The last full day of my first visit to Tallinn, I joined a tour to Lahemaa National Park – I’d heard that the tour run by the hostel was quite good and figured it was an easy way to see the main sights. The day started problematically, when the bus company failed to send the correct configuration of buses – the group was huge, as it included about twenty Belgian scouts, and there simply wasn’t enough seats for everyone. This meant that one of the guys working at the hostel, Craig – who was supposed to have a day off – had to drive, as otherwise they would need to turn people away. So we left a little later than expected.
The first stop was a site on the side of the road – the whole site had been relocated when the road was to be built running through it – and it consisted of a number of circular stone graves. Some were larger than others, and the size of the stone ring around the central stone grave likely signified social status. They call them prehistoric, and while I understand that different countries and cultures have different patterns of development, in my mind the term ‘prehistoric’ refers to something that is actually really, really old. These graves date back to around the 10th century CE, so while they are old, I wouldn’t consider them ancient. The graves were built up rather than dug partly because in this area large amounts of limestone made burial impractical. Unfortunately the guides we had didn’t really know a lot about the history of this particular style of burial, and as I find burial customs quite fascinating – they can tell you quite a lot about the beliefs and lifestyles of the persons of that time – I had to resort to Google to find out more. Google really wasn’t a lot of help. I found some articles on burial customs of the island of Saaremaa, but those graves tended to serve as a burial site for entire families whereas those outside Tallinn were significantly smaller and suitable for only one, maximum two, people. Thus, at this point, these graves remain partly shrouded in mystery for me and if anyone can enlighten me, please do.
We visited a waterfall next, and within minutes the Belgian scouts had stripped off and were swimming under the waterfall. Some crazy guy jumped off the top of the waterfall [it wasn’t that big, but nor was the water very deep], however I was content with taking off my shoes and walking across the top of the waterfall. The water was deliciously cool. Around the waterfall and river is a park, very well maintained. It seemed to be popular with locals, and apparently in winter the whole thing freezes over.
After the waterfall, we walked through some fields full of wild-flowers and up a fortress that wasn’t there to see a monument to something [guide’s explanation, not mine] and a view of the bays through the trees. The view was beautiful and the monument turned out to be for people who died in a whole bunch of different wars where battles were fought on that particular land. The location was of strategic value, and so had been contested many times through the centuries.
Next, an old manor house and property. The whole place could use a lot of work, and there was a building that was almost completely destroyed. This apparently was the old vodka distillery, and despite extensive searching and ignoring of the ‘Danger – Not Enter’ signs, no stray bottle of old vodka was found. This was disappointing.
After the manor, we went for a walk out into the bog. This was not as exciting as I had expected – I’d heard stories about crazy bog walking shoes – but these were not required as we walked along a plank path. The bog, once we got to parts with little lakes and trees, was actually quite beautiful and colourful. We climbed up a viewing tower, and could look out over the whole bog, and it was wonderful.
Last stop for the day was the beach. It was relatively pretty but by god did it smell! Rotting seaweed and/or rotting fish…not so appealing. It improved as you got further along amongst the rocks. Apparently you can jump from rock to rock all the way out to a little island, but we didn’t have the time and I didn’t have bathers or a towel with me anyway so I had a wander around the corner to find some swans while all the scouts got back into the water. The view was quite lovely and the ocean a vivid blue sprouting giant rocks.
The trip back seemed to take forever. I was in the car rather than a bus, and we had some car troubles as we got back into Tallinn. I think I fell asleep at one point. When we got back to the hostel I decided that I was very glad to have been in the car as the bigger bus had broken down, and they had to squeeze everybody into the little bus. Pretty sure that, despite many arguments with the stereo over its outright refusal to play any music, the car was a more comfortable option!