Four Months of Erasmus in Winter

When I arrived in Tartu in February as an Erasmus student, it was cold. Really cold, -20° C I guess. There was snow, it was dark and my suitcase weighed tons, at least. So I wasn’t in my best temper that day, although I was excited as hell about the four months that lay ahead of me.

CatherinaI knew that winter in Tartu would be long and freezing, but no one prepared me for this. Still in April I thought that the snow would never disappear, that I was trapped in a never-ending winter.

But there were good and beautiful things about it as well: climbing on frozen waterfalls, walking on the frozen Peipsi Lake, snow fights at night in the parking lot behind Raatuse, sledging on a giant plastic sheet together with 50 other people on Vastlapäev, kayaking in Soomaa National Park during the so-called fifth season (and, of course, while snow was falling), the frozen Baltic Sea…Unfortunately we never got the chance to use one of the ice roads.

sledgingAnd when I had almost lost hope that spring would finally come, there it was. In our Estonian language class, our teacher had promised us a “green explosion” in May when suddenly all trees would become green and flowers would be blossoming. I doubted it at that moment, but she was right. It was beautiful. With spring and sun and warmth there also came billions of aggressive monster-mosquitoes that were almost as bad as the snow, but that is another story.

What else can I say about my four months of Erasmus in Estonia? Of course you meet a lot of people, get to know other cultures, taste different kinds of food and Estonian vodka (by the way, the first word I knew in Estonian was “terviseks” 😉 ).

I travelled a lot and Estonia really is the perfect country for it because public transport costs almost nothing. Don’t listen to Estonians when they tell you not to use the train. Yes, Estonian trains are slow, but train tickets are even cheaper than the bus.

at the Baltic sea coastI climbed the highest Estonian mountain, saw a lot of lighthouses on Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, visited a lot of medieval castles and also went to Latvia and Lithuania. I spent a lot of nights in various kitchens drinking tea, talking and watching the sky that never went dark in the middle of June. I probably spent the same amount of nights dancing. I waved to Russia from Narva and lay in the sun on a Latvian beach. I fell asleep on a bridge in Taevaskoja, sang “99 Luftballons” at karaoke in Püssirohukelder and bathed in the “Kissing Students” fountain.

Now I am back in Germany. I came back in June with 55 mosquito bites on my left leg, wearing my warmest coat and rain boots because I couldn’t fit them into my suitcase. And I came back with the most perfect memories one could possibly have. And despite the freezing cold that soon will grab hold of Estonia again, I would go back any time without the slightest hesitation.


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