Saturday, May 31, 2008

Linguistics in Tartu

Well, I've been at a Linguistics conference for three days and I will finally give my presentation tomorrow (at 9:30 am, yuck!). Note that I'm writing a blog tonight, right before my presentation, which some of you might recognize as my old habit of procrastination. Anyway, not much to say travel-wise as I have been listening to linguistics talks for most of my visit. I do like Tartu so far, more than Tallinn actually. It's a college town and I clearly have an affinity for college towns, so that may be part of what I like.

Hmmm.... what can I say... Well, for all those with interests in morbid things, I witnessed a car-motorcycle accident yesterday. As I walked out of my hostel around 9 pm I saw a car spinning after hitting a motorcycle about a half-block from me. At the end of the street I could see the poor motorcycle driver lying flat on the ground. He had apparently flown off his bike. I'm not sure exactly what happened, though. And sorry, no pictures.

After our conference dinner tonight my new physicist friends from the conference (yes, I managed to befriend the only non-linguists at a linguistics conference) showed me a crooked building in the town square. I'm standing in front of the building in the picture. I also took a few more pictures of Tartu when I managed to slip away from the conference.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

From Tallinn to Tartu

Now I am in Tartu, Estonia for a linguistics conference. I left Tallinn yesterday evening by bus. It only took about 2 and a half hours to get here. Here's a map of Estonia so you can see Tartu with respect to Tallinn (the capital):

Before I left I walked around Tallinn some more: click here for more pictures. Mostly with another American I met in the hostel. He is an expat living in Denmark, who makes a living giving lectures on random topics that he has developed expertise in (but he's not a professor). He gave his latest lecture on crop circles in St. Petersburg, Russia, and was traveling through Tallinn on his way back to Denmark. (NB: Denmark is the smallish country sticking off the top of Germany on the left side of my Eastern Europe map - it's unmarked.) Mom, since you expressed interest in crop circles, he gave me these sites for you to look at:

- What is apparently the best site on crop circles
- The guy's own site on crop circles

Otherwise I just walked around, saw the Gulf of Finland, tried a piece of elk meat at the market in town, and also found out what Estonian recycling receptacles look like:

But now I am in Tartu skipping the first half day of my conference. I'm going in after lunch to see a professor from Middlebury give a talk, but the stuff I really want to go to starts tomorrow (plus I really wanted to sleep in this morning!).

Not much to say about Tartu yet, except that my hostel is nice. I have my own room with a bathroom and a kitchenette. I also have an ethernet connection to the internet and a TV. Now I'm going to get back to drinking my Nescafe, which is just coffee-flavored water, as far as I can tell.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I made it to Europe! the far northeast corner of Europe, at that! And yes, Estonia is in Europe, since it is in the EU (even if they don't use the Euro yet; they still have their own currency, the "kroon").

I arrived in Tallinn around 3 pm local time after connecting in Amsterdam. I didn't go through passport control, customs, or anything here in Estonia, maybe because I had to do this in Amsterdam (?). I was mildly disappointed about this since I wanted a little Estonia passport stamp on my freshly renewed passport - oh well! I quickly found the bus that runs from the airport to the historical city center (where I am staying) and got off at the correct stop without even asking because I actually understood when the driver called out the very Estonian-sounding street name! (I had heard one other person pronounce it, which helped.) I was - and am - pretty groggy, but I've managed to stay awake this afternoon/evening to walk around town in daylight (which there are 17+ hours of this time of year).

The town is a bit quiet as far as I can tell, but it was also drizzling this afternoon so maybe people stayed inside. I've found it interesting how many Russians and/or Russian-speakers there are here. I spoke with the desk clerk at my hostel in English, but then ordered coffee in Russian an hour later. And there are people walking around speaking Russian all over town. I never cease to be amazed at cultures like the one here that speak the national language (Estonian), the language of an old dominating power (Russian) AND the language of a new dominating power (English). And most speak all three quite fluently!

I took some random pictures around the Old Town today - just to give an idea of what it looks like. I'll only be here for another day, then I'm headed to Tartu in southern Estonia for a conference.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Summer in Eastern Europe

Here's a map of Eastern Europe to accompany my blog.

My rough plan is:
1) Fly into Tallinn, Estonia on May 27th
2) Travel to Tartu, Estonia for this conference: CFP Conference from May 29th - June 2nd or 3rd
3) Travel in Eastern & Central Europe for the remainder of June & beginning of July; this (potentially) includes: Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria... (I may have to shorten this list...)
4) On July 20th go to Olomouc, Czech Republic where I will study Czech at Univerzita Palackého until the end of August
5) Fly back to US from Prague on August 24th