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I've wanted to introduce distant readers to the Estonian word for snowshoes for many winters now. Finally, I got my chance before the snow melts! At least our snow over here in Eesti, because we've still got a lot of it to melt. My friend Andres Ideon had barely managed to post some winter hike pics on Facebook when I knew my chance had arrived, since I myself have yet to experience a räätsamatk (snowshoe hike), rabamatk (bog hike) with the help of räätsad, or what I can only imagine to be the glorious experience of strapping blades to your boots and skating on the ice-capped sea.

The group demonstrating winter bliss is the Eesti Geograafia Seltsi Noorteklubi – Estonian Geographical Society's Youth Club, who visited Matsalu National Park, a major stopover point for migratory birds (rändlinnud). They snowshoed across the 6,5 km mouth of Matsalu Bay, from Puise nina (point, literally "nose”) to Saasta poolsaar (peninsula, literally "half-island"), which can be seen in the background.
Räätsa hike season begins in the fall, the perfect time to don the plastic descendants of the original North-American First Nations (esmarahvaste) models. Hiking in bogs (raba, pl. rabad) with räätsad keeps you dry without harming the bog's pristine surface. They have also been called sookingad (marsh-shoes), which were certainly not foreign to the metsavennad / Forest Brothers in hiding following WWII. Next time you're in Eesti, look into the possibility of a kanuu-, süsta- (kayak), or parve- (rafting) matk or a combination kanuu-rääts trip in Kõrvemaa – a region in North-Central Estonia which many say is reminiscent of Kotkajärve... 360 kraadi seiklused (360 Degrees Adventures) is one place to look into: www.360.ee
The word (lume)rääts was new to me, but I knew it was not a new word. It turns out rääts (possessive räätsa) is an old-fashioned fastening device, similar to a buckle, while rääts (poss. räätsi) is a woven basket, i.e. kalarääts – for rinsing fish. Woven and fastened with a buckle sums up snowshoes quite well.
As for other hiking equipment, sunglasses are a must on sunny March snowfields and hence for many, contact lenses as well (kontakt-läätsed, läätsed for short). Any kind of lens is a lääts and lentils certainly look like tiny lenses, that must be why they are exactly the same word!  Both have the possessive form läätse, (läätsesupp, lentil soup). A rääts on the other hand, has the possessive form räätsa. And if you remember that, your adventure guide will definitely kiss you!

 

Riina Kindlam,
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