Tourism / Routes of Excursions / Tour of estates in South-Virumaa. In the tracks of baltian-german culture


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Tour of estates in South-Virumaa. In the tracks of baltian-german culture

The Crusaders occupying Estonia in the 13th century laid a ground to the Baltic-German community. In the course of 700 years the economic, political as well as cultural superiority in Estonia belonged to them. Significant scientists, writers and artists emerged among the community. From 1710 to 1918, when Estonia was under the Russian power, the Baltic Germans preserved their special status - business here was managed in German and the Lutheran Church was in the first place.

Only after the establishment of the Republic of Estonia in 1918, the Baltic Germans finally lost their leading role in the local life. The young Estonian Republic ended the Baltic-German economic supe-riority by the land reform - the land property of manors was nationalized. The Baltic-German community left Estonia before the 2nd World War by Hitler's call.

Porkuni Manor House is situated on the bank of a beautiful lake. Today, only the gate tower, where the unique Lime Museum is located, reminds us of the castle-stronghold built already in the 15th century. In the 17th century Porkuni Manor belonged to the Tie-senhausens. A legend about the baron?s daughter, who was drowned in the lake Porkuni because of the forbidden love, is connected to the family. In 1869 Ludvig von Rennenkampff became the owner of Porkuni and he let a new presentable, the so-called Porkuni Castle, to be built. 


The Gothic stronghold-church of Väike-Maarja dates back to the 2nd half of the 14th century. The altar is decorated with the painting "Going to Heaven" by the Baltic-German artist E.F. Lipphart (1902). The stained-glass window " Jesus Blessing Children" catches your sight. A number of well-known Baltic Germans have been buried to the churchyard: the sailors von Krusensterns, the clergymen Knüpffers and others.



The big lineage of the Rennenkampffs owned quite a few manors in Virumaa, for instance Pandivere, Rakvere and Vao. The first written records, concerning the latter, date back to the year 1442. The family of von Rennenkampffs acquired Vao Manor in the first half of the 18th century and started the planned construction of the manor ensemble. The tower stronghold from the local limestone (at present a museum) is the oldest building in Vao and was probably built already in the 14th century.
The exposition on the ground floor introduces the history of the manor and the Rennenkampff family.
Additional reading: Vao stronghold tower-museum


The Kiltsi castle was erected on the ruins of a Middle Age stronghold dating back to the 14th-15th centuries. The Early Classicist manor house was built by Johann von Benkendorff , who acquired Kiltsi Manor in 1784.
In the 19th century the manor belonged to the von Krusensterns. Adam Johann von Krusenstern led the first Russian journey around the world (1803-1806) resulting from which he drew up "The Atlas of the South Sea" - the most precise set of sea maps of the Pacific until the beginning of the 20th century. A.J. Krusentstern?s son Paul Theodor von Krusen-stern and grandson Otto Paul von Krusenstern were also famous seafarers and explorers. The famous history of the onetime owners is introduced in the Admiral Room located in the tower.
Additional reading: Kiltsi Castle and Admiral`s room. Park and Nature Trail


The leading executor of the internal policy of the well-known Russian statesman and Czar Nikolai I, Aleksander Beckendorff, was the owner of Varangu Manor. The main building of the manor, now in restoration, was built on the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. Fine limestone was used in the manor?s early Classicist ashlar decoration. This expensive finishing method was very rare in Estonia.




Simuna church, architectural monument from the 13th century, was turned into a three-naved hall church in the 15th century. The last reconstruction works took place between 1885-1886. In 1889 the church received a Gustav Normann organ. 4 generations of Pauckers have been ministers here - the family has also provided several cultural activists, scientists, professors, doctors, military men. In the Simuna churchyard there is the burial place of the von Neff family, also C. T.von Neff has been buried there.
Additional reading: A tour from Väike-Maarja via Simuna - Simuna church and churchyard




In 1866-1872 the artist Carl Timoleon von Neff let Muuga Neo-Renaissance manor to be built to keep his art collection. C.T. von Neff painted portraits (also the Czar?s family), and paintings reflecting the Bible, mythology and local life, among these Estonian farmers. C.T. von Neff was Professor of Petersburg Art Academy and a conservator of the Ermitage.



Neo-Gothic style towers make Lasila manor house built in the classicistic blueprint layout with neo-renaissance features in 1860 a grand building. At the beginning of the 19th century the manor house used to belong to the Baer family and the famous natural scientist Karl Ernst von Baer used to spend his childhood there at his uncle´s. Since 1979 a memorial stone for K. E. von Baer is situated in front of the house near the pond.