my hunt for cloudberries in Estonian bogs. But I start with some pictures from Paluküla, a sleepy village in Rapla parish in Estonia. My mum was born and raised in Paluküla, and I mentioned that place when sharing my childhood food memories with you almost a year ago. As kids, we (me and my numerous cousins) used to spend several weeks in Paluküla each summer with my grandparents, but I hadn't been back for almost a decade for various reasons (the main one being that the house that I remember from my childhood sadly burned down in early 1990s).

When meeting K. for a glass (or maybe two) of mulled wine in Kehrwieder café around Christmas last year, it emerged that his childhood summers were spent in a nearby village just 5 kilometres from Paluküla, in a farmhouse aquired by his great-grandparents. Quite a coincidence, eh:) In any case, I spent last weekend near Paluküla, re-visiting my old haunts and relatives, and picking wild strawberries in Paluküla once again. Paluküla is a rather tranquil place, yet many Estonians have heard of the place. It is the location of Paluküla Hiiemägi, or the Sacred Hill of Paluküla that is considered a sanctuary place for Estonian pagan/nature believers. The hill is 106 metres from sea level at its highest - not much on a global scale, I know, but it's the highest point of north-west Estonia:) And it is definitely noticeable on the photo:

Picking wild strawberries is a job demanding full attention - as you can see from the picture here. Strawberries are hidden under grass and leaves, so one needs to look hard for them. Yet, the berries are definitely worth it - popping some wild strawberries into your mouth results in the one of the loveliest and sweetest summery taste sensation imaginable!
(My bright red top is to make sure I won't get lost in my childhood forests and to make it more difficult for mosquitos, horse-flies and other annoying biting insects to reach my skin (it almost worked!), though I couldn't avoid being stung by stinging nettles over and over again!)

Between three of us we ended up with almost a litre of wild strawberries, which wasn't bad at all, considering that it had been scorchingly hot and dry in Estonia for weeks, and many of the wild strawberries were, well, dried up.. As for eating, well, then the best way to enjoy wild strawberries on a Sunday morning is obviously simply sprinkled with sugar on some crepe-style pancakes made with super-organic and fresh eggs from the farm across the road:

I also took a small glass of wild strawberries - metsmaasikad - to my mum and one of her sisters. Apparently they smelled exactly like strawberries from their childhood - literally:) - and were much appreciated. It is true - though you can buy wild strawberries from the market, they do taste so much nicer when picked by yourself in a good company in a place that used to play such an important role in your past..

I also managed to find some cloudberries on that very day in a nearby bog, but that is another story:)


Ilva said...

Pille, I'm happy you are back, I have missed you!

Thredahlia said...

Nii toredad elamused! Lapsepõlveradadel käimine annab sooja tunde.
Metsmaasikas on vist ainuke, kes tänavutalvise pakase ja praeguse põua välja on kannatanud. Mustikat-vaarikat pole lootagi. Aga metsas käimine annab hea tuju kas või tühja ämbriga ja õnneks on vanaema mustikamoosi mõni liiter eelmisest aastast veel alles.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like a wonderful holiday, Pille! The pictures are great and I would love to taste that pancake! :-)

Clivia said...

Welcome back! Lovely weather in the Baltics last week... And actually I have once, in 1992 I think, spent a couple of days in a summer house in Kehtna. My home town cooperates with Rapla and it was some youth exchange.

Anonymous said...

So glad to have you back Pille! Can't wait to read all the stories!

Thank you for posting this wild strawberries... i've never seen one before.

Valentina said...

What a lovely post Pille.I love reading your posts. Estonia is a place that I really want to visit. Maybe I will ask you for tips when the trip is booked.
Cloudberries..what are they exactly?

Anonymous said...

how i miss wild strawberries! my parents used to have them at their weekend house and i loved picking them... the best thing about them is that they allow more than one harvest a summer, so the pleasure goes on and on and on!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Pille - glad you had a wonderful time, eveything looks beautiful. wish we could get wild strawberris here...

Anonymous said...

Very nice! I look forward to reading more of your news. And about the cloudberries, too! ;-)


Anonymous said...

i am reading the last few entries i had missed and i feel like i am in my favourite market, i want to grab everything!

Pille said...

Ilva - thank you for your kind words! I missed reading your and other blogs, too, though it was also good to be away from the PC for a few days:)

Thredahlia - nagu nägid, siis õnnestus meil ka mõned murakad leida. Vähe siiski. Aga lapsepõlveradu oli tore külastada tõesti, eriti nii meeldiva kaaslasega, nagu mina seda tegin:)

Dagmar - K's mum said that the pancakes were made to her mother's secret pancake recipe. Need to write that down:) Though I think any pancake becomes irresistible when served with wild strawberries, with a couple of cloudberries thrown in.

Clivia - that sounds cool! We cycled for 4 hours on Sunday near Paluküla and Lelle and Keava, and passed through Kehtna. It's a small world indeed!

Mae - I think picking and eating wild strawberries (and wild raspberries and cloudberries and blueberries) should be on the list of "50 things to do before I die"!

Valentina - Estonia is definitely worth a visit, and as of October this year, I can always act as your local tour guide:) I've posted some pictures of cloudberries now - have a look!

Johanna - you're right! I was worried it might be too late for these equisite berries, but there were plenty. Lucky me:)

Keiko - aren't there any wild strawberries in England? You're always welcome to join me on forageing trip in Estonia:)

Paz - I have such a backlog of stories & recipes to tell!!! But at least I can tick off the cloudberry post now:)

Stevi - not sure you'll be able to find wild strawberries and cloudberries at Athens market, but feel free to grab them virtually from my blog:)