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Wi-Fi on the bus, reeds on the roofs

By Stan Sesser, Wall Street Journal
Published: Jun 16, 2007

A Baltic Time Warp

Estonians like to brag that theirs is the most wired country in the world. They can pay for parking, taxis and many purchases in shops by dialling a number on their mobile phones. Trains and intercity buses are equipped with wireless Internet. But here on Muhu Island, just two hours from the capital, Tallinn, you could easily think you were in another century. Many of the wood and stone houses, which date as far back as the 17th century, have roofs made from woven reeds harvested at the shoreline. Some elderly residents still have outhouses.
Muhu Island provides a prime example of the development lag in rural areas. In the Soviet era, tourists weren’t even allowed on the island unless they had gotten a permit from Soviet authorities, since the island housed a military base. Today, although the buildings of a 19th century manor have been converted into a lovely hotel called Pädaste Manor, it only has 12 rooms — and can only be reached by driving three miles down a bumpy dirt road. On the rest of the island there are a few houses that have been turned into bed and breakfasts.

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