TARTU

Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia. In contrast to Estonia's political and financial capital Tallinn, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and cultural hub, especially since it is home to Estonia's oldest and most renowned university. Situated 186 km southeast of Tallinn, the city is the centre of southern Estonia. The Emajõgi river, which connects the two largest lakes of Estonia, crosses Tartu. The city is served by Tartu Airport.

The architecture and city planning of historical Tartu mainly go back to the pre-independence period, with Germans forming the upper and middle classes of society, and therefore contributing many architects, professors and local politicians.

Most notable are the old Lutheran St. John's Church (Estonian: Jaani Kirik, German: Johanneskirche), the 18th-century town hall, the university building, ruins of the 13th-century cathedral, the botanical gardens, the main shopping street, many buildings around the town hall square and Barclay Square.

The historical slum area called Supilinn (Soup Town) is located on the bank of river Emajõgi, near the town centre and is regarded as one of the few surviving "poor" neighbourhoods of 19th century Europe. At the moment Supilinn is being rapidly renovated, undergoing a slow transformation from the historic slum into a prestigious high-class neighborhood. The active community embodied by the Supilinn Society is committed to preserving the heritage.

The Second World War destroyed large parts of the city centre and during the Soviet occupation many new buildings were erected – notably the new Vanemuine Theater. The effects of the war are still witnessed by the relative abundance of parks and greenery in the historic centre. In the suburbs, classic Soviet neighbourhoods – blocks of high-rise flats – were built during the period between WW2 and restoration of Estonian independence in 1991.

Presently, Tartu is also known for several modern, rather sterile-looking buildings of the "steel, concrete and glass" variation, but has managed to retain a healty mix of old and new buildings in the centre of town.

Tartu's large student population means that it has a comparatively thriving nightlife, with many bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. Popular meeting place is, for example, the Gunpowder Cellar (Püssirohukelder) near the Tartu Cathedral.

Annually, in the summer, Tartu hosts the Hansa Days Festival (Estonian: Hansapäevad) to celebrate the Hanseatic heritage under the motto "History lives" when the old town bustles with activity from handicraft markets and historic workshops to a jousting tournament.

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