Trader "Ernst Jaakson" in Sõru

The three-masted majestic 'Ernst-Jaakson', born in 1939, is not roaming the seas at the moment, because it is standing on her island of birth in the Sõru Maritime Center – the only historic ship restoration center in Estonia. Guests are welcome to come here with the historic ship thematic cruise on board of jaala or the ferries. Sõru Maritime Center is a real treat for fans of historic ships and Estonian nautical and naval heritage – in addition to excellent port this at least 600 year old landing spot has the newly built Historic Ship Restoration Yard and the Maritime Museum. Here guests can observe the restoration works of the biggest and oldest preserved wooden sailing ship 'Ernst-Jaakson'. In addition to interesting knowledge gained from the Maritime Museum and the shipwrights it is possible to try various traditional tasks oneself – you can forge nails or try to fit and fix a hull board. Sõru restoration center has been contacted by many foreign historic ship owners, so in the nearest future it can develop into a real historic ship restoration mecca with an even more diverse program. After looking around in Sõru the guests can get to know the rest of the island.

Hiiumaa, the second biggest island in Estonia after Saaremaa, with its diverse flora and several important bird areas offers a lot to nature lover. Tahkuna peninsula in northern Hiiumaa is all covered with forests, in the center of which lie swamps and overgrown lakes. It is home to many endangered species. On the peak of the peninsula is the impressive 42,6 meter old light house, which gives a good view over the surrounding areas. The pristine nature in Tahkuna is contrasted by different underground and onground military buildings from the past. To see these objects of military history, be it the canon towers of czar Peter the Great, the canon fortifications from the II WW or massive reinforced-concrete bunkers, a special study trail has been built. There is so much militray history to see on the island that locals have founded Hiiumaa Military History Society for that. Kõpu peninsula in the western part of Hiiumaa is among the oldest parts of the island. The aisle of the peninsula is a moraine elevation risen from the sea around 8000 years ago, reaching 68 meters above the sea level on Tornimäe hill. This highest peak also has the famous Kõpu lighthouse built in the beginning of the XVII century and is one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. More than 80 rare plant species have been found here, including for example Ghost Orchid, Heart-Leaved Twayblade, Dactylorhiza russowii, Fen Orchid, Burnt Orchid and Frog Orchid. Kõpu Landscape Reserve established to protect these plant rarities also has a special Rebastemäe hiking trail.

Kallaste bank is a 400 meter long and 10 meter tall huge limestone denudation. Its southern part exposes the biohermic riff of corals and other sea-dwelling ivertebrates – one of the most extraordinary ones in whole Estonia. The limestone bank crevices are home to several rare fern and flowering plant species. Hagaste alvar close by has many meadows and limestone-rich swamp areas, which have many different orchids. According to folk tales Kallaste bank used to be the devil's forge during the ancient Estonian war for freedom, where local farmers could buy weapons from the dark forces.  

Käina bay and Kassari island in the south-eastern part of Hiiumaa are compelling for their seminatural communities – junipery alvars, wooded meadows, and sandy beaches. The Kassari shallow with the road dam completely separates Kassari bay from the rest of the sea. This bay is one of the most popular bird areas in Hiiumaa. In migration season tens of thousands of ducks can be seen here. Nesting seasons are famous for massive presence of Mute Swans, but also more exotic birds like Bearded Tits, Bitterns and Avocets. For bird enthusiasts there is also the Orjaku hill bird observation tower with a good study trail.  

Right near the Heltermaa port, where the passenger ferries leave for mainland, are two interesting sites. The road from the port takes you to Suuremõisa – a large manor complex, which bears the name Suuremõisa castle among locals. The manor has been here since the 17. century when it has been mentioned as the property of the De la Gardie family. The present manor house was built in the 18. centruy though by duchess Stenbock, whose heirs lost it to the most famous manor holder clan Ungern-Sternberg. To get to know the manor guests can take guided walks in the huge complex and in the manor park. Near Suuremõisa is another worthy site to see – Pühalepa church. It was built in 1255 by the Germanic order as a castle-church for the glory of St Laurentius. During the stormy history the building was pillaged and the present appearance dates back to 18/19. centuries, offering interesting details for hours of dedicated inspection.  

The only town in Hiiumaa, Kärdla ('Kertil' or 'Kärtellby' in Swedish) has, like many other Estonian islands gotten its name from the swedes – the name itself meaning 'a wet valley' in translation. Now Kärdla is a garden-town drowning in apple trees and alleys – an excellent and peaceful resort. Here lies the small Hiiumaa Museum exhibiting the history of Kärdla. West of Kärdla is the Cross Hill – a peculiar elevation covered with a whole forest of different-sized crosses. The story goes that when the local Swedish population were deported by the czarist Russia to Ukraine in 1781 they gahtered on the hilltop for a final ceremony leaving hundreds of crosses behind. Later it has become a custom for the newly-married to leave a cross there as a quarantee of a happy relationship. Between Kärdla and the nearby harbour lies the Sõeru Farm Museum exhibiting traditional Estonian farm life in its many log buildings typical to a 19. century small farm.

Among the islets of Hiiumaa the biggest are Saarnaki, Hanikatsi and Vareslaid. Almost all islets have been used for grazing and hay making, which has formed very varied and valueable seminatural communities – meadows, alvars and deciduous forest patches, which are all under preservation now. The shallow sea here is rich in birds and fish. Due to the nesting of many migratory birds visiting the islets is partly restricted and it is necessary to get a permission before. The islets are also popular places for Grey and Spotted Seals.

After visiting Hiiumaa and its islets you can continue your trip towards Saaremaa, Vormsi or Muhumaa island.

 

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