go to content go to search box go to global site navigation

Introducing Setomaa

The pretty town of Värska is known for its rich mineral water, sold throughout Estonia, and its healing mud. There's plenty of rural charm here, including a picturesque stone church and a leafy cemetery surrounding it. The best reason for coming here is the Setu Farm Museum (Setu Talu Muuseum; 505 4673; adult/concession 20/10Kr; 10am-5pm May-Sep, 10am-4pm Tue-Sun Oct-Apr) on the south edge of town. Presided over by a wooden carving of Peko, the museum comprises a re-created 19th-century farmhouse complex, with stables, granary and the former workshops for metalworking and ceramics. Don't bypass the charming restaurant here or the excellent gift shop - the region's best - selling handmade mittens, socks, hats, dolls, tapestries, books and recordings of traditional Setu music.

Võporzova and Tonja, a few kilometres north of Värska on the west side of Värska Bay, are classic Setu villages. In Võporzova there's a monument to folk singer Anne Vabarna, who knew 100,000 verses by heart. Võporzova homesteads typically consist of a ring of outer buildings around an inner yard, while Tonja's houses face the lake from which its people get their livelihood.

Traditional Setu holidays are still celebrated. The biggest feast of the year, Lady Day, falls on 28 August (though it is celebrated only in Pechory), close to which the Day of the Setu Kingdom is held. The Day of Setu Lace is 1 March and midsummer celebrations are held on 6 July in accordance with the Julian calendar. Värska also celebrates St George's Day(Jüripäev) in spring (6 May) and winter (9 December).

Other exotic features of this area are the borders. There are only a few official border crossing points with Russia, the rest are abandoned control points, or seemingly unguarded wooden fences, creepy dead ends or lonely plastic signs. One road, from Värska to Saatse even crosses the zigzagging border line into Russian territory for 2km. You're not allowed to stop on this stretch.

Near the tiny, ancient village of Podmotsa, northeast of Värska, a beautiful Orthodox church in the Russian village of Kulje is visible across the inlet - as is the border guard watchtower. Be aware that crossing the border at any nonofficial point (even if you have a Russian visa) is illegal and can lead to your arrest.