Soomaa

Introduction

Soomaa National Park, which was created in 1993, is located on the border of Pärnu County and Viljandi County and is the second largest national park in Estonia. Soomaa has bogs that are almost completely untouched by human activity and rivers flowing in their natural beds, and it is truly one of the jewels of Estonian nature. In addition to the national park, the Soomaa region includes many culturally significant sites, including Suure-Kõpu Manor, Tori Horse Breeding Farm, and Kurgja Farm Museum, which are linked together by the diverse and seasonal nature tourism services provided by the local businesses. More than 50 different RMK accommodation facilities are open to all visitors travelling on their own in Soomaa National Park and its surrounding areas, which span from Kurgja to Viljandi and Pärnu. (For more information visit www.soomaa.ee)

kevadvarakevad rabas

Author: Aivar Ruukel

Five seasons

Soomaa’s unique landscapes, bogs, floodplain meadows, and dunes provide new and surprising experiences every season. Soomaa's most distinctive feature is what the inhabitants of the local villages usually refer to as the "fifth season". According to the villagers, they have the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter, but also a fifth season of high water. In olden times, people living in Soomaa, whose feet got wet when they got out of their beds in the morning used to say: “Look! There’s a visitor in the room!” During the floods and high water, most of Soomaa is accessible by canoe, kayak, or dugout, and visitors are able to view areas that can otherwise only be reached in winter when everything is covered in snow and ice. The rivers as well as riverside floodplain meadows and bog forests have retained their natural appearance and pristine form. This means that during the high water, you can glide along a river and see animals and birds that otherwise hide from humans in the depths of the forests or in the shade of trees that line the banks of the rivers.

 
5aasta-Kanuuga raudna jõe kallastel
Author: Aivar Ruukel
 

In springtime, the water level sometimes reaches so high that it carries off large stacks of firewood as well as lighter buildings. Rivers and floods have influenced the development and persistence of several Soomaa traditions. One of the most characteristic of these is the tradition of making dugout canoes and the skills necessary for making dugouts are being passed on to this day. In the past, people began preparing early for the floods that occurred at the beginning of spring. Their preparations included baking several batches of bread, tying stacks of wood to fences, lifting grain containers on top of trestles, and nailing crosswise boards on the floor in order to prevent the rising water from carrying the floors away. The high water sometimes persisted for as long as a couple of weeks. In Soomaa, even the dwellings were built differently than elsewhere in Estonia – with their front doors towards the river, since that was where all visitors came from and that was the way they went.

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