Spring, summer, autumn, winter … is that all? It’s not Estonia. There they have an inconsistent time after winter and before spring. This annual phenomenon necessarily occurs between March and April. It is the country with five stations.
This fifth season brings floods that are redefining Soomaa National Park in southwest Estonia. It becomes a flooded basin with submerged houses, sunken apple trees, and elevated swamps.
“Every year brings new challenges,” explains Ruukel, a local guide. “When the floods come, we need to find out where to row safely. You have to be careful. “Navigable routes appear that give the whole place a gigantic slalom course.
Martsoo, another guide, has been researching this. “It feels like canoeing in the Amazon. And suddenly you’re paddling across a road a few meters below the surface. Wild right?
Soomaa means “land of mobs”. It lies in a low basin on the western slopes of the Sakala Highlands. Its rivers cannot contain the large amount of melted snow that comes from the mountains with the thaw after winter.
The consequence of this is the creation of the Riisa flood zone. It is a natural basin with an area of 175 square kilometers. It is considered to be the largest floodplain in Northern Europe.
“In summer, the average water flow per second in Soomaa is 5-10 cubic meters,” said Jana Põldnurk. She is the head of hydrology at the Estonian Environment Agency. But in season five it’s ten times bigger. And the electricity increases to 100 cubic meters per second. There is always a sense of danger, but it is balanced by emotions, “he adds.
“Once I remember being out in a canoe where I could only see water in the direction I was looking. He didn’t know where the river began and where it ended. It was a very strange feeling. There are records of gigantic floods in the past. Therefore, people are aware that closure can occur at any time. They could be locked in their homes, ”said Põldnurk.
Isolated in the water
Around 70 people, including foreigners and farmers, live permanently on the park’s boundaries. Everyone has learned to deal with the annual overflow. The main roads are bypassed and half of the park’s residents are locked up for up to four weeks while the water recedes.
The country with five seasons is attracting the attention of climate change. It is clear that it could cause even bigger floods. “Climate change means flooding can happen at more unusual times, so it is possible that Estonia will have a sixth season in the future.”
When you watch people in canoes maneuver through the flooded forest, it’s hard to ignore Soomaa’s unique appeal. A wonderful combination of water, time and space. As if it were a short window to another world, a stranger one.