This is third in a series of travelogue posts about an Erasmus+ cultural heritage, study trip undertaken by Jackie Sangster from the Learning & Inclusion Team at Historic Environment Scotland.
Day 4 Friday Flounders
Today’s start was not for the faint hearted. There was more culinary heritage to explore and fish was on the menu for the evening – we were to prepare it from scratch. I can’t say I was looking forward to the experience when faced with a bucket of freshly caught flounders, however it had to be done. Led by Aado Haandi at Värava, we were skilfully taught how to gut & prepare these bottom-feeding, flat-fish correctly. Once cleaned and salted, they were hung to dry before being smoked later in the day.
Ready for adventure after a short drive north west, we set off on our nature hike to the Hariland Peninsula located at the tip of Tagamõisa peninsula once again within Vilsandi National Park.
On our way, I asked to stop at a spot which caught my eye in Kõruse. The place could be described as a ghost town, the inhabitants were evicted by the Russians in 1945 to make way for an army base, a Soviet border out-post.
The place was littered with the remnants of military occupation; a crumbling checkpoint, rusty signs, a faded noticeboard, a monument which was out of bounds and lots of Marston matting. Here this perforated steel planking, often used as portable runways on soft ground for temporary airstrips in WWII, had been repurposed as a small fence.
The place really intrigued me and later in the day we also encountered a stranded boat embedded in dune and a distant line of anti-tank blocks in a field, all linked to the military defences of the past.
If you know where to look in Scotland, it’s also easy to encounter anti tank defences.
We parked up at the end of the current road, at Harilaiu from here on it was on foot for us. The road once went all the way to the end, past the Kelba Spit, to the captivating Kiipsaare Lighthouse. However, nature has fought back and the Soviet road has long since been consumed by the sea. Kiipsaare Tuletorn was originally built of concrete in 1933 to warn seafarers of the dangers of the Baltic Sea. It once stood on land, but erosion has taken its toll and now the tower stands askew in the water. The walk allowed us to witness the huge diversity of plant & animal life thriving under the care of the Riigimetsa Majandamise Keskus (State Forest Management Company).
On site the RMK promote positive engagement with the landscape through a series of informative interpretation boards and basic facilities such as composting toilets. The rangers amongst us were in their element, observing birdlife & butterflies all around.
To my lay person’s eye, I would have said the environment was close to pristine, the only unfortunate sight was really rather peculiar. Initially the group was unsure what we were looking at in the distance on the beach, it did not become apparent until we were closer that there was a fridge standing on the foreshore. A reminder that marine waste infiltrates every environment. After our invigorating circular hike, it was back to finish of the fish preparations at base.
The fish which had dried since morning, were now ready to be threaded onto long skewers & hung in the already lit, wood-smoker in the trees. We wondered how they would compare to the more familiar smoked fish found at home such as the Kipper or the Arbroath Smokie?
Meanwhile Maarika had arranged for a local teacher, Paul to deliver an open-air, wood-working session, so we were thrown into creating a variety of artefacts. Despite our language barriers Paul gave us a highly skilled lesson on the steps required, using a variety of manual & power tools. I chose to make a trivet from juniper wood, which I enjoyed making immensely. The scent of the omni-present juniper wood will always remind me of this experience. We also bound together a selection of branches including birch twigs, oak and more juniper to make viht AKA whisks, or whips, for use in the sauna planned for later. After eating our fishy tea, the genuine sauna that evening was a wonderful way to end the day.
Of course, there were ancient saunas in Scotland too, let us not forget the sauna at the Brough of Birsay settlement on Orkney, granted this was no doubt introduced by the Norse men.
We were recharged by the sauna & more good sleep was had, ready for another day in the field with Maarika.
Archive Images © North East Folklore Archive & Historic Environment Scotland | Licensor Scran