Lahemaa National Park & Projekt Kodu
Days 3-4: Jess is a Wanderer heads out into Estonia's wilderness...
We had only been in Tallinn (Estonia's capital) for a matter of hours before we heard about Projekt Kodu and just knew we had to visit. We'd already heard about Lahemaa National Park and decided that going there was high on our priority list during our time in Estonia.
Why Projekt Kodu?
An eco-lodge set in the heart of Estonia's largest national park, it has a sauna, free bicycle hire, funky yurts, campfire, wifi, pizza oven and all sustainable, environmentally friendly etc. It was perfect for someone who does not do enough environmentally friendly things in day-to-day life. We took a bus from Balti Jaam 5 at Tallinn's train station early Sunday morning. The bus took us to Loksa Linn (a ghost town with 3000 inhabitants?!), I asked someone there where we should go and he said 'Why are you here?' I think that sums it up! We decided to walk instead of paying the 5 Euro pick-up fee. However, our bags were heavier than we thought and the walk longer than we anticipated. Fortunately, after about 3km, Jim (Projekt Kodu owner) drove past us, took the bags and we carried on walking enjoying the scenery. Little did we know this 10k walk was going to be nothing in comparison to the next two days 40km bike ride/hiking expeditions... and we had the butt ache to prove it!!
What to do?
As mentioned, Jim (and Maari - who we didn't meet) built Projekt Kodu as a base for exploring the national park. The bikes are just about in working order and make for more of an adventure out in the wilds! There's a whole heap of things to do including visiting an old submarine base (where I was showing off on my bicycle and nearly smashed into a rather terrified man riding on his lawnmower but that's another story), wandering through an overgrown and abandoned former-Soviet village - definitely worth a visit if you enjoy feeling creeped out! There are lakes for swimming (which you should be able to find using a map, or you could be like us and need a chaperone in the form of a local lady called Reet to guide you), trails to conquer and even the chance to visit Estonia's THIRD BIGGEST..... stone. Yes, that's right. You can actually come here and say you've seen (and climbed) Estonia's third biggest stone. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, I don't have information about where the first and second biggest stones are located within the country...
There's a seaside 'town' called Vinistu which boasts a marvellous coastline and a restaurant. Note the singular use of restaurant. It doesn't open Mondays or Tuesdays so if you're making the trek up there in the hope of finding food... go Wednesday-Sunday. Fortunately we had hitchhiked so didn't lose any money but we were even hungrier by the time we found ourselves in a supermarket buying a cheap local dinner of bread, cheese and Piprapihv, Kanapihv and Slaavikotlet Küüslauguga (a selection of sausage-y type treats). Scrimping a lot at the moment due to overspending the budget EVERY SINGLE DAY!!
Projekt Kodu Itself
Three years in the making and in its first year of being open to 'the public'. Sorry, I mean, the adventurous among us, we were some of the first guests to call our tent home for the few days we were there. Due to low numbers (being out of season), we had booked a four-person tent but had the place to ourselves. With beds made out of old palettes (like all the best things in life are) and a carpeted floor made from recycled coffee bean sacks, there was a super homely feel to the place.
Amenities at the site include: the toilets, where everything is composted; boiling hot showers, powered by the sauna; the sauna itself, which is built out of straw bales and clay (gees, these guys are innovative!); the kitchen, complete with drinking water, gas oven and all the crockery/pots & pans you could need; a chill-out lounge with sofas and wifi and a pretty impressive sound system.
The sauna was perfect for relaxing after a hard day's exploring or a pre-shower warming-up (the showers are outdoors!!) and for getting changed in again afterwards. Despite only being in the wilderness in early September, it was freeeeeeeezing. The wool blankets in the tent absolutely saved us as it was bitterly chilly. Perhaps we were just feeling the cold more than the average person because we're so used to Egypt temperatures? I'm not sure!
Electricity is powered by homemade (and very effective)solar panels. Due to the cost of getting 'on the grid' with the Estonian government, the owners decided to produce their own power and ultimately, be more sustainable. Super impressive!