Rummu Quarry: Estonia's Best-Kept Secret Comes Alive

Rummu Quarry: Estonia's Best-Kept Secret Comes Alive

The bus driver makes the occasion as inauspicious as any other. The same €2 ticket, the same nod, but he knows where you're going. Unless you're wearing a NATO security pass, the only reason why you would be on this bus is to go to Estonia's reclaimed Neverland - Rummu Quarry.

When I stepped off the bus, it wasn't clear to me I was in the right place. The only thing that gave it away was the small group of attractive young people heading for the grocery store - one of two selling basic supplies, and, oddly, chocolate chip cookies.

A ten-minute walk took me off the main road, and past the high, barbed wire-lined wall of a prison, only abandoned in 2012 according to this article in Estonian World, and now giving off the foreboding air of an Arkham Asylum. Perhaps someone should film a zombie movie there. With Jason Statham - I'd love to meet him.

Rummu Quarry

Rummu Quarry

The real beauty of the quarry isn't apparent until you walk up a slight undulation, and over to the edge of a gaping valley. Once an open limestone mine, Rummu was vacated at the end of the Soviet Union, machinery and service buildings left to rot. It gives the place the air of an abandoned treasure island, complete with derelict and flooded central building. What was once the hub of the mining activities is now a makeshift hide-and-seek location and diving board for the kids and teenagers playing on the summer's day in 2015 when these photos were taken.

The water is clean enough to bathe or swim in

The water is clean enough to bathe or swim in

About the water: it's washed through limestone, the result of years of uncontrolled flooding. According to local experts, it's safe to bathe, and the water is clean, hence why you can see everything down there. Swimming is officially forbidden, according to a small and forlorn sign on entry, but almost everyone does it, so it can't be bad, right?

There are rumours of the mafia disposing of people in Rummu quarry in the 1990s, but these are likely to remain unconfirmed, and certainly, a day-tripper is unlikely to see any clue of this, unless you happen to have a dog called Scooby Doo.

A cliff of limestone

A cliff of limestone

The cliffs are where the true beauty of Rummu becomes apparent. The limestone forms rough, jagged outcrops, constantly being eroded by hot summers and hard winters. Climbing was an ordeal for me while wearing a pair of trainers - so imagine my surprise on finding that one of my friends had got there before me, on the same day, barefoot and wearing only a bikini, with a camera in one hand!

To get to the peak, there are several routes up; I initially took the one that scared me (I have vertigo), but also made me feel like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible 2. There is, as a Iearned later, an easier and more efficient way up, but my recommendation is you go with a friend, so you can get help up and down if need be. 

Look down from the top in the summer and you can see ants running around, having a great time. In autumn and winter, it becomes a place of extreme solitude, where no-one can bother you, and your thoughts are yours alone. Walk to the western side of the hill, and you can see the former naval town of Paldiski, sitting proudly on the coast.

What makes Rummu Quarry so special? It's one of those happy accidents, that industry sometimes produces when it leaves a site quickly. Almost unregulated in its present form, people co-operate perfectly, finding new and inventive ways to use the vast territory for different adventures on Treasure Island. Even if you're a grown-up, you can't help but be fascinated like a kid.

According to a local expert being interviewed by South Korean TV when I was eavesdropping, the site's owners want to make Rummu into an adventure park. Though I understand we're in age of get-rich-quick capitalism, where everything in nature must be owned, sold and exploited, I cannot be alone in hoping we get a few more summers of unspoiled, ragged Rummu.

Sea buckthorn, pictured on my second visit, in August 2015

Sea buckthorn, pictured on my second visit, in August 2015

Video
Is Rummu only a summer resort? No, there are winter activities aplenty to enjoy when it freezes over - as long as you're a trained professional. Thank goodness for the GoPro.