If one were to go back to the beginning of time, one could name as “culprit No. 1“ the founder of the town of Nõmme, Count Nikolai von Glehn, who decided to found a town on the former land of Jälgimäe Estate in 1873. On 6 October 1873, he gave out the first lot for a villa near the railway stop. According to a popular tale, that was accompanied by the words "Let there be a town here!"
Count Nikolai von Glehn
Most places have some kind of landmark. Everyone knows the Eiffel tower in Paris, Big Ben in London and the Opera House in Sydney. For Nomme, this kind of landmark is the Glehn Castle and the surrounding park.
The castle is named after its original owner and builder, a nobleman count Nikolai von Glehn. This man was also the founder of the town of Nõmme which eventually grew to be part of the capital city, Tallinn. The whole area of the borough was originally part of the estate of Jälgimäe, the owner of which was von Glehn’s father, the family originally hailing from Holland and Germany. When the son inherited the manor, he decided to trade in a piece of the land with a neighboring landowner and build himself a castle on the slopes of the moorland under the local pine-trees. The castle, which was planned by von Glehn himself, was completed in 1886 and was built in the style of a Medieval Swiss castle. The builders, by the way, were prisoners from a Tallinn penitentiary. The original furniture and interior, however, were crafted by von Glehn personally. Nowadays, only a large oak wardrobe remains of the items, kept in a nearby planetarium.
The castle was surrounded by a forest park, again planned by the owner, accompanied by statues of a dragon and an Estonian mythological hero (called the Old Devil by local people due to the horned animal skin he wears, completed at about 1902-08, restored), an art nouveau-style stone green house filled with exotic plants in its time (now ruined, undergoing restoration), a planetarium, and a granite column in front of the castle to commemorate the grave of his favourite horse. There were also a small rock grotto and a model of the castle in front of the house, meant for children; and there were maintenance buildings around the castle for farm workers which no longer exist.
The castle was damaged in the World Wars and its owner had to flee the country. The castle was fully restored in the 1980-s and is nowadays owned by the Tallinn Technical University and can be rented for occasions.
The castle is only open for pre-arranged occasions, therefore private visitors can only admire the exterior. There are discussions, however, of opening the castle to the public in the near future. The park is open to enter anytime.
Nomme was an independent town and the fourth largest in Estonia until it became a district of Tallinn in 1940. There is little left of the old Nomme. Many homes were rebuilt or remodeled and lost their originality. New modern houses have appeared to replace them.
Only some older houses represent the style of that time.
Some of the old houses met their end
Some of them have been given a fresh look
Some houses were remodeled and lost any kind of similarity to their predecessor.
At the beginning of the 1950's the architecture of Nomme was "enriched" when a lot of new houses were built in Nomme for the Russian invaders, mostly mariner officers. The so called Finnish barracks got from Finland as a reparation payment were quite ugly and usually became even uglier after their owners "embellished" them according to their artistic taste.
Now new owners have made alterations to the buildings and they are easier on the eye.
At the end of Vabaduse avenue two 12 storey blocks of flats are standing as a blot on the landscape of Russian architecture. They are completely unsuitable for the surroundings of Nomme. No amount of remodeling will improve in this case and there are no earthquakes in our latitude.
There are two main roads crossing Nomme. They are Parnu road and Vabaduse avenue. Vabaduse avenue does not deserve its name as an avenue because of its lack of trees.
The broadening of Vabaduse avenue has created very heavy traffic and thus is a real source of air pollution and annoyance for local residents. Many of pines which were indigenous to this area have died.
The houses along Vabaduse Avenue are mostly privately owned but there are also larger buildings at the top of the avenue which were built in the 1930's.
There are also two houses, which are more modest and owned by the Municipality of Nomme.
A bit further on we can see a new and modern schoolhouse.
It is interesting, and I am very proud to add, that a small part of Vabaduse avenue is connected to my father, Joann Kudevita. In 1936 the first Estonian Republic Municipality of Nomme decided to build a town hall and the design they used for this project was the one my father drew-up for his diploma.
This work however was never done. The picture of the town hall was hanging in our home for many years but has recently been given its rightful place in the Nomme museum. The plot on which the town hall was intended to be built, to this day, is still empty.
