A Spiritual and Cultural-Historical Journey
from Pirita to Vana-Vastseliina

Pilgrim’s route

Neuhausen’s house

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Neuhausen’s HOUSE, until recently known as Piiri INN, has served various owners and has had different roles through a long period of time.
In the Middle Ages, an important trade and military route ran through Vastseliina, i.e. Neuhausen to Pskov and then to Riga. Other, less important roads branched off from the castle as well. From 1353 through the Middle Ages the paths of pilgrims were well trodden; they arrived at the chapel to worship the holy cross. Visitors needed food and accommodation, and thus inns sprang up along the crossroads, river crossings, at bridges and at harbours.

The first records about the inn at Vastseliina are in the land register of 1624–1627. The inn traded with beer either produced at the manor or purchased from peasants. The initial location was probably a few hundred metres to the west, at the Meeksi crossroad.

The castle and the settlement were both destroyed at the beginning of the Great Northern War (1700–1721). The country, ravaged by the war and plague, needed time to recover. In 1766 Vastseliina manor was bought by Carl von Liphart. At the same time, the huge Russian vodka market opened up for the Baltic provinces, and local manors were quick to seize their chance. Raadi and Vastseliina manors produced 30 000 buckets of spirit each year for the Russians; the same amount was sold in local inns and towns. Spirits guaranteed the bulk of the Liphart annual income and laid the foundation for their wealth. In 1811, Vastseliina manor had 17 inns.

When and how today’s Piiri inn was built, is not clear. The big stone structure was probably completed in the early 19th century, the golden era for distilling spirits. The Estonians’ fondness for vodka was tackled by the author of our national epic, Fr. R. Kreutzwald, especially in his book „Vodka Plague”. Nevertheless, Kreutzwald and Liphart were firm friends and the writer visited the lord of the manor quite often, in order to „set the world to rights”. Both gentlemen are seen today as wax figures in the dim light of the inn.

In 1900 when the government monopoly on alcohol was established, the inns were closed. After the Republic of Estonia was declared in 1918, the manor holdings were distributed into smaller plots of land, with the Piiri Inn being taken over by Hendrik Elison, who kept a shop in it.
From 1952 the owner had to share the house with the Piusa collective farm office and with the chairman's living quarters.
From 1975 the building was listed as an architectural monument, but in the 1980s its roof and the walls both partially collapsed.
In 1987 plans were made to restore the roof and work started. A few years later, the building was turned over to the Kreutzwald Museum, which commissioned proper drawings and an architectural report.
In 1997 the Vastseliina and Meremäe parish borders were altered, and as a result, Vastseliina Castle and the Piiri Inn now belong to Vastseliina parish.

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The inn, having survived various owners/tenants/users, changes in the surrounding world and many plans and designs, got a new lease on life when the Foundation of Vastseliina Episcopal Castle was established in 2008 in order to restore the inn and open it as part of the castle's theme park. The building was completed in June 2011 as a visitor centre and it then also acquired a new name – Neuhausen’s House. Or, to be precise, it got its old name back. Visitors can see exhibitions, take part in various workshops, guided tours and enjoy a concert and a feast in candlelight. The Old Times Day in summer has become popular, as have numerous other activities both in Neuhausen’s House and in Vastseliina Castle.

A small Catholic chapel is located in the basement where the traveller can light a candle and rest.

Kaja Tuul