Think “former Soviet” means dull and grey? Think again. Hannah Doody explores the gritty, forgotten charm of Estonia.
All photo credit: This Is Life Photography
From the moment the hostelworker told us about Rummu, Jaime and I knew we had to get there.
Part of an abandoned Soviet prison an hour outside Tallinn (Estonia’s capital), the limestone quarry of Rummu is now half-submerged, making it a popular swimming spot for locals in the summer.
There was only one problem: it was on private property and only possible to access on foot.
It didn’t take long for Jaime to persuade two young guys from our hostel to drive us there.
The guys were from France and Canada respectively, and they seemed trustworthy enough. So we stocked up on snacks at the supermarket, plugged the address into Google Maps and set off in search of Rummu.
The rugged green meadows whipping past the car window were mesmerising. Some might say the Estonian landscape is bleak and harsh but to me it’s full of intrigue.
We arrived at a road with a barbed wire fence with some parked cars alongside it. Climbing through a hole in the fence, we waded through the thick vegetation until we reached a clearing – and the view was surreal.
The limestone mound spills down to meet crystal-clear water. Dilapidated, abandoned buildings that would have made up the old prison emerge from the water and surrounding trees.
We wandered in and out of the abandoned buildings, admiring the colourful graffiti on the walls as we imagined what this place would have been like so many decades ago.
This was just one of many bewitching episodes on my trip. Everything felt so removed from anything I had experienced before. Fusing medieval and modern, Estonia has an allure all of its own.
This is a country where brutalist Soviet architecture and romantic Art Nouveau buildings stand alongside glass skyscrapers and shiny shopping districts.
Once you have a taste of the nightlife, rich history, cultural meltingpot of cuisines and untouched natural beauty of Eastern Europe, it never stops calling you back.
Image Credit: This Is Life Photography