A road trip across Estonia in early spring gives a nature lover his fill of frozen lakes and secluded bogs. Text & photographs by Inderjit Singh
Ever Since 2013, when I visited Estonia in summer, I wanted to see it clad in snow. So, I planned a second trip in early spring last year, a three-day road trip across Estonia.
My first base was the capital, Tallinn. A stroll in the Old Town, surrounded by colourful buildings, was akin to a wormhole into the past. There were fewer tourists as compared to summer. The next morning, my friends, Kadri, Herman and I rented a car from a local rental and kicked off our road trip.
Our first stop was the second largest town of Estonia, Tartu. Home to one of Northern Europe’s oldest universities, Tartu has a wealth of museums and an upbeat nightlife. As soon as you arrive, you are welcomed by a statue of kissing students standing in the middle of an old fountain at the town hall square.
But before we entered Tartu, we visited the Upside Down, so to speak. Tagurpidi Maja is a house in Raadi that is upside down. Not only the structure, even its furnishings like beds, sofas, kitchen cabinets, etc. are suspended from the ceiling. A bunch of silly pictures later, we landed at Aparaaditehas, or The Widget Factory, for lunch.
An old factory complex at the corner of Riia and Kastani streets, it made secret submarine parts during the Soviet Era while also manufacturing umbrellas and zippers as a cover-up. Today a creativity hub, it houses three restaurants and two cafeterias, the Müürilille flea market, the historic Printing Museum and numerous small shops.
Our next stop was the lakeside village of Varnja. Lake Peipus is Europe’s fifth-largest lake. It was frozen at the time, and we wasted no time in picking up our kicksleds. The locals were ice-fishing here, and later in the day, our Soviet-style B&B would offer us fresh catch for dinner.
An old Estonian riddle goes, “There’s water but no ship can ever sail there; there’s land but no house can ever be built there. What is it?” The answer: bog. Walking in bogs, picking berries, is a favourite pastime among Estonians. As we went hiking in a bog called Meenikunno, we could find barely any berries in early spring. But some frozen ponds and lakes made up for the lack of fruit.
If you’re looking to get away from the madding crowd — sled on frozen lakes, hike in bogs, and explore quaint, one-horse towns — Estonia is the place to be.