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F l r;
he Soomaa National Park
is an ale;-i of pristine nature

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that at present is home to Bo people, One ol them is a


freelance photographer Sandra Urvak t'ho has been liv-

ing permanentl,v in Soomaa since 2008. She says that she no longer recalls what forced her to move to this sn'ampy area, blrt
she believes that

H
L-

it was lor.e. "l carne to

Soomaa

whenever I cou1d. I was simplr'\\-andering around

and taking photos. After some tin're I started to look for


a place

of my ov,,nl' she

sa,vs.

Soon, Sandra found a sma1l tarmhouse which


she is still converting into a tullv livable housing. Searching for home, she met her partner r,r,ho rvas involved u,ith nature and animals. "l love Soomaa

for its silence, nature and primeval force.


the
seasor-rs change,

i feel
see

the need to live in harmonv u,ith nature and

rvitness the ri'eather. For me,

Soomaa is the best place in the r.,hole r'l,orld. Eve-

rything is a little rrore real herel' she explains.

Sandra is not drscouraged

bl

the so-called

fifth

seasor-r

of Soomaa

the time of floods that

arrives in late rvinter or earlr'sprlng. While this is

the time when manr-ian-rilies in the area are desperately tryir-rg to protect their hornes and animals from water, Sandra savs lhat f-ier home has fortur-rately been fairlr u'ater-resislar-rt until now.

Actually, it is not the rvater but r.isitors who have


caused most dan'iaqe: last r.ear l(aruskose hiking hut's sauna r'r'indou' l.as broken by s 6n..less canoeist and there are visitors

n'ho instead of

enjoying tl-re peace and quret, roam around and


sometlmes destrol.
t1-re

propert,v of locals.

Esto n i

Such whims of the nature have definitely spiced

I don't think there are many children who can drive around in a canoe in their
neighbours

up the 1ocal llfe. "During floods, the last two years have looked like the song festival. Floods attract adventurers, hikers and curious peoplei'says Sandra. An addltional benefit is that during this pe-

backyardj'she laughs. The natural phenomenon is


also a boost for local guides, catering and accom-

modation providers because more people means


more income.

riod you can reach places with a canoe that are otherwise hard to access. "The flood is exciting, it's a major event, at least for my family and our

S***ix* p**p'*
these people to an from heavy floods in spring and area that suffers millions of mosquitoes in summer? According to Sandra, the benefits of Soomaa outweigh all the hardship. "I think that people living here are tough. Those who do not mlss the city buzz and constant communication. Llving in harmony with
So what is

it that attracts

How the ltalians got swamped


ln 2005 | was helping international students to enroll in the Tallinn Technical University and as part of the welcome programme showed them the beauty of E.stonia. lt was autumn and there was really only one choice where io take

them: to the swamp. When our colourful group of students from ltaly, France, Poland and elsewhere arr'ived to Soomaa, we were met by a very cool guide at the visitors' centre who led us to the middle of the swamp along a hiking trail. She then asked us if we wished to step aside from the boardwalk. Naturally, we did. The Estonian were walking on the sods Iike Jesus on water, but the ltalians immediately sank in until their knees. They had come to the nature with lacquered shoes and jeans wearing designer sunglasses, but with every step they took, they swamped. The same happened to the Germans and the French. Everybody had a lot of fun helping the foreigners out, but how were the Estonian able to do it... Still remains a mystery to them. But it was not a problem. Later we all ate nettle soup with rneatballs and shocked Americans with our sauna habits.

nature is excitingi' she adds.

Although local population has shrunk notably over times, as a result of deportations to Siberia during the Soviet regime and the area's sometimes unfriendly nature, old and new residents maintain
a

close relationship. Sandra's family communicates

mostly with a family living in near to her farm


house and community activists from the Tipu vil-

Mariliis Pinn

1.-'"a

''j:1::1V. zzz*trt* : dVrir,21}2.2

Eston la
lage. "We are all con:-ec:ed :'.-o-: loi'e rorrards Soomaa. Together rre Eo hr-::E. s:.ior-iocal foiklore and discuss rrorlc ar:a:rs.

Soomaa National Park

\\

e ha','e

orqanized

S E E I fr

was founded in 1993 is one of the five Estonian national parks: Lahemaa, Karula, Viljandi, Matsalu,

photo exhibitions, plan ro oDe:: a caie and host


cultural eventsl'
sar-s Sa:rc:a.

Xwery village has its wiseman


Pians are made ...,'i:i :he fan"rih' of Algis
Martsoo, a businessnar. iour suide and builder
of hiking trails. For suc!'. an ac:-';e rerson as Algis,

Soomaa is an important primeval nature area and a member of the PAN Park network is an important nature and bird area and belongs to the Natura 20OO network has been internationally approved as an important bird area by BirdLife lnternationa is a wetland protected under the Ramsar convention is a home to several rare bird species under strict natural protection: lagopus, golden eagle, black stork, pomarina and clanga spotted eagle, dunlin and great snipe is a home to moose, roe-deers, wild boars, wolves, lynxes, bears, foxes and
I

E I K

raccoonS

Soomaa has become a l-.c,::-=. a piace of n.ork, a

hobby and a source oi -rcr:::e. when he says that loca-s


always been interested

lhe man smiles


as a

::i:x

oi him

fortu-

neteller or a witch. The ::aso:i is simple: he has

X the house museum of composer Mart Saar and artist Johann Kdler is open for visitors 5 hlkes with canoe, kayaks, kick sledges, skis, snow- or bog shoes and in tepees, going berry or mushroom picking, bird watching, archery and GPS-games are the activities that different enterprises offer ln Soomaa

ii

-:re ',',-a:ers in the area.

