A Spiritual and Cultural-Historical Journey
from Pirita to Vana-Vastseliina

Pilgrim’s route


When proceeding from the junction at Vetla towards Voose, we will soon leave the forest behind us. Just beside the road on the left there is a tall, 300-year-old pine tree (Tagasauna mänd) which was taken under state protection at the initiative of Ralf Maasikmäe. According to pre-war boundaries this is where the Village of Jõe starts, currently with six „chimneys”. But smoke rises from only one chimney throughout the year; two of the six farms have been sold, four farms are inhabited by the offpring of the former villagers, who only come in the summer. This is where the social and economic development of the last 60–70 years has led us. The land rises near the village and from the first hilltop we can detect the houses in Voose street village.  

The Village of Voose should not be confused with Voose Manor (Wosel in German) in Hanila Parish in West Estonia.
The Village of Voose is mentioned in the Danish Census Book (Liber Census Daniae, the counties of Harju and Viru were included in 1219–1220). Then the village had eight ploughlands  of land and was owned by a Henricus Lothaest. The original name of the village appears in various spellings: Wosen, Wosel. One of the four prehistoric hill forts in Estonia is located at Voose; it was destroyed in the battles tbat raged here in 1495. On older topographical maps the site of the hill fort is marked outside the northern boundary of the present-day village. This is the village which was put on the map by the blessed Count Ludwig August von Mellin in the 18th c., where there was a schoolhouse with only one classroom and one teacher who taught children from the first to the fourth year, and with an outdoor privy; in this school most of the people in the neighbourhood who are over 50 today learnt their three Rs,  (Just as at Palamuse.) On its best days in the 1920s–1930s the school had about 30 pupils. Then a second classroom was taken into use and the primary school lasted for six years. Earlier a public school had functioned at the local inn, where tuition lasted for two years, deemed sufficient for the Estonian peasants. To economise on stove heating only one room was used if there were fewer pupils.
In addition to schools we should have a look at churches as well. Voose was part of Kose Parish for a long time (and St. Nicholas Church at Kose is about 18 km away from Voose). The Danish Census Book lists Kose Parish, too. It was here that most of the Voose people were baptised, confirmed, wed and buried, as villagers usually lived in one place and there was practically no migration.

During the Livonian War Voose was burnt down. The people who had fled into the forests reconstructed their village after the war. Swedish rule and the Reformation brought much trouble at first. It is known that on 25 and 26 August 1595 the Landtag of Estonian nobility was convened at the initiative of Superintendent David Dubberch at Voose. A compromise was reached as to the responsibility of the nobility for maintaining churches. It was decided that at least one person from each family should participate in Sunday services. Two noblemen from each parish were to help Dubberch on his visitations and they were to write a report for the governor. After the Landtag the nobility got more involved in local church matters and they made frequent donations to the church. The higher clergy and the country priests in Catholic churches came from the ranks of the nobility. Because of the Reformation this was discontinued and after the breakout of the Livonian War no more clergymen arrived from Germany. In troubled times most of the clergy were not sufficiently educated; very often they were fortune seekers. The Swedish government tried to improve matters by sending Swedish and Finnish clergymen, but they were not as highly educated as the Germans. The few from Livonia or Estonia who managed to go and study in foreign universities were just enough to fill in the positions of pastors in towns.

When we look at the map we can see that Voose inn was located at a strategically important place, at a junction of five roads, and it had been standing there since the end of the Swedish rule. The people in those days valued timber and knew when was the right time to fell trees, so this old inn survived until the beginning of the 21st century, when it was sold and dismantled. The logs that were still usable were stored to wait for better days, there are plans to reconstruct it as a centre of modern history.


In the earlier centuries the old wayside inn was the centre of village life, but in 1928 the local activists – voluntary firemen – decided to build a community house, which still stands. Some of the logs for building were obtained from an abandoned farmhouse, the rest were given by the local farmers from their own forests. The building started in 1929 and in August of the same year the community house was completed.
Thanks to the efficient village elder Andrus Nilisk and his wife Anna some funding was received for renovation, as a result, the community house was restored to its former beauty. There used to be a small tower for drying wet fire hoses on the roof, which was demolished in Soviet times, and which extended to the basement where fire equipment was kept (water pumps, ladders, buckets, etc. ). There was a bell resembling a ship’s bell in the tower which was used to raise alarm. The bell is kept in a safe place and is displayed during the events at the community house. There was a stage in the main hall of the community house. Until the 1960s local and visiting theatrical groups and choirs performed here. The local mixed choir and theatrical group were supervised by Inge Jaansoo, a teacher from the Voose school until the school was closed. Today  the main hall (without a stage) is used for meetings and parties, some handicraft circles also gather at the community house.
By the end of 2013 there were 67 permanent inhabitants in the village.

After having had a rest and some bodily and spiritual nourishment – you will have to bring some refreshements along as there is no shop or inn in the village any longer! – we continue on our journey.


The villages of Voose and Vetla played a particular role in the birth of the republic of Estonia. On 6 January 1919 the decisive battles of the War of Independence took place here. Beside the Voose-Saia road on the Jägala River there is the Vetla-Voose-Saia Line memorial, first unveiled on 20 July 1930. The opening speech was held by Jaan Teemant, former State Head. The memorial was vandalised on the night of 13 October 1940. It was restored almost to its original state and reopened on 24 August 1991. The memorial consists of stones piled up on a two-tiered concrete base with a shrapnel embedded in each corner. The top of the memorial features a cannon from the War of Independence. The riverside part of the memorial bears a plaque with a text that reads: „SO FAR AND NO FURTHER! THOUSANDS OF ESTONIANS CRIED. 1918–1920”.


From the junction of five roads we continue towards Nirgu, and after passing a schoolhouse, we can head south and climb Luurimägi (98 m), the highest top in Harju County, on the right side of the road. Luurimägi is where the 17 km long winding esker of Voose-Pühajärve starts. Eskers are long and relatively high ridges, which are formed from the deposits of sediments left by streams that flowed within ice-walled tunnels or in crevasses. After the retaining ice-walls melted, the ridges with steep sides were formed. To tell the truth, it was the beauty of the landscape that brought us here (How beautiful and enigmatic eskers look on a topographical map!). The path along the ridge leads to the Kurissaare quarry. There the path descends or the journey can be continued along the adventurous path on the ridge to Kautla. This is a wonderful walk!
And our destination – the Bishop’s Castle at Vastseliina.

Ago Papp