Aug 112012

Sunday, 5. aug. 2012.   We caught up with our household purchases after a leisurely morning breakfast. Then in the late afternoon decided to take a boat

Swimmers seen off in the distance. Every few miles, we would see these beaches with families enjoying this relatively warm summer’ s day.

trip upriver on Emajõgi. It was a beautiful summer’s day. As we left town, there were several small beaches along the way. Way out of town upriver are new, relatively large homes visible along the river. The river can overflow its banks after heavy winter snows, so the homes are built away from the edge. In general one sees mostly fields and

birch forests. In many areas large pine (mainly Pinus sylvestris) forests can be seen. This is typical for the Estonian and Finnish landscapes. The white bark of the birches is rather striking, especially when they are the predominant species. The Estonian word for birch is “kask”. When they grow together in a region, it is known as a “kaasik”.

A quite modern large home built in the suburbs of Tartu near the river’s edge. There are quite a few of these new homes being built in the outskirts of town.

After going upstream for a hour, we turned around and headed back. Just before embarking, on the left one can see our apartment complex near the river and at the foot of one of the bridges crossing the river.


Our apartment complex in the background. Path along the river goes all the way through town. In the mornings I follow the path to a shopping mall where I catch a bus to the lab.

Monday and Tuesday, 6-7 aug. Spent the two days catching up with my research-related tasks and my email. I’m still working on a NIH program project that has a September due date, so I have been very busy with that. On Tuesday, I gave an overview of my research to my new lab members on the project that some of them will be working on with me. I am quite excited to get started on this stem-cell related project! I’ll tell you more about the lab members and what they are doing in a future post. It is a nice group of young people. One of them, Triin, who just finished up her Master’s has a background in DNA and chromatin chemistry. I am quite intrigued to read her articles that she has published based on her Master’s dissertation – apparently she has 4 papers published!  That is quite impressive.

My 5-month Fulbright officially begins in September, so right now I am primarily working on my NIH grant and getting used to the new routines and way of life.  I am glad the 6-month sabbatical allows having this one extra month. In the world of research, five months is a very short time.

Thursday and Friday, 9-10th, aug.  Last night we went to hear a concert that was held at the outdoor amphiteater (Sound-Fest Stadium) in Tartu.  It was

Small stage against the sound stage in the background.

held to honor a well-known singer  (Vello Orumets) who recently passed away due to health problems.  The concert was  a 30 minute walk for us through an old part of town. It started at 8 PM and at 10 it

One of the singers of the ensemble “Parvepoisid”. Lots of fun songs popularized by Ormiste and remembrances of the late singer.

was still going strong.  It got pretty cold in the evening.  I had on a fall jacket and felt I could probably have worn my winter jacket to be really comfortable.  The days are pleasantly warm around noon, but by late afternoon, it turns quite cool and the evenings and nights are what I would call “cold”.  Maybe it is my Florida state of mind…but everybody is telling me that this summer has been quite cool, even for the locals.  One person jokingly said to me, “this summer has been bad skiing weather”.


Embassy personnel visit. From left to right: Jane Susi, Dr. Hele Everaus Head of Hematology-Oncology Clinic at TÜ Clinic, TÜ Medical School Dean Joel Starkopf, myself, and Robert Gilchrist ,Charges d’Affaires at the US Embassy.

Today, Friday, I met Robert Gilchrist the Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy and his assistant, Jane Susi, who were visiting Tartu from their home base in Tallinn .  The Dean of the Medical School Dr.  Joel Starkopf and Dr. Everaus joined us.  As a Fulbrighter, one is considered part of the Embassy “family”.  It  is nice to be in touch with the U.S. Embassy and  I especially was glad to hear that they will facilitate getting our absentee ballots and voting in November’s election.

Aug 102012

As I mentioned in my previous post, last weekend we visited the Viljandi region in the middle of Estonia.  Near Heimtali where Anu Raud lives is an old manor house that is open to the public only once or twice a year.  We happened to be there on one of these weekends when it is accessible.

Heimtali manor house seen from a long driveway approaching the house.

Baltic German nobility built manor houses in Estonia chiefly in the 18th century and extending into the

Peter Reinhold Sievers who built and lived in the manor into the late 1800’s.

mid-19th century. Over 2000 such manors once existed.  These are large country homes surrounded by a parkland.  Heimtali Manor was built between 1855-1857 by Peter Reinhold von Sievers in a style that was influenced by Italian architecture. In the early 20th century due to land reform changes, most of the German landlords left to return to Germany.  Many of the manors and surrounding parks fell into disrepair.

