Have you ever dreamed of the place where you could hide from the world, yet still have a city life at your fingertips? I bet you have, and I have a good news for you. You don’t have to climb the mountains, neither you have to walk the long hours in the rainforest to find such a place. All you have to do is to hop onto car, bus, or even a plane, come to the Estonia capital Tallin, and let the boat take you to Naissaar island. After an hour on the sea, you will find yourself in a completely different world, in the world of pines, tides and sand.
Stay at Naissaar
First of all, let’s get rid of your luggage. Even though Naissaar is small, it has its own guesthouse. The hotel is opened regularly between 1st of May and the last of October, but if you ask nicely, you can come at any time you want. I should however warn you, the accommodation will teach you to appreciate some small daily luxuries, such as warm water, electricity, and flushing toilet. The electricity in the house for everything except lights is provided by an old, massive and noisy power generator. My advice? Charge whenever you can. Nothing is more annoying that when you’re trying to capture a breath-taking norther light, and your camera is stubbornly asking for charger (true story, I guess that I must have broken a record in number of f-words ever said by a girl in one minute). And warm water and flushing toilet? Well, water needs to be warmed by something, so we are getting back to the previous point and my advice: wash when you can, especially as there are only four showers for the whole house (if you don’t count sauna pool). And the toilet is a nice, old-fashioned latrine about 20 meters from the main house. The final accommodation-related advice: there is no, or at least I did not notice it, shop on the island, so if you feel like you cannot go without vodka, wine (ahem), cigarettes or anything else for a week, it’s probably better to bring it with you.
Two Faces of Naissaar
Once you have been welcomed and rested, it’s time to go for the beach. On Naissaar, sea and beach is never far away, but let me say the sea is damn cold (especially when you’re an idiot who decides that the best way to impress their friend is to go swimming in half of October). Even if you have more common sense than I do, the walk around is still enjoyable, and immensely interesting. Not only because of its marvellous nature and views of Tallin on the opposite shore, but also for its history, which breaths from every stone and tree. As you walk around, you will immediately notice tons and tons of all military equipment, left to its own fate. As a matter of fact, the history of the place has mostly been formed by the two groups: fishermen and soldiers. The first group, who were the main habitants of the island between 11th and 18th century, marked their presence by two villages, one of them even has its own small amphitheatre, lighthouses and the church. All these buildings are wooden, painted with cheerful colour, and, to our surprise, maintained by their owners, who are used to spend summer on Naissaar. The ruins of military techniques are quite the opposite case. Made of stone and bricks, they were supposed to last forever, but now, they are just symbols of decay and faded glory of one era. Many armies have occupied this island, from Russians to Germans and Estonians back to Russians, but in the end, they all had to leave, and they left sad and scary scene behind them.
Why Are the Torpedoes Here?
While you’re walking around the island, you can see the old barracks with empty windows, followed by the old railway, or you can even climb on the old naval torpedoes. If you’re interested in this side of the history of the island, the best you can do is to order a tour across the island. The organisers offer two circuits, and I strongly recommend the first one, which includes the greatest military fortress on the island, Battery No. 10b. Even if you are not much into amy and military, this building is something worth seeing. As you are approaching, being carried by an old military truck, you have the same feelings as Tolkien’s hobbits when they actually saw Mordor for the first time. Even though the whole island has been abandoned for more than 20 years now, the place still gives one creeps by its atmosphere of fear and evil. You will be given torches so you can take a closer look, and even though I have quite a lot of experience with visiting dark and weird places, I can’t remember feeling that uncomfortable anywhere. The place is a maze, and after a while, you will realise that you half-expect a zombie attack or at least a couple of vampires (not that shining type, though). However, no matter how scared you are, there is one place you should not miss: the old watching point. Simply go as high as you can, until you get to an old, rusty ladder. Climb that too and you will find yourself in a small room, where the only source of light is the hole just in the middle of the ceiling. It’s probably the creepiest place you have ever been to, but it has its’ own, strong magic. The other place you should not miss is the old sea torpedoes warehouse. Just be careful, the mines are just as unstable as they are attractive for climbing at. Yes, I tried it. Yes, I fell down. Yes, they laughed at me.
What to say more? Not much I guess, because the beauty of this place is not in words. It’s not in over-complicated architecture, it’s not in perfectly preserved monuments. Rather than that, Naissaar island is beautiful in its creepiness. It’s a place where old mines are used as flower pots and BBQ grills, and where people find nothing weird about having an amphitheatre for a few tens of habitants. So please, just come and be creepy, and you will see that you will not want to come back to land.