TALLINN - If you're looking for entertainment in Estonia this summer, you are really spoiled for choice. Festivals and events dedicated to the consumption of beer are a lot of fun, but if you want to get the true feel of the country, you need something a little more ethnic. Like a town fair.
Just as July becomes August, the seaside town of Haapsalu will host a grand spectacle of rural Estonian entertainment. The White Lady Days is a summer celebration filled with amusement for all the family. Held in and around the remains of the Teutonic-knights-era castles, the fair combines enchanting medieval legends with modern countryside charm to create a comprehensive experience of Estonia beyond the big cities.
But the legend of the White Lady of Haapsalu, which is at the heart of the festival, is perhaps the most famous tall tale of the many that are so abundant in Estonia's folklore.
It is the story of a poor girl who falls in love with the son of the village elder, and disguises herself as a choirboy in order to sneak into the castle. But, alas, the lord of the manor's son discovers the deception. He is overcome by jealous rage and orders his men to seal the girl inside the thick stone walls while still alive. Turned into an incarnation of undying love, the White Lady now appears every August, on the night of the full moon, in the Dome Church chapel window.
Haapsalu is seven-and-a- quarter centuries old this year, and the townsfolk intend to make it a celebration to remember. The annual dance and light show dedicated to the Lady alone involves over 100 performers - and you'll have several chances to catch it over the four days of the event. Musical shows, dances and contests of strength and skill will be held all over town.
You can marvel at the acoustics of the Dome Church where classical music will be played each night at midnight, or see the Horns&Tail band and friends come out in the daylight to offer you their ethnic rock show. The Town Council will be holding a public meeting in the open air on July 30, or you can go and see the world line dancing champion give a few pointers to would-be cowboys.
Of course, you can always forget the fair and just take a stroll through the lush and beautiful streets of Haapsalu. Explore the castles, enjoy the historic railway station or have a meal at the waterfront restaurant - and leave with a better idea of Estonia than any whirlwind bus tour could ever provide. o
White Lady Days -
Haapsalu town fair
July 29 - Aug. 1
See www.haapsalu.ee for event guide and accommodation