In the beginning part of November somebody commented that the autumn leaves were staying on the trees longer than usual this year. I recently learned that Estonian folk wisdom (vanarahva tarkus) says that if the trees are bare in October, the winter will be mild. If leaves remain on the trees to the end of October, a long winter will follow. So far, we have already had two snow storms, the heavier of the two just recently. It is also very cold. Emajõgi essentially has iced over in large stretches upriver from us.
At the end of November we had our first really heavy snowfall. We ended up having 6 to 9 inches of snow. Since then, the temperature has stayed pretty much at 0 degrees centigrade and at night it drops to -5 or -6. If it is not windy, it is not bad to be outside. When it is windy and a wind chill factor to be reckoned with, I have to say, I would rather be inside. It began to snow at night and blizzard conditions were present when people began going to work. Cars and busses were having a hard time getting around, so I decided to work at home.
When I heard the weather forecast the day before, I had already planned on the possibility of not going in to the lab and brought articles home that I wanted to reference for two review papers that I am writing. Whereever I am with my computer, I can always write and work on my articles. I have given several lectures here and at one of them, my mechanotransduction talk, the editor of the Tartu University Medical School journal Eesti Arst (Estonian Physician) attended. I decided to try to give this talk in Estonian. Scientists here for the most part all speak English, since the European Union conferences are in English. However, I can tell it is liked, when the guest speaker gives the lecture in Estonian. I told the audience that when I do not know the Estonian word for certain scientific terms, I will use the English one. All in all the talk went well. I am feeling more and more comfortable with giving my lectures in Estonian. After the lecture, the editor asked, if I could write a review article in Estonian on morphoregulation-mechanotransduction and relate it to birth defects. This is a review article that I have planned to do anyway in English. The first draft in Estonian is almost written. It will need Estonian editing, but of course they have the staff to do it.
To get back to the blizzard, I decided to take a walk around town when the snow was coming down. I have always enjoyed walking in snowstorms. I would
do that when I lived up North in the United States as well. Growing up in Schenectady in Upstate New York, we sometimes would get 3 feet of snow. This also occasionally happened in the Philadelphia area. In both places, I lived next to woods, so by myself or as a family we would go traipsing off into the woods at peak periods of snow. Here in Tartu, as I probably have mentioned, we live across the river from the University Botanical Garden, so that was the first place I visited. I got some nice pictures of the gardens and the small lake in the gardens with the fresh snow. The gardens certainly looked different in September, when I first visited them. From there I cut across the narrow streets to the City
Hall Square (Raekoja Plats). Then walked on to the shopping center. Here a group of little ones were also on an outing with their teacher. They seemed to be learning new words associated with the snowstorm. One thing I noticed was that life does not stop here with snowstorms. People go to work and children to school. In the US, schools would have been closed and probably even some businesses. I was amazed how quickly steps that lead down to the river paths to walk to the Raekoja Plats were cleared completely from snow. The snow removal people do a good job in general, but certainly, not everywhere. They also do not have the numbers of snowplows that we are used to in the US. It is only today, 5 days later that I noticed the large mounds of snow that the plows pushed together in our grocery store parking lot were removed by payloaders.
Next day when I went to work, I noticed there was ice floating down the river. The poor ducks are still here. I was told they do not leave for the winter because people feed them. When Emajõgi ices completely over, the city actually breaks the ice so the ducks still can be in the water. With my bus ride to work, I got off earlier and walked to the lab via my favorite path between the rows of trees that I wrote about in the fall. It was just as pretty as I thought it would be. Hope you enjoy the photos.
Today, Sunday December 9th, the river is almost completely frozen. We did a little trek along the river with the sun actually shining! See slideshow.
Christmas decorations are now being put up and lots of Christmas concerts and crafts fairs are coming up. The newspaper had three pages of listings of events leading up to Christmas and then New Year. More about the Yuletide events in a subsequent blog.