Friday, July 17, 2009

Wet and Dry

‘I don’t know about that bit. It looks a little too wet,’ Algis Martsoo’s warning comes just in time. I still have chance to change direction and skirt around a sinister-looking patch of black mud splashed with sporadic greenery.

I am standing in the middle of one of Europe’s largest peat bogs with what look like red tennis rackets strapped to my feet, conscious that one false step could lead to me ending up to my chest in cold, muddy water. The landscape is one of stunted trees and scrubby vegetation.

Still, if one must be put in such a position, Martsoo is a good person to be with. As a ranger, ecologist and guide at Estonia’s Soomaa National Park, he is something of a bog expert and to spend an afternoon in his company is to take a crash course in one of the continent’s rarest landscapes.

Soomaa is an extraordinary place, 390 square kilometres of wetlands, forests, floodplains and water meadows that comprise Estonia’s second-largest and newest national park. It is also home to rare species such as European brown bear, wolves, lynx and beaver.

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