Lahemaa National Park

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February 6th 2019
Published: March 4th 2019
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The tour met at 10 in front of the tourist information centre. I totally scored on this tour as there were only two of us. Two more people were meant to join but they never turned up. I was rather happy that there were only two of us, as it would feel like a private tour but without the price tag of one. Our guide was really nice and told us a few things about the itinerary before we set off. We left the city and drove for a while into the suburbs. It kind of reminded me a little of my trip to North Korea, the soviet era apartment blocks, however there was a lot more traffic on the roads and advertisements for products that were familiar. We headed further away from the towns on the motorway and after about an hour, we pulled off to visit our first sight.

Jägala Waterfall is the highest waterfall in Estonia and the Baltic countries with vertical drop of 8 metres. It might not be the biggest waterfall in the world, but I was still looking forward to seeing it. The Jägala River flows over the Baltic Klint, which is an erosional limestone escarpment that extends from Lake Ladoga in Russia to the island of Oland in Sweden. The waterfall is in a parkland area and I bet the area is heaving with locals in summer. We headed down the steps to the waterfall. I was quite surprised to see another small group of people there. I thought we would be the only ones mad enough to brave the cold. The waterfall was really cool. I loved seeing the large frozen cascades of water and the shapes and patterns they had produced. However, it was freezing outside. I definitely should have worn another layer, but I would just have to move more to stay warm.

We drove a little bit further to come to our next destination, Viru Raba, where we would be doing a short hike. The first part of the hike was through the forest. This was really beautiful as there was not another soul around and were surrounded by the beautiful snow covered trees. It just felt so peaceful. After walking through the forest area for a while, we came to the start of the bog area. Estonia has a lot of mires and they cover 7.7% of its territory. Our guide told us about the area as we walked along the boardwalk through the bog. He told us that parents came up with the idea of monsters living in the bog to stop their children from entering and potentially dying. We couldn't see the actual bog because it was covered with a layer of snow. The area looks so pretty, but I would like to come back in the summer so that I could see what the area looks like when the bogs are uncovered. At about the halfway point in the bog, there is a viewing tower. Our guide would leave us there as he would go back to pick the car up and drive to where we would finish the hike. He had given us instructions on where to go, so we said goodbye and headed up the tower to take in the views. We had great views across the bog, the area looked pretty big and we could see where the bog was as there were no trees growing in those parts. After coming down from the tower we followed the trail in the direction we needed to go. There were some footprints so we followed those. We came to a junction and were unsure of which way to go. Everything was under a thick blanket of snow so we couldn't see the boardwalk. We had also caught up with the owners of the footsteps, some Estonian women out hiking. We decided to stick together since they had GPS and could figure out better the way to go. This turned out to be a smart move and after walking through the bogland for a while, we came to the bridge and junction that our guide had told us about. From here, we continued and soon came to the end of the trail. We climbed the hill and walked along it for a bit before realising that we were going the wrong way and needed to go down the other side of the hill. We could see the car parked up on the road, so we knew we were in the right place.

Now it was time for lunch and we drove to the small village of Käsmu, where we would spend a little time. Since we had decided that we didn't want a big fancy lunch, we headed to the general store in the town and I had a coffee to warm myself up along with a spinach stuffed pastry. Our guide told us a bit about the village. Due to its location right on the coast, the village has an important maritime heritage. Shipbuilding was an industry here and a maritime school was set up from 1884-1931 to teach young sailors the tricks and tools of their trade. Now the village is rather quiet in the winter, but in the summer many people come to visit and the area is popular with artists. We headed across the street to the Käsmu sea museum. This is in the old cordon building and is a local man's collection of artifacts related to the area that he has found and restored. It is definitely a labour of love and an ongoing process. It was cool to see the items that he has restored and has on display. The fish hanging on the wall reminded me of Korea, when people hang fish on the inside walls of their houses for good luck. The owner of the museum wasn't there unfortunately, but he did have a big friendly dog. The old pictures and maps were great to look at too. One of the rooms was freezing through as it was unheated. I bet it would cost a fortune to heat it all.

From the village, we drove to the start of our second hike of the day. The guide gave us to options; a longer walk or a shorter one. We opted for the longer one. The first part of the walk was through the forest. It was beautiful; peaceful and still. We were the only people about. The snow was quite deep in places here. Walking through the forest, we chatted to the guide about Estonia and life in general. After a while, we came out onto the beach. I don't think I've ever been to a beach quite like it. No sand was visible at all as there was a thick blanket of snow covering the ground. The sea was lapping at the shore, which was quite unreal for me to see it hitting the snow. So strange, but so cool. Walking along the beach was a little tough as the snow was quite a bit deeper here, so there was extra effort required in moving my legs. However, the views more than made up for it. The sun was starting to set a little and the sky had a slight pink tinge to it, beautiful. I could have happily stayed to take a million photos despite the cold. At the end of the beach, there was a group of swans chilling near the shore. It was nice to watch them for a bit. We headed off the beach and came to some fishermen's cottages. These weren't the originals, but ones constructed more recently to house university research teams when they are in the area. It was a really beautiful area and the walk to and along the beach was definitely my favourite part of the day trip.

It was a short drive to our final stop for the day, Sagadi Manor House. The manor house is also located in the national park, in Haljala parish. Since it was too cold we opted to stay in the car to learn about the history of the manor houses of Estonia. Manor houses were built starting in the 13th century when the crusaders reached the Baltic Sea. They were assigned to noblemen, who looked over the land. That practice continued until around the time of the outbreak of the first World War. Independence in 1918 and the land reform of 1919 saw the end of the manor house rule. Over the years, many of the manors have fallen into disrepair but they are being restored. This is a huge undertaking and anyone wishing to restore a manor house needs a serious amount of cash. Many are now hotels and wedding venues. Sagadi Manor dates back to the 15th century, since it is winter the manor house isn't open, so we just went for a walk around the grounds and we got to take a peek in the windows. The grounds were beautiful. There is also a hotel attached to the manor house and we had a quick stop in there before our drive back to Tallinn. I really enjoyed the journey back as I got to watch the sunset for most of the duration of the ride. Back in the city, I had wanted to try the Russian restaurant near to where I was staying, but when I went in it was dead, there wasn't even a staff member around. Instead, I headed to the supermarket to pick up some supplies.

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