Even if Tallinn is the capital city and the most visited place in Estonia it’s Tartu that holds the title of the intellectual center of the country. This second biggest city is located 180kms away from Tallinn yet the overall feel is totally different. Tartu is the home of the oldest Estonian university, founded in 1632 and young people from all over the country come there to get their excellent education in this famous school. If someone in Estonia wants to study at the university – Tartu is the only right place to do so!
Laid-back Tartu, Estonia
Because of the famous university big part of the city’s population are students (I heard even about 20%) and there’s a really cool, informal vibe in Tartu. I didn’t nottice people rushing like in other big cities, everyone just took their time. Even if Tartu has over 100.000 inhabitants it felt more like a small, cosy, provincial town that guarantees a good life. This easy-going and laid-back attitude of the place was probably the main reason why I enjoyed it so much! Oh, and there was a cool street art on every corner!
It’s all about Tartu University
Most of Tartu’s identity is focused around the university. Its magnificent building is located right in the heart of the old town, on the steps of Toome Hill and even if it is beautiful it still dominates the area. There’re so many random uni-related things in the area – from the wall with pictures of the favourite professors to the fountain of kissing students on the main square in front of the Town Hall – that no matter where you go you still keep thinking of Tartu as the intellectual capital of Estonia.
Quirky Tartu, Estonia
But Tartu, Estonia is so much more than just the old university! It’s full of quirky places and things that just keep amusing you:
– north from the old town there’s the area, called Supilinn, where all the streets are named after soups. This former slum is a pretty nice neighbourhood to walk around, with lots of old, wooden houses
– Karlova – another neighbourhood with beautiful houses – is where the bohemian feel can be found in Tartu. This peaceful area is perfect to walk around and enjoy the artsy vibe
– the statue of Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde. These two writers have never met however technically they could. So they have an imaginary meeting, sitting on a bench and enjoying a conversation. Exactly the same statue is in Galway, Ireland.
– in the awesome, large park on the Toome Hill spectacular ruins of the Dome Church are hidden. They are enormous, amazing and kind of spooky
– the statue of Kristjan Jaak Peterson – an Estonian writer and poet who died at the young age of 21. Besides his writing he was known for walking few times from Tartu to Riga or for knowing 16 languages. His birthday, 14th of March, is now the Day of Estonian language.
All these unusual things made me fall for Tartu big time. It was so much fun wandering around, exploring the city with the curiosity and discovering yet another weird but fascinating face of it. It was also amazingly empty with not too many tourists around. And the best thing? Because of the students it was an extremely cheap city (considering Estonian currency is Euro) and eating out or spending way too much time in the cosy cafes was very affordable! I really wouldn’t mind returning to Tartu at some point, just to soak in some more in the laid-back atmosphere of the place.
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