Tartu, Elva and Jõgeva #DAYS 13-18

Day 13
Saturday September 23rd

Saturday morning started with a lie in! We were due to get the bus to Tartu, but this wasn't until 12:45, and the bus station was just around the corner. With time on our hands, we had a leisurely morning and brunch, before slowly packing up what had been our home for 10 days.  Our bags seemed to have increased in weight since our trip and even over the short distance the weight was apparent! At the bus station, we spotted people wandering around with ice creams. Not to be left out, we quickly dumped our belongings at the stop we needed, and a quick dash into the shop rewarded us with cold treats for what had quickly developed into 18 degree heat.

We hopped onto the bus, and sat down at the front as we had been doing so with our journeys thus far. We were quickly usurped by a lady with a numbered ticket... We hadn't bargained on the bus being seat allocated and were rapidly split up, playing a game of seat bingo to try and reclaim our rightful places. This made the trip considerably quieter than those before, but most of us needed a catch up on sleep by this stage and we were well rewarded.

Two and a half hours later, we arrived at Tartu to more sunshine. The town itself was noticeably different from Tallinn, but also modern in its own way. We alighted the bus at the Bussijaam (bus station) and as the apartment we would now be in was a bit further away, Amy B and Lauren jumped into a local taxi with the heavy bags, to navigate the streets to the apartment. The first hurdle we encountered was that the driver did not speak a word of English.  It had become apparent from our weekend with the ladies in Türi, that some older generations had learned Russian at school and English was a third language.  A lot of pointing at maps got us safely to our location, a quiet street of pleasant wooden houses at the bottom of a park. A park on a hill; something we had yet to encounter in the mostly flat plains everywhere else.

Our lovely host greeted us, and helped us with our large amount of baggage to the apartment that would be our new home. Later in the afternoon, we headed out to find a supermarket and explore the town, finding the old ruins of a church in the nearby park, which we vowed to return to when we had more time.

Day 14
Sunday September 24th

Today, we took the chance to look round the beautiful city of Tartu. We started by exploring the Toome Park by our apartment, and enjoyed a sit down on a swinging bench, surrounded by the vibrant colours of the Estonian autumn. We couldn't help but break into a spontaneous version of "Land of the Silver Birch", inspired by the number of huge silver birches we were surrounded by. Continuing our love of panoramic views, we climbed the stairs of the nearby Dome Church ruins where we were gifted 360° views over Tartu, and even further afield towards the horizon and the border with Russia. Making the most of the Museum card we'd bought, we also learnt about the university (which specialises in science) and went to the Observatory.

After lunch, we took a walk along the river, stopping for a glass of Hõõgvein and then relaxed in the late afternoon autumn sun. It was so peaceful, we couldn't help but have a nap!

Day 15
Monday September 25th

Monday morning, and we were collected by Kirke and Kaire for a road trip to nearby Elva. This small town just outside of Tartu is where Chief Guide Merili went to school and started her guiding life, a place remaining close to her heart.

Our road trip comprised of a long straight road through the open countryside, Tartu is said to be a big town for the area, and it appeared that way with the open land and trees around us on our route.  We arrived at the Elva High School, surrounded by tall trees and a wealth of open space. We set up table with Kirke, Kaire and Merili, and felt well prepared with a pull up display stand, abundance of leaflets and badges, and readily prepared sheets in Estonian for the students to come and share with us 'what is your ultimate adventure?' and 'how can you help your community?'. We had an encouraging amount of interest in the short time we were there, and 10 potential Guides signed up. One girl was so excited to speak to "real British people"!

When got back to Tartu, we celebrated our successful morning with a trip to a local cafe. Our eyes popped out at the mouth-watering selection of cakes we were greeted with. Once we had filled up with all the sweet treats we could manage, we couldn't resist indulging in another afternoon chill out by the river. 

We spent the evening preparing for our next discussion with the Rovers tomorrow. We are excited by the progress we're making with the Rover Programne!

Day 16
Tuesday September 26th

On Tuesday we enjoyed a great lie in. We were then treated to a "fry up" by Lauren and Sacha. It consisted of eggs, beans and sausages. The eggs were standard scrambled, the beans resembled Heinz beanz but were more watery. The sausages were our favourite variety, miscellaneous frankfurter-style meat (with cheese in them).

