...From "Den Frivillige 'The Volunteer' ,by Bjørn Lindstad.
In 1944 Soviet forces broke through the German defences in Narva, Estonia,after six months of fighting. The German forces withdrew some kilometres west to a defensive line stretching from the coast of the Finnish Gulf, through the flat land surrounding the road connecting Tallin-Narva, crossing Sinimäed with its three hills, making them a strongpoint, and the line was continuing cutting south across the railroad and Auvere through the marshes until reaching Lake Peipus.
The three hills gives great advantage in this terrain and has been a strongpoint up through the military history. In "The Great Northern War" between 1700-1721 the Russians erected a defensive line to defend from invading Swedes. During WW1 the hills were fitted out with bunkers and ammo storages but saw no action.
My journey here started in the books, many years ago. There has been written a lot about those months in 1944 and the more I read the more I wanted to go there. The interest I had in this battle started to show in my miniature modelling too, and then I heard something about a museum having been opened at the site so a trip had to finally be made. I had a look for tickets, which from Northern-Norway doesn't seem to be easy, and contacted the museum to find if they were open and one evening later I could pack my bag. Of course I had to bring two model dioramas depicting the battle and I secured them in a small box. At one point at the airport in Oslo the trip looked to be at its end. Some difficulties with fuel led to 17 cancelled flights, frustrated travellers, one very drunk passenger being arrested and 3 hours waiting with no info before a very happy flight to Tallinn took off.
Soon the road signs started bearing names I knew from the books and when the driver announced "Sinimäed" I was already by the door! Trying to figure out where I was going, I see that I am in front of the so called Kinderheim height, or Orphanage Hill. I couldn't help looking over the flatlands towards Russia, imagining T-34s clattering towards me. But it was a nice and quiet day with blue sky and the hills and land covered in green. Following the rural road for 1 or 2 kilometres I soon saw the museum building, with loads of heavy old rust around it. My heart raced.
There was many objects outside the buildings, and a group of "Friends of the museum" is restoring a piece of the old granary stone wall. They are rebuilding a section of it, implementing parts from the battle, found in the area, tank tracks, bombs, splinters, grenades (deactivated of course) and weapons, all very interesting really. Around the house was also parts of T-34s, German halftracks and even a sea mine all making it a though time just getting into the real museum.
The exhibition fills the whole building. Along the walls is cabinets filled with objects of different themes. Posters, photos, objects and texts fill the wall space and mannequins show different uniforms and guns. Many objects are ground finds, which certainly makes the history real. On the floors are some bigger calibre guns and there are bombs hanging from the roof. In a corner is a large screen where historical films and footage of the battle is shown. At the entrance and the cashier desk there is a little museum shop with books and some objects for sale. Another little detail I noticed was the style they had made much of the interior with birch logs, very nice. All in all a very exciting and informative museum which tells the story of the battle, both the Soviet and German side, and also the difficult situation the Estonians had in this fighting - brother against brother.
At one point we are back at the museum for more coffee when I start mumbling something about three and half hours bus rides and Tallinn, but that was just brushed off and I was handed a list of bus departures. With a big smile the expedition continued. Driving from site to site, having maps and photos of the area from the war along the way really brought the whole thing to life. Soon the bus was leaving and I was safely returned to the bus station with a few minutes to spare for buying some supplies for the ride back to Tallinn. Well placed in the seat I let the impressions from the day sink in and I started realize this was just a first visit, Vaivara is there waiting for me.