Suitcase and World: Tartu.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Town Square.  Very charming area.  I can imagine what a lively place it must be
on a sunny day or at night when all  the restaurants and bars come to life.

Despite my complaints about the location of our hotel room (on the ground floor, right next to the reception desk, feet away from the road, I slept okay. Not great, but not bad. I must have been tired from yesterday. We headed to the restaurant for breakfast and it was not good. Not totally bad but definitely not good. I'll have to make it up somewhere else.

After checking out, we got in the car and headed into the Old Town center of Tartu. It was a chilly and overcast day but I had dressed appropriately so I was comfortable. Bro wore shorts and a tee shirt. What was he thinking? Not warm enough so after we parked the car, along the main road, he actually stripped down to his skivvies and put his pants on. Lucky for him, it was early Sunday morning and the town square was pretty much deserted otherwise, he may have just put on quite a show for passersby on their way to church ;-)

Town Square was remarkably small but even through the drab morning, it was a charming ittle spot.  Oddly enough, the square is actually not square in shape, it's a trapedzoid.  At the head of the narrow end sits Town Hall.

Town Hall.

In front of Town Hall stands the The Kissing Students' sculpture and fountain, one of the most recognized symbols of Tartu. A fountain has stood in the same place since 1948, when newlyweds and their guests would visit it for luck, and people would also take a dip in it. The present sculpture was created by Mati Karmin and completed in 1998.

The Kissing Students.

There's not a lot of street art here but we did come across a building mural or two.

It's Sunday so pretty much all the establishments had not yet opened for business except for the coffee shops and a few places serving breakfast.  I needed some to eat or drink so we checked out a couple of places before settling on this one, Armastus Cafe.  Looked like a nice place for a cup of tea.

A spot of green tea to warm me up and get me going for the day.

We had no sightseeing agenda in mind but we also didn't have a lot of time so we agreed to walk about for a bit and see what we could before leaving.  From Town Square, we crossed the main road to a bridge that spans the Emajõgi River. It was too early in the day, even for any boaters to be out on the water.

Tartu is a major university town and the campus is located around Town Square.

One of Tartu University's buildings.

On our walk, we passed by St. John's Church, a Lutheran church, one of the landmarks of Tartu. 

St. John's Church.

The most recognizable features of the small red brick church are the terracotta figurines it's exterior. Originally, there were more than a thousand hand-made figurines and heads, each different from the others.  Today, there are only about 200 remaining.

Tartu also has its own puppet theatre.  Too bad, we're not here long enough to attend a performance. :-(

Our walk took us up to Toome Hill Park which overlooks Town Square. Toome Hill was a gift from Emperor Paul I to the University of Tartu – having previously been used by townsfolk to graze cattle. Later, it became the site of a castle which made it the heart of medieval Tartu. In the early decades of the 19th century it was turned into a park on the initiative of the university's plantation committee, with alleys of trees, paved roads and bridged gulleys.  It's a nice spot of green in the heart of the city.

Statue dedicated to Karl Ernst Ritter von Baer (1792-1876), an  Estonian scientist and explorer.
Baer was a naturalist, biologist, geologist, meteorologist, geographer and a founding father of embryology.

Walking around the grounds we passed by a lot of buildings associated with Tartu University.

There are even the ruins of a cathedral here, Tartu Cathedral to be more specific.

I think that's part of Tartu cathedral in the background.  The metal sculpture in the foreground is dedicated to Johann Skytte (1577 - 1645).
Unveiled in 2007 by Queen Silvia of Sweden, this striking and modern monument honors the Swede responsible for bringing the university to Tartu.

I don't know what this is but it was on walkway post,
probably the smallest street mural I've ever seen.

On the way out of the Park, we passed by two of Tartu's most famous landmarks and both happen to be bridges.  First, Angel's Bridge which was as built in 1814-1816 and replaced an earlier temporary bridge. The bridge was thoroughly renovated in 1913, at which time a bust-portrait of the university’s first rector, G. Fr. Parrot, and a dedication text, was placed on the bridge’s Toome Hill face (sculptor C. v. Wetter-Rosenthal).  The name of the bridge is thought to come from a linguistic twist - part of the hill is landscaped like an English garden and the words "English" (inglise) and Angel (ingel) are nearly the same in Estonian. Local tradition says that when crossing it, you should hold your breath and make a wish!

Angel's Bridge. Toome Park is behind us and Old Town Tartu ahead of us.

Looking in the other direction from Angel's Bridge is Devil's Bridge which was built in 1913 to honor the 300th anniversary of Romanov rule in Russia. The bridge's name may have come from the fact that it complemented Angel's Bridge or have been derived from the name of its lead construction engineer, Werner Zoege von Manteuffel (teufel being German for *devil*).

Devil's Bridge.

After our quick walk around Toome Hill, it was time for us to hit the road as we had a long day's drive ahead of us.  Tartu turned out to be just a layover for us.  Perhaps, if we ever get to come back, we need to set aside more time to see the place.