Nearly half of Estonia is covered in forests (49%, to be precise), so it’s hardly surprising one of the big celebrations of Estonia’s centenary involves a newly created Word Forest (Sõn Mets) in Oandu, part of Lahemaa National Park. This project sees individually labelled trees dedicated to journalists who have written about Estonia and its legacy, spreading support around the world.
In fact, when Estonian independence was regained in 1991, the country saw international journalism as a key factor in securing its new-found freedom and keeping its name in the media. The first named trees acknowledge those early visitors to newly independent Estonia, then the names mark key journalists who have visited between 1991 and 2017.
There’s something ethereal about the bog in Lahemaa National Park, and its many colours: red spongey plants in the water, weird grey-green lichen and moss growing everywhere, and total silence. No wonder Estonians revere the bogs, which cover a fifth of the country.
I arrived with a group at about 5am, hoping to see the sunrise, but it wasn’t to be – cloud cover got the better of us, resolutely refusing to let the sun skim the trees. Nevertheless, we ploughed on, with our guide pointing out the different types of plants and trees surrounding us as the rain tapped out a rhythm on our collection of plastic macs in various sludgy hues.
Can you ‘do’ Helsinki in a day? You won’t see everything the city has to offer on a Helsinki day trip from Tallinn, but you’ll get a taste of Finnish culture before returning to the cheaper and more laid back Estonia. It’s the best of both worlds for travellers on a budget.
Getting There and Getting Around
There’s more than one ferry company going from Tallinn to Helsinki, but some aren’t so reliable; you could risk being stranded overnight on the wrong side of the water. I chose a two-hour crossing with Tallink (€32pp), having paid online and checked in online to save a few extra Euros. The crossing was smooth, but the facilities weren’t brilliant (limited food choices, few seats and hardly any toilets). However, you can sit in the food court area by Burger King without buying anything, and nobody bats an eyelid.
Patarei Prison is certainly strange, but overwhelmingly sad, rather than creepy, in the evening light. It’s silently and slowly decaying, the once proud fort that’s now shedding its last layer of skin, generous flakes of Soviet-era oil-based paint in muted colours. Tallinn’s formidable sea fortress no longer keeps anyone from the outside world: instead, it’s full of weeds, rust and damp.
Sadly Patarei was permanently closed to visitors from 7th October, as it’s become too unsafe, but it’ll reopen in the future with full access and hopefully a museum in place. In the meantime, you can see the exterior from Beeta promenade, but I want to share why the site is so important.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.