Lahemaa National Park in Estonia is a real gem, the perfect place to discover the beauty of the natural landscapes of the small Baltic country. But beyond the trails, beaches, swamps and forest, Lahemaa is also a place rich in history and unusual places.
And as I particularly like unusual places, I was delighted that our guide Gert took us to Kolga, within the national park, to show us an old abandoned mansion. The Kolga Mansion is one of the largest of its kind in Estonia, and is, however, almost in ruins.
Built in the 13th century, the mansion first belonged to the Cistercian Order, before being offered by the Swedish king to his French general Pontus de la Gardie. The mansion eventually passed to the Swedish Stenbock family, to whom it belonged for nearly four centuries.
In addition to the classic style mansion that counts dozens of rooms over three floors, the estate has about twenty buildings. In the Soviet era, the mansion was nationalized and turned into an agricultural cooperative. During this period, however, no renovation work was undertaken. The manor slowly fell into a state of decrepitude. At the end of the Soviet era, it was returned to the Stenbock family, who tried to sell it for several years, without success.
It is said that the place is haunted … According to a legend, one of the mistresses of the place would have one day surprised her husband with another woman. Under the effect of anger, she would have murdered this one. The local residents then reportedly chased the woman, charged her with heresy, witchcraft and murder and sentenced her to the stake. The ghost of the woman has been haunting the Kolga Manor since then (I doubt the truth of this story told by our guide Gert, but I admit that Kolga Manor is spooky enough to believe the place inhabited by a multitude of ghosts).
Today, the place is no longer completely abandoned. In fact, Kolga Manor was bought two years ago by Estonian owners who have decided to renovate it and restore it to its former splendor. And above all, to keep the place open to the public.
In a few years, Kolga Manor may have an entirely different look. In the meantime, I suggest visiting the manor with a guide who knows the place well. As renovations are underway right now, the manor is not the safest. During my visit, we spent long minutes exploring the rooms upstairs but when came the time to leave, we discovered that someone had nailed the door by which we had entered, locking us inside. It only took a few minutes for someone to hear us and come to our rescue, but the idea of being stuck in a haunted manor made me panic a little…