Can you imagine what seafaring was like in the the year 1500?
Columbus had only recently discovered America. The European colonial empires were in their infancy.
The Baltic waters were busy with merchant ships of the Hanseatic League, sailing between the numerous Hansa cities along the coast. One of these cities was Tallinn, and to get there you had to navigate past the dangerous shallows of Hiiumaa. The Kõpu lighthouse was commissioned in 1504 to light the way for the ships, and it was completed in 1531. It was built on the highest spot on the western peninsula of Hiiumaa, pretty far inland. It is the oldest still working lighthouse in the Baltic Sea and possibly (at least according to Estonian sources) the second or third oldest in the world. The original beacon consisted of the lower, conical part of the building, and local peasants were hired to carry firewood and keep a fire burning on top of the beacon. The highest part with the prism was added centuries later.
I climbed the stairs to the top. They were straight and very steep at first, then winding and cramped, to say the least. Halfway up I made the mistake of looking back down and had to gather myself for a while, clinging to the handrail with both hands before I could continue. But the view from the top was worth the trouble!
We had rented a car from the marina to tour the island. From Kõpu we drove on to the western tip of Hiiumaa, where we found another beautiful lighthouse and just underneath it the coolest Surf Paradise you could imagine! Cool in both senses of the word, as the water was pretty cool, but so was the little bunch of surfers lounging in their hammocks on that windy cape. And they had a cool little bar with excellent burritos, too!
Then our journey continued to the southern side of the island. The distances are not very long, the whole island is about 60 km across and 45 km from top to bottom (or 40 by 30 miles if you prefer) so you can easily do a round trip in just one day. We would have loved to stay longer in any of the places we visited, because the island is very beautiful – but we were late in the season and most of the cafes, restaurants and guesthouses were closed. But the country landscapes, old villages and the sunny sea flickering around every corner made our day really special.
After this perfect little road trip we returned to the marina to enjoy our last evening on Hiiumaa island. We had logged over 200 nautical miles and travelled for a week and a half. We could have gone on forever, but it was time to start heading back home. But there was one more destination to see before the compass would turn the wrong way round.