THE VILLAGE OF Rummu, in northern Estonia, is home to a geographical oddity: a lake with several offshore buildings that are partially or completely submerged, skirted by pale white hills that taper down to a gentle, beach-like incline. The lake is in fact a former limestone and marble quarry, now shut down and flooded. The site teems with plant and animal life, particularly in the summer, making it a striking blend of the idyllic and creepy – particularly given that one of the sunken buildings is a former prison that once housed the quarry’s involuntary labor source.
Estonia has its share of abandoned Soviet-era buildings (see our piece on Tallinn’s brutalist architecture here), but Rummu may be a unique example of an abandoned Soviet-era site with entire buildings that are only accessible to divers. In this video, a group explores the underwater complex, which includes machinery, smaller wooden outbuildings, and even spectral, leafless trees:
As with Berlin’s Spreepark and Teufelsberg complexes, Rummu Quarry was for years only accessible illegally. Like those other areas, it has in recent years likewise opened up to tours and visitors, though in a limited capacity and during unpredictable hours. The Rummu complex has signs warning against entering buildings, climbing the ash hills (which are actually a massive “spoil tip”, or accumulation of mining waste), and swimming, though these are ignored wholesale and mostly seem to be for liability purposes. Nonetheless, the site retains many of its hazards, including unstable structures, submerged concrete and rebar, and a steep, pathless climb to the top of the spoil tip – which is, however, rewarded with a beautiful 360-degree view of the region.
The spoil tip rising above a collapsing building.
The former prison, entirely submerged below the surface of the flooded quarry.
The greater Rummu area has an incredible range of wildlife, including wild cranes that pass through Estonia on their migratory routes, as well as plant life ranging from wild apple trees to orange-berried buckthorn to a kaleidoscopic range of wildflowers.
Rummu, Harju County, Estonia
Buses for Rummu leave from various points in Tallinn and Tartu on a rotating schedule, and may require changeovers. There are no official hours or website, though the area is often open on Saturdays during the warmer months for a small entrance fee.