It is that time of the year when Europeans just love to chill out on the beach. But not all of us head south for summer sun. Canny travelers in search of the best deals and the longest sunshine hours make for those parts of the Baltic which boast some of Europe’s best beaches.
July kicked off to a sizzling start in Narva-Jöesuu, Estonia, with temperatures on the first day of the month touching 32°C (90°F). Not bad for a community that is further north than Juneau in Alaska. Since then Narva-Jöesuu has basked in summer sunshine–over 17 hours a day on some days this month.
Fishermen’s Day festival
The Estonian beach resort was at its summer best this past Sunday as it celebrated its annual Fishermen’s Day festival. There is a biblical quality to this event, with the local municipality providing free fish soup on the beach to all who care to show up.
And the crowds were out in force on Sunday as Russians, Estonians and folk of many other nationalities flocked to Narva-Jöessu’s fabulous sandy beach for free boat rides, a free open air concert (everything from Slavic rock to country and western) and the hallmark fish soup.
Shashlik on the sands
“The longest sandy beach in Europe,” said Igor who was grilling shashlik on the beach, just by the mouth of the River Narva.
Who knows whether Igor is right. And who cares, for the beach at Narva-Jöesuu surely has space for millions. Russia is just a hundred meters distant on the other bank of the River Narva, though the nearest bridge for crossing the river is ten miles upstream.
Not just for Russian royals
Cast back to the days of Imperial Russia, and Narva-Jöesuu was popular with the St. Petersburg aristocracy. Creative types tended to favor Sillamäe just a few miles further west. But you don’t need to be a Russian royal to blend in at Narva-Jöesuu nowadays. The community has a good range of modest guesthouses (with beds from just a few euros a night) and a couple of very smart hotels.
The Narva-Jöessu Spa Hotel occupies a prime spot right by the beach. Nice art deco lines and a friendly staff overseen by hotel director Karina Küppas make for a winning combination. The food is good and, unusually for Estonia, on weekend nights you can still eat late into the evening. Last orders are not till 10 p.m. This is a country that eats famously early. And food and drink prices at the hotel are happily very low, with main courses starting at €6.
Russian hospitality – but still in the EU
“This is a part of Estonia noted for its Russian connections,” says Karina. She explains that Russians greatly outnumber Estonians in this corner of the country. “We are so close to St. Petersburg, but our prices are a fraction of those you’ll pay in Russia,” says Karina.
And with summer sun drenching Narva-Jöesuu again this week, you cannot help wondering if this is not perhaps a wonderful Baltic counterpoint to crowded and overpriced resorts around the Mediterranean.
Narva-Jöesuu is a place to enjoy a dash of Russian hospitality within the European Union. And in terms of making those euros stretch a long way, Narva-Jöessu must rank as one of the best-value resorts in the eurozone. It is just 140 miles from Tallinn. St. Petersburg is 90 miles away to the east.