Saturday, April 20, 2013

Visiting the Witches Well

Spring is coming. It is warming up, and today was sunny, so that meant it was time to get out of the house.

Estonia has five seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Flooding. We are in the latter, the 5th season, where all the snow is melting and all the rivers and streams are flooded.

When that happens, a well known as the "Witches’ Well", located about 30 minutes outside of Tallinn on the way to Tartu, occasionally begins to "boil" over (the last time was spring of 2008). Local legend holds that the well boils over when the witches of Tuhala make a sauna below the ground and beat each other with birch branches, causing a commotion on the surface.

The real reason is that well is near the Tuhala River, a 26 km long branch of the Pirita River. Some 6 km of its length runs underground. Water starts to spout up from the well and flood the area when excess water from the Mahtra swamp fills up the underground river and the overflowing river water seeks an escape through the well. The quantity of water flowing through the Tuhala River must be at least 5000 liters per second in order for the river to overflow, which only happens during the early part of the thaw.

Of course, it is possible that the thaw that causes the boiling is the result of the heat from the underground witches' sauna...

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