Estonia: In autumn there is real silence in the Alutaguse National Park

“Don’t speak from now on,” says Triin Asi as she crosses the border to her forest. Your forest – that is an area of ​​80 hectares in the middle of the Alutaguse National Park in eastern Estonia. A few years ago she and her husband bought it and built a hut in it to offer wildlife viewing for tourists who long for nature.

No tree may be felled here, let alone an animal hunted. “Our forest remains untouched,” the 47-year-old biologist had previously explained. “So that future generations can still experience a real jungle.” Triin Asi continues walking in silence.

It’s afternoon and autumn has long since taken over. Mushroom heads protrude from the mossy forest floor, glowing in orange, red, purple and white. In between bushes, on which some wild blueberries and lingonberries still hang, overlooked by tall birch trees with already yellow leaves.

It gets quiet in autumn in the Alutaguse National Park

It is unreally quiet! Most of the birds have already moved south and the insects have fallen silent. No breeze, no distant road noise, no chirping, no sound.

The famous Estonian natural philosopher Fred Jüssi once said: “A different consciousness arises in silence”. “Art is animated by silence. It is the important break in music and poetry. ”In 1983, Jüssi recorded the song of a nightingale on tape, which ended up in the hands of the British broadcaster BBC.

A short time later he received numerous letters of thanks. What touched the people was especially the silence, the pauses in the birdsong. They had never heard anything so pure before. Brain research now knows that rest stimulates the formation of new nerve cells, while noise blocks them.

Source: WORLD infographic

According to recent studies, there are only a few corners in the world that are completely free of man-made noises. Silence has become precious, but not out of reach.

You can always find them in the secluded Alutaguse National Park, which was founded in 2018 and is open all year round – especially from autumn, when nature also comes to rest and is preparing for winter. Around 5,000 people live around the national park, which covers around 43,600 hectares.

The shy animals are safe in this forest

One comes to Alutaguse to escape. To find a retreat between moors, forests and lakes, like bears, wolves, elks, lynxes or the last 70 or so flying squirrels. You can explore the national park on your own or learn interesting facts about the animals on guided tours.

Triin Asi pauses, points to a spot in the mud: two prints of huge bear paws. “At least twelve centimeters in diameter,” she whispers. “A fully grown male came by here.” It is now hunting season, and bears are also shot. The shy animals have learned over time that they are safe in Asi’s forest.

Estonia: Bears can be seen on guided tours through the Alutaguse National Park

Bears can be observed on guided tours through the national park

What: Natourest

After half an hour of hiking, the clearing with the observation hut is reached. A dark wooden shed with a narrow window front, without electricity or water, surrounded by dense undergrowth, fallen tree trunks, spruce and birch.

Inside, a row of chairs, bunk beds, an outhouse and binoculars for everyone. Outside, a piece of unspoiled nature, on whose stage the forest dwellers show themselves to the hidden public as they really are.

In Estonia, trees have a soul

The quiet performance begins. Three jays flutter over, with titmice dancing to greet each other in the air. On a branch above them a squirrel with shiny red fur poses astride and happily lets one leg hang down.

A little later: Raccoon dog appears from the right. Also fed round, the roughly fox-sized, black-brown creature with the raccoon face paddles purposefully towards a tree, where it seems to have discovered something interesting between the roots and leaves.

Estonia: Raccoon dogs are shy inhabitants of forests and regions with a lot of undergrowth

Raccoon dogs are shy inhabitants of forests and regions with a lot of undergrowth

Quelle: Getty Images/500px Plus/Kristjan Lauge/500px

Shortly afterwards, a smaller specimen hops into the picture on the left, apparently its female. Curious about the bustle of her companion – raccoon dogs are very monogamous and also raise their young together – she does the same. In doing so, they keep putting their heads together. As if they were discussing what needs to be done before the onset of winter.

The Estonians, like the Germans, have always had a special relationship with the forest. For the Estonians it is a symbol of consolation, enlightenment, wildness, origin and roots. In addition, it is their soul home and a kind of sanctuary.

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Estonia: A boardwalk leads through the moor in Lahemaa National Park

After decades of Soviet occupation, Estonia is not a particularly religious country, but a large part of the population still believes that trees have a soul and that certain natural sites have special energies. Hiis are the names of those holy groves, of which 2500 still exist, some of them from pre-Christian times. They are also places of silence; as a national heritage they are under special state protection.

Slowing down in the sacred grove

One of them is the sacred oak forest Tammiku hiis, which is located on the edge of the nearby village of Johvi. Only eight trees of the once mighty grove are left. Ancient specimens with spreading branches and gnarled trunks.

46-year-old Kaya Toikka checks on them regularly. “A sacred grove needs care so that it retains its strength,” she says. Twenty years ago it was in a littered, neglected condition. “We were only able to save a small part, but the old energy can be felt again.”

Toikka, who describes herself as an indigenous peoples, is a member of the Maavalla Koda organization, which is dedicated to the preservation, promotion and transmission of local customs and natural religions.

Thanks to her, there are information boards on many sacred groves that educate visitors about the history and correct behavior in the area. Toikka observes that more and more young people are visiting the millennia-old places to experience healing or blessings, to make a promise or to recharge their batteries.

Some tie threads of wool around logs or leave small offerings during their prayers. Not only does the external noise fall silent when entering a sacred grove, but above all the noise in the head, says Toikka. “It takes silence to find peace.”

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Around 300 kilograms live weight: fighting brown bears

Back in the forest, the raccoon dog couple has meanwhile brought their two cubs. The little ones flit back and forth playfully while the portly parents sniff their way through the leaves. Another hour of animal existence goes by in complete self-sufficiency.

Until, with the onset of dusk, the birds would retreat and the hour of the brown bears would begin. But apparently somewhere else today. A mother bear with two babies only came by the day before yesterday, but at the moment they don’t seem to care about another appearance.

So the animal show is over for today. We are left with the happiness of complete deceleration. And a silent stage, motionless like a photo. Finally, as night falls, the last dark curtain also falls. “Nature doesn’t give a damn about stage directions,” says Triin Asi. It is the first sentence that has been uttered in hours.

Much of the population of Estonia believes that trees have a soul

Much of Estonia’s population believes that trees have a soul

Source: Johannes Arro / Visit Estonia

Tips and information

Getting there: About with Air Baltic or Lufthansa to Tallinn. From there it is about a two-hour drive to Alutaguse National Park.

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Lithuania: In Vilnius there is an almost endless range of cafés, bars and restaurants to go out

Corona rules: Estonia is a high risk area, but travel is possible. Breaking news: auswaertiges-amt.de

Observe wildlife: The Estonian operator NaTourEst (natourest.ee) offers guided wildlife tours (also in German), such as the bear tour (spring to autumn, chances of seeing bears: 80 percent, free of charge if unsuccessful, from 105 euros per person, families 235 euros).

The Alutaguse National Park can be explored on your own all year round, information: kaitsealad.ee/en

Further information: visitestonia.com

Participation in the trip was supported by Visit Estonia. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit.

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