June 23 is midsummer in Estonia, a combination of an old pagan holiday and independence day when everyone goes out into the countryside and lights fires, which to me is such a delightfully simple and lovely way to celebrate. Although I think you also are supposed to jump over the fire for good luck, which isn't quite as appealing to me. Here is the Wikipedia article, for those who are interested.
Because our Estonian family had to work at Rataskaevu 16 on this day, we weren’t able to go too far out of the city, but after a few phone calls, Carl was able to procure a car for the afternoon so we could take a short trip out to Lahemaa National Park, about an hour east of Tallinn. We were there to see a bog (or a swamp, to be honest I’m not totally clear on the distinction). Bogs are a really big thing in Estonia, as one fifth of its land mass is covered in bogs, and bog walking seems to be somewhat of a national pastime. There are several places where you can hire bog walking guides, and rent bog walking shoes.
At first, Carl asked if we wanted to go to a swamp, and I found it a funny question. In the US, I associate swamps with the Bayou—dark, sticky, creepy areas full of mosquitos, leeches, alligators, and probably serial killers. Bogs seem a much more pleasant destination, though they do make me think a little big of bog people, and also that scene in Lord of the Rings where there’s the creepy boglike landscape full of dead people. Despite all of these associations, I had read that one simply must go bogwalking in Estonia, so we forged ahead anyway. We brought along Neil, another American we’d picked up at Rataskaevu 16, who was just doing a day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki and was about to go to some museums like a chump before we whisked him away with us to a bog, telling him this was the more Estonian thing to do anyway.
After traversing a seriously confusing set of detours that seemed to loop us over and over again back into Tallinn, we broke free of the city limits and drove to Lahemaa. We parked in a clearing among tall and straight pine trees, and walked through a peaceful pine forest.
Once again, like on Aegna, we found ourselves alone, and I wondered how it could possibly be that no one else decided to be in such a lovely place.
After a time, the forest opened up into the bog, and a long wooden walkway stretched far into the distance.
We walked along it, and here we did see other people. After a few minutes, we reached a wooden structure—a set of stairs leading to a covered platform, with a better vantage point of the bog.
We asked a man up there to take a photo of us all, but it was a challenging situation, what with the flat white sky, the backlighting, and the wooden support poles crisscrossing the platform. But, we did get this photo, which I find kind of hilariously awkward.
Unfortunately we couldn’t go any further into the park, as we had to head back to Tallinn—we needed to get the car back to its rightful owner, and Neil needed to catch his ferry back to Helsinki (which reminds me of a joke I heard some Estonians tell—Q: What is the prettiest part of Helsinki? Answer: Tallinn).
I would love to go back and do some proper bog-walking in Estonia, but I was glad to get a small taste of it. When I travel I like to do some things not done, so it gives me a reason to return.
In the next post, Harper and I leave our beloved Estonia for not-as-beloved Sweden.