Many of these manors have been restored and are open to the public, as well as are available for special events.  Some serve as hotels.  In the beginning of 2005 in sixty-three of the existing 500 or so manors that still remain, the manor houses have been restored and converted into schools.  Some of these schools maintain rooms depicting the history of the manor.  This appears to be a good solution to restoring the Baltic German part of Estonian history and at the same time to have a practical solution for setting up new schools in the different parts of the country.   In Heimtali the elementary school was established already in 1932, but has been recently

Newly renovated chemistry classroom.

modernized.  Below are some images of the manor, the surrounding park, and a chemistry classroom.

Other photos of Manor as well as Emajõgi in Tartu I will post under “My Travels” tab.


Glass enclosed veranda at the front of the manor house now serves as a student lounge.

Aug 082012

Hi Everybody!

View from prop-plane window.

Flying does not always go smoothly according to plan.  Leaving Tampa on Tuesday, July 31st,  the plane took off a little late.  About an hour from Dulles Airport in Washington DC where we were to connect to our flight for Munchen, we were put into a holding pattern for one hour due to thunder storms around Washington.  As a result our Munchen flight was delayed for two hours…which meant we would be late for our Estonian Air flight to Tallinn next morning.  This all ended with us being booked on a different flight to Tallinn via Helsinki in the late afternoon. We thus flew to Tallinn on a small turbo-prop plane with no view onto Old Tallinn as I had hoped. We landed at 7:30 PM instead of 11:30 AM as originally planned. We had started out with six suitcases, but arrived with only five.  I was a little worried, because that missing one had most of our winter clothes in it. All ended well, however, with that lost suitcase arriving at the new Tartu airport two days later.

On arrival we were picked up at the Tallinn airport and so began our 2-hr trip to Tartu.  The sun was setting with a full moon rising.  The landscape was quite pretty with the setting sun as a backdrop. Dr. Everaus, my Tartu University colleague, met us in Tartu.  She had brought snacks with her, as well as a bottle of champagne!  We toasted the Fulbright award.  I felt thankful for such a warm welcome and start in Tartu.

Our furnished apartment is quite comfortable.  It has a good sized living room with L-shaped sofa, a bedroom, a small dining area and kitchenette with a dishwasher (thank goodness!).  The bathroom has a shower and best of all, we also have a sauna!!  🙂  🙂  In the colder months, I am sure we will make use of the sauna.  My father built a sauna in upstate New York where I grew up and taking a sauna was always a favorite weekend memory.

Assembly Hall (Aula) in main TÜ building.

On Thursday,  August 2, I got mobile phones for Juri and myself and signed up for internet service and cable TV.  In Estonia one cannot get any type of TV programs without a cable box. I think Helion is the only company that provides it. I next visited the University International Relations office and had a nice conversation with the head of that department.  Just before leaving she opened a door that leads off from their office to show me from an upstairs balcony the

Close-up of one of the bands.

Assembly Hall (Aula) in the main University building.  I have attached a view of this beautifully restored auditorium.

I spent Friday in my new office at the University catching up with my email and things on my “to do” list.  On Friday evening, Juri and I walked on a path along Emajogi (literally  Mother River) that goes to the center part of the city .  The path passes in front of our apartment building, so we walk it everyday.  It is quite picturesque with ducks swimming and boys and old men fishing.  We had dinner on both Thursday and Friday evening at the sidewalk cafes lining the old City Hall square (Raekoja Plats).  The days and evenings have been pleasantly warm (no Tampa Bay humidity here).  Luckily for us, right after our arrival in town a Wind Instrument Orchestra Festival started that extended into the weekend.  Local Estonian, as well as visiting orchestras from England, Hungary, Latvia, and Finland, were performing.  Eating out, sipping the locally brewed beer, and listening to the marches, polkas, and waltzes being played was a nice experience.

Anu Raud on her farm in Heimtali near Viljandi.

Saturday we had a chance to go to Viljandi where we saw an old ruin on top of a hill in Viljandi that overlooks a relatively large lake in the valley below. We also visited with a well known weaver, Anu Raud, who raises her own sheep, makes yarn from the wool, and dyes the yarn with natural colors.  Her woven rugs hang in the United Nations in New York and one of them was given to Queeen Elizabeth, when the queen visited Estonia several years back.  Anu is a very warm and friendly person.

We then proceeded on to visit a manor house near Viljandi.  I’ll talk about that in my next post.