Kihnu is one of 19 inhabited Estonian islands. When the women there ride motorcycles in colourful skirts, it is summer. Thanks to its remoteness, charming traditions have been preserved here. More than 2,000 islands belong to Estonia, none is like the other, each with its own character. Most of them were military restricted areas during the Soviet Union. Of all things, the strict shielding had its good points: beach, forest, juniper groves, they still characterise the landscape of Estonia’s enchanted islands.
Elly Karjam is a “multi-jobber”: lighthouse keeper, ice-cream producer and contract knitter for the famous Kihnu sweaters. Summer is high season for her: She is expecting guests from the USA, who had their ancestors on Kihnu.
Birches have to be cut for the so-called viht. This bunch of birch branches is an important accessory for the traditional sauna at midsummer. And the motorcycles in the shed are to be refloated.
The second largest island in Estonia is Hiiumaa. It was a completely military exclusion zone during the Soviet Union. Visitors were not allowed, boats were locked away overnight, beaches were guarded. The fear that people could flee to Finland or Sweden was too great. This Sleeping Beauty hibernation has preserved nature, until today Hiiumaa is the most densely forested region in Estonia.
The trees have released creativity in Jaan Alliksoo: He uses jetsam and wood to construct bizarre buildings. In the meantime a whole fantastic village has been created, in the centre a spectacular replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. He is currently tuning his “Jaanmobil”: a racing car made entirely of juniper, the cypress of the north.
For Indrek Kääramees, Hiiumaa means the world. He sings about it in his sailor songs. Now a “world tour” is also on the cards: For the band’s tenth anniversary, the fisherman from Orjaku is going to the other end of his world, to Kalana, an incredible 50 kilometers away.
Kassari, the wild and romantic archipelago off Hiiumaa, is the workplace of Triinu Schneider. Her job is to look after the “horse kindergarten” and to drive small groups of young horses from one island to another. This is an action on behalf of the EU against the reforestation of the archipelago.
On Saaremaa, the largest Estonian island, less than 14 people per square kilometer live. But for a few years now, young people have been coming back, creating their own jobs. Mihkel Tamm and Grete Riim from Tallinn have come up with a start-up that solves two problems of their home island at once: With straws made of reed they not only fight the reeds, but also the plastic flood.