Tag Archives: Tartu

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…


Living with strangers – 6 boys, 1 kitchen and a constantly blocked drain…

I have planned this post since my semester started in early September. However, due to several circumstances I have never found the time to actually finish it. So I am doing to now. Two months have passed since my roommates moved in, 10 days after me. 3 Germans, at once! The one Slovakian came some days later. So in total we are 4 Germans, 1 Estonian and 1 Slovakian on very limited space. But living is extremely easy with the 6 of us 🙂 We never fight! We never have to wait in line for toilet or shower! And we barely ever steal food from each other! Well, milk is an exception, so is shower lotion and sometimes beer, but these are rare examples. We do have sort of a “living community”. Toilet paper and washing powder is bought at an equal level, we sometimes do the groceries together and cooking/eating together became close to be the norm. Not just eating – drinking became a major event in our close to daily  routine 😀 We soon decided to collect and gather all the empty bottles (beer and water alike) to create a huge amount of deposit in our kitchen and in our rooms. At one point, however, we could not store it anymore, as it has become a distraction from moving freely. So we agreed on returning the bottles and to get a nice bottle of Vana Tallinn for the money back. Well…with weeks of effort, we had to work quite hard to actually collect, store and move the bottles…

After about 1 hour of feeding the bottle machine outside a nearby supermarket, we received a paper worth 223EEK, about 15€. That money we reinvested in the above mentioned Vana Tallinn, a 6er beer (after all, we had to start all over!) and some cheap crisps. The current level of bottles is reasonable, but not as dramatic. We surely will milk the famous cash cow soon to live off the interests 😉

The next big event which is taking place within our kitchen is the donation act. We agreed to collect all coins (because the Estonian coins are worth equal to nothing) in a pint glass. Once it is full, or December (when half the team is moving out) we will bring them to a bank, get the money and donate it. Through a friend of mine back in Groningen, I became acquainted with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). Among other things dedicated to the public good, they offer to purchase small objects for certain countries to improve the living standards in developing countries. So one does not just give money blind-folded, but actually buys a good which is needed desperately. We unofficially agreed upon going for a 18$ purchase of books for a rural area in Nepal, and I am encouraging everybody to follow our lead!

Our kitchen is our meeting point. Not just for the 6 of us, but also for the frequent visitors we have. Our wide variety of food, snacks and beverages, along with a welcoming atmosphere have helped us develop a decent level of reputation among the Raatuse inhabitants. Unluckily, there are some factors which sometimes tend to bother me heavily. Just two days ago I woke up by the voice of a girl in Bratislava, Slovakia, talking to my flatmate via Skype. His extraordinarily loud voice tied up to a disturbing tone has been the cause for regular wake up calls. Also, his English is sometimes a bit awkward to fully grab, so we experienced several funny anecdotes, such as when I had asked him, whether he already had chosen his classes for school and he repeated thoroughly that he does not like coffee… 😀 But we do have a very good community, without any major problems. Even the cleaning aspect has been reconciled properly – we don’t! The toilet gets a regular lemon-chemistry-flavoured drink overnight, the two towels are getting washed ever now and then and the shower slowly turns into a bath, thanks to plenty of hair on the floor… We clean the kitchen and the kitchen utilities on a regular base, but again our boy from Bratislava sort of has a different opinion towards drying the plates after having washed them so next to the wake up phone calls we also wet our pants when reaching for the top shelf to grab a wet plate… But these are minors and we tend to laugh about it. Actually, living with strangers (well, most of them are no stranger to me no more) is great fun, since you get to know and see habits and pattern that might be alien to you. New recipes from exotic places like Konstanz, Tartu or Bratislava (worth mentioning at this point is the ESN food festival which took place some weeks ago – Latvian garlic-bread and Italian chocolate-rolls are way more interesting than German potato soup…) gave the little extra to my study abroad and besides that, I will leave the house with a basket full of addresses to spend a visit to sometime…

Before this post will be published, I again want to thank everyone who participated in my last SOCIALVIBE activity. In total, we helped recruiting 12 new blood donors – thanks!! Starting today, we have a new organization we can support – Raising Malawi. This organization is aiming at reducing poverty among the millions of children and orphans in the country. Please do not get disillusionized by Madonna’s face in my blog… Thanks in advance for doing the short activities by clicking on it. Your time can make the difference…


My studies in Tartu

I have come to realise that, so far, I have barely talked about my actual studies at the Ülikool Tartu. Therefore I shall dedicate this entry to all my courses I am currently following.

Marketing for Public and Third Sector organizations

My early Monday morning class (4pm). Main content of this course is to talk about the public sector, which can roughly be defined as marketplace with less intention in profit-making. Taught by an American who claims he can only work as long as his 2 litre bottle of cola is not empty 🙂 The class is very entertaining as it is more of a seminar than a lecture. in addition, the lecturer has intense knowledge regarding fund-raising and writing grant proposals; two things I will have to do while doing my internship in Liberia. Hopefully he can help me getting a better insight into that.                                                            Approximately 20% Germans.

