On August 21st I got up to catch a 7:15 bus from Parnu to Munalaid to get on the 8:30 ferry out to a small island off the Estonian coast called Kihnu Island. The main reason I wanted to go there is because of the description I read of the just over 600 residents:
“UNESCO proclaimed Kihnu’s cultural space and traditions as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on November 7, 2003. The Baltic Sea islands of Manija and Kihnu are home to a small group of traditional people. For many years, the men of Kihnu have been frequently gone to sea while the women ran the island and became the guardians of the island’s cultural heritage, which includes handicrafts, dances, games and music. Music is an especially important part of the island’s traditions, and accompanies handicrafts, religious feasts and other celebrations. Ancient runo-styled songs are also important, as are traditional clothings adorned with decorations and bright colours that symbolize ancient legends and poems. The people of Kihnu speak a dialect of Estonian which is sometimes considered to be a distinct language and contains many elements from Swedish.”
How could you not want to witness that? So when I arrived I rented a bicycle for 7 euro and headed out in a clockwise direction following a suggested bike map I saw at the ferry dock. I got to see cute little “towns” (more a collection of 10-20 homes), a lighthouse, church, museum (quite nice actually), farm land, great local houses, and local ladies wearing handmade “folk costumes” (mostly just striped skirts and a store bought blouse).
I had a nice leisurely bike ride (my butt was sore by the end though) around the island and I enjoyed the rural quietness of the island. But I would not say I was overwhelmed with a cultural experience as I was hoping. All in all, I am happy I visited Kihnu Island, but I think my expectations were a bit too high.