Tartu dialect trail

The Tartu dialect has been spoken in areas of the southern parts of Tartu County from Lake Peipsi to Lake Võrtsjärvi. Already in the 16th century, the Tartu dialect was used by the Jesuits as a basis for the Tartu language, or the written language of Southern Estonia, which was used almost equally with the written language of Northern Estonia in the 17th-19th centuries. Johannes Gutslaff compiled the grammar of Tartu in 1648. In 1686, however, the “Wastne Testament” was the first to be published in southern Estonian. People from the Tartu dialect can be recognised today by the use of the words too and nood, as well as kunas and millal. The eastern group of the Tartu dialect is located on the shores of the Peipsi: the Kambja and Võnnu dialects and the Kodavere Kavastu dialect, which is part of the northern group.

Trail map

Other heritage sites along the Tartu dialect trail

Mäksa Manor - Mäksa Manor was a knight's manor in Võnnu parish, Tartu County. Today the former manor is located in the territory of Kastre municipality in Tartu County. Mäksa Manor (German Mäxhof) dates back to the Middle Ages and was first mentioned in 1555. The manor is named after the Mecks of the then owners. The manor is privately owned.

Kaagvere Manor - Kaagvere Manor (German Kawershof) was a manor in Võnnu parish, Tartu County. Nowadays the manor is situated in the village of Pupe in Kastre municipality. The first mention of the manor dates to 1544.

Jaago Handicrafts Farm -Jaago Farm is a place where nature-oriented thinking, the beauty of plants and the wisdom of ancestors are woven into a beautiful brade. It offers a variety of crafts at different times of the year – for example, making clay candleholders and pouring candles and baking gingerbread before Christmas.

Ahja Manor - Ahja Manor dates back to the Middle Ages (1553). The two-storey baroque mansion, with a half hipped roof, was built in the late 1740s and was one of the most luxurious in South Estonia at the time. From 1929 to 1997 a school was run in the manor house. In 2007 the building was destroyed by fire and only the walls remained. Several outbuildings of the manor house have been preserved, although most of them have been rebuilt. The beautiful park with a pond, which is protected as a natural and historical monument, is worth seeing. The manor and the park are known to many from the book Little Illimar by the Ahja-based writer Friedebert Tuglas, based on his childhood memoirs.

Kärsa Church - Kärsa Orthodox Church is a church in the village of Kärsa in Põlva County, Põlva municipality. The church was built in 1878. The church was used by the Võnnu Parish of the Nativity of Christ. Today the church belongs to the Kärsa congregation of the Estonian Methodist Church. The church has been under state protection as an architectural monument since 1999.

Mehikoorma lighthouse - Mehikoorma lighthouse is located on the western shore of Lake Lämmijärvi in the southern part of Lake Peipsi. The earliest scarce records of beacons at Mehikoorma pointing northwards towards Piirissaar and southwards towards Salusaar date from the First World War. By 1929, a tank with a flashing sector light had been set up at Mehikoorma. The wooden lighthouse was replaced by a reinforced concrete lighthouse in 1938. The lighthouse, 15 m high and 3 m in diameter, was powered by acetylene. With its 15 metres, Mehikoorma lighthouse is the highest lighthouse on Lake Peipsi. The lighthouse can only be seen from the outside.

The King’s Pine - The King’s Pine is a protected species of Scots Pine in the village of Järvselja in Kastre municipality, Tartu County. The tree's name derives from its tall stature and majestic appearance. The King’s Pine is more than 33 metres tall, but more remarkable is the circumference of the trunk, which is 3.4 metres at breast height, the width of the crown is 23 metres, and the volume is estimated at 11 m3.

Järvselja primeval forest nature trail - The Järvselja nature trail introduces you to the forests around the learning and experimental forest centre. The trail is varied and crosses several types of forest habitats - you will see the King’s Pine, which is over 380 years old, and spruce trees with tops over 40 m high, which are among the tallest trees in Estonia. The trail is partly on a boardwalk and the route is 1-5 km long. A good starting point is either the Järvselja hunting lodge or the guest house, where information boards with a map of the trail are available. The Järvselja educational trail with its primeval forest represents one of the places worth discovering in South Estonia, which is marked with a National Geographic yellow window. 

Rõka dome tower - Peramaa Holiday House is like a small oasis in the ancient forests of Järvselja. The unspoilt nature and the peace of the pristine forest help you to forget about your daily chores and work. It offers accommodation, catering and active activities (archery, cycling). In the immediate vicinity of the recreation centre is the Rõka Dome Tower, just a short distance from the Järvselja nature trail and Järvselja primeval forest.

Kriimani Manor - Kriimani Manor (German Brinkenhof) dates back to the Middle Ages. The place is named after the Brinken family, who owned the manor. In Swedish times the manor belonged to the Riegemanns, hence the Estonian name. After the Great Northern War, the manor belonged to the noble families of von Kawer, von Boettiger, von Rosen, von Blankenhagen and von Stryk. The last owner of the manor before its alienation in 1919 was Margarete von Brasch. The manor complex is situated on the shores of the small but beautiful Lake Kriimani, on the top of a small hill. The one-storey wooden main building probably dates from the mid-19th century. The central part of the façade has a three-window wide superstructure. It is currently used as a social house for the municipality. The manor also had numerous outbuildings, but most of these have been destroyed. Some of the surviving buildings are either derelict or have been converted beyond recognition.

Kavastu raft - The raft was put into operation in 1899 by order of W. Wulff, the landowner of Kavastu, to facilitate the crossing of the river Emajõgi. In 1983, the raft's transfer chain broke, the raft itself disappeared downstream and the flywheel sank into the river. In 1999, the century-old tradition was revived, the original paddle wheel was lifted from the riverbed and put back into operation. Unique in Europe, the raft has a hand-cranked mechanism that is more than a century old and is used by the ferryman to help you to the other side. Riders often like to spin the ferry themselves for a fun ride. The raft is popular with hikers, both by car and on foot, as well as with cyclists in the South of Estonia.

Kavastu Manor - Kavastu Manor (German Kawast), located on the left bank of the Emajõgi River, downstream, was first mentioned in 1544. At that time the manor belonged to Jakob Krabbe. Later, during the Swedish period, the manor belonged to Georg Oxenstjerna, and in the middle and second half of the 17th century to the von Schwengelnes. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the manor had many different owners, and the manor house was rebuilt in the late 19th century. In the 1890s a large two-storey neo-baroque main building was completed, one of the most majestic in the area. The main part of the building was single-storey, covered with a high mansard roof, with the underside also built out to a storey. The central section was a two-window wide addition on the second floor. The eastern end of the building, however, was designed as a stubby three-storey stone tower, also covered by a mansard roof. From the river and the other side of the river, the main building had several beautiful views. The resemblance to the main building of Kaagvere Manor (destroyed), built in the same period, suggests the work of the same architect.

Melliste windmill - The windmill in Melliste was restored in 2013 and was to house an information point, a viewing platform and an outbuilding with other facilities. Unfortunately, the project fell through and the windmill is now standing idle.