Prison Break Estonian Style

  • 2016-03-07
  • By City Paper Staff

Tallinn - Diving in Estonia in general, let alone in the middle of the country, has never been much promoted or marketed. About 45km west of Tallinn lies a lake unlike any other. On the surface, Rummu Quarry Lake is like most other lakes with beautiful surroundings and serene nature. However, what makes the lake intriguing lies below the surface in the form of the submerged Murru Prison. True adventure-seekers look below to find their treasure and the Murru Prison and quarry do not disappoint. Filled with sunken machinery and waterlogged artifacts, the prison, built on a mining site for Vasalemma marble, provided a convenient detainee workforce for the quarry during Soviet times.

After the Soviet Union fell and Estonia declared independence in 1991, the mine, quarry, and prison were closed. However, the quarry needed a facility to continually pump water in order to keep the area from flooding, and, as there were no longer workers to operate it, the area was quickly overtaken by the watery wrath of nature.
According to local lore, the water level rose so quickly that it covered perfectly functional mining equipment that could otherwise have been saved. The buildings of the prison were soon underwater and submerged, eerie sights to be seen only by the adventurous and daring.

The Blue Lagoon, as locals refer to it, is one of the best lakes in Estonia for swimming and diving, as the visibility is as great as 40 meters below the surface.
While a bit of the facility is still visible from above, the true mystic is below. Since the area was abandoned so quickly, much of what was left in the building, including fences, chairs, bathtubs, etc., remains submerged.  The ruins that stick out above the water now serve as diving platforms for swimmers and divers. With so much to explore, proper gear is necessary to get the full experience beneath the lake. Paddle-boarding and kayaking are also delightful options to get close to the ruins in the middle of the lake. A true playground above and below the water.

Once you’ve dived beneath the surface and through the walls of the building, you can climb up the various levels via ladders to the other three floors of the ruins to explore more and to throw yourself out a window with reckless abandon into the clear waters below.

In case water adventures don’t seem quite appropriate for the weather just yet, hit the slopes of the nearby mysterious Rummu Ash-Hills, also a feast for the eyes. These 70-meter-high hills provide a great view of the lake below and provide some interesting hiking between the hillside’s craggy edges, formed by residue from the decades of limestone mining. The remarkable landscape is a true hidden gem nestled within the nature of Estonia’s heartland, and spring is the perfect time to visit Rummu to beat the summer crowds. Be sure to plan a whole day, as the entire area is worth exploring and taking in.

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