Tartu

Overview

Introduction

The university city of Tartu is considered the birthplace of Estonian literary tradition. It was founded in 1030 on the banks of the Emajogi River, 115 mi/186 km southeast of Tallinn.

Unfortunately, successive waves of invaders inflicted damage on Tartu, leaving an Old Town that is much younger than Tallinn's: It is neoclassical rather than medieval in design, though you can glimpse its past grandeur when you tour the 13th-century Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral.

The church sits atop Cathedral Hill, in the center of a park that also contains a local history museum, an ancient pagan sacrificial altar, an old astronomical observatory, and the opposing Inglisild (Angel's Bridge) and Kurasild (Devil's Bridge). Inglisild leads to the Town Hall Square and Raekoda, or Town Hall. At the base of the park is St. John's Church, begun in the 14th century and finished in the classical and baroque styles. (Notice the terra-cotta sculptures in niches around the front door.)

The town's two universities—Tartu University (founded in 1632, it can be distinguished by its classical columns) and the Estonian University of Life Sciences—merit visits.

Tartu deserves a full day's visit. http://www.tartu.ee.

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