Does it rain iron in Estonia?

It does, albeit very occasionally.

Estonia has been a favourite target range for meteorites, and could well have the highest number of meteor craters per area in the world. The best known of is located at Kaali, Saaremaa Island, where the cosmic iron fell about 2600 years ago. The last large celestial object to hit a densely populated region, Kaali meteorite had an impact comparable to that of a small atomic bomb, causing destruction across many kilometres. Still, the image of the sun falling from the sky in the shape of a huge fireball probably had an even deeper impact on the Bronze Age peoples in Northern Europe.

The land in Estonia is flat: most of the territory lies at a height of 0 to 50 metres and only one tenth has an elevation over 100 metres above sea level. Locally, however, the glaciers of the last Ice Age created a variety of landforms. The southern part of Estonia is both the highest and topographically most varied. The rolling landscape of ice-shaped hills and small deep lakes, combined with scenic river canyons eroded into red sandstone clearly distinguish the southern uplands from the lands north of the River Emajõgi. Of the several conservation areas in the region, the Karula National Park is the best known.

Long after the retreat of the last glaciers from Estonia some 11 000 years ago, most of the western Estonian mainland and the islands were covered by the waters of large ice-dammed lakes and the Baltic Sea. They have since gradually emerged as a result of land uplift, which continues in the northwest at an annual rate of two millimetres. This causes new land to arise from the shallow coastal sea, and adds to the more than 2000 islands that dot Estonia’s coast.

​The sheltered bays and coastal wetlands make the Estonian western seaboard a stopover point for millions of migratory birds. Its main conservation area, Matsalu National Park, is a key link in the Ramsar network of Wetlands of International Importance.

A large share of the least disturbed wilderness in the country is in Transitional Estonia, a chain of mires, forests and woodland stretching from the northern coast to the southwestern corner. It provides a habitat to many plants, fungi and animals that have disappeared from most of Europe, including the grey wolf, the brown bear and the lynx. Soomaa National Park was founded in 1993 to protect the raised bogs and flood meadows typical of the country’s southwest.

​Most of North Estonia is taken up by a flat limestone plateau which is set apart by extensive alvars – dry meadows with very thin soil cover over bedrock. The oldest semi-natural communities in Estonia, they support an array of wildlife with the most fascinating adaptations to the extreme habitat.

Compensating for the lack of vertical majesty across the country, the northern edge of the limestone plateau falls abruptly to the sea, forming the North Estonian Klint that stretches for kilometres along the shore of the Gulf of Finland. It was for the preservation of the landscape of large bays, alvars and tracks of pine forests further inland, that the Lahemaa National Park, the largest and oldest in Estonia, was founded in 1971.

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