Kihnu Saar located 2.5 hours away by ship from Pärnu is one of the smallest islands in Estonia. It is mostly a place for weekend getaways for residents of Pärnu and Haapsalu.
The first mention of Kihnu, then Kyne is dated at 1386. At the beginning of the 14th century during Swedish rule, first Lutherans came to Kihnu. They were faced with resistance from the local inhabitants of the island. An old church was located on the northern shores of the island. A legend says that during the Northern Wars it was burned down by a mysterious fire. This was confirmed by archeologists, who found its foundations. A new Lutheran church was built in 1624 in the center of the island. However in accordance with the tsarist decree of 1840 most of the inhabitants converted to Orthodox Christianity. Today Kihnu is one of two places in Estonia with such a large population of Estonian Orthodox Christians. Near the church there is a cemetery. According to an old custom it is forbidden to be on its grounds after midnight because this could wake the dead.
There is also a museum on the island which was opened in 1974. The exposition consists of dress, tools, and furniture which were characteristic to the island. In the past there was a school located in this building. The residents of Kihnu underline the fact that of utmost importance for them is to preserve their own customs and traditions. None of the inhabitants of the island can reach adulthood before getting to know and understanding all of them.
It is also mandatory to visit The Cultural Center. Among others it is possible to see the performance of the folk group Kihnumua here. A specific local couples dance is the most interesting.
On the southern coast of the island there is a lighthouse standing 30 meters high, which was built in 1864 from parts transported from Great Britain.
However the biggest attraction of the island is nature, ancient forests, meadows, and imposing rock formations. Two of the largest (Kasskivi – “Cat Stone” and Liiva-aa Suur Kivi – “The Rock in the Sand Garden”, are located on the north-western coast.
Translator: Szczepan Witaszek