When we retrace our steps a little, we’ll pass the end of Roosi Street and keep to the right. On the gravel road we’ll turn left. The sign beside the road says: Soondla Farm, but we will go on until we can see the Mändide bus stop and a sign: Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve. Stone of Kalevipoeg. Before we’ve reached the sign, we’ll turn left. We have done about 2 km. Now the path will take us through somebody’s farmstead (no name seen); on the right young pine trees line the path, on the left we can see a boulder in the middle of the field, nicknamed Chair of Kalevipoeg. The boulder, with the height of 3.7 m and with the shape of an enormous chair (a good place for taking a rest and having a meal) is under protection.
And now we’ll proceed along the tree-lined alley towards Laashoone, keeping to the left. For all who walk on this path, here are some recollections by Viivi Luik to get you in the mood.
There used to be a glass-paved road near Meleski Glass Factory in Estonia. Now this road has overgrown with the thicket and there is hardly anyone alive who would know its exact whereabouts. You had to turn away from Vaibla–Meleski road and it took you through the woods to Laashoone. Few people knew that there was a road at all.
This was a peculiar world, lost and forgotten. The world of large woods and unpeopled meadows near the Pedja River. Almost like a fairy world. I happened to come to this fairy world in the mid-1950s, when I was nine. My father knew the forester at Laashoone. One summer my mother and father took me to the woods of Laashoone to pick cloudberries. We spent a couple of days there and stayed with the forester, in the upstairs room in his new house.
The house had been newly built, the yet unpainted walls of the upstairs room smelt of resin. The window looked to the west where the sun set on a treeless meadow, and twilight pervaded the room throughout half the night.
The glass-paved road was not far from the forester’s house. We had driven on it while going to Laashoone and while returning home again. It was a narrow road, built for horse-drawn carts, and our car went slowly on, with branches of trees sweeping the car’s body on both sides.
Some of the glass had sunk into the ground and was barely visible from beneath the grass, but the road had been recently re-paved. The new pieces of glass were smooth like cobblestones. It was green and brown bottle glass. The road glittered and shimmered in the summer sun. Big velvety butterflies and bumblebees hovered in the air, the wind brought the smell of linden flowers from afar.
There must have been guerilla hideouts in the woods and there were raids. There must have been some graves somewhere. Or, perhaps more hideouts. Anyway, there was this eerie silence.
The glittering and shimmering road led to the Pedja River. There was a floating bridge over the river. As the name says, it just floated on the surface and the water was smooth and black. The water flowed into the river from the peat bogs and was as black as night.
When you crossed the bridge over the Pedja River, you crossed the river of night itself. The wind moaned in the trees– enormous linden and maple trees – in the park on the other bank of the river. The smell of the linden flowers was carried over to the glass road.
There was a building under the trees – a hunting lodge. Even the dog kennels were still there. All the doors swung open on hinges and creaked. On the floor of one room there was an old plywood hatbox.
I went inside the hunting lodge together with a girl named Inge from Laashoone. Inge was wearing a white dress, her eyes were large and black. Where she lived or where she came from, I don’t know. Anyway we were sitting on the floating bridge with her in the midst of the black and smooth river and a silent night was passing underneath our feet. Big fish plopped into the river with a loud splashing sound and on a far-away meadow the self-ignited haystacks burned.
In the twilight the green and brown glass of the road shone as black as the river. I have tried to inquire of the people if they remember this glass road and the hunting lodge, as even a foundation does not remain. No one remembers.
It is quite likely that in the evening some pieces of glass still shine in the thicket. It is quite possible. There used to be a sparkling and glittering road that turned black at night. It might still be buried under the alder roots below ground. One day it may become visible to us – and lead somewhere, but we do not know where.
When we walked the glass road last summer, the road did not show us even a glint of coloured glass. Not this time. But there were colours everywhere: clouds of coloured butterflies hovered around us.
To the right in the middle of the road is Mehusaare Farm. After about 1.5 km on the Laashoone road, we saw some letterboxes on the crossroads. Turning to the left, we came to a bridge. On this bridge over the Põltsamaa River we noticed a kingfisher – nicknamed the northern jewel – flitting by.
Just across the river there is Metsavahi Farm. We have reached our destination. The old mistress of the farm Leida Põldaas kindly showed us where the old glassworks had been. Here, more than two and a half centuries ago the Woldemar Johann von Lauw glassworks were built. The placename Laashoone is a corruption of the Estonian word klaashoone, meaning ’glass building’. Nearby, where the Potaste forester family lives, there was a kiln, which supplied potash to the glassworks, its production was also exported abroad through Riga and St. Petersburg.
Lauw glassworks operated here in 1764–1775. The glass masters came mostly from Mecklenburg.
Laashoone factory produced mainly bottles in assorted sizes. There were small bottles of unique shape. They were made from light green glass, with small bubbles. Some other household ware was also made, such a milk bowls, as well as medicine bottles and specialised glass items. During the excavations fragments of women’s necklaces have been found. The findings included pieces of dishes, on which plant motifs had been pressed. Window panes were produced in a limited quantity, and there were also coach window panes, 5 mm thick, colourless or light pink (The archaeologist Maks Roosma by Krista Sarv.)
In 1965 archaeological excavations were conducted under the supervision of the glass artist and historian Max Roosma. He specified the exact location of the glassworks, which was near the hunting lodge, of which the foundation and the socle remain. Starting from 1997 Laashoone has been included in the protected cultural heritage list, the new bridge at Laashoone was completed in 2005.
When we kross the river again and come back to the letterboxes, we’ll turn to the left to Turvakuuri Farm. From here a path leads through the forest to Meleski. You can walk along the road as well, but what is a dust-covered road beside an inviting forest path, where you can see a bear as well. This is what the mistress of Turvakuuri Farm told us when we bade her goodbye.
Now, dear pilgrim, it is time for a small prayer before taking the path through the forest.
God be with thee in every pass,
Jesus be with thee on every hill.
Spirit be with thee on every streeam, headland and ridge and lawn;
Each sea and land, each moor and meadow,
Each lying down, each rising up,
In the trough of the waves, on the crest of the billows,
Each step of the journey thou goest.
The spirit is willing, so we can go on. And the sandwiches that smell appetisingly are best to be eaten before we start.
The buzzing, smelling and crackling forest did not show us a bear. There were animal tracks everywhere (including bear’s).
After about 1.5 km we’ll reach the crossroads. We’ll turn to the right, go on for about a kilometre and reach a big asphalt-covered road (there is a farm on the right). Then we’ll turn left and the first houses and the tall chimney of the glass factory at Meleski can be seen.
Daila Aas, September 2014