The Hendersons       Estonia and Robert's Birthday Party


2010 Trip to Eastern Europe and the Baltics

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Estonia and Robert's Birthday Party

July 31

Now to Estonia. This was a longish driving day and involved a ferry ride to the island Saaremaa and on to the town Kuressaare where Robert’s birthday celebration would be held on August 1.

    In line for the ferry

When we checked into the hotel we had a message from Robert inviting us to join the family and guests for dinner at the complex they had rented – we finally had a chance to meet three of Robert’s and Venetia’s children and Jane, the daughter of my cousin Miles and Liz Coverdale who live in Kenya – and Jane’s sweet daughter Anna. We also met some of Robert’s friends who had come to Estonia for the celebration – we had a lovely time until mosquitoes set in – they were very hungry!

    Dinner at Robert's

Interesting thing about being an American these days – at this time the world was still enthralled with Barack Obama (“The One”) while much of America had tired of him. I was very surprised at 1) how interested people were in Obama and 2) why they couldn’t understand why so many of us abhor the man. We found over the next few days that Obama was the topic of much conversation, and people were surprised that we did not like Obama.

August 1

We had the day to ourselves until the Big Party at the Bishop’s Castle, so we explored the town of Kuressaare as much as we could until I finally decided that the rash that had come on in Krakow was intolerable. So we had an ‘interesting cultural experience’ in an Estonian hospital emergency room.

We drove to the hospital and couldn’t tell where the front door was, so let ourselves in the nearest door. It turned out to be next to an acute care ward which had one patient – the hospital itself probably had 300-400 beds. The nurse/attendant showed us where the emergency room was – down a dark, unlit corridor through a virtually empty building.

The emergency room wasn’t marked at all – there were wooden benches outside the door and the patients sat in order of arrival. Occasionally someone would open the door to the emergency room and usher in the next patient. At last it was my turn.

The doctor sat at her desk, her nurse (?) at a facing desk, taking notes on her computer. I showed the doctor my rash, which by now was pretty ferocious. She had no clue what it was and I finally told her that I thought I needed an anti-biotic cream. She seemed to agree and called a colleague and described the symptoms The colleague apparently agreed. Meanwhile, the nurse was busily typing all of this into the medical record and very insistent that I make sure that I could pay.

The doctor did not do anything except look at the rash – no temperature, no blood pressure, no pulse. We were not in an examining room – just in the middle of the emergency room with other patients around. I’m glad I wasn’t there for a pelvic exam.

The doctor wrote up a prescription, the nurse gave me a bill and I left. We paid at a window near the main exit. In all, we saw about five staff members in various parts of this very large hospital. It was eerie because it was so empty!

The visit was cheap enough – maybe $50, I don’t remember, and the prescription was also inexpensive. I started using the cream, but the rash didn’t clear up for a full two weeks. Nine months later I still don’t know what brought this on.

The Party – and now for the reason for being here – the party at the Bishop’s Castle, which is in the center of Kuressaare. It is a lovely location – very medieval in appearance. Robert and Venetia had rented the entire place and the party was on the second floor of the old stone building.

    The Bishop's Castle

Below is what Robert and Venetia put together as a recap of the delightful event:

Summer trip to Kuressaare in 2010

   Bishop’s Castle Kuressaare

We all gathered in Kuressaare last summer to have a party. As a family we would like to thank all those who came and extend our commiserations to those who could not make it. We have set up a Flickr page in an effort to collect various photos. (Hover over web address Ctrl + Click to follow link)  You may like to take prints.

There was some planning. When we left Estonia the in summer 2009, we were talking about having a family get together in Holland. Our Estonian friends suggested Kuressaare. I had been in contact with family in Holland, and although they suggested we hire a canal boat, they said that they would prefer to go to Estonia. So we plumped for Estonia.

