Tag Archives: The Baltics

Termination of ERASMUS: The Payback…

Now, as I pack my stuff in my dorm in Tartu, aiming to spend some days in Lithuania before finally going back home, I promised myself to have 1 final post about my time in Estonia. However, this time, I won’t be talking about the snow, the trips or the various drinks you should try while being here. No, this time, I’ll pay back! I will mention most if not all of the things I witnessed here during the last 5 months that i consider worth mentioning and will share them with you. If I am offending someone who reads this: It was not my intention 🙂 Let the show begin…

Spanish people: Absolutely fantastic people. As individuals. In a group, a bunch of impervious folks with no intention to harmonize with anyone else but Portuguese. I tried at several occasions to enter the group, but, with 9 out of 10 conversations in Spanish, sort of impossible for me. Knowing about Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions I should not be surprised, but I haven’t seen that intense behaviour in action so far.

Russian people: I have written so much about them during my time here that I cannot really add anything new. They are still the most unpleasant people I have met during ERASMUS and I have not yet seen any solution for this. It is not just me who is saying that. They were actually the reason we had the door locked at almost all times. I do not want to sound disrespectful to Russians in general and those I know better are perfectly nice people, but I hope I’ll never meet any of them again…

My mates from the apartment: No, nothing negative to mention about them, leaving aside several late night Skype calls in the kitchen or early Sunday morning uses of the mixer that woke me up. But they were among the best people I have met in my life and I am really glad we lived together. I am not speaking for my liver, which honestly is happy that ERASMUS is over, but I had a fantastic time with you guys! You are all aces in my book and I am looking forward to meeting you again, eventually in 2016 here in Tartu for a great revival 😀 Over the last months, we have collected money from plastic bottles. Now, at the end I am very glad to mention that we managed to gather 27,80€ in total!! This money will shortly be donated to good causes in Nepal and Bangladesh. I am happy that we accomplished that, thanks again guys 🙂

The University: Beautiful from the inside, catastrophic from the inside. Weak organization, teacher without much knowledge in teaching, unequal treatment of students. I am glad to have studied at a Research University for once, but I thought it would be set up much more Ivy league-alike.

Sharing a 16m2 bedroom with another guy: Very interesting for a couple of weeks, very exhausting for 5 months. Although he is a really great guy, I am so looking forward to having my own room again with a little more privacy.

Estonia: Great country to live in…for a few months. Not a place I could spend the rest of my life. Many aspects of the daily life are tempting for a longer stay, such as the Wi/Fi everywhere, the strong infrastructure and of course (for one that comes from a rich country) the very moderate prices for pretty much everything. But still, it was only a step on my path to yet again somewhere else…

Tartu: If I was to life in Estonia, Tartu would be the only choice. It is the best town in the country, with the best varieties to have a decent life. Nonetheless, the city is marked as my ERASMUS-place so living here will never be the same again.

The Germans: We are everywhere! Everywhere! You cannot stop us. We take your city on a horseback and stick in big, German-speaking groups. And we love potatoes, litres of beer and watching football. In a way, we are like the Spanish. But we speak English much better… 🙂

What I learned: Talking in terms of studying, I have learned various things, which may or may not help me for my future professional life. I am sure that knowing about Lithuania in the 15th century and the Sumerian cosmogony will barely benefit me in pursuing a career in the non-profit sector, but I am nonetheless glad I got the opportunity to get familiar with it. Having learned Russian and having gotten an insight into Public sector marketing, however, are really beneficial for me! Speaking life, I have learned a lot more. Living with strangers, adapting to different habits, different styles of speaking English, learning. I have met people here that really helped me gaining new insights into the world (mostly while having a beer somewhere) and I have seen things and places I probably would never have seen in my life if it wasn’t for people and situations here!! I am so glad I decided to have come here…

What I will miss: Living in a dorm (even though right now I am happy it’s over), the city and its amazing bars, pubs, shops, streetlights, pretty much everything. The guys from the apartment (a lot!) and the very international atmosphere ERASMUS was providing us with throughout the entire 5 months. In addition, I will also miss the monthly rent, which in total (more than 5 months) added up to a little over 520€!!