He has been writing

-::b:::-raiion for years and studying at the Esron:r:: -{cacemv of Agriculture, he defended also h:s ::-:s:s on the impordo.,n'i-.

*mnse trip, thc beat ta *hserws m*te,r

warur

tance offloods in Soonra".

Algis says that the feeiings about the miracle of


Soomaa vary from culture to culture. Estonians
are eager to see it with their own eyes, as Austral-

"It is not rare that I

ge: a cr', :rom a lifetime

resident of Soomaa ask:r-:.c',.,-:.-eh is the water. For some strange reajo: ::.i'.

r:e as a local wiseman n ho i-i,.;'i';


have begun to regard
I<nows how high the

\\'::i: :i.
:p(-

It is funny

as

har-e :.u

cial powersl' sar s -\lg:;

S::.t

even thlnk that he


responsible for the ab:nc.a:::

i-.rs. Actually, Algis is a :u:c- .:Soomaa and taker lo::. .--:


snowfall in the last rr\-o

foreign visitors Cdoocrr-.. :r-r

whiking, sledging 'r::r .:::: events held in dii:e:.:.. =..sons. "Spring, esp.--.- -'. -\1"'.'

lisi: S:rc:::"a It is difficult for :b:e:-:- ro*:


is the best time to

ists to picl< the riq:.: ::::<. :-:.c,:

floods come and =.,

:..-:i'..

B-;:

in the two lasr s:r::.-;'. :-cods have stayed t.,rice r::- -islal
period

rthoie

ins:ead

of a fortnighti'er

61

Land full of gw,4mps


39 640 ha surface area 70-BO%: percentage of territory covered by swamps 537 species of swamp plants, including 38 species of trees and brushes, 29 species that are under nature conservatlon, lg3 species of moss and 360 species of mushrooms. 185 bird species, of which l50 have been known to nest in the area 43 species of mammals 37 attractions: camping areas, hiking trails, parking areas, etc. 10 hiking trials that are from I to 5 km long 38 0OO is the number of people who visited the Soomaa national park in 2011. They included visilQrs from Malaysia, Souih Korea, Germany, Holland, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, etc. 380 km is the length of the hiking trail "One with Nature" that State Forest Management Centre will complete in July. lt starts from North Estonia and ends in Kabli in the southwest. The trail is designed for people travelling on foot or by bicycles and goes through Soomaa. 175 square kilometres: this has been the maximum f looded area X 7-8 kilometr:es: this has been the maximum width of water during f loods 5.5 metres above the conditional miiimum: record water level in one part of Soomaa in 1931 0.8 - I metres: maximum water level in homes in spring 2011 and 2O1O (it was 1.8 metres on roads)

) I f

ians say that a naai: lool< at. "It u-as

:-s"".:= : -.,

: .omething to

I ! 3 I n

c;-:- ':. -:'---- : : -:.: -\ustralians and also other \\ es:-:: r-:-- -:-: :- -:i societies of security to take a l,a:::---: =-- -- - j,-iig at drowning housesi' savs -1.-=-' I - - : --.. -- -,.,-ho have the coufage it is a ve:',' ::=:-: = t.:::-=:ce and Vefy different from a Lorrr-: - :-- ,': _ _ *" __'r' Hikes on \\'are:'.--,--,:,:: .r: : rriost popular
in Soomaa and r:..

--::--:

:
=

i.:-, e its nature.


" -- rnderstand
:

A hike in the sri-a:::: -:

t,:.i:

the peculiarin o: --.: r:: ing trails. It is de--::-:=,- : to see the fofme: the 1evel of tloocs :-1:,.

:-=-::::De and hika e\perlence

. r-_

&

:-=-.. - ::: -:a-:= ":td obsefve :: , ::.=:. Riho Miin-

--: -,1-,-- ::,==: - - - .-: :-r:.= \-e to eye with differenr -r::r-.:: -. -:.. . :t= \'oU lrtust be prepafed to .-= -- :-':; :-- - - >: t=a:s Or WOlf puppies \\-anc=:-,=,: :: - -:.:'-- -"-.:re lucky, you might sDo: : :.:-:- ;: ,:.: - . :atercailliej' says Riho, \\-ta -: r:- n -.::::=: -:::-e associa, tion called Fr-.--:-. :: :, ,--... : -:::a Soprade
kose hiking trai-s
"',

Hiking on :t,:

- : i:: :-- - :: IOWef S ale

-,::.j:. -- catCh Sight - . -: - : =:.: -tr pomari: il ll:- -:=-: rrith yOUr : . :-,::; -- -:Sten tO the -- :. . - -.,'-r =:]d u,olves.
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