Lahemaa National Park

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The view when we got off at the Loksa Tee bus stop.

We don’t have a car in Tallinn, but we managed to use the local bus system to get to Lahemaa National Park for a five-hour hike through boreal forest and bog. It was gorgeous (see below), filled with fantastic wildlife and tons of edible blueberries that yes, you’re allowed to collect. It seems like Estonians view the land through a practical lens, and the mantra of “don’t take more than you need and it’s fine” is the rule here. That being said, DON’T eat anything unless you can positively identify it.

If you’re looking to do the same hike, use Google Maps to find public transit directions to the stop “Loksa Tee” pictured below. The hike will start just east of the bus stop:

Now, motivation for you to go:

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Wood planks form a narrow trail through the wetter, boggier parts of the hike.
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A European Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) perches on purple heather (Calluna) – we last saw this in New Zealand, where it was invasive.
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The little mushroom that could #1.
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The little mushroom that could #2.
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A dense bed of lichens (light yellow) grow on the forest floor here in Lahemaa.
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What I suspect are cowberries, but I wasn’t sure so I didn’t eat any of them.
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An interesting leather-like foliose lichens grows among moss on the forest floor.
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Be yourself, tree. Be yourself.
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Putative chanterelles. We encountered a few women in the park collecting ‘gribui’, or mushrooms, mostly of the chanterelle variety.
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A resting point along the path. You can supposedly take this trail all the way to the sea, but that’s several days of hiking.
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A patch of mushrooms among the moss and decaying pine needles.
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An Alder Moth caterpllar (Acronicta alni) munches on summer’s bounty.
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Fresh wild blueberries hide among the foliage. They’re delicious.
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A salticid in a patch of grass.
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Pine trees grow at the edge of a bog pool. The water here takes on a dark brown hue due to tannins seeping out of the dead plant material beneath. The same thing happens in your tea.
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A lone tree grows on an island in the bog.
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Fruticose lichens growing on the forest floor.
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A polypore fruiting body grows from a fallen tree.
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The color of moss.
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The caterpillar of an Emperor Moth (Saturnia) hangs out between planks along the trail.
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Lengthening shadows in the forest.

And just for you, here’s a panoramic shot – click through to enlarge:

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Made possible by Google Photos.

Tallinn

IMG_4119 Estonia’s capital Tallinn is a city caught between two worlds: the city’s old town is a quintessential old European city, with red tile roofs and narrow cobblestone roads. As a port on the Baltic, the old town is daily inundated with throngs of tourists fresh from cruise ships, eager for local food, learning, photo opportunities and cheap souvenirs. The Estonians abide, with souvenir shops, Medieval punch-and-judy shows, and tours around the zig-zagging streets. The only hope of seeing the Tallinn’s old town peacefully is to come early in the morning or on a low day (you can check here).

Beyond Tallinn’s old town lies a fascinating cocktail of architecture from concrete Soviet apartment blocks to modern glass-shrouded malls. Estonia was part of the Soviet Union from 1944 to 1989, and many people here speak Russian as a second or even first language (use of the Estonian language was discouraged under Soviet rule). But today a growing number of Estonians speak English as their second language, and the country has some of the highest scores for Economic Integrity and a burgeoning technology sector (ever heard of Skype?). But Tallinn still feels like a place caught between two worlds – not quite Soviet, but not quite Baltic.

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