Tartu, Estonia

Tartu is a university city in the east of Estonia, with a population of around 100,000. It is also the first city I visited in the country, not Tallinn. An ex-classmate of mine is doing her PhD in Tartu, so when I booked my flight to Estonia I decided to also go visit her. I stayed there for the weekend before heading to the capital, and in that time was able to not only have a look at the city centre, but also visit some nature places in the area (to be written about in a later post).

In addition to catching up, we spent Sunday morning walking through Tartu, where we went from the residential areas to the Tartu Cathedral, and on to the city centre. There were some interesting sights to be had, such as this house, which appears to be half a house.

Half a house

Perhaps the people living in the other half refused to pay their share of the mortgage, so that their side of the building got razed. I’ll never know for sure.

The second interesting sight was the Tartu Cathedral, which has an open-air concept not commonly found this far north of the equator. (Estonia gets mildly chilly in the winter.)

Tartu Cathedral



It wasn’t always like this. The cathedral was finished in the 16th century, although construction began much earlier, in the 13th century. Unfortunately, it was heavily damaged during a war a few centuries ago and a fire in the 17th century left it in its current state.

Adjacent to the ruins of the Tartu Cathedral is the University of Tartu Museum. In the floor of the lobby area there is a glass-covered crypt with a skeleton clearly visible in there. A description on a wall assures visitors that the skeleton is a reproduction. I never went farther than the lobby so I haven’t anything else to say about the museum.

As we walked on, I was brought to the top of a high mound, from which I had a nice view of the historic quarter of the city.


It wasn’t a hill or anything natural, I was told. We were standing atop a huge storage complex, previously used as an ammunition depot or an arsenal – if I recall correctly – but which now served as a bar.

That was good to know, and there was also an old observatory – now a museum – which, for one night in the year, stayed open late into the evening for people to walk in and stargaze. I would’ve liked that, since I’d never been inside an observatory before. But I soon found out that that night was the previous night. Better luck next time!

The university observatory I could have gone into – but didn’t

By this point we were both getting hungry, so it was time for lunch. We made our way down to the city square and had an agreeable lunch at a relatively-new restaurant.

Tartu city square
Tartu’s city square

I can’t remember what my ex-classmate had, but I ordered some ribs which were very good. It had been too long since I tried ribs where the meat fell right off the bone. Somehow it’s unexpectedly difficult to find such places in the Netherlands.

After lunch we drove to a large park and enjoyed a long walk there. I’ll write more about this in the next post. For now, though, this shall be it for Tartu. And thanks, Nele, for letting me stay at your place when I visited and showing me around! 😃