Having driven from Tallinn, passing miles of forest and pastureland, and many wooden houses and barns (often sporting red roof tiles for some reason) on good roads that are noticeably very quiet, we take a 40-minute ferry from the mainland port of Virtsu to Kuivastu on the small island of Muhu and its 1800 residents.
There are also frequent buses from Tallinn, which stop at both Kuivastu and Liiva and continue to Kuressaare on Saalomaa). Briefly during winter there is another way also: the coastal regions of the Baltic Sea freeze over, to the extent that you can do the journey by driving over the ice. Our guide on the island, Elle Mae, is a Muhu native who, as a girl, regularly heard rockets being fired from the island's Russian military base. Her and her friends would slip past the Russian border guards to visit the beaches, which was strictly forbidden at night time.
Muhu's attractions are low key: we visit Muhu Farm Winery, an example of the fledgling wine industry on the island, where we are greeted by a man inexplicitly opening bottles of wine with the swipe of a garden spade. At the village of Liiva we drop in on a small roadside complex with a brewery producing some impressive beers and a small bakery selling a local speciality, black rye bread. At the former fishing village of Koguva, a group of centuries-old limestone buildings house the Muhui Museum and a collection of hand-woven fabrics, colourful traditional clothing and various other artefacts, and which used to be the home of a celebrated Estonian writer from the Soviet era, Juhan Smuul, who wrote about life on the islands as well as embarking upon a Soviet expedition to Antarctica. With a liking for "alcohol, cigarettes and women", he was a hero of the island. But perhaps Muhu's greatest attraction is the unspoilt wildness, the opportunity to wander or cycle the vast landscapes.
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