Category Archives: Vanemuine

Day #118 after arrival – Comparing Estonia and Germany (part 2)

After my 1st comparison between Germany and Estonia only four days after having arrived to Tartu, I now have had some more time. This time these differences are much more sophisticated, as I have been watching, witnessing and interacting within the society for quite a while now…

1) The University

Coming from a University of Applied Science it has been a real challenge to me. being a number in a rather big classroom with no personal interaction from the lecturer refers to a concept which I appreciated to have gotten to know, but I still prefer the idea of communication within classes. This is not much a difference between two countries, I know. But I was aiming at showing the differences. Despite being a highly accredited university within the region, Ülikool Tartu lacks efficiency and clear focus. Maybe that may be different for my perspective of being an ERASMUS student, but I am shocked regarding the lack of clarity among certain factors.  Teachers missing without notifications, teachers answering private calls during class, no predefined schedule, no ideas regarding the assessment. I have spent hours discrediting the Hanze for its unclear structures and its complicated means of communication, but now I gained awareness that maybe this is no Dutch or an Estonian issue, but one that spreads across higher education institutions. The image below shows a procession of Estonian societies during a torch walk from the Vanemuine Theatre towards the University’s main building.

2) Snow

I have seen snow and cold weather in my life. Yet I have barely even been exposed to -19°C and heavy wind at 9pm at night. It is slippery, my beard keeps freezing, snowball fights with Americans seem like modern warfare and sledding down one of the highest hills within the country –  all that is what, all that is what makes a winter in Tartu being much more interesting than a winter in Germany or the Netherlands.  Of course, I really miss the Christmas markets in Oldenburg or watching the arrival of Sinter Klaas in Groningen, or the winter festival nearby the waterside in Groningen, but for 1 winter, these new impressions are highly valuable to me!

3) Public Speaking

I admit, German and Dutch are not among the most beautiful languages in the world, no doubts about that. But let it be due to linguistic history, roots of people or general an ability to speak to a crowd of people, but the language of Estonian is not mad for public speaking. The language is not as “lively” as Spanish or Italian, but also – rather stiff – languages like Russian or Norwegian sound more cheerful and thus more entertaining than Estonian. I witnessed a speech by the dean of the university the other day and even though I give some room for interpretation (in addition to zero understanding of the language itself), it was very difficult to follow, since I could not reckon a rhythm in the speech. One needs to know that the language per se is not well elaborated, in terms of number of words. Rather, the end of main words is being changed according to the meaning of the word or its usage. So sentences sound long while in fact very little words have been used and only changes have been made to the endings. Therefore, the rhythm is not a present as I am used to be hearing and thus, it does not sound sweet!

4) Christmas markets

a. They do have them here in Estonia (though “only” in Tallinn and Tartu), and they are clearly related to their German heritage (I will not go too much into detail here regarding the history, but my people have been the ruling elite in the region for several centuries). A big tree, highly illuminated (and thus disobeying the Kyoto protocol) with cards to Santa, written by kids stands in the middle of the Raekoja plats, leaving only limited space for the boat. The boat? Yeah, the boat! For a second successive year, a big wooden ship has been transported to Tartu, offering people to enter it, hold seminars and workshops on it, chop wood for the open fire, drinking hot spiced wine (Höögvein in Estonian) or Solyanka (Russian-style meat soup). The fountain, which has been covered in previous blogs is frozen (so is the river!), but with temperatures around -19°C at night that is no surprise. Now before I post this blog, I will publish a link about the boat in Tartu. I don’t want to mention too much right now, but you got to give it a glance, you might find someone you know…!

http://www.reporter.ee/2010/11/26/hansalodi-jommu-tommati-joulukuuks-kuivale-maale/

118 days in Tartu, times have passed so fast; it seems just as yesterday that I left the base. Only some weeks are left, but I am sure I will make the most out of it and the end of my ERASMUS will witness a sort of payback….So stay tuned!

