25May2018

STUDY WITH THE FOREST: MY LOVELY, TRANQUIL PLACE TO BE – Rahul (INDIA)

Estonia is covered by about 50% with wild forest, of course, not including the swamps and lakes. This gives about 100% chances to a resident of Estonia to go to an adventure every weekend. As a Masters student, it gives me an escape from day-to-day life. In this article, I would like to present two of my experiences where I was united with the green spirit.

Tartu, my beautiful student city, is in the South of Estonia. The way from Tallinn to Tartu, one can already observe the different landscapes Estonia may offer. Not even going further from Tartu, there is small town called, Elva. About a 30 minutes’ drive or a 50 minutes bus ride Tartu will transport you to the essence of Estonia. A famous hike locally called as ‘Väike Väerada’ in Estonian or, interestingly, in English called as ‘Nature Energy Trail’. Not wrong at all, one can feel the tranquillity and peace in the air.

It is a small 3km hike, but it is one of the most popular ones to do. The trail specifically is interesting, as it is marked by its special wooden sculptures inspired by the ancient folklore of Estonia, designed by local artists. With these cute, sometimes weird structures, you can feel how Estonians are connected with their nature. As I called them that day ‘Tree People’ or ‘People of the Forest’. There is a legend surrounding the hike that, anyone who completes it feels more energetic than before, and I experienced it myself. The trail is marked, somehow paved at times, but it’s an adventure by itself to spot the next wooden sculpture. You may expect structures as inspired by bears, ghosts, pagan gods and things you can’t even describe. It is all very engaging. Not to mention, there is a small lake in the middle of the hike, where one can even swim. I spent good time, courtesy of the good weather, and I highly recommend to visit it for a day trip while in Tartu. More information on this hike can be found here.

Secondly, I would like to present another personal experience. A month ago, I just saw one FB event post for a social working outdoor activity on a Sunday. Without thinking too much (as I always tend to) registered for it. Later in the day I found out that the event was organized part of ‘Talgupäev’ or ‘Let’s do it’ in English. It is a community working day being held in Estonia since 2008. The event I went to, was organized by a local NGO International House with an Estonian family, who needed help to plant trees in their forest-land.

The day came, and on a bright sunny day we 10 people gathered to volunteer for the event. We went to a place that was around 30 minutes from Tartu, and then, after crossing small villages, we arrived in the courtyard of a countryside house. We were nearby Palumäe. The Estonian family was very happy to see us. We started the day by unfurling the flag of Estonia, and then we went towards their forest with the tools in hand. Interestingly, they had 2000 tree saplings in number to be planted. The number did sound scary at first, but we then divided in groups of 2 and started to do our jobs: Planting Trees! The nature and environment was seemingly beautiful. The small hills, flat land, swamps and a huge lake… I think I saw everything that day. We starting planting in more or less straight lines. It took us 6 hours, but collectively we did manage to plant all the trees. The feeling of satisfaction was some other level. In the process, we laughed, jumped, and shared different stories among each other. We also tried a drink made from fresh berries from the forest. It was natural raw energy I would say. I was proud that day to plant more than 200 trees with my buddy. I hope, I go there someday back and look how they have grown. Anyhow, later we chilled in the sun, had Estonian home-made food and, of course, went to the Sauna (You can never escape sauna in an outdoor activity). It wasn’t until the next morning when I woke up that I actually realised how much muscle work I did, courtesy to the pain. Anyhow, it was worth it. If you would also like to explore such an exciting opportunity to both have fun and do something productive, then you can find more information on this here.

As I mentioned before, Estonia is my lovely tranquil place to be. Its a bliss to be able to just move out of your comfort zone and go to a hike or a trail. The people are nice, places are beautiful, and most of all, all information is available in English. I never feel like I am in a foreign land. If you study or decide to study in the University of Tartu, I do recommend to get out of the city and traverse the countryside sometimes.