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As more and more international visitors are making their way to the Baltics, theyre discovering all the charm Estonias second largest city has to offer and becoming instant fans.
After exploring Tartus fascinating, neo-classical Old Town, climbing the historic Toome Hill and watching the peaceful EmajÃµgi River meandering past, who wouldnt be seduced?
But Tartus power of attraction has much more to do with than just appearances. This city of 101,000 is Estonias main university town, and its young, intellectual population gives it a certain brainy edginess that you just cant find in the nations capital. After a few days here you might notice that restaurants and bars seem to be locked in bitter competition for the most clever name and motif. The cafÃ© culture here is certainly unequalled in Estonia, and some would even say it has the best nightlife!
More than anything else though, Tartus strength is the positive mood that seems to swirl around it. The city prides itself on being more relaxed, less pretentious, and saner than its noisy adversary, Tallinn. Its no wonder that Tartus nickname is The City of Good Thoughts.
St. John's Church (Tartu Jaani)
Medieval architectural monuments probably form the most valuable part of the comparatively rich architectural heritage of Estonia. Among the former, Tartu Jaani (St Johns) Church in its own turn occupies a special place. It does so, first and foremost, because of its sculptures. Both the interior and the exterior of the church are covered with numerous decorative details. All of those are made of terracotta, i.e. burnt clay. Originally, there must have been more than a thousand of those, and even though many of them have been destroyed over the ages, the number of the retained ones is still impressive. Terracotta is not entirely unknown in medieval art, but there is no other building in the entire European Gothic tradition that could in any significant way compete with Tartu Jaani Church in the number, size and artistic quality of the terracotta sculptures. It is precisely this that gives the church more than just a local significance, making it a truly representative monument of the entire Western Gothic architecture.
Since ancient times Town Hall Square has been the centre of Tartu, the main trading area of the settlement between the castle on the Toome Hill and the riverside port on the EmajÃµgi. The tradition was upheld for centuries. In the Middle Ages the seat of municipal power The Town Hall was erected.
The Botanical Garden of the University of Tartu was founded in 1803, near what is now the Vanemuine Old Theatre House. In 1806 the garden was relocated to more suitable site, on the ruins of the ancient city wall and fortifications near the river and ponds.
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