At the edge of Lake Räpina in South Estonia stands the country's oldest and still operational paper factory whose building is among Europe's most unique examples of industrial architecture. With the help of a guide, you can learn about the factory's history, as well as the former and current production processes, technology and machines.
Old and new equipment works side by side here. "Oldie", the steam-cylinder machine manufactured at the Sigel factory, has parts that date back to the 1860s. A guided tour takes you above enormous pulp pools, sifters, and felt-lined presses that squeeze water out of the pulp. Among other things, this factory makes products from recycled old paper money - including out-of-circulation Estonian kroons and Finnish marks.
The history of the paper factory goes back to 1728, when Count Karl Gustav von Löwenwolde, a courtier to Peter I, harnessed the rich flow of the Võhandu for the benefit of industry. Locally-made bricks were used to build saw, flour and paper mills. The papermill, featuring recycling technology, started work in 1734, using linen rags for raw materials. In 1865, the sawmill became a factory: the first paper machine arrived from Germany, followed by three more in short order. Higher grades of paper were now produced, including filter paper for pharmacies, drying paper, cigarette paper and silk paper.
Today, the factory has been modernized, and produces a wide range of sustainable packaging materials and paper products.