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Estonia: Lahemaa National Park

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Lahemaa National Park | Estonia | Europe

[Visited: December 2015]

As soon as I saw the contours of Lahemaa National Park on the map, I wanted to go. It has four peninsulas sticking out into the Gulf of Finland, with bays in between (the name Lahemaa may mean Land of Bays), and my fantasy immediately started working: I love coastlines. Renting a car turns out a little more difficult than we have anticipated, so when we arrive at the western side of the park, the sun is already up. There is a thin layer of frost on the landscape, giving it a picturesque touch. We head directly to Juminda Peninsula, where the low winter sun barely shines through the tops of the trees. We drive over small roads through a rural landscape, get a glimpse of the west coast, and park the car in Juminda, near the northern tip of the peninsula.

Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): Ice-covered rock with icicle near the tip of Juminda Peninsula

We walk past traditional wooden houses, with frozen ponds, piles of wood to heat the houses, and see the forest rise before us. We soon reach a communication tower, and see the remains of a Soviet-era cannon base in the ground. We cut through the woods and reach the coast: a beach of boulders, making it a little difficult to walk on, especially because closer to the sea, they are covered in ice. The larger boulders in the sea have icicles hanging from them. We walk a bay lined by trees, and enter the forest again to find the lighthouse. It turns out to be a slender building standing in the forest. Furthermore, there are rusty missiles, reminders of the military history of Juminda peninsula. A little further north, we find a monument for the thousands of people who died just off the coast here in 1941, in an effort by the Soviets to evacuate their Baltic Fleet from Tallinn to Leningrad - many ships, also those carrying civilians, were hit by the mines laid by the Germans.

Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): Forest trail in Lahemaa National Park

Peace has returned to Lahemaa National Park long since, and we drive south to stop at Virve, a small village seemingly in hibernation. Fishing nets hang from shacks at the shore, with Hara island just off the coast. During the Cold War, it was used by the Soviet Navy as a submarine base, and was not even marked on the map. From here, we drive through the frost-covered forest to Tammispea, one of the largest boulders pushed here all the way from Scandinavia by glaciers. It has broken into several big chunks, but is still impressive enough. We head to the trailhead of Oandu Forest Nature Trail, a hike that takes us through typical forest, largely over boardwalks. The presence of large wild animals is evidenced by marks on tree trunks: bears, wolves, and moose are among the animals in Lahemaa National Park. On our way back, we pass the impressive Sagadi Manor just after seeing a beautiful sunset setting the sky on fire - the last sunset of 2015.

Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): Winter light in the forest of Juminda Peninsula in Lahemaa National Park
Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): Cloudy sky over Hara Bay at Virve on Juminda Peninsula
Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): The Tammispea stone boulder, pushed all the way to Estonia from Scandinavia by glacial action
Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): Tall trees in the forest of Lahemaa National Park
Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): The rocky shore of Juminda Peninsula
Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): Wooden house on Juminda Peninsula
Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): One of the reminders of the military past of Lahemaa National Park during Soviet times
Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): Forest with frost-covered trees in Lahemaa National Park
Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): Thousands of people died in a naval battle off Juminda Peninsula in 1941, this monument was erected in their memory
Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): The slender lighthouse at the tip of Juminda Peninsula actually stands in the middle of the forest
Picture of Lahemaa National Park (Estonia): Moss-covered tree trunk with frost in the forest of Lahemaa National Park

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