Rummu Prison and Quarry

Abandoned Former Soviet Union Prison

Rummu is a former prison in Estonia. This labour camp was built in 1940 by the former Soviet Union just outside the village of Rummu in the northern part of the country. After the country's independence in 1990, the place was abandoned entirely. In this Urban location still files of former forced labourers can be found. You can visit the old prison and the adjacent quarry where the prisoners had to work. These are the sights of Rummu in Estonia.

Through photos and videos, I got acquainted with Rummu. It's a submerged building in clear blue water and next to it a steep sand wall. It seems idyllic, although the history is quite different. Meet a former labour camp that is both a museum and a water playground. That's how you could describe Rummu. In Summer, it is an ideal place to swim. And to dive. In Winter, you can skate there.

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Museum and Playground

There are two entrances: one for the museum and one for the quarry. The quarry is especially popular with the local population, and the museum is mainly with day trippers and tourists. I visited both to get a good impression of this place.

View of the remnants of the prison from the quarry. ©Corno van den Berg

After the forced labourers left, the water level has risen sharply in recent years. The water was no longer pumped away, causing various buildings to become submerged. Partly because of this, Rummu has become a popular beach destination, especially in good weather.

The Museum

The barbed wire, guardhouses and walls are still visible. ©Corno van den Berg

This is a real Urbex location. You can wander around for hours and discover all kinds of abandoned places. There are still documents, remnants, and other traces from the time of the Soviet Union. I explored the place and found it particularly interesting. It gives you a desolate feeling. You get a glimpse into the lives of the prisoners. It's perfect for photos. Some of the old buildings have been sold to companies, but the majority can still be visited.

I visited Rummu with a local guide. She mentioned that this was a relatively open prison, where the prisoners had quite a lot of freedom. But they were still under the full control of the government. They knew everything about you and your family.

There are still papers from the prison everywhere, with personal details. ©Corno van den Berg

Be Aware!

The old buildings are hardly maintained, if at all. The wooden floors can be almost rotted, to the extent that you can even fall through them. I was walking on a floor somewhere and felt the damp floor move a bit too much. Additionally, you won't find any fencing or other types of barriers, so you really have to be careful sometimes. On the other hand, it gives you a perfect sense of freedom. Something the prisoners did not have.

Exploring Rummu

There are various short walking routes to discover the quarry. For example, there is a path along the water, where you can clearly see the buildings in the water. But there are more routes you can explore.

The Viewpoint on the Hill

The view from the top of the hill. ©Corno van den Berg

The most popular route is to the viewpoint that lies on top of the hill where all the sand from the quarry has been dumped. However, the short steep route changes every day due to severe erosion. I therefore found it extra fun, although you do need to be careful. You can slip easily, and you can fall deep.

The steep path to the top. ©Corno van den Berg

The Longer Route

There is also a longer route, which is not steep. Via the path, you also get to the other side of the hill, with steep slopes as well. You can also walk to the bottom of the quarry. You see shrubs and trees that try to conquer the sand. This part of the quarry is definitely worth it when the weather is nice.

The steep sandy slopes of Rummu. ©Corno van den Berg

Swimming in the Quarry

You used to be able to swim everywhere in the quarry for years, and you could also climb the walls and jump off them. However, this has now been remodelled due to several accidents. You are still allowed to swim in the water, but only in a cordoned-off section. This is particularly strictly monitored in the summer. 

Diving and snorkeling

There is a diving school where you can book an excursion to go into the water. In the remarkably clear water, you can view the remnants of the prison, such as rows of barbed wire lying at the bottom and much more. But also cars and art objects can be seen underwater. 

Rummu in Winter

In the winter you can go ice skating, which is the ultimate experience. This way you can clearly see the remains of the quarry and prison underwater. Make sure to dress warmly.

The guide lets me taste local berries. ©Corno van den Berg

Accommodation in Rummu

You can easily drive from Tallinn to Rummu. But you can also stay overnight. Spending the night gives you the opportunity to visit at sunset. It is then quieter, but more importantly more beautiful with the last daylight. There are a few small hotels and apartments available that you can easily book online.

Where is Rummu Located?

Rummu is located in the north of Estonia. It is about 50 kilometres from Tallinn. It takes about an hour by car to get there. The lake is just outside the village. You can quickly see the former prison sticking out of the water. As mentioned, there are two entrances that are literally next to each other. You can visit both the museum and the quarry. I have done both and highly recommend it.

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