The upside down world of the Võlla moor.
In the moor, self-evident rules of civilisation have turned upside down. Because of a reflection, cell phones don’t work there. Water, which seems almost black, has actually flown through a natural filter and is marvellously clean. The earth that should hold a man is not so sure in the moor. Perhaps moor is a reflection of hell.
Travelling some thirty kilometres from Pärnu along the seashore towards the west there is Viruna farm – in the middle of a sea that appeared as a result of heavy rains. This very rain has covered the direct road to the Pennu crossroad – the border of the farm – by a 1.5-metre water layer. Of course, there is a possibility to reach the farm by making a detour of some two dozen kilometres.
Viruna is not an ordinary farm as it is surrounded by canals that are tens of kilometres long and full of black water. Through these canals, the canoe of farmer Mart Vahtel takes interested people to the Võlla moor.
The thicket of reeds by the canals reminds one of narrow jungle rivers like in old Vietnam war films – angry Yankee soldiers wading, guns above their heads. However, these rivers start from an Estonian moor and follow different paths: some discharge themselves into the lake of Tõhela, some flow to the sea. The farmer calls the canal that flows into the land of the farm „our street“.
But right next to the jungle, there is quite an ordinary forest that was born some fifty years ago – thanks to the turf walls that appeared as a result of the dredging works in canals.
During the first republic, several arduous farmers received moory land from the president and started to drain it. Indeed, some of the swamps were drained. As late as during World War II, some farmers used an abandoned American dredger for excavating and deepening ditches and rivulets.
However, finally it was of no use. Only Mart can now use the canals for organising canoe trips for moor lovers.
Our canoe passes several regular fir groves – these belonged to the lands given as a present to those Russian soldiers that fought for Estonia in the Independence War. There are also remains of their farms – chimney stones can still be seen.
A fool can drown in any place
Moor is an overgrown lake. Before a moor is born, there is probably a swamp. Lakes are important elements in the metabolism of moors as they collect the excessive water that the moor „sponge“ itself can’t contain. Nobody knows the depth of the lakes in Võllaraba (i.e. Võlla moor). According to Mart’s estimations they are not very deep. In his opinion, the depth of a lake that reaches the river bottom of a 10,000 years old moor could be 25 metres.
Some pheasants are flying above the moor. At the place of Mart’s farm, there was a hunting lodge before WWII. Of the hunting lodge only the foundation has remained. Pheasants have survived the unfamiliar climate but are now jobless and try to catch creatures that are naive enough to fall prey to them.
If you really want to sink in, it can happen in Võllaraba – as in any moor. However, Mart thinks that a fool can drown in any place – even in dirt. True, in some regions one has to dance like John Travolta and there are places where it is not wise to step. But these are black and therefore clearly visible. Also, surface covered by light green and marvellously soft grass can be dangerous. After sticking the toe of your boot into the „sinking water“ you can notice the main culprit – brown sludge that will become dignified turf in some thousand years already.
Once a group of „pioneers“ – as Mart calls them – visiting the moor sank in collectively. Son Martin picked them out of the slough, one by one. The only one who avoided the soft spot was the group leader who weighed over 100 kilos. The morale – in the moor one must not step in the footprints of the person walking ahead of you.
It is not easy to get everyone out of a slough. For example, in case of a cow, all four legs had to be dug out.
Local people keep out of the moor, says Mart. There is only one drunkard who uses moor’s depressive silence for overcoming his hangovers.
In Mart’s opinion, moor could be a good place for businessmen to deport their employees – in the moor people avoid from excessive drinking and are therefore in good shape in the beginning of a new week – obedient instruments for a capitalist.
There are many islets in the Võlla moor and on the two largest there were once farms. After all, throughout the history the moor has been a popular sanctuary for all kinds of outlaws and refugees. A bunker of „forest brothers“ from the last war can still be seen.
Mart thinks that one could even stay overnight in the islets. Furthermore, it would be fun to bring a person in the middle of the moor and then disappear for some time – creepy joke, isn’t it? Mart Vahtel is not an ordinary farmer.
First, he has a long beard that suits ideally to the moor environment – an environment that resembles hell in bad weather. A former actor of theatre „Ugala“ climbs stunted pines and searches for the nearest lake. In the Võlla moor it is reasonable to drag your canoe from lake to lake. And then once more to the next lake. There are probably hundreds of lakes in Võlla. Very often they are awfully alike – even Mart knows only some of them.
Vahtel once worked in Tallinn as an assistant of a cartoon operator. There his work sometimes involved making wooden dolls for TV shows that are familiar to many children. Even now he sometimes carves wooden creatures, both small and big, for exhibitions. In the garden and in guest rooms above the bed one can see a pennu – a pre-Christian cross with a piece of hide attached to it. The hide sucks the bad energy in, explains Mart, a follower of the Taara faith.
Near the house, there is an Oak; and by the oak, a sacrificial stone. The spot on the stone where ancient Estonians placed their sacrifices, has become hollow. It can be noticed that Mart continues to sacrifice – lamb bones and pieces of hide are hanging from the oak-tree. He says that the sacrificial stone has good energy and the place is ideal for rituals. Namely, the lands of Mart’s farm are surrounded by canals and thus protected by a water circle. „The greatest godheads are still the golden eagle and the white-tailed eagle who fly over from time to time,“ he adds facetiously.
Mart has calculated that crusaders must have once marched through the land of his farm. „In the moor they would have drowned. Thus, only this hypothesis remains,“ he says knowingly.
Vahtel thinks that abandoning the city was a right decision. First he moved from Viljandi to Sõrve säär where he took up the job of a forest-keeper. But then prime minister Savisaar started to offer land to people and as in Pärnu there was plenty of it, Mart came to Pärnu County and settled by the Võlla moor. In a place where the world ends. Or begins? Who knows.
Eesti Päevaleht, Nils Niitra 27.07.1996