Parnu Road, which leads to the town of Parnu, is quite narrow and almost deserted compared to Vabaduse Avenue. The traffic isn't heavy and therefore the neighbourhood is quiet and friendly. The calming environment is a bit sleepy and with a little imagination one can almost see horses pulling carts loaded with goods on their way through Nomme to the market-place. *
At the end of Parnu Road many signposts giving information about interesting places greet us. Parnu Road takes us into the centre of Nomme.
Speaking of roads we must not forget the third one, which had a big impact on the life of local inhabitants. This the railway. It has been an inseparable part of Nomme since 1924. Electric trains consisting of six wagons were always full of passengers thanks to their speed and convenience. There may have been time-tables for buses in that time too, although no one has ever seen these, but the accuracy of trains was legendary. Many people set their watches by them. If the train seemed to be late you had a reason to check your watch.
Nowadays the electric train has lost its importance. Trains consisting of only four wagons are half-empty and they run quite rarely. It is a pity, because as an age-long inhabitant of Nomme my ear got used to the comfortable rhythmical song of the train`s wheels on the joints of the track.
Old, small and picturesque stations are not used as booking offices any more.
The biggest of them is a hobby center for pensioners,...
... some of them serve as a children`s playhouse
Nowadays there are less companies in Nomme than there used to be. One of the biggest is Electric Trains Ltd. Most of the smaller firms are in the service and retail industries. The once 'pride of Nomme' - the market with its unique covered market building, which is under the protection of National Heritage (although it is closed for Health and Safety reasons) is deteriorating.
A lot of stands are empty and prices are much higher than in other markets in Tallinn. Polemics concerning who is responsible for renovation of the market building have always sadly ended in a stalemate.
One pattern, common to Nomme, is the innumerable number of security guards. Rarely one can walk down even the shortest street in Nomme without the elevated attentiveness of dogs. Those four-legged inhabitants of Nomme see-off a passer-by with quite a remarkable sound. A pedestrian feels that he is like a baton which is passed from dog to dog.
Many gates are decorated with signs.....
...no matter if there is a most tender Rover rambling in the garden, who's greatest wish is to greet you by licking your face....
... or a serious watchman, who is warning you about his intention.
Or there could just be such a predator who willingly wants to snap at your trouser-leg and maybe even give you a blood test.
`Nomm´ in Estonian means 'heath'. Because Nomme was once below sea level, the soil here is mostly sandy and there is only a very thin seam of humus. Mostly Pines grow in Nomme and part of the area is covered in heather.
The Pine woods, which are typical to Nomme, have become sparse due to active building and heavy traffic. The legendary founder of Nomme - von Glehn - had one main rule: every felled Pine must be replaced with a new one. The municipality has tried to implement this golden rule by giving out free Pine trees every year. Despite this there are many modern houses with gardens that have been cleared of their Pine trees. Money has made its new rules.
On the south side of Nomme is Paaskula's moor which is a typical moorland with low pines and birches untouched by human activity except for the scorch marks from fires caused carelessly or willfully.
The peace and quiet of this moor makes one forget that only a few kms to the North is the continuous traffic, the sheer volume of which destroys Nomme's idyll.
There is a nice narrow track, covered with gravel, which is ideal for walking and cycling...
.... as well as wooden decked areas suitable for observing the flora and fauna of the moor.
On the gentle slopes the local inhabitants flourish.....
..... as well as many kinds of plants which are typical to the moor.
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Everything is changing in this world. Nomme is changing too. Yesterday's woodlands are today's housing estates . A quiet street has become a noisy highway. People are changing too. Newcomers don't seem to want to be a part of Nomme's community, but instead think only of the town as 'somewhere to live' and Nomme could just as well be any other town to them. The soul of Nomme, which used to be a characteristic of the inhabitants of the town is somehow missing. Those days of everybody in the same street knowing each other and greeting people as they passed by have gone forever. It is a pity, but this is life. We can only hope that this 'something', which made the inhabitants of Nomme different from others and made this small district the real Nomme, still exists.
*Two months after I had finished this story the renovation of Parnu road had begun, as well as the rebuilding of Nomme's market place.