“This is what I do on Sunday,” our Estonian host, Elin, said, gesturing to the expanse of nature around us. “This is my church.”
Quiet and still on a drizzly Wednesday morning in mid-spring, the bog spread out to the horizon painted in shades of yellowish-green, deep orange, and brown. Occasionally, the sponge-like earth was interrupted by deep pools of water. How deep, we didn’t really know…and preferred not to find out.
We had walked about 20 minutes on a boardwalk platform to reach this spot where we could step out onto the soft ground. The peat, algae, and moss matted together were darker here than in other spots in the bog – an indication that the plants were older and more stable for us to explore the unusual scenery of this part of northern Estonia.
Only about 80 kilometers from Tallinn, the Konnu Suursoo bog is part of the Pohja-Korvemaa Nature Reserve. The landscape here was formed at the end of the last Ice Age when the glacier retreated, leaving plains full of sediment that are now mostly covered by bogs and forests. This area is home to numerous animals, including brown bears, wild boar, beavers, and many types of birds. But we saw no real signs of life as we prepared for our walk.
Tentatively, we stepped off the platform onto the springy unknown. The first item of business was to strap ourselves in to our bog walking shoes. Essentially snow shoes, they are designed to spread your weight over a larger area than regular shoes and, thus, keep you from sinking. Once outfitted, we began our journey.
While not a physical challenge, the feeling of walking on spongy, wet turf took a few minutes to get used to. We quickly learned not to drag our feet and not – under any circumstances – to try to go backward. It just doesn’t end well.
We walked our way across the soggy ground, gazing at the landscape. Small trees peeked through the bog in some places. Tart cranberries laced through the peat. Water seeped up through the mesh of our bog walking shoes every time we lingered a little too long.
After a while, we came to the watchtower. We climbed the flights of stairs, taking in the vastness of the bog, which was hard to appreciate from the ground. It spread as far as we could see. Nearly one-quarter of Estonia is covered in similar landscape. Standing there, it was easy to imagine that very little has changed about the bogs in thousands of years.
Soon, it was time to return to our starting point. We wandered our way back along the boardwalk platform, only a small piece of the 370-kilometer-long trail that stretches across Estonia. As before, we watched for birds (and bears) and kept our eyes out for the tiny sour berries that dot the bog. We marveled again at the burnt colors of the landscape and returned with a greater understanding of why the unusual outdoors is so much like religion to the locals here.
Where We Stayed in Tallinn, Estonia
Right off Town Hall Square in Tallinn, Estonia, stands the Hotel Telegraaf. Before you even step into the lobby, you know this is somewhere special, as the sign over the front door gives you a glimpse into its historic past – Telegraaf, Telephon, Post, 13 Nov. 1918. Indeed, this building that was once the main center of communication for Tallinn is now a brilliant five-star hotel.
A fusion of the old and new, the Hotel Telegraff incorporates the old building which dates from 1878 with a new wing, each with a distinct look and feel. The public areas are modern with black and gray furnishings and touches of silver. But everything is ultra-comfortable, inviting guests to relax and stay for a while – in the sleek lounge, the sizable indoor pool, or the breezy summer terrace.
A stay at the Hotel Telegraaf is all about understated luxury. All the furnishings, services, and amenities one could want are on-site, but nothing feels fussy or over-worked. The atmosphere is cool, modern, and welcoming – a great place to spend some time during a visit to Tallinn.
After a day of walking around the bogs of Estonia (or exploring the Tallinn Old Town), the hotel’s Elemis SPA is a great place to relax. The spa offers a full range of massages, facials, and other treatments. The pool, Jacuzzi, and sauna are also available every day.
The Hotel Telegraaf is a perfect mix of history and modern elegance. Its impeccable service, delicious food, and super comfortable beds make for a flawless experience.
This day trip was arranged for us by the Estonian Tourist Board and 360.ee during our tour of the Baltics sponsored by JayWay Travel. We stayed at the Hotel Telegraaf in Tallinn. As always, opinions of the adventurous and spongy are our own.
What was your most unusual outdoor adventure?
Laura Longwell is an award-winning travel blogger and photographer. Since founding Travel Addicts in 2008, she has written hundreds of articles that help over 3 million people a year get the most out of their travel. In that time, she has visited nearly 60 countries on 5 continents, often returning to favorite destinations over and over again. She has a deep love of history, uncovering unexpected attractions, and trying all the good food a place has to offer.
In addition to Travel Addicts, Laura runs a site about her hometown of Philadelphia—Guide to Philly—which chronicles unique things to do and places to see around southeastern Pennsylvania. Her travel tips and advice appear across the web.