Tartu Travel Blog› entry 10 of 11 › view all entries
Tartu is, with its population of 101,246 in an area of 38.8 square kilometres, the second largest city of Estonia. Tartu situated 185 kilometres south of Tallinn, is also the centre of Southern Estonia. The Emajõgi River, which connects the two largest lakes of Estonia, flows for the length of 10 kilometres within the city limits and adds colour to the city. The first written records of Tartu date from 1030.
I have always enjoyed coming back to this little city. It is not that there is a lot to do, but maybe that why I like it. Tartu is an university city - it is actually besides being the cultural capital of Estonia its main activities.
The present building is already the third one on the same site. In comparison with the long history of Tartu its buildings are relatively new: very seldom you can see buildings which date back to earlier times than the last quarter of the 18th century which can be explained by numerous devastating wars and fires. The Great Fire of 1775 ravaged almost the whole central part of Tartu. After the fire Tartu began to obtain its present configuration and the present Town Hall was also built.
The Town Hall of Tartu was built at the time when the style of Early Classicism reached the Nordic countries, including Estonia, replacing the earlier styles of Baroque and Rococo. The contest between different styles is also reflected in the Town Hall of Tartu. The three-storeyed building with a high hip-roof and a ridge tower follows the traditions of Baroque urban palaces in the Netherlands . The Town Hall of Narva, built in the 17th century, was inspired by the same example.
The tower of the Town Hall of Tartu, which was completed in 1784, is in the Baroque style and it is accompanied by the Rococo cartouche on the tympanum of the main façade. In the design of the walls, especially the interior walls, the Neo-Classicist style, being most fashionable at the time, was prevailing.
The Town Hall had to perform several functions simultaneously and this is why its planning was extremely economical. In the vaulted cellar and on the ground floor of the left wing there was a prison together with the room for its guards. In the right wing - where a pharmacy has been open since 1922 there was the city board of weights and measures.
When you are in Tartu you should visit Karlova, with its more than 400 wooden buildings. In big and wealthier cities of Northern Europe such settlements have given way to more modern stone buildings a long time ago but fortunately, they still exist in Tartu.
For all of you carrying around your laptop like all other Estonian cities Tartu is wonderful - thanks to techsavvy locals and the demand from the student crowd, downtown Tartu is absolutely covered with wireless internet zones (WIFI spots) and use at most of them is free. Just look for the WIFI symbol in this guide´s cafe´, bar, hotel and restaurant listings to see which palces have the service.