In the summer of 1939, the Baltic States were forced to sign the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Soviet Union. Within days Estonia was occupied and the first of many Russian military bases were established. By 1970, the Soviet Union had turned 3 of the military units in to nuclear missile bases at kadila, Levavere Rohu and Rakvere. The Estonian people had no idea and neither did we until…
We spotted an abandoned factory and large underground shelter in the middle of a field. Out of curiosity we stopped and had a walk around. Chatting about likely options for this place and soon one thing led to another and speculation about ‘what if’ the shelter is actually a silo? We departed the site none the wiser but it got us taking about war. Then a few miles down the road we spotted a sign Tamm Bunker. Weird or what! With war, bunkers and silos in our head we had no choice but to follow.
Armed with a motorhome and two wild dachshunds we turned off the main road on to an idillic country lane. A few miles of lush green fields with the odd hay stack before we turned ‘off road’. Once off the main country road the bumpy, puddle and ditch ride had Vin the motorhome rocking and rolling, splishing and splashing. Hardly the all terrain vehicle for this sort of tour. Pots, pans and everything rattled and poor Mac n Tosh wondered what the heck was going on.
First through farmers fields and then in to the darkness of the forest. The sign posts had well gone and clearly this place isn’t on the tourist trail. Maybe we got it wrong? We followed the bumpy road until we arrived at a right turning. We followed it around until we could go no further. Parked on concrete slabs, surrounded in trees and over grown weeds. As we stepped out and peered around, we could see a number of ruins. Completely overgrown with bushes, weeds and moss. On the floor, the odd charred piece of wood, a sodden item of clothing and obligatory broken glass. No one’s been here for years. Little did we know but we were standing on the Kadila missile base.
Further down the track more ruins, Tamm bunker. We stopped had a look and then set off again. Next minute, Craig slammed on the breaks. In front, an army truck with two armed soldiers. Jeez what the heck, we s**t ourselves (excuse the french). Like two rabbits in headlines, we sat startled. Then seconds later another army vehicle zoomed up and spun around. Oh my god, we are dead. We are surrounded. They are gonna shoot us. We are not meant to be here. Every thought of doom and gloom ran through our heads. Then like a flash they disappeared.
Shocked but relieved, we drove on and parked up. Craig in need of a fag break and me in need of a toilet break! Heart rate back to normal, we looked around and guess what, we’d only parked up next to a load of soldiers! Holy bloody moly! Here we go again, why us! As it turned out this area is used by the army as a training ground. Dressed in full camouflage gear and armed guns the squad set about with their training. Making stuff out of wood…with a chain saw, climbing under barbed wire and keeping an eye on us two!
We felt a little uneasy and unsure if we should be here, so Craig nipped over and asked if it was OK to park here. The main man (not sure of his rank) was firm but polite and confirmed it was OK to park. He also pointed to the rear of Vin and informed Craig of some buildings and ruins.
We had a spot of lunch whilst the soldiers marched all around us. We guess they were as intrigued about us, as we were about them. After all, we didn’t see anyone else here never mind an English motorhome! With full bellies, we went for a little walk to explore only to discover we were at Rohu missile base. A disused information board with a broken sign enlightened us about our where a bouts. We followed the trail (completely overgrown) and found 3 rather intact hangers and sheds for special fuel.
Just before the main road road is Labavere woods. In 1941, after re-annexation of Estonia to Soviet Union several solders went in to the woods and built bunkers. They became known as the Forest Brothers Squad, killing activists of the communist party and fighting against Soviet power. In secret, local farmers provided them with food up until 1949 when everyone in the village was deported. Martin Tamm managed to escape and lived in the bunkers (now named after him) in the woods until 1954 when he was found and imprisoned.
Our 50 kilometre drive around the area was completely unexpected, unplanned but very fascinating.
To add to the day, we popped our at the village of Vaike-Maarja. Here the little museum (no photos) told us more about the area and the history surrounding it. Including the mass deportation of 1941 and again in 1949 were thousands were dragged from their beds. Men sent to prison camps and women and children to Siberia. After the deportation, the remaining people were scared, so they started to live and work together. The collective farms struggled but eventually their hard work paid off. Their reputation for quality and mass production was recognised and come 1991, when Estonia regained independence, the farm was still going strong. Under the property reform the farm was divided into 28 companies, all of which are still present today.
After an eventful day we drove south through the unspoilt, beautiful countryside of Estonia. Dusk was settling in when we reached Parnu. We parked at the free parking on the marina along with half a dozen other motorhomes, looking out to the boats bobbing in the muddy water. Time for a bite to eat before we hit the pillow and call it quits for the day.
Our Bumble Verdict: Vaike-Maarja, Estonia. Not much to look at but the history, the stories and quirkiness certainly make it a memorable and thought provoking day.
Our sleepy spot: on a small marina in Parnu. Once a camper parking spot but currently part construction site and part mixed parking spot.
Wild Camping GPS position N058.387117 E024.491640
Route: Lasila to Parnu