Economic development of the Baltic Sea Region

Wednesday, 10am, located in the economics building of the university. This class is not much suitable for that particular time, as the teacher is way less entertaining and challenging than others. Most of the time he talks about the GDP per capita in the region, comparing the “old” and “new” countries or tries to explain the foreign investment trend in Estonia. The content itself is more or less interesting, yet the means of presenting those are questionable. I have passed a test two weeks ago and will have to write a short paper on the economic development of Lithuania (country was left to choose). Approximately 25& Germans attending.

Semiotics of Translation

My hardest course. For one, I have only limited knowledge about semiotics and its background (as I am following a Master class with “experts” who studied that subject for at least 5 years already) and for two, I have to speed up after my economics class to make it in time at noon on Wednesdays (distance about 3km).  The class, despite its rather complicated content, is very interesting. I learn how to work with foreign texts, such as how to translate it, using which parameter of translatability (I.e neutralization, grammatical language, time, space, context, historicalisation…) or what text operations, such as Permutatio, Repititio or Adiecto (fancy words, hu!). I am aware that this explanation of the class is rather vague, but that pretty much demonstrates my feelings towards it 😛 I have passed a test last week and will have to write a translation analysis, applying the above mentioned concepts until the week after next.                                             5% Germans attending (me only!).

Semiotic Analysis of Subcultures

Arguable my toughest class. For several reasons. First of all, I still am puzzled about the core meaning of semiotics. Also, I need to concentrate really hard to actually understand the guy up front, who looks a lot like Waldo. He keeps mumbling all the time and has this distinct Estonian accent when talking English which I am partially capable of speaking myself. The class itself is rather good, though I am not sure about the correctness of the title. So far, we have talked about the “Critical mass” movement, the “glam rock” music style (with special attention to David Bowie) and this week we shall watch a movie about hip hop styles. Part of the final assessment will be a short presentation about a subculture. I have not yet made up my mind, but I’d like to explain the “Christiania” culture in Copenhagen, Denmark.                                        10% Germans attending (me + 1!).

Religion – A necessary good or evil influence on society?

By far the most promising class at first when I have chosen my courses but now I am a little disappointed. Taught by a fantastic old Scot (around 65 – 70 years of age) with an original Braveheart accent about any religion or religiousness in the UK, back from the times the Kelts were present until the recent times, when the Brits were in Palestine. For the past four (!) weeks, we watched the movie “Exodus” and I am curious about the discussion to come about it. Assessment for this class will be 2 essays to which I am looking forward.                                                                                                                                     5% Germans attending (me +1!).

History of the Baltic Sea Region

A pain in the arse! Boring presentations, boring teachers, overloaded Powerpoint, 10am on Thursday. I don’t even want to talk about it too much now. Assessment a paper and an exam. Does not seem too difficult, but just sitting in class is bothering my mind. Not recommended.                                                                                                                                       25% Germans attending.

Russian for International students (level A0 -> A1.2)

Здравствуйте! Меня зовут Julian! Я гoворю по-русски. These and other fancy sentences are taught in the Russian class, which takes place twice a week. I like this class very much and the teacher is really competent but the late hours (4pm respectively 6pm) are sort of hampering the success, since everyone is getting more tired by the minute. I was having a test just yesterday and I think I will have passed. The written language is kind of all right, but since I want to focus more on the oral part, this shall not bother me too much. In 3 days I will travel to Moscow with a bunch of people for 4 days! Maybe I even have to apply my knowledge over there 🙂                                                                                                           35% Germans attending.

History of Religion of the Ancient Near East

My last class before the weekend (Thursdays, 6pm). Lectures given by a German teacher who lives and teaches in Tartu for almost 14 years now. Well that does not prevent him from using his thickest German accent, taking about German students and using German words whenever he connects two sentences (achso, naja, okay)! The content of the class is…well, it is interesting in a way that we compare Babylonian and Sumerian flood mythology, their different cosmogonies and in general, the terminology of ancient religion. According to him, the final assessment may either be an essay or an oral test in “any language you would like to use”! Despite his ability of speaking English and German, that is a very big promise!                                                                                                                                                10% Germans attending (me +1!).

Conclusion

I have chosen courses from a wide variety of faculties. I could have taken more classes, since UT offers lots of very exciting subjects to study. But too often, those courses would have been at the exact same time slot of other ones or, what’s even worse, in the early mornings (and believe me, you do not want to get up at 7am in Estonia when it starts freezing and snowing in October to make your way to class!). I am confident that all my courses (maybe with minor exclusion of the Ancient Near East one 😛 ) will be of benefit for my future studies and even for the professional life to come. What also strikes me being here is that for the first time I am really sitting and listen, only listen. Though I miss the interactive study at the Hanze University in Groningen, it feels good to just be a number in the system for once 🙂

I have come to realise that, so far, I have made the right decision in having applied for the Ülikool Tartu!