Having decided, we made a winter trip to Kuressaare, which was great fun and not too cold -20c. Our Estonian friends Eero and Terje Lapp were a great help and had thought about our plans. Their daughter Linda very kindly agreed to provide the live music. We were shown round a number of venues and agreed on the Bishop’s castle. We also chose caterers called Kaimo and Merit. They designed a menu of a mixture of Estonian dishes and we also chose to have smoked suckling pig. Venetia agreed to make the cake. It was muted that we could have a one gun salute, which I got very excited about but Venetia had reservations, as the bills were mounting.

We returned to Tallinn by bus crossing by ferry from Saaremaa to the mainland, the ferry breaking a path through the ice. A few weeks later in February and we could have crossed the sea by car when they opened the ice road. We took back two litres of Saaremaa Vodka which we kept in the deepfreeze and had it with dark chocolate last thing at night.

Back in England we contacted Kel Coverdale in Tallinn to ask her if she would be the official photographer, Ben Corbishley and our son Philip to ask if they would tie up the music with Linda. We started to look for various flags and find places to stay for the guests. We booked Villa Linda and others booked into Garden and Forest House in Nasva, the rest stayed at hotels in Kuressaare. In the end it all happened very smoothly through goodwill and cooperation. We also arranged for a trip round the Bishop’s castle in Kuressaare and for boats to the island of Abruka on the day after the party. Venetia baked the cake, which she fed with rum and very bravely took out hand luggage in a rucksack. We thought the marzipan would be mistaken for semtex. Venetia kept the whole exercise under control and made the whole thing work.

We flew to Kuressaare via Helsinki and Tallinn three days before the party. We had hired a minibus so that we could transport people about. BBQ’s were arranged at Villa Linda each evening and the partying started.

On the night a bus came to collect some of the party from Nasva were we were staying. The tour round the castle was very successful and we came back on time for the cannon and meal.

    The one gun salute

Linda and her friends Brita and Pille-Rite also Niki from Hastings sang brilliantly and made a great impression on us all. Ben acted as focal point for the music.


The hall had been decorated with national flags of the guests. We had twelve different flags without too much cheating. The children crowded round the suckling pig while it was carved and again round the Venetia’s cake as the candles were blown out.

    The pig

    And the cake

The meal was quite fantastic after which we danced the night away.

My brother Nicholas said a few words about my early life. I was surprised at how much he knew. I particularly like the story of Madame Polyakova and the crème de menthe. He was followed by Lars Sylvan who spoke about our family’s adventures in The Gambia. Kate, Philip and Sally-Anne read out a message from Josephine and then held a mock quiz under the title “How our father scarred us for life”.

Rein Lemba and the islanders from Abruka had given us a present of a conducted tour of the island, including all our guests. The following day the party met up on Abruka. Two boats had been organised from Nasva and another two from Roomassaare.  Rein met us with a lorry and a Russian jeep with a trailer. We were taken round the Abruka and told the most marvellous stories. They included tails about survival on the island and love for human kind. They will live with us for a very long time. During the trip Eero called to see if we wanted crayfish for supper. Venetia said yes. So about 60 were boiled up for that night’s BBQ.

We have attached the menu.


Fresh bread chose

Herb butter


Fish assortment

Whitefish filet in oil marinade

Gold smoked trout stuffed with raw cheese

Small herring roll

Pike file in marinade

Stuffed eggs with baltic


Meat assortment

Herb seasoned beef filet with tomato and onion salsa

Pork filet roll stuffed with sun dried tomato and  blue cheese

Duck filet with ruccolo and mozzarella salad

Chicken filet terrine



Potatoes salad with ham

Pasta- Chicken salad / Pasta salad without chicken

Cauliflower, red onion, carrot in marinade


Hot meal in buffed

Smoked piglet with chanterelle sauce

Cauliflower- brokkol casserole and herb tasted potatoes 



 Chocolate – mascarpone mousse, cherry jelly and mango salad

It was a grand affair – we laughed, we danced, we talked and met people from many different countries – what an experience!

August 2

We went out to the little island where Robert and Venetia have purchased property. We had a tractor ride all over the island, including a visit to a folk museum and the local cemetery.

    On the boat to the island

        The Russian jeep and the lorry

    On the island

Once back, Tom and I opted for a luxurious massage at the hotel. Oh, it felt so good.

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