An island in Southern Estonia, perched inside the Bay of Riga, near Latvia, Kihnu is a UNESCO site and a culturally important chunk of land for the Estonian people. The women of the island have been heralded for their strength and community as the men, their husbands, brothers and sons, are traditionally fisherman and seal hunters. They are gone for the majority of the year. In the meantime, the women carry-on with daily life, preserve island tradition and maintain a prosperous community.
Kihnu is known for not only its beauty, but for the incredible amount of culture packed into one place. In fact, the people’s traditional wedding ceremony is considered to be a “masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage” by UNESCO. Their colorful hand-knitted clothing, unique customs and specific traditions are fascinating. A handful of interesting traditions include: passing ancient songs down generation to generation, orally, and not by writing them down, learning traditional knitting patterns and techniques by observing elders and not by reading a book, donning seal skin footwear from the leftover seal carcass which is caught for food, wearing various dress patterns and colors to signify major life events like marriage, death or the birth of a new baby.
Kihnu is special. The people are warm and invite you to tour their small paradise in the sea and learn about their life. Here, it’s as if time has stood still and an appreciation for the simpler things exists. There are not many places left in the world, especially in Europe, where one can find this. A visit to Kihnu is absolutely mesmerizing and cannot be missed.