After the bog, it was off to Lahemaa national park. Lahemaa (meaning "Land of Bays") covers about 725 square kilometers, making it the biggest park in Estonia. It includes in its territory several bogs (which we had already come to know so very well), several small fishing villages, beaches, and many spots for nature walks and hiking. As we drove out of the forest surrounding the bog, sniffles resounding throughout the van, it was clear we wouldn't be making use of Lahemaa's nature trails, at least not right away. Before doing anything else, we would check into our hotel and change into some dry clothes. Otherwise, we risked a mutiny without a doubt.
|A view from the watchtower|
We stayed the night at Sagadi Manor, an old Baltic German manor estate that was converted into a hotel with a restaurant and a couple of museums. My first impression of the lodging was skewed by my soggy state; all I noticed was the heated tile flooring in the bathroom -- which I reveled in by sprawling on the floor for several minutes. After heating up in my water closet terrarium, it was time to explore the park a bit. We drove north to a small stretch of beaches, scattered with massive boulders left in the wake of an ancient glacier. I had heard that the Baltic Sea was not very salty, so I tested the claim, ladling my hand into the lapping waves at the shore and taking a little sip. It's true, the Baltic tastes very fresh. I would later find out that the Baltic is also notable for its industrial pollution. So far, I haven't died or developed super-powers, but the semester is young -- we'll see what happens. After the beach, we drove to a little fishing village called Käsmu. We crowded into a dimly lit museum (which was also the home of the curator and his family) cluttered with very old, very cool nautical items. In the backyard of the house stood a four-story observation tower. Not so long ago, this tower was constantly manned by a Soviet soldier, eyes to the Baltic Sea, and now it was my turn.
|Sagadi Manor: I told you pictures couldn't do it justice|
The next morning, I got up early at Sagadi Manor and took a walk. I knew I was in a pretty part of the world, but I wasn't expecting to be struck so hard by my surroundings. (Pardon me in advance, because I might wax sentimental here.) The beauty made me hungry and wanting for something I couldn't define. It created something like an ache, but it was enjoyable, and palpable enough to make my eyes water. I walked by the old stables of Sagadi Manor where a film of dew covered everything, attesting that this morning was yet untouched. I felt every sensation a little sharper; everything seemed a little more worth attending to. I had felt this before, I knew it, so I filtered through my memories, perhaps to match this with a similar experience I'd had with beauty. This never works, and that morning at Sagadi was no exception. Instead the mental run-through left me with an inventory of every achingly beautiful place I've ever been imprinted in my mind. It was enough to intensify the feeling tenfold. I was reduced to tottering around the Sagadi estate, snapping pictures in an attempt to preserve a piece of the morning. Eventually it was time for breakfast, so I made my way across the courtyard back to the hotel. The quiet of the morning was hard to break, even when I got close enough to the hotel to see the comparative bustle going on indoors. I paused a moment before stepping inside. A flock of geese glided by in a flutter of movement overhead, like fingers barely sweeping the surface of still water. And something about that seemed final -- a good closing to the morning episode.