Dec 132012

I realize that I have not written about my experiences at Tartu University (TÜ) and its Hospital (TÜ Kliinikum). Besides Dr. Everaus, I had contacts already with a cell biologist whom I had met when he was a visiting scientist at NIH toward the end of the Soviet era.  Several years later I visited Tartu University on a Research Council travel award and at that time worked for three weeks with a developmental biologist who was then doing research with the late  Prof. Jüri Kärner.  At that time Prof. Kärner was the Dean of the University of Tartu. His term as Dean ran from the end of the 1980’s when I first met him and extended into the early 1990’s after Estonia regained its independence.   Dr. Kärner was a quiet man who had trained in developmental biology with Prof. SuloToivonen  at the University of Helsinki, Finland.
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Dec 092012

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.

The University Botanical Gardens early December.

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.
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Nov 272012

Liiv’s home: Threshing barn on left of building; living quarters on right.

A good friend in Florida was instrumental in our getting together with Volli and his wife Anu in Tartu.  Volli called me in mid-November and asked whether we had seen Alatskivi Castle and the Juhan Liiv Museum, both of which are located about a half hour from Tartu, going east toward Lake Peipsi.  Jüri and I had been to the Castle years earlier and remembered Alatskivi as being rather run-down.  It has now been beautifully restored. We arranged to meet that weekend, after Anu got back from Rome where she had been at a conference.  Volli and Anu are both doctors: Volli is a radiologist and Anu, a psychiatrist who works at the same hospital where my present lab is located.
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Nov 152012

As I usually do coming home from the lab, I got off the bus near the main shopping malls in the center of Tartu and began my evening walk back to the apartment.  When I got to the plaza in front of City Hall (the pink building that you have seen in my photos of Tartu), I noticed there was a throng of people standing out in the damp cold in front of a small platform that had been set up in the middle of the square.  The local newspaper the next morning said there

were approximately 450 people there.  To me it did not seem to be that many.  Loud speakers had been set up and several people mainly in their 20’s-30’s were coming on stage to speak in an orderly and peaceful way, one after the other.  People occasionally clapped and there was polite cheering, as people were agreeing with things that were being said.  I stopped to listen.  Many had signs reading “We have had it up to here…”, “Stop with your lies”, “Freedom for Estonia”, “Restart Estonia”, etc.  As I got closer, I realized this was an actual political protest in action!
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Nov 112012

In September there was an interesting article in the local main newspaper Postimees about eagles that live in Northern Europe, including in Estonia, and migrate to southern climates beginning in August and September.  Jüri and I have enjoyed bird-watching, not only at our backyard feeders, but also at bird sanctuaries in the United States.  I think our interest began with living in southern New Jersey for years and we were only about 40 minutes away from Ocean City and Cape May which were major congregating points for migratory birds in the fall before they began to fly further south across the bay.  After our move to Florida, we joined Audubon Society to learn about Florida’s birdlife. So this article about Estonian’s migratory birds drew our interest.

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