Once one of my friends came to Tartu. I showed him the city and brought him to my most beloved cafes. Then we decided to sit in our garden with some coffee, and in the garden he saw a hedgehog. In his 10-second run across the path, the hedgehog impressed my friend even more than my talent as a guide. I think that if he decided to write a review about his trip to Tartu, he would start from the story about the hedgehog.
During my 5.5 years living in Tartu I saw more wild animals than in the rest of my life combined. Foxes. Deer. Beavers. I already mentioned hedgehogs, which walk everywhere in Tartu except for the Town Hall Square.
If you want to look at Estonian animals, it’s not necessary to go to Estonia. This winter I found a substitute for soap operas – web cameras. I think all of my friends can compile photo albums from the screenshots with animals which I send them.
It is an inexpressible feeling to open a stream and see the life there. It is impossible to stop: boars chomping carrots are no less fascinating than a Hollywood blockbuster. You even want to give some of them an Oscar.
Or deer. They don’t chomp. They eat like aristocrats at the queen’s dinner party. They take pauses, as if looking into infinity, and show their beautiful contours and horns. They run away at the slightest rustle, unhearable to us.
In January a camera was set by a bird feeder. I immediately remembered my school cafeteria: a mob of hungry pupils, constant noise and quarrels.
You never know who will come to the feeder: these are mostly tomtits. They arrive, take seeds, and fly away. Also, a greenfinch constantly “visits” the feeder – it eats, and eats, and eats without hurrying anywhere. The forum on the page is full of passion: people post screenshots, give names to the birds, discuss, who and when they saw which one.
There are also seals. I don’t recommend watching them in the morning, because at that time they mostly sleep and this can make you feel envious. Sometimes they turn around and freeze like big grey stones. White fluffy babies crawl not far from their moms and squeak. In the mornings I also feel like a big seal – I want to lie on a shore and take sunbaths, but alas!
Now, the most interesting action is with the eagles. You can watch this stream even when the birds are not there – the view on the tops of pines and the faraway horizon is so stunning that you can print it on a postcard. But now the birds are making a nest: placing branches and sticks, and making themselves comfortable. Sometimes I just sit and watch: I understand them, and I can also enjoy such views indefinitely.
Recently, a camera was set up for badgers. I haven’t seen what is happening there, but something will happen for sure.
If you don’t want to look at animals but meditate on some beautiful scenery, there is a camera on the wall of Käsmu maritime museum at your disposal. Nothing except for the change of weather takes place on that stream, but what scenery! I think I have some ten screenshots from it: snow at Käsmu. No snow at Käsmu. Sunshine at Käsmu. Cloudy at Käsmu.
Irina Rudik defended her PhD in Russian literature at the University of Tartu in 2014.