[This is one of a pair of posts about my travels in June 2017. The first can be found here.]
When the time came for the second trip, then, I was starting to slightly dread what was in store for me. I have never been much of an outdoors person or an extrovert, and the prospect of camping out for six nights with a group of eight people was fairly daunting to me. We were going to visit two national parks of Estonia, Lahemaa and Sooma, and then take a day to visit Narva, one of the modern day border cities between Estonia and Russia. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the parks and was very intimidated by the concept of “hiking.” Nevertheless I climbed on the bus to Tallinn with my friends Thursday morning and we headed north.
Of course, in the end I only fell more in love with Estonia, a place with countryside far more diverse than its small area would suggest. I swam in multiple seas and lakes, wandered in the forest, biked past swamps and bogs as well as beautiful stone beaches and Soviet ruins, and walked with my friends through enormous fields of flowers that made me feel like we were trespassing in a fairytale. I would never have assumed from the pictures I saw before coming that the countryside would be so varied or so beautiful. The forests truly show you why such places inspired stories of magic and enchantment as well as fear in the hearts of Europeans through the years. The seaside was incomparably beautiful, natural and quiet, (yet) unspoiled by tourism. What surprised me most, however, was what I was capable of. I biked 45 kilometers in one day with two of my friends, camped out every night, enjoyed Estonia’s tradition of sauna, and even got lost in the forest and lived to tell the tale. Hiking, it turns out, is just walking that some people take very seriously. And I, it turns out, am more of a country mouse than I ever assumed.