Estonia, a small country on the Baltic Sea is independent, thriving and full of chocolate.  This tiny country, a tad bigger than the state of Maryland, is located near its former oppressor, Russia, and modern Finland.  Enjoying political independence for twenty years, the medieval capitol of Tallinn is a port of call for Baltic cruises with its rich heritage of a walled city and friendly people.  Once our cruise ship docked, I headed for Kalev Chocolates, the oldest chocolate store and marzipan museum in Tallinn.

Tallinn is known for its unique doors

The uniqueness of Tallinn’s doors

As I scurried my way around narrow streets, I noticed decorated hand-carved wooden doors in front of houses and businesses.  Colorful and individually-designed doors allowed entrance and protected the town’s people from foreign invaders, yet signified their sense of harmony within the village.  Finally reaching the town square on this sunny afternoon, tourists and locals alike were enjoying the inexpensive beer and tastes of the town filling every table and chair.  With so much activity before me, I anxiously glanced around the store fronts hoping to spot the chocolate shop.  A kind local pointed out the shop to me and my senses were heightened when I walked up the worn marbled steps and through the wooden framed glass doors.

The history of making marzipan is explained by Mr. Otto KuboMr. Otto Kubo explains the history of making marzipan
Sweet delights made by Kalev Chocolate CompanySweet delights made by Kalev Chocolate Company

Kalev Chocolates has been making sweets for over two hundred years and the display of old fashioned candy molds and pictures of their history gives a glimpse of the confectionery past.  I was introduced to the company’s diplomat, Otto Kubo, who has been with the company over 55 years.  He proudly showed me the display case arranged with many varieties of delicious looking chocolate pieces filled with marzipan and some with praline and chocolate truffle centers.  Mr. Kubo hand selected several chocolates and carefully arranged them on a small silver tray and offered them to me to sample.  Each bite was divine as I savored the white and dark chocolate with the various fillings.  He detailed the history of marzipan, first made in Persia; over many years the usage spread across the European continent and North Africa.  Spain had been a major supplier of almonds needed to make the marzipan, but now the shelled almonds come from California.  Immediately, I thought back to being a child and driving past the almond groves in California’s Central Valley, and now I was 6,000 miles away, eating a bit of our state’s top crop.

My attention was then drawn to the marzipan decorating area; with steady hands; the woman dipped her brush into the palette with an array of colors and hand painted marzipan chick figurines.  She lined up the colorful yellow chicks with freshly-painted orange eyes and noses, expecting them to completely dry.  There were packaged hand painted fruits, vegetables and animals for purchase, and these nice gifts would