Culture

Besides its enormous natural value as a national park, Soomaa also helps to maintain the cultural heritage of the region. Keeping alive the traditional Finno-ugric single-log dugout dating back to the Stone Age is one of the most noteworthy achievements. To popularise this ancient vessel, dugout building camps are organised every summer at Karuskose, where it is also possible to try out a one-log canoe on the Raudna river.

In addition to the dugout, another intriguing tradition very common to this flooded region has been preserved – namely suspension- and trestle bridges. These were installed in appropriate places before the annual floods so as to enhance transport between farms on opposite riverbanks. In the spring after the ice had melted and the water level gone down the
bridges were removed again. They were often used to take animals to the opposite riverbank – a task too difficult for thin bottomed and narrow dugouts. Today it is possible to see hanging bridges in Sandra village near Karuskose, in the villages of Aesoo and Leetva in the northern part of Soomaa.

Winter ways played an important role in this swampy area – in winter time they were best for trade exchange with Pärnu and Viljandi. Frozen roads were also suitable for transporting building materials, timber and other heavy goods. Usually, merchants moved in big caravans on horses and sledges.

In addition, there are also several museums in Soomaa. For example, the House Museum of Johann Köler (1826-1899) the founder of Estonian national painting. The museum is situated in Ivaski village in Lubjasaare in a traditional 19th Century farm complex. Here you can learn about the life and work of this famous artist, and also experience traditional Estonian rural life. In Hüpassaare there is the House Museum of Mart Saar (1882-1963), the famous composer.