Kihnu travel guide by Hear It From Locals

Source: Visit Estonia

Kihnu travel guide by Hear It From Locals

Vancouverite Silvia Soide moved to the tiny island of Kihnu in 2008 in search of her Estonian roots. She tells Hear It From Locals, a travel blog all about local experiences, about what to seek when visiting a place this rich of traditional islander culture.

Roads lined with pine forest

Photo by: Visit Estonia

Kihnu island is located in the waters of southern Estonia, near the Gulf of Riga. To get here, you will need to take a ferry ride off the coast of Estonia. Kihnu's four villages house around 700 people, yet the island welcomes more than 12 tourists per resident throughout the year.

When you first step on the island and hop on the back of a truck taking you across the island, you will notice that the majority of the island is covered in a thick pinewood forest.

"As for the third must see/do thing in Kihnu, it would be to stroll through my favourite place on the island. The männimets (pine forest). Although there are many forests on the island, this particular one is located on the road between the harbour and Kurase shop. The forest is filled with tall, powerful, pine trees that stretch far up to the sky." – S.Soide

While the routine of men being gone at work for weeks at a time is still quite present, the work they are doing is more varied nowadays.

Photo by: Visit Estonia

Kihnu's cultural space has been granted the title of Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It's also called "the Island Where Women Rule" by CNN and is considered one of the last matriarchies in the world.

"Kihnu women are very hard workers and dedicated to their families, homes, and culture. Their everyday lives are filled with typical tasks of cleaning, cooking, taking care of the children, working on the field and so on."– S.Soide

"The rest of their time is dedicated to preserving their culture as much as they can. Whether this is making traditional handicrafts (knitting, weaving, embroidery etc.), practicing traditional dances and songs, taking part in holiday traditions, and anything else that comes up along the way."– S.Soide

Silvia goes on to challenge the media's impression of the island as purely women-ran.

"It's common that women are more interested in singing and dancing, or doing handicrafts but the men here are just as important carriers of Kihnu culture as women are. Kihnu men feel a responsibility to take care of their home and their families, and while they may not be spending weeks sailing the seas as before, many men work extremely hard to provide for their family." – S.Soide

"Traditions do not die though and Kihnu men have always been men of the sea. Regardless of how long they are away at work, whenever they do return to the island they are sure to go fishing as much as they can."– S.Soide

In order to experience old traditions, it is best to visit Kihnu during folk or church calendar holidays, including Midsummer Day, St. Catherine's Day and during Christmas. Other exciting events organised on the island include the Kihnu Herring Hike in May, the Day of Kihnu Home Cafes in June, the Kihnu Sea Festival in July, the Kihnu Dance Day in August and the Kihnu Violin Festival in October.

"If you're looking to experience a rich, vibrant show of Kihnu culture then I definitely suggest visiting during the summer. Kihnu has a wide variety of different festivals and events during this time. Most businesses and entrepreneurs operate during the tourist season so you're likely to have more experiences to choose from. That's not to say though that the island doesn't have anything to offer in the colder months as well." – S.Soide

Heck, I've been living here for 11 years later and I'm still falling in love with the island! – S. Soide

Photo by: Visit Estonia

"Lots of tourists come hoping to see the vibrant, striped skirts or to see the women dancing and singing, which is trickier in the winter. This is where I would suggest a visit to the Kihnu museum!"– S.Soide

You can indeed learn all about the history of the island at the Kihnu Museum exhibiting tools, folk clothes, handicrafts, and furniture.

"The museum is open all year round and offers a great overview of Kihnu culture. The gift shop is full of beautiful, locally made handicraft and there is always a different temporary exhibit to enjoy. Not to mention the building is just beautiful and is sure to make tourists fall in love." – S.Soide.

Read the full story on Hear It From Locals.

Last updated : 22.04.2021

In category: Islands