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

Pilgrim’s route

From the Tammsaare hillside over the Kodru raised bog to the Järva-Madise Church

From the Museum gate we go down from hill, straight across the meadow to the forest. The beginning of the RMK Hiking Trail we also marked ourselves in the book, and take the boardwalk that leads us via Kodru raised bog to the Järva-Madise Church.
A long time ago, during the cold months, when the ice covered the bog, this was the Winter Road, that used to go to church, tavern, parish court and other essential actions.

The boardwalk leads to the swamp birchwood. Nowadays, we do not want to believe, that there was once a meadow here and we could not imagine how, with a hard work, digging through the ditches year after year, the swamps were turned into pasture. After some time, the marsh will be replaced by the swamp forest, where trees are less dense, and Pines grow next to Birches and Aspens. Here too was once a pasture or meadow.
We walk further, the landscape becomes broader and lighter, and the vegetation around us gradually changes. The road reaches the mire island, called Palgissaar – the logs was brought from there. In the nose penetrates the maddening smell of Sweet vernalgrass. The vegetation of Palgissaare is characteristic to the wooded meadow. RMK has put up a number of billboards on the Hiking Trail, so that anyone can gather wisdom on plants and landscape types throughout the trail.

Here, it would be advisable for all travelers to forget their daily routines and problems and delve into bog silence, which is not often the case. Only a few birds chirping in silence, and if you are lucky enough, you can also hear the church bell playing, which is a mysterious experience altogether (the bells of Järva-Madise Church ring every full hour from 6 am to 8 pm).


Then we reach the border of the Kodru raised bog, where a growing Reed refers to moving water. There is a mire lake in front of us. The Bruise and Blueberry shrubs grow alongside the trail, Heather and pink-flowered Bog Rosemary are the butterfly favorites. There are many orchidaceous species here and the intoxicating smell of the Wild Rosemary fills the air.
At the edge of the bog there is a ditch dug by Peeter Hansen (A. H. Tammsaare’s father) – there was a boundary ditch, that was supposed to protect meadow and pasture from water coming from the bog.

Now we come to the wooded bog. On the Peat-Moss grow Cranberries and Cloudberries, low twisted pines look very attractive. There grows also insectivorous Sundew (Drosera), they are three different types in Estonia. The colors are complemented by light green plants, who like to live in the swamp and in the edges of the meadow. The Sundew and other insectivorous plants have been the most researched by Charles Darwin and the Sundew has even been his favorite plant.


One of the very cute trees we occasionally see next to the boardwalk is the Dwarf Birch. Its tiny round leaves are 1 to 1.5 centimeters in size and within a few decades it barely grows to a few centimeters in height.

The Hiking Trail leads between the bog-pool. The bog-pools are formed by the spreading of the peat mass, during the snow- and ice pressure and uneven freezing of the water. The peat layer is up to 8.5 m thick in the Kodru raised bog. But one meter of peat, accumulates in the bog for about a thousand years.

We have reached the 5 m high Observation Tower. Those who dare, can admire the views, but the tower seems a little volatile.

There is a Vibu Lake (Bow Lake) already visible. The brown-watered Vibu Lake has formed in the end of the Ice Age, named after his bow-remining shape. The small island of Vibu Lake is a home to the Bog’s Herring Gulls. Besides them, other birds will meet and hear in the bog. There are European Golden Plovers, Wood Sandpipers, Garganeys, also Swallows and Eagles flying around, and Swans will stop occasionally in there.

We move further down on the Hiking Trail to the wooded bog, where the Pines are taller and thicker, mosses and herbaceous plants more diverse.
The trail crosses over the swamp’s islands, which are known as the Kaubassaared (Trade Islands), but unfortunately, we don’t know what goods were made here? There are already Oaks, Lindens, Hazel Trees and Black Alders. The ground becomes dry again. We are at the southern end of Kodru raised bog, in there on yonder of the forest, appears a couple of farmsteads. In the old days there was a pasture of Järva-Madise Church Manor.


A BENCH OF SILENCE in the Kodru raised bog
We have baptized the Prayer Bench in Kodru raised bog into the Bench of Silence.
Dear Wanderer, collect here, in a peaceful bog the silence. It heals the senses, expands time and space and spirit. Just like a prayer or the poetry.

       Hidden inside the noises are silent places,
       silent places be needed
       so the soul can hear the resonance of silence,
       the silence resounds and echo.
       . . .

       Doris Kareva „Song of Silence”

In the morning of Victory Day, on June 23rd, 2019, the Deacon of Järva-Madise Congregation, Tiit Lastik, blessed the Prayer Bench and the people around it, and quite aptly said, „We are here quietly as God’s hands...”. We sang together with the Congregation folks, and finally and listened a beautiful song of 13-year-old Roderick Gross.
Many thanks to the RMK people – especially to Marge Rammo, who kindly organized to make the boardwalk and the platform, where the Prayer Bench stands. Thanks to Rene Tamm, who made the Bench. We thank the good people of Järva-Madise, who contributed with the thought and action. Still sit on the Prayer Bench and draw strength from silence.

From the Prayer Bench to the Church is about one and a half kilometers. More recent steps across the churchyard meadow and we are there. We walked from the Tammsaare hillside, hike across the Kodru raised Bog to the Järva-Madise Church for one and a half hours. It is just little over 4 kilometers.

P.S. Did you know that, at every year on the last Sunday in July, is celebrated in many parts of the World (where there are still bogs), on International Bogs Day? The initiators were the Scots in 1991, and in Estonia the Bogs Day has been held for many years. There are quite a few reasons for praising and keeping bogs.
Bogs are important mitigators of climate change, because they are the best Carbon sequestrants of all terrestrial ecosystems. When Peat is formed, every hectare of bogs will absorb tons of Carbon per year. Groundwater reserves are being restored in the swamps. Bogs and raised bogs are very old and species rich habitats, they are important keepers of wildlife and thus human life.

Daila Aas, in July, 2019


Viktor Kapp. Tammsaarest üle Kodru raba Järva-Madisele. Tallinn, 1989.
Helen Alumäe. Tammsaare Väljamäelt Järva-Madisele. Eesti Loodus nr. 4, 2010.
Henno Zingel, Herdis Fridolin. Paslik päev rappa minna. Maaleht nr. 30, 25. juuli 2019.
Sirje Aher. Darwinit vaimustanud lihasööja rabataim. Eesti Loodus nr. 2, 2009.