On the brighter side – the trip to Tartu was fantastic, even with the weather as it was.
We took a ferry to Tallinn and then walked to the bus station, where we took a bus to Tartu. The Lux busses are very comfortable and convenient for travel. The seats are pretty much like the airplane seats. You can lower the back or even increase the gap between two seats, and there is a folding table and an entertainment screen. Also, there is WiFi available and an electric outlet at each seat.
Although it turned out that Boris had to take his computer with him (he was waiting for one important email confirmation), we resolved to reduce the computer usage to a very minimum and kept it that way.
Tartu is an ancient city, to the point that I believe there is no official founding time of the city; people have lived there since the 5th century B.C. However, the “second Estonian city” is pretty small, and it didn’t take us long to walk from the bus station to our hotel, which was located right across from the main building of the University of Tartu.
The hotel Antonius is located in the 17th-century building last rebuilt in 1811, and the interiors are kept pretty close to that period.
Since we had a big breakfast on the boat, we decided to skip lunch, but I still wanted to get some coffee. There is a Caffeine chain in Estonia, and we spotted one on our way to the hotel. The unexpected surprise was a Vana Tallinn coffee cocktail and a delicious apple cinnamon pastry.
t turned out that almost all museums in the city are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It was unfortunate, but there were reasons why we chose to travel Monday – Tuesday (and I want to come back sometime in the broader daylight!) We found that the University Art Museum was open until 5 PM, and we went there because it was right across the street.
The museum itself was not super interesting: there was a collection of Ancient Greek sculpture replicas and two mummies. There was also a temporary exhibit of the death masks of famous people. I can understand the importance of the death masks before photography, but I am not sure why it is still done these days, but maybe it’s just me. The most interesting part of the museum was a student lock-up at the very top of the building. Until the end of the 19th century, the university had its own legal system, and locking up students was one of (the lightest) of punishments. There were five lock-ups, but they were all destroyed by the 1965 fire, and only one had partially survived. Some drawings which can be seen now were copied from the burned lock-up walls, and others are original. The exhibit in the attic tell more:
Yes, the drawing! The students were locked up for different kinds of misbehavior and breaking the student code of conduct. The imprisonment lasted from one day up to three weeks, depending on the severity of the misconduct. However, there were cases of longer punishments; the longest appears to be four months for gouging out another student’s eye during a duel. (It’s interesting that not returning library books was punished more than unpaid debt! ). The punishment was indeed not so severe – students could still attend lectures, read and write, and they were put on bread and water only for the first and the last day of the confinement. However, there was still “nothing to do,” and they covered walls with drawings and Latin and German verses.
We also saw the main assembly hall of the university with the sculpture dedicated to the victims of the war for independence 1918-1920 (the sculpture was removed and hidden during the Soviet occupation 1940-1991)
Then we walked a little bit around the city, catching the last hour of daylight turning into dusk.