2 months in Estonia – Evaluation of a situation

Today, 2 months ago, I have grabbed my suitcase, I have grabbed my bag. I have said “Goodbye” to those I am going to miss and then: I was sitting in the airplane, taking off for a 5-months adventure to Tartu, Estonia!

Now, exactly 2 months later, I thought it might be time for an evaluation, in addition to posting a new bunch of pictures! The time being here kind of flies. It is hard to imagine that 2 months have passed already. My weeks at the Ülikool pass by so quickly that I sometimes feel I have missed a week or two. Before I noticed it is weekend again, and then Monday, and so on…

What have I seen from this country so far? I have been in Tallinn for two days, only walking around the Old Town and watched football in the national stadium. I have taken a train to Tartu (and I am still receiving “thumps up” for my Stalin-reference on the waggon-quality. I have spent a day sightseeing in the South, including the oldest tree, the highest mountain, the deepest lake and an interesting walk in the sump.

I have watched football in Tartu, I have bought Tofu in a store, I became a regular at the open food market (which offers the lowest prices for fresh vegetables and fruits in the city).

I have experienced a student city in which students form, change and rearrange the city and especially its nightlife with tremendous pace. All sorts of different music offer a wide variety, next to bars and pubs and clubs… The clubs are crap, like clubs normally are, but the pubs are worth visiting. The price level in Estonia in general is very “consumer-friendly”, though with the € coming soon, a tiny but constant rise in prices is notable (Tallinn has become almost as expensive as some German cities).

It has not quite been halftime for my in Estonia, but since I feel the time rushing through, I need to plan my time more wisely. What definitely is my list is a 4-day trip to Moscow, starting in less than 2 weeks. My Russian is still “under construction”, but I reckon I could use some catchy phrases to get along 😉 In addition, I will have a day trip to Viljandi sometime in October, for sightseeing the city and watching a football match over there!

My resume after 2 months: I like it! Tartu is a great city, Estonia is a great country and the Baltic Area is a good place to spend a semester abroad!


Little text, many pictures

Okay!

Right now I have very little new material to present to you, so I decided to post a few pictures I have taken recently. I will comment on them if needed 🙂

Grand Opening of my faculty in the festive hall of the main university building. I am officially enrolled in “Social sciene and education”, but most of my courses actually are from different faculties, mainly theology…

Café “Werner“, located in Ülikooli street (and only 100m from the main university building) offer a fantastic range of cakes and cookies, not to mention superb coffee or chai. Upstairs, the restaurant proidves small but nonetheless tasty dishes to fair prices.

The ESN (Erasmus Student Network) organises a lot of different activities for its members, including a monthly bier bingo at Illegard, a place again situated within 3 minutes from the main building. Bier Bingo is bingo while drinking beer. And: I won a round! I was awarded a free pizza from the pub which I shared happily with my table.

This picture was taken standing very close to the raekoja plats. The blue tent is set up at the beginning of the cathedral hill which leads to the cathedrale itself following the Lossi street. This park is the only public place in Tartu where drinking outside is permitted (and therefore frequently used!). From this spot, it is 100m to the university, 100m to the Illegard and about 300m to my dorm at Raatuse.

On top of the hill, one can see the remainings of the Tartu Cathedral, of the city’s landmarks. Almost entirely a ruin by now (due to lack of care from the Swedish emperors at that time in the 17th century) has a small part been renovated and hosts the Museum of the University of Tartu.


I am in “Zavood” on Monday, I am in “Zavood” on Tuesday and of course on Friday, too

Finally, I became an ERASMUS student! It has been 7 days since my German flat mates arrived. Yes, I said Germans, coz now 4 out of 5 people living here actually are from this country. However, it is much fun. We all speak English with each other at all times, disregarding our national language. But since approx. 40% of all ERASMUS students living in this house speaks German, I will run no fear of losing my national identity.

Now, despite this huge amount of Germans (and btw, I met a guy from Oldenburg), we have people from pretty much all over the world living here. Mainly European (guess what ERASMUS might stand for) though, but there are people from the US, Canada and even the UK. So it is really international.

Being an ERMAUS student is sooooo much fun! It basically involves drinking at evenings, eating out at night and dancing in the mornings. And in the way people say that “all roads lead to Rome” the young people of Tartu have a saying that “all people end up in Zavood”! It is so true! Zavood is the last place of the dark, a marvelous spot to end a great night out. I have been there only three times but each time I ended up there, I met a bunch of fantastic people who are most willing to talk to me for ages and ages. Despite those 1 or 2 misleading creatures that consider my national heritage as something heroic, I have so far not encountered anybody who was not thrilled by me.