Student City with Old Manor: Tartu

I arrived to Tartu bus station at 9 p. m. after two and a half hours long ride in the bus. At least I could take some rest and I was prepared to explore the night Tartu! My host was so nice that she offered me to help with that and also guide me through the city next day. I met with her and her dog on the bus station and after leaving my luggage at her place and saying hi to her Estonian flatmates having small party in the kitchen she took me to the city centre to visit some of her favourite bars.

Genialistide Klubi (or for locals Möku klubi) is definitely the place I recommend you to visit! It looked like very collalternative culture place, but on Saturday evening it was fully packed, so I just took a few pictures and we moved to explore some other places. Pirogov is your place if you want to have some beer, but since I was in the mood of something warm and sweet, we ended up in the opposite cafe Armastus. It was one of the most favourite places of my host and I could understand why. Very nice interior, cosy and informal, good music (on that evening Arctic Monkeys were playing), big offer, cheap beer and amazing cakes. I tried Napoleon cake and Chai Latte and we had a nice evening, sharing our EVS experiences.

Next day was lazy Sunday morning, so after hearty breakfast (home eggs!) we went out just around 11 a. m. My host said that Tartu is small, so we don’t need that much time – partly she was right, but I am sure that if you stay longer, you still have a lot to explore. First we went through the hilly park Toomemägi (as you could already understand, mägi means hill in Estonian) where observatory, ruins of the Toom cathedral and a couple of extraordinary bridges are. When you walk on one of them – Angel’s bridge – for the first time with your eyes closed and you wish something, your wish will be fullfilled! Cathedral was really impressive, but unfortunately its renovated towers are closed during the winter. If you are interested, there is a very nice university museum hosted in cathedral building, as my host recommended me. But we had different plans to use the remaining time – to explore old Raadi manor ruins on the opposite side of the river, the place where even my host hadn’t been yet.

On our way there we could see many churches, catholic and protestant as well, even Estonians are one of the least religious nations in the world. We sneaked into one church during the mass and there was so little people that they immediately noticed the invaders and they didn’t face very friendly, so we left very fast. I have heard a many stories about Estonian people from my hosts and people I met, that they are they are as cold as the weather, with the weird ironic sense of humour. But at the same time, people who had possibility to know some locals closer said that they are very nice. So do not let discourage yourself with the unkind surface – people who made Singing revolution and human chain across three states can not be that bad!

Raadi manor used to house the Estonian National Museum after the noble family that was living there moved away. Today Estonian National Museum is in the new building you can not miss when you are near the manor (yes, it is that supermodern ugly one). New premises had had to be found since the manor was destroyed during Second World War. I can imagine that the old manor with all its buildings (even observatory tower! – of course closed in winter), its own lake, tree alley and huge park has to be more pleasant to visit during summer. But also in this time of the year you could see the interesting outdoor photo exhibition called People of This Land. It documents inhabitants of Estonia of different ages, ethnic and social groups, occupational backgrounds, urban and rural people as well, from different cities, towns and villages from all around Estonia. I really liked the way in which the exhibition was conducted – pictures were displayed in the windows of one of the gaunt buildings in the manor yard.

It was time to go back if I wanted to do my hitchhiking to Viljandi before it gets dark. So we walked back to the centre different way than we came, through some park and the part where a lot of nice Estonian houses were and we crossed the river on the Arch bridge where nice exhibition about history of Tartu was displayed, too. There are rumours that every student in Tartu, before being officialy accepted as a student in this city, has to walk on the arch of this bridge. It seemed to be really possible, but probably not in the February weather! Arch bridge led right to the Town Hall Square where the statue of kissing couple under umbrella and also the leaning house is. Lucka showed me her favourite patisserie that is just few steps from the square and we couldn’t resist to buy a lot of cakes there and we decided to have them for a lunch. Yes, it was a very special day, you can’t have cake for luch every day! 😀

If you want to hitchhike from Tartu towards Viljandi, you can take the free bus nr. 69 from the city centre that goes to the shopping mall Lõunakeskus – it has „Lõunakeskus ekspress“ written on it. Unfortunately I missed the one that went slightly before 3 p. m. and to wait for another one at 4 p. m. was stupid, so I decided to take regular public transport. My host helped me to find the bus, I took nr. 18 from the stop Riiamäe near her flat. It costed me 1,5 € and it took me even closer to the hitchhiking spot. I knew about this spot thanks to this wonderful toll – Hitchwiki – where you can find not just information about the best hitchhiking spots for anywhere you need to go, but also useful recommendations regarding your clothing, behavior and the most important, yours and driver‘s safety.

I must admit that I was worried that I will have to go back and take the last bus from Tartu to Viljandi and actually I was thinking to not even go to try to hitchhike because I have never done it before on my own, so I felt really out of my comfort zone. But I spent some time considering this option in advance, I did a research about it and I had some previous experience with my friends, so at the same time I was determined to go for it.

I have heard that hitchhiking in Estonia is not a problem, but this experience exceeded all the expectations. Approximately after 30 seconds thumbing up by the road, acar stopped. I greeted „Tere!“ and asked the driver if he speaks English. He shaked his head in negative answer, but at the same time he pointed on my hitchhiking sign, asked „Viljandi?“ and showed me to get on. I did hesitate for a second, but in a while we were driving in direction to Viljandi with the sun coming down behind us.

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