Tartu Love Stories: an Ode to Valentine’s Day – Daria (Russia)

We all know this period of time very well: from the beginning of February shops get filled with bright-red heart-shaped goods that range from chocolates to cheese, restaurants get booked weeks in advance, and our social media feeds remind us of a cheesy rom-com. It’s the St. Valentine’s Day season, baby! To be honest, I have always been rather skeptical about this holiday. I feel that it was created by capitalists as a way for companies to push us to buy and consume more goods. However, this time I decided to ask people who probably know much more about this celebration of love than I do: couples! They helped me to get a new perspective on this holiday and told me that in fact, St. Valentine’s Day for them is about showing appreciation to each other and celebrating their love. 

Today you will hear from four lovely couples whose love stories unfolded in the city of Tartu. Some of them met in the friends’ group, some in the museum, and some hadn’t even met in Tartu but decided to come and share their love stories with this city. Stay tuned until the end of the article to find out their best tips on celebrating St. Valentine’s Day in Tartu! 

  • Where and how did you meet?

Emma (the Netherlands) and Martin (the USA): We met already on our first day in Tartu, at the Orientation Day for international students, though we hadn’t spoken much to each other. Yet we quickly became part of the same group of friends as we study together at the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies. Though we were just friends at first, we saw each other all the time – at university, at the dorms (living in the same building), at the bars, and any activities with our friends. I am sure other students in Tartu can relate. After a few months or weeks, we admitted that we liked each other more than just as friends. 

Bing (China) and Brandon (the USA): We met before we came to Estonia.

Bing: Baby, I want to do my master’s in Europe.  
Brandon: Hmm, let me check, how about Estonia?
Bing: Where is it?
Brandon: In Europe, they call it the Silicon Valley in Europe.
Bing: Really? Cool! Let’s go there.

Patrik (Sweden) and Marcelo (Brazil): We first met during a night out in a bigger group, and just had small talk. Then we bumped into each other a while later, again out. And… that was it, been together since.

Marichka and Pavlo (both from Ukraine): Tartu is really small, so we saw each other really often everywhere, as well as we were “friends” on Facebook, but never actually spoke or met. But we did meet in the TYPA museum during the ESN event. That’s how everything started.

Turns out, a museum is a good place not only to learn something new but also to meet your destiny. Who knows, maybe the creative atmosphere of the TYPA Center did the work? You can visit it and find out for yourself ;)
Photo credit: https://www.visitestonia.com/en/
  • What is the story of your first date? Where was it, did you like it?

Patrik and Marcelo: We had our first date at the bar Pühaste, almost a week after we met that second time. We must have done something right because here we are now! No, but jokes aside, it was really great. Both of us were so excited, and could not have asked for a better first date. We kicked off and both felt we wanted to get to know each other better.

Bar Pühaste is one of the oldest and most famous bars in Tartu. It is cozy and not loud – perfect for a first date! Photo credit: https://www.visitestonia.com/en/

Emma and Martin: Because we already had been friends for some time, we did not really have to “get to know” each other first when we started dating, nor did we go on a “first date”.

Pavlo: I think that our first date was when we went on a 25km hike and set a mutual goal to walk this distance together in the mountains with amazingly snowy weather. 
Marichka: Well yes, I agree but for me, the first date was when we were doing paper planes with wishes and throwing them out of the window in order to check whose would fly further.

  • What is your favorite romantic story that happened in Tartu? Maybe it was a memorable date, or a celebration, or something unexpected?

Bing and Brandon: When you love someone, no matter where you go or no matter what you do, as long as you are together, it is romantic. The most romantic thing that happened to us is that both of us got an offer from the University of Tartu, so we could study and live in the same city. Otherwise, we might have needed to have a long-distance relationship, which would be harder. 

Marichka and Pavlo: We went for a walk to investigate the Christmas fair near the town hall. The walk lasted until 3 am and we came up with a crazy idea to leave some notes for Santa on the Christmas tree. We did that in a couple of weeks after that walk. 

Patrik and Marcelo: Okay, so something unexpected did happen. We went on a dinner date one evening, after a day at the library. When we were done, and ready to pay, they told us someone had already paid for us and left a note saying “everyone deserves a little bit of kindness”. In response, we paid it forward, and it happened to be a couple celebrating their anniversary!

Emma and Martin: It is hard to choose from the many fond memories we have in Tartu. To name a few, we had a great time going to Muusikamaja together; celebrating Thanksgiving with friends; and visiting the Estonian National Museum (ERM).

In Muusikamaja you can rent a room with musical instruments. A very cool way to surprise your date if you can play them! Or if you can’t, you can always try and learn an easy melody :) Photo credit: https://www.visitestonia.com/en/
  • What is your advice for celebrating St. Valentine’s Day in Tartu? Maybe a specific place or activity? 

Marichka and Pavlo: Every day is St. Valentine’s Day for us but to make the actual holiday more memorable, we decided to go for a hike with sauna as a finisher. 

Patrik and Marcelo: Rent a cabin, spend a day away from everything (if social distancing is not enough!). But most of all, appreciate each other, no matter where you are or what you do.

Bing and Brandon: Taking a walk in the forest, away from the sounds of the city, is quite romantic. On these snowy days in Tartu, the forest is very beautiful and quiet to be in. There won’t be any distractions of normal day to day life so you can just enjoy the moments you have together. 

Emma and Martin: We haven’t celebrated Valentine’s Day here (yet!), because our birthdays happen right after. However, for “romantic dates” we like to go out for dinner, for instance to the Georgian Kitchen, to Asian Chef, La Dolce Vita, and the Gunpowder Cellar.

a hike in the winter forest is the true Estonian way of celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day. This picture was taken on a Taevaskoja hiking trail
Photo credit: https://www.visitestonia.com/en/rmk-kiidjarvetaevaskojakiidjarve-hiking-trail

All in all, Tartu is a very romantic city, where you can get very creative with your dates and make the best love stories. Thanks to our guest couples, we now know some of the best destinations for celebrating St. Valentine’s Day as well as their amazing stories that prove that love is real. Their most popular advice was to get out of the city and go for a hike in a forest. Indeed, Estonian winter forests look amazing. A little advice from me would be to download the RMK app on your phone and explore one of the many hiking trails Estonia has to offer.

P.S. In Estonia, on the 14th of February people celebrate not only love but also friendship! Sõbrapäev (or Friend’s Day) is celebrated by single people and couples alike. So if you are among the single ones, you can still celebrate by gathering with your friends and showing your unconditional love and appreciation. From the team of International Student Ambassadors, we wish you to have an amazing St. Valentine’s Day regardless of your relationship status!

P.P.S. Tartu truly is a place to meet your love. If you want to read more stories of the couples who met in Tartu, check out the post from our alumni Alina here.