Schloss Fall & Keila-Joa Castle

Waterfall in Around Tallinn

Flat Estonia isn't known for its waterfalls and at 6m, this one isn't all that high. It is, however, particularly picturesque, partly due to its juxtaposition with a little Neo-Gothic manor house, built in 1833 for Count Alexander von Benckendorf. A central crenelated tower lends it a castle-like aspect, but its pretensions to being a fortress are purely romantic. Two suspension bridges lead through lush countryside to the top of the horseshoe waterfall where rainbows dance in the spray.

Tsar Nicholas I visited Keila-Joa twice and was so impressed that he commissioned its architect, Andrei Stackenschneider, to build several palaces in St Petersburg and to refurbish part of the Winter Palace. It was during Nicholas I's 1833 visit that the Russian Imperial anthem God Save the Tsar! had its debut. A small museum in the basement of the castle recalls this august event, but it's arguable whether it justifies the admission price.

The building was ransacked in 1917, nationalised in 1920, requisitioned by the Red Army in 1940, then by the German Army in 1941 and finally became the home of the Soviet 572nd fighter plane regiment in 1953. Needless to say, it wasn't in a good state when the National Heritage Foundation took it over and its reconstruction has left the floors and plasterwork looking a little too shiny and new.

Still, it's well worth the 30-minute drive west of Tallinn for a picnic by the waterfall. To get here from Tallinn, head west on Paldiski mnt and, 12km past the zoo, turn right at Kiia onto route 410.

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