__________________________________

Thank your for following my blog! I hope, you had a good time reading my stories from Estonia, Sweden and Russia. I hope y’all will stay tuned and check out this blog again, because soon my stories will cover my life in Buea, Cameroon! Thank you!! 🙂


Anno 2010: Do’s and Don’ts in Estonia

After having spent the last couple of months in Estonia, I grasped a sense of what might be appropriate behaviour or action and what might be considered as rude or even dangerous. Maybe this entry will help those who are planning to come to Estonia sometime in the nearby future (just remember: starting soon, Ryanair will fly from Bremen to Tallinn straight!). Do’s and Don’ts which could occur during your trip:

Don’t take your cigarette box outside when smoking. If you do so, most likely you will find yourself in a situation with 3 guys around you “asking” for a cigarette or three. Pretend you left your box inside and say you are “terrible sorry”. I learned this habit just weeks ago after having calculated that during the previous months I surely must have handed out about 4 of these packs.

Do drink Vana Tallinn with Kefir. Just do it. I really despise Kefir, but in a glass mixed up with Estonia’s finest liquor it is a must!

Don’t mess up with the Russians. Sadly enough, 20 years have passed since Estonia gained freedom from the USSR but still the Russian population in the country is barely integrated. Attempts made by the Estonian government either seem fruitless, but I’d rather think that many Russians lack the interest of adapting to the “new” independent Estonia. During my stay, I have encountered numerous encounters where Russian people would cause troubles with the local community. Even those students that live with me in the dormitory lack the interest of simply saying “hi” on the floor. Some cities, such as Narva in the North-East witness a Russian-speaking population from up to 95%. I do not want to disrespect Russian people in general (and those I met and know earlier are among the nicest people on earth) but those I have seen in Tartu and Tallinn are those I’d rather not meet again…

Do listen to Estonians sing Karaoke. It is pure fun attached to a short moment of disbelief. Fun, because they sing western songs in Estonian (due to the ban of western music during the long period of the USSR) and disbelief due to the lack of talent among those who frequently re-enter the stage to perform!

Don’t think Germany is cold. Estonia is cold! I once woke up at around 10ish in the morning to -21°C. With that kind of weather you have very little options but staying in and having a tea after another. My beard got frozen within minutes and I need to be really careful not to go outside with my hair still being wet. I could easily break a dreadlocks or two :). So, Germany, I enjoy your weather very much these days.

But:

Do (!!!) come to Estonia asap! It is a place to be right now. It is a country from which one most likely has very little expectations or pre-defined images, so new impressions every day! I have not one day regretted to have come here. You will feel that too! Don’t wait!


Talking “politics” in Estonia (+ match report: JK Tammeka Tartu – FC Flora Tallinn)

This new entry was overdue a long time ago. Politics in Estonia with special regards to me have been bothering me for weeks and weeks. I am not a very political person, yet I like discussing various topics with some sort of passion. Estonia has been a troubled country in the past. With a glance at the history books, I can barely see any longer periods of independence, leaving aside the current time after the Soviet block got lost in the iron curtain.

The “Singing Revolution”, a piece of national identity which helped shaping the unity of the people during the occupation was considered to be the most peaceful act towards a suppressing regime in recent history.

