Otepää – winter sports, fantastic landscape and more…
Despite its small size Otepää (2,200 inhabitants), situated in northern Valgamaa, has been internationally renowned for years. It is the most popular winter sports resort in the Baltic Sea region and offers ideal conditions for cross-country skiers.
That is why the town calls itself very proudly “the winter capital of Estonia” – a name that does not seem exaggerated regarding the rising number of tourists. The popularity of Otepää extends far beyond the borders of Estonia.
World Cup races in cross-country skiing take place in Otepää annually, attracting even more international tourists and the media. This season, the World Cup race took place in Otepää, at Tehvandi Sport Centre on 16th and 17th January 2010 (next Otepää World Cup: 22nd and 23rd January 2011).
One of the most popular lakes is Lake Pühajärv, situated in the south west of Otepää. It is one of the most beautiful in the whole country. Small islands, quiet bays and clear water attract people from everywhere in Estonia, so, on a warm day, it can be really crowded.
Furthermore, Otepää is very popular with fishermen. Amateurs as well as professionals usually spend their summers in the area around the “mighty” Mount Suur Munamägi (The Big Egg Hill), which is 318 metres high and thus the highest peak in Estonia.
Otepää’s history dates back to the beginning of the 12th century when a castle hill, called “Bärenkopf” (the bear’s head) was first mentioned in the records. In 1224, the Knights of the Teutonic Order built a stone fortification and a church – the actual birth of the bishop’s see, first called Otipea (“the bear’s head” in colloquial Estonian).
Further information about Otepää’s history can be found at the museum of local history and the flag museum, which is located in a manse. The Estonian flag dates back to the end of the 19th century when representatives of the Estonian student association first consecrated their blue, white and black flag in Otepää.
Those three colours developed into the symbol of the Estonian patriotism and were united in the national flag that is still there today. In this respect, one may probably say that the small town of Otepää has a definite place in the history of Estonia.
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