Taevaskoja is a village in Põlva rural municipality in southeastern Estonia, mostly known for its outcrops of Devonian sandstone on the banks of Ahja river.
The village was developed in the 1930s, after the construction of a railway connecting Tartu and Pechory in 1931. Before, there were only some spare farms, but railway construction launched the boom. Before WW II 14 buildings were built to this area, mainly with the purpose of cottages and summer houses. Walking along the village, you can still see the old buildings – most of them renovated and as a perfect example of 1930’s architecture.
The area has been a very popular summer destination for all Estonians, but especially for the residents of Tartu as it’s so easy to reach with a train. Pure pristine pine forests have also been valued for medical purposes – during the Soviet time, there was a tuberculosis sanatorium for children.
Today, Taevaskoja village has a library and village centre, a small shop and cafe working during the summer season and a very active local community. There are some holiday centres that offer accommodation, hikes in the area and also summer camps for children.
The main attraction for tourists are the outcrops of Devonian sandstone and the old valley of Ahja river. The biggest outcrop Suur Taevaskoda (Great Heaven’s Hall) is a 150 meters long and 24 meters high sandstone cliff – highest in the Ahja River. There is also a smaller version of it – Väike Taevaskoda (Small Heaven’s Hall). Both outcrops and several springs are sacred places for the believers of Estonian natural religion.
For Estonians, walking by the riverside flashbacks many familiar scenes from one of the most viewed and loved Estonian films of all times – “The Last Relic”(1969) – that was filmed in the area. The remains of forest brother’s bunker and the Saessaare hydroelectric plant from 1952 remember the impact of Soviet time to this area.
Photo: Holger Ehrlich