Beaten by the Eiffel Tower by 2 meters
The Great Egg Mountain, a middle-sized hill in south-eastern Estonia, is surprisingly the topographical as well as national pride of most Estonians. Calling the Great Egg Mountain a “mountain” is clearly an overstatement. It stands a mere 318 m above sea level, 2 m lower than the Eifel Tower in Paris. But its location is far from the Alps -- in the level landscape of the Baltics the Great Egg Mountain seems to loom large.
The grandiose epithet “Great” stems from the fact that there is an even lower hill, the Small Egg Mountain, a few tens of kilometers away. Nevertheless, not only is the Great Egg Mountain Estonia’s highest point, it is also the highest elevation in the entire Baltic flatland, which is comprised of three countries: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. So on the scale of regional topography, Estonian pride may just about be understandable.
Wildlife and patriots
Geologically speaking, the Great Egg Mountain and the many smaller round hills in the vicinity are deposits of moraine, created by the melting ice of the last Ice Age. Most of the region (Võrumaa County), in what used to be the ancient province of Livonia, is studded with wooded cupola-shaped small hills, creating a pleasant-looking countryside. The woods are home to a rich wildlife, with game like deer and moose, and plenty of wolves and bears.
On top of the Great Egg Mountain (Suur Munamägi in Estonian) stands a 29 m high outlook tower, from which you can see far into Latvia and Russia. On days with clear visibility the gilded cupolas of the ancient Russian orthodox monastery in Petshory can be seen glittering on the horizon.
The people of the Great Egg Mountain region (Võrumaa County) have a certain reputation of being staunchly patriotic. The Estonian War of Liberation started here in 1918, with fierce local fighters resisting Lenin’s invading Red Army. Two years of bitter fighting finally led to the creation of the first free Republic of Estonia. Võrumaa people had less success in 1940, when Stalin’s troops occupied the country. However, in 1987, long before anybody could predict the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the KGB was still active and kicking, the people in the Great Egg Mountain region courageously hoisted the forbidden blue-black-white flag of Free Estonia. Where? On top of the Great Egg Mountain tower, where else? They successfully resisted attempts by Soviet authorities to tear down the flag, and here the banner of independent Estonia still flies to this day, longer by several years than anywhere else in the country.
Waiting for a boom
On a more sad note, it must be noted that the Great Egg Mountain region of Võrumaa is one of the poorest in the country, with few jobs and high unemployment. Hopefully this will change, when industry discovers that Võrumaa has many comparative advantages over the crowded industrial regions in northern Estonia.
In Estonian: www.haanjapk.edu.ee/haanjamaa/
In Swedish: www2.vkg.werro.ee/muu/swe.html