Otepää was named after its hill fort shaped like a bear’s head
You have reached an area between two important sights in Estonia – the Maarja Lutheran Church (St Mary’s) of Otepää and the Otepää Hillfort. The church is of historic importance and plays an essential role in Estonian national culture. The blue, black and white flag of the Estonian Student Union, which later became the national flag and in 1918 the official flag of the Republic of Estonia, was consecrated in the rectory of the church on 4 June 1884.
In the 12–13th century, the Otepää Hillfort was one of the most important centres in south-eastern Estonia. Russian chronicles first mention it in 1116, which means that according to written records it was the third oldest settlement in Estonia.
The hill fort gave Otepää its name, as from the side the hill resembled the head of a bear (in archaic Estonian ‘oti’ means ‘belonging to the bear’ and ‘pää’ means ‘head’).
The fortress erected on the hill was one of the strongest in ancient Estonia – the world’s oldest firearm was discovered at the Otepää Hill fort.
According to legend, during a war a witch was trapped in the cellars of the hill fort when they caved in, and she is still alive today. Old folk say that if you stand at the foot of the hill on a calm and windless evening, you can hear the witch spinning her silk yarn, her cat purring and the clock quietly ticking.