I have met a guy in the streets, weeks ago.Said he used to be an Estonian skinhead, a Nazi (note: he considered himself a Nazi, not a Neo-Nazi). Said he used to go on rallies. Said Tartu is the skinhead capital of the country. I asked him whether I should care a great deal about my appearing, my behaviour, my steps at night. “Of course not”, he answered. “You are not Russian – we are after them!”…

A single opinion of an individual? Not even close. Almost every second time I spend a night out and my nationality is being revealed, I am confronted with the history of my country as well as Estonia’s. Several people (though not being completely sober) approach me and let me know that I should not be ashamed of my heritage, nor my country’s past. In their view, Hitler was not fighting the Jews (not primarily at least) but he was fighting the communistic Soviet Union. Therefore, as a more or less logic consequence from that thought, Hitler was fighting for the Estonian freedom! That is why Germans are most welcomed in Estonia (well, speaking for Tartu at least), while the Russians are still being looked at suspiciously. This is something rather new to me, as I have years of experience in defending my history and thus my heritage to others. However, I am still shocked by the lightness of these people when it comes to “justifying” the atrocities committed during the last century.

________________________________________________________________

Okay, I will now turn my focus on a more delightful aspect of life in Tartu – watching football! Today, finally, after weeks and weeks of postponing the trip, I made it the ground of JK Tammeka Tartu. The opponent was FC Flora Tallinn, last year’s cup winner and runner-up in the league. Thus, Tartu, who lost 6 of the 7 games they played since I entered this country, was clearly the underdogs vs a team, which stands on top of the Meistriliiga. So what?! Tartu won, 2:1!! After a rather weak match with little action on both sides did Tammeka keep the 3 points at home. Home in that case would be a track-and-field pitch with a, constantly being rebuilt, shed on the one side. 1,40€ entrance, beer for 1,20€ and warm sunshine made this afternoon a pleasant experience 🙂 Below some pics from the match. Enjoy!


Day trip to the South of Estonia

Last Friday, after days and weeks of doing nothing but occasionally studying but frequently drinking, I decided to participate in a bus trip to the more interesting aspects of the south of Estonia. The trip was offered by some geology faculty classes and was free of charge. So I met up with some people from ERASMUS at the early hour of 8am down in the lobby and we took off.

The first stop was at Taevaskoja (Heaven’s Chamber), where we walked in the woods and took many pictures of the 400-million-year old sandstone cliffs down in the valley of the Ahja river. Below are some of the better shots I have made:

Continue reading


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.


Julian ante portas – 7 days in Tartu

Thursday, 3:35pm – tere hommikust! It is 1 week I have spent in the city so far, so I would like to provide a small overview of what my experiences and impressions are at this point. Good news first, I managed to purchase an internet cable (since WI-FI is only theoretically usable in the house!) and a memory card for my camera, so that I can offer some pictures next to written material. Therefore the 1st image to be seen is the municipality of Tartu. It stands right at the head side of the Raekoja plats. In front of that building, it is the sculpture of the Suudlevad tudengid, the “Kissing Students”, which was decided upon by the people of Tartu who were encouraged to voice preferences about what statue should stand at that spot.

I am still only living in my appartement with my Estonian roommate giving me company but since introduction is supposed to start by next week Wednesday, we expect the remaining 4 people by Sunday the latest. It sure will be interesting to see how 6 guys will cope in a very small place, with limited kitchen furnitures, limited kitchen utilities limited and kitchen-cleaning ambitions! This is my appartements’ kitchen:

The City of Tartu has just over 100,000 inhabitants, making it Estonia’s second biggest one. However, with approx. 20,000 students enrolled annually, it makes its claim for the country’s academical and cultural capital. The university – Tartu Ülikool – is situated just steps from the municipality and was founded by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in 1632, making it the oldest university in Estonia and the second-oldest in the entire Baltic region (after Vilnius). Below I provided an image of its outside front:

As one can probably already imagine, everything within the city centre can be reached by walking. Distances from me to the pubs, the university, the bus station, the mall or the food market rarely exceed 10 minutes. Besides the train station (which is almost 25 minutes walking!) it is only the football stadium which requires some more time. That stadium will be my destination upcoming Saturday, when the local Tammeka JK Tartu takes on JN Nömme Kalju!

More pictures shall follow soon…!