Yesterday, was a brand new adventure. My cousin,Ülle, her husband, Mati, and I loaded up some bicycles and took the ferry to Kihnu Island. We left the kids behind to go to the beach with my cousin, Annika. Smart move! It was a day off for kids and Mom!
Kihnu Island can be somewhat compared to American Amish country, in that the people that live there (only about 600) are very dedicated to keeping their traditional ways of living. That’s not to say they don’t have the modern conveniences of cars and electricity, but they lead a very simple life of living off the land and sea. In the last few years, awareness of Kihnu and its traditions have been increasing – for good and probably bad. For good, they received grant money from the European Union and established a beautiful museum. For bad, tourism is on the rise, and with it there is always the danger of commercialization.
In any event, it is a beautiful island with a road that circles the perimeter. Along the way, there are established farms, each with their own names and markings that are used to identify everything from farm animals, to tools to beautiful handwork.
Fishing is naturally big occupation. Along our ride, we saw fisherman bringing their nets from the sea, layingthem out over the hay fields and we assume repairing or detangling them. All the while sea gulls circled overhead looking for a free snack.
Traditional handwork is also very popular here and of course what I was most interested in seeing. There are 2 women on the island that have become “famous” for popularizing the handwork of the women on the island (who by the way outnumber the men on the island!) They are truly the backbone of the island. We were lucky enough to get personally invited (by one of the women) to a concert/presentation that had been requested (and paid for) by a Finnish tour group. The women, dressed in traditional clothes, sang songs and performed dances from a tradtional wedding ceremony that takes place over 3 days. In the farm house, was an amazing display of their handwork. The socks and mittens each have a dinstinctive pattern that I believe is indicative of the family who has made them. Prior to her wedding, a young girl creates a hundred or so hand made items that are given as gifts to each family member at the wedding. These items are stored in a large wooden “hope chest.” After all the items are given out, the sister places a hankerchief in the chest, symbolizing that she will begin filling it for her wedding.
The last picture above shows the bag that every young girl makes to carry her knitting. It is very important that a woman’s hands are never idle. When I heard that, I instantly recalled my grandfather saying me as a child “Can’t you sit still – must your hands be always doing something?” I guess I must have some roots in Kihnu, too!
The first picture shows the hand dyed wools used and indicates what natural item the color came from. On the walls were traditional socks and mittens, as well as pillow cases.
It was a beautiful day. The island is very peaceful with everyone going about their daily chores. There is no rush hour on Kihnu! The people are in perfect harmony with nature. I couldn’t have taken a more appropriate picture at the end of the day: Perfect reflection!
Till next time! Helle-May