Otepää - yet another Estonian pearl
Otepaa Travel Blog› entry 5 of 26 › view all entries
Otepää truly is Estonia's pearl. This was my first time here but visiting was a rewarding experience and I will definitely be back. I can only recommend trying it. Otepää is a popular skiing resort, popularly known as the Estonia’s "winter capital" of Estonia (in contrast to the summer capital; Pärnu).
Otepää is a town in Valga County, with a population of about 2000. Administratively it is a part of Otepää Commune. Otepää borough became a town in 1 April 1936.
Otepää is mostly famous for its cross-country skiing. It is the site of an annual Cross-country skiing World Cup event. The town has a skiing museum and has hosted the FIS World Cup in cross country skiing in the past. Many of Estonia's well-known skiers also live in Otepää. It is also the area where they have they often have biking championships, ski jump, roller skiing and much more.
My girlfriend has done a lot of competition there; she knew all turns on all roads and I had always wanted to go there because it has always been referred as; it is a great place and you will love the nature there. . While we were there we also had to visit a püha place “holy places” overlooking Pühajarv (The holy lake). On one of the hils in the city you can find an energiasammas (which is an energy monument that you have to hug! - I did it and couldn't sleep all night)
The first traces of human activity in Otepää region date back to the 6th B.C. The oldest archeological findings from Otepää Hill date back to the same era. Otepää region has been permanently populated since the 6th -7th century A:C, and the city was first mentioned in written documents in 1116 when a fortress in the shape of a head of a bear was built here. Otepää developed into the second fortified centre of the ancient Ugandi County after Tartu.
The ancient struggle for freedom of the ancient Estonians against external conquerors (German, Danish (we found our flag in Estonia), Swedish conquerors) began with the ravaging of Otepää in 1208, in the course of which Otepää fortress was burnt. Otepää fortress was finally conquered in 1224 when an Episcopal castle was built, which was the first stone stronghold in Estonia. Its remains have survived to our day.
Otepää and its surroundings have throughout history suffered a lot from military hostilities. They have witnessed battles of the ancient struggle for freedom in the XIII century, clashes between the diocese and the German Order a century later. During the latter, the Bishop’s castle on the Otepää hill was burnt down. The Great Northern War became another period of devastation. In 1702, the Russian troops ravaged the entire surroundings of Otepää and burnt down both the church and the vicarage. The days of August 1944 were tragic for Otepää. The blame for destroying most of the city lies with both the German and Russian troops.
It is still to be heard from local people that at the beginning of the XIX century the ridge of hills near the present town of Otepää were covered with hazel wood (german Nusstage). When the settlement received the rights of a market town, it was accordingly given the name of Nuustaku. This was changed for the historical name of Otepää only 60 years later, in 1922.
The people of Otepää have through centuries been known for their educational pursuits. The first public school started here in 1686, when one of the graduates of the B.G. Forselius Tartu Seminar settled in Otepää. In Kanepi near Otepää the first parish school in Estonia was founded in 1804. This became an example for the similar second stage public school that was opened in Otepää in 1808. The latter is known as the second oldest parish school in Estonia. The period, when Jakob Hurt worked in Otepää as a pastor (1872-1880), marked a significant improvement in both the level of education and the economic situation of the local parish schools.
In 1906 the Otepää Educational Society was founded. This society succeeded in opening on 3rd October 1907 a pro-gymnasium where the language of instruction was Estonian. This was a third school of its kind in Estonia after Tartu and Pärnu, but the first one in the rural area. The school developed into a full gymnasium by 1919. In the year 2000 the 73rd class graduated from the Otepää Gymnasium. The school has 650 pupils.
Otepää is associated with several remarkable events and activities that have had an influence on the whole of Estonia or perhaps even over its borders.
· In 1841 the peasant unrest, known as the Pühajärve War took place;
· In 1876 the Estonian Farmers’ Society arranged the first Estonian agricultural exhibition near Otepää Church;
· In 1884 the blue-black-white banner of the Estonian Students’ Society was consecrated in the Otepää vicarage.
· In 1929 the Estonian cross-country skiing championship took place for the first time in Otepää. The first skiing competitions of the whole Soviet Union in Otepää took place in 1958;
· On 10 July 1941 the Soviet occupation power changed for the German one.
· In 1959 the Otepää Boarding School was opened. In 1972-75 it was reformed to become a national skiing school;