One truly adventurous and inspirational walk

Anna, a student at the University of Tartu, posing with a sculpture of Juri Lotman.
Image credit: private collection

My name is Ana Marić and I am a first year MA student of semiotics at the University of Tartu.

I participated and won some valuable prizes in the autumn orienteering walk dedicated to Juri Lotman, which was organized by the Department of Semiotics and the University of Tartu.

My quest to find all 20 checkpoints which were scattered throughout the city was quite an adventure, actually.

First of all, the map wasn’t that clear, so I had to guess and improvise the potential places in the city where those checkpoints could have been; with some help from Lady Luck, my improvisation turned out to be successful.

Some checkpoints were quite easy to find, like the ones around the University Main Building and the city center, but some were almost impossible to find and I almost gave up. However, my mind kept telling me: You have a goal; don’t be a crybaby, just work very hard and you will accomplish.

So, I listened to my harsh mind and I walked and walked, the whole day, the whole night, in the rain, in the wind, just looking intensively at every tree, lamp post, tile and gate, and crawling even into the mouse holes of the city, just to find those pieces of paper and scan them with my phone.

On my treasure hunt, I was also almost hit by a car, even a train a couple of times, stopped by the police, and even witnessed a suspicious man dragging a large black bag out of his car trunk in the middle of the night. I almost fell and broke my leg on Toome Hill when I started to run downhill so I could scan the 11th checkpoint. But it was all worth it, because all of those places the checkpoints represented had a very special meaning to Juri Lotman; they were part of his life, part of his semiosphere.

I also got to learn many interesting facts about Juri Lotman and his life here in Tartu, such as how we grew his moustache to impersonate Stalin, how he used to love hanging out in Sigma café, how he wore his stained lecture suit for his wedding and his wife, Zara Mintz, wore her aunt’s giant dress, how they lived in a very small apartment with no water and heating when their first child was born, and how scholars came to his apartment on Veski Street to have discussions.

This walk was truly adventurous, inspirational and valuable for me, not just because I got to know Juri Lotman know Juri Lotman and his life in Tartu better, but also because I experienced another side of Tartu as well: I felt the town’s soul, grasped its rich and majestic history, and enjoyed its breathtaking nature.

As Tartu accepted Juri Lotman and became a home for him and his family, I feel that Tartu has also accepted me. It is my home now, and it will be the home of my future children as well. Juri Lotman, your walk has ended, but your legacy is engraved for eternity, not just in Tartu, but also in the mind and soul of every semiotician who is taking your steps on the journey of excellence. For that, thanks a Lotman.

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