After a chilled morning of cards, we went out for some cake. After the success of Monday's cake café, we decided to return to the same place. This time, however, we played our inaugural game of "Secret Santa Cake Roulette". Those who wanted to take part were randomly assigned a name. We then all went to the counter to order a cake for our designated person. We brought them all back to the table and gave them to their rightful owner. I'm happy to say that all recipients were happy with their cake and it meant we tried something we may not normally have picked.

After a bit more time in town we returned to prepare for our discussion evening.

We met 8 Rovers aged 16-20 for a 1.5hr discussion on the Rover programme. It had a similar structure to the discussion in Tallinn but there were more people​. We started with some guiding songs amazingly lead by Roxy. We then all shared reasons why we enjoy Rovers.

Next we asked all the Rovers to think of their ultimate adventure/life goals and act them out. Answers included travelling round the world, graduating and sleeping out in the forest. 

After a brief discussion on how these activities used leadership, networking and organisational skills, we moved on to brainstorming ideas for activities for the themes that we were beginning to write into the Rover programme: skills, outdoors and community. We had lots of ideas which have really helped to develop the Rover programme. One of the best ideas was the need for a wellbeing theme as mental health and other health issues did not seem to fit into any other category.

At the end of our session we wrapped up with a few more songs before giving out badges as a thank you to the participants.

We left feeling our discussion had gone really well. We were filled with new ideas and ways to develop the Rover programme and had lots more activities to fit in.

Day 17
Wednesday September 27th

Today we had to get up promptly as Kirke and Merili picked us up to take us to an adult recruitment event in Jõgeva, a small town about 50 km north of Tartu. We arrived at a Kindergarten and set up the projector for our photo slideshow. We had 5 attendees, which was a great result. Merili and Kirke did most of the talking in Estonian but we were invited to talk about WAGGGS and our experiences of international Guiding. As far as we could tell through the language barrier, everyone seemed interested and enthused by the presentation! We were given a tour of the Kindergarten and we're amazed at the quality of the facilities and the small size of the classes. In Estonia, children don't start school until 7 and we were gobsmacked at how subsidised the childcare was. Mothers are given 18 months paid maternity leave and then pay €50-60 per month for childcare...! We then looked up the residency criteria to become Estonian citizens (unfortunately it's pretty difficult)! We also saw some of the works of autumn art the children had created using leaves and seasonal vegetables. This has given us all ideas to use in our units in the UK when we get back!

On our way home, we stopped off at the Elemiste Animal Sanctuary, which rehomes injured or abandoned Estonian animals. We were so excited to see red squirrels, a Brown Bear, 2 Elks, Bison; all the things we had read about but (probably thankfully) hadn't seen in the wild!!

After all the excitement of the morning, we had a quiet afternoon, with a short walk along the river ending in the tranquil Botanical Gardens. Once home, we continued structuring the Rover Programme, covering our small living area with post it notes!

Day 18
Thursday September 28th

Today was our last day in Tartu, so we planned a fun and relaxing day going to the two biggest attractions in the town. We set off promptly in the morning and started at the Aura water park. We were very excited by the bright green and orange flumes, and spent a good while floating around on the lazy river, enjoying practically having the place to ourselves. When we'd exhausted our energy, we headed over the Terviseklubi (Health Club), where we spent another good length of time trying all of the 10 saunas and steam rooms. We started at the lowest temperature and gradually worked our way up to the hottest- 100 °C! Sacha delighted in adding water to the burning coals to create extra steam, which resulted in the rest of us needing to leave to be able to breathe again! In true Estonian style we came out of the sauna and poured a bucket of cold water over ourselves, which actually was a very welcome sensation!

After we'd dried off, we found a beautiful spot by the river to have our picnic lunch, and were grateful that we'd been able to enjoy so much sunshine over the last three weeks! The afternoon activity was next to the water park- AHHAA, an interactive science centre. We had an awesome time alongside all the school children, particularly cycling a bike along a tightrope, capturing our balloon pop on a slow motion camera and some very interesting human anatomy exhibitions. We were there in time for a show on The Chemistry of Fire, which involved a very enthusiastic host setting fire to a variety of increasingly flammable items. It was a very funny show (and impressively narrated in both Estonian and English interchangeably) but Sacha and Vicky couldn't help but notice the lack of health and safety compared to the labs they work in in the UK!

We headed back to the apartment slightly tired but on a high after a fantastic day. The evening was spent finalising the Rover Programne we've been working on with EGL, which turned into a late night but we're very pleased with how it's shaped up!


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