Thursday, March 24, 2011

Amazing Race: Estonia Leg 2

Here is your second clue. Make your way to Tartu by car to the main building of Tartu University. There you will meet a university instructor (aka LP) who will give you your next clue.

We got up at 7 am…we were told the drive to Tartu would take about 2 hours and we needed to be there by 11 am…wisely, we decided to give it more time. It takes more like 2 ½ to 3 hours. But the drive is beautiful. Once you get out of Tallinn, it is farmland and woods dotted with tiny groups of old houses. There are a few restaurants of the mom and pop variety (like the one below) and some gas stations.

We stopped at one place to take a potty break…you had to pay to use the restroom, which was fine. Except that the country has converted to the Euro…but the restroom had not. Luckily, the cashier keeps 1 Kroon coins on hand for just such an occasion.

We made it to Tartu at a little before 11, found great parking, and called the person we were supposed to meet. Unfortunately, she wasn’t supposed to meet us until noon. So we went to the University Coffee House and got an early lunch.

The food was amazing…I was expecting snack food. What I got was a wonderful grilled salmon!

Interesting thing happened at the restaurant…our waitress at one point accidentally spoke in English…she then apologized and went back into Estonian! She was Estonian, and I heard her speak perfectly good English to some tourists who came in afterward.

Here is your next clue. Go with the university instructor to her class. Speak in English on a topic of your choosing and listen to the students interpret. Answer questions. When you have completed this task, the teacher will give you further instructions.

We actually got our onward instructions before the class started…we were to meet another Estonian, AU, at 3 pm in front of the main building at the university to go on a scavenger hunt of sorts. More on that in a bit. So anyway, we went to a classroom across the street from the Main Building (our teacher was right, you can't miss it).

In class, I chatted for about 7 minutes about PeeDee Indian history (gotta spread it where I can!) and answered questions. My classmate, being braver than I, chatted about Iraq. The students did a pretty good job of interpreting, though at one point, I took the headset off and just listened to the Estonian because the student doing the interpreting was having a few difficulties. As was the headset…it kept cutting in and out.

When we finished, we went and located our hotel, which was about a block away. We moved the car over and put our stuff in the room. By then, it was time to meet AU for the scavenger hunt. She sent us all over the city center finding out what the names of bridges are, what the monuments in Toomemagi park are for (magi means mountain, but where I come from, that is a hill…same for the rivers…they are more like creeks, except Suur Ema Jogi, which means Big Mother River and it is), where the giant pig and the kissing/compass statues are, etc. I feel like I got a good overview of the city….I am still not sure about the building that seems to be intentionally leaning.

Afterward, we met our guide at a coffee house and discussed our results. Then my classmate and I had dinner at the Gun Powder Cellar, which allegedly has a mug with our instructor’s name on it on the wall…I couldn’t find it, but I am sure it is there.

This evening, we went with LP to the theater. We had a bit of a mortifying misunderstanding…our instructor had said something about the possibility of going to “a play” if there were tickets, and I thought at some point we were told there were none. So when LP gave us tickets to something, we thought it was a movie. And when she said Evita, we assumed a movie dubbed into Estonia.

No, it was Evita…full stage performance with small orchestra. People dressed to the nines. Except us…dressed more like to the fours…in jeans. At least I wore a sweater….

The performance was exceptional…all in Estonian with a sign for English and Finnish subtitles. Amazing performers. I had a really good time…after the performance, we went to a coffee house (sensing a trend?) and had some dessert.

Oh, and lest you doubt how fully wired this country is (as I used the hotel's free wifi), this is across the street from our hotel (yes Virginia, there IS an iPhone in my future!):

Next Clue: Make your way back to the Hotel London for a mandatory rest break. In the morning, make your way to Tartu, where you will receive you next clue.

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