This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Seeing stars

tartudec-11Scholars have been seeing stars in Tartu for over 200 years. The old observatory is crammed with equipment to view, measure, and analyze. And it is a cold place, even with the hatch closed. A non-astronomer never realizes how freaking cold it is to work at an observatory, because except for in late summer, the clearest nights also mean coldest nights. Yet once again, no such luck for me.

(Tartu, Estonia; December 2017)


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Wilde & Vilde

tartudec-12Being contemporaries, focused as much on style as on wit and critique of society, Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde could have met. But they never did. And so they were depicted having  a chat on a bench outside of a pub in Tartu. Oddly, I learned that the exact same piece stands (or sits) in Galway, Ireland.

What an unsettling thought: after you are dead and gone, somebody depicts you next to a person you never met nor knew, assuming there is a connection – and the rest of the world agrees.

(Tartu, Estonia; December 2017)


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Sweet youth

tartudec-7In the middle of the square they stand, kissing. Caught in a moment, frozen in love forever. These are no prissies for sure: note her short, tight skirt and his dancing shoes. This is young love, frivolous and unassuming; self-absorbed no matter the weather.

It was a cold Saturday in December. Somebody kind had wrapped the lovers in a woollen scarf. Hot pink, of course, just like their love.

(Tartu, Estonia; December 2017)


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Stone of sacrifice

tartudec-14There, unassumingly in the park, next to a currently acknowledged house of God stands a much older site of God. A million sacrifice ceremonies have worn out round indentations in the rock, like bowls carrying gifts to the Divine.

The days of worship are not over. The students of Tartu university use it to burn their lecture notes after exams. Perhaps it is not so much a sacrifice to knowledge and life but a purification of methods after numerous books have been converted to understanding and insight?

Times change. Our need to connect with the Universe will not.
tartudec-13(Tartu, Estonia; December 2017)


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Ruins

tartudec-15

Days of misfortune arrived—blows fell broadly—
death seized all those sword-stout men—their idol-fanes were laid waste —
the city-steads perished. Their maintaining multitudes fell to the earth.
For that the houses of red vaulting have drearied and shed their tiles,
these roofs of ringed wood. This place has sunk into ruin, been broken
into heaps…

(Anonymous, 800 AD)

tartudec-16(Tartu, Estonia; December 2017)


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Where we come from

tartudec-4Over Finland: nightless night, coffee, and bears. Over Russia: beautiful ladies, Putinistan, and terrible drivers. And over the Arctic Ocean: polar bears. This is the world we live in, according to ourselves and foreigners to our country. A world of stereotypes and perceptions – many of which we struggle to ignore.

Where I come from is Finland. Indeed, nightless nights, but also cold, dark winters, introverts, silence in conversation, very little physical touching or hugging, and definitely very little expression of emotions. For Americans, “I love you” is an everyday word, quickly dropped to a life partner or daughter or friend when passing out of the door. In Finland, “I love you” is like a fabled unicorn. A phrase so rare it is a legend. Even on television, “I love you” is always translated in Finnish to “you are dear (to me)”. Because it is too intense, too monumental to be used.

But I digress. How did I get to “I love you” from a map of stereotypical perceptions of countries? Not sure. Yet please note that above I said “I come from Finland”, not “I feel like a Finn”. I wonder if anyone truly identifies with the stereotype of one’s country people?

(Tartu University Museum, Tartu, Estonia; December 2017)


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Capped

tartudec-2It turns out Estonian student life is not that different from Finnish student life. And probably both cultures have their origin in Sweden. Velvet caps and all. Estonian caps seem to be much more colorful than the Finnish ones. The contemporary Finnish cap is pretty much similar to the one on bottom right, except for that it bears a golden lyre emblem of one’s university.

In olden times, a student would proudly wear his/her cap from May Day to end September. Today, in Finland, the student’s cap is mainly worn on May Day, by both young and old. At least in Estonia the rule is that when one is relieving oneself in the lavatory, one removes the cap and either gives it to a friend or sticks it somewhere where it stays clean. Just not on one’s head.

(Tartu, Estonia; December 2017)