If you want to catch a glimpse of what much of Tartu looked like before the Second World War, we suggest taking a nice walk through one of the city’s historic districts. The most colourful and interesting of these is called Supilinn or Soup Town. The area, located in the northwest of town along the banks of the Emajõgi River was historically just a flood plain swamp.
The district started to take shape in the 19th Century when the water level of the river subsided, leaving behind cheap but fertile land suitable for lowincome housing and vegetable gardening. Because of the numerous gardens in the area the residents gave the streets vegetable names such as Kartuli (Potato), Herne (Pea), Oa (Bean), Marja (Berry) and Meloni (Melon). This is where Supilinn got its amusing name.
Having largely escaped the bombing and destruction of World War II, Supilinn is a showcase of pre-war wooden architecture, ranging in style from the simple to the elaborate. The rooftops are typically slanted, and the windows almost always crosssectioned. In the past there was never a concrete or coherent style set out for the buildings, although they still somehow seem to fit perfectly together. You can’t find any straight lines here, and the colour of the paint appears to have been chosen at random or according to the mood that day.