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Tartu for 2 days: An alternative tourguide

Here is what you should do, when all over sudden you discover 2 free days in your schedule and you happen to be somewhat close: Visit Tartu! Plenty of books describe plenty of things to do, see, buy, eat… But only a truely young student who is doing his ERASMUS in that city can tell you the truth! So listen and listen carefully…

Dependent on your budget, get a fancy hotel or a less fancy hostel. Hotel Dorpat is highly recommended, with a breath-taking breakfast, decent rooms and with an amazing view at the river. In case of less money, get yourself a hostel room at Raatuse 22, this happens to be the place I currently stay (yes, we have a hostel in the dorm! We also have a sports bar and a driving school…).

Well, fresh up a little, we are going for a walk! We shall start at the Raekoja plats (town hall square), where all the nice little cafés are located. Passing it on the right side, we stand at the beginning of the Toome Hill. Have a walk! Especially in early autumn, when the leaves keep falling and the sun shines its last hours of the year, then having a long walk through the hill of Tartu might even be inspiring. Various monuments, some cafés and of course the Tartu cathedral welcome you!

After you finished your highly exhausting walk (about 1 hour) step down and find your way trough the Ülikooli street towards the Ülikool Tartu (the university – for reasons beyond my understanding situated in the “university street 🙂 ) Have a look inside! You may find yourself buying a ticket for a classical concert in the main hall or, due to lack of alternatives, just walk around. The building looks very impressive from the outside but the inside can easily be covered in 12 minutes. Step out again! Turn right! Head for café Werner – without any doubts the best in town, in Estonia, probably even in the entire Baltic Sea Region! Sit down, order a coffee (or 2, or 3) and try every sort of cake they offer – every singe one! It is worth it. The restaurant upstairs is less favourable. To have a decent dinner, either go to Pierre or Volga. Fair prices for good food in a warm atmospheres. Not recommended for Vegetarians (nothing in Tartu is much recommended for my people! The national/regional cuisine is really dependent on meat and fish), but a wide range of traditional Estonian/Georgian/Russian food is available. You will need it for the night. The nights are what makes Tartu the most interesting town in the entire country! Start your night with a decent housebeer at Püssirohukelder, preferable on a Monday, because then you might see crazy Estonians doing Estonian karaoke versions of popular songs. The housebeer costs 28eek per litre (that equals 1,80€ for a litre!). Don’t stay too long…

Next, hit the Illegard. Three beer = 80eek. Great deal. A much better deal is the five hotshots = 100eek. A hotshot is a drink consisting of espresso, Galliano and cream. Drink 1 (maximum 2!), leave the premise. It is time for Genialistide Klubi. Now it has an entrance fee of 5oeek, but when you make it at the right night, you won’t regret it. It welcomes the most interesting bands that come to town, have decent reggae parties and even a smoking room (a smoking room!). Hold your position for about 2 hours, than make your way to Zavood – the holy Zavood! End the night in Zavood, that is the only place to do so. Drink a “Funny Suicide”, have a plastic beer outside the ally and meet (weird) locals. Actually all those who got me “inspired” about my “Talking Politics” post some weeks ago I have met in Zavood. Leave when it starts raining (and believe me, it will start raining). Grab a bite to eat on the way home. Take-aways offer the cheapest alternatives at night, such as wraps, burger or onion rings. Sleep well – but not too long! See, if you sleep to long in Tartu, especially during the long, cold winter (September – June) you are running risk of missing the daylight for quite some time. After yet another breakfast, take on your good shoes, we are going for a walk. Destination: Supilinn. Within meters away from both Zavood and Genialistide Klubi you find the poorest area in the city but also the most interesting one. Old wooden houses from the 19th century present themselves in only a few streets which are named after vegetables, indicating that Supilinn used to be a place for “ordinary people”. Afterwards, have a coffee/tea in the Ülikooli Kohvik situated next to the main university building. Of course you can also return to Werner and try yet another mouth-watering cake 😀   The art museum (Tartu Kunstimuuseum) at Raekoja plats 18 offers a compact overview about current and recent Estonian painters and costs only 35eek entrance.  For the evening, I suggest eating out at either Pierre, Volga or Café Noir, all within minutes away from the theatre. The theatre? Yes, the theatre! The Vanemuine theatre at Vanemuise 6 hosts latest adaptations of plays to more than moderate prices. After the play, conclude the night with a walk along the river Emajõgi and finally fall asleep in whatever place you have booked in.

If you would come right now, the following images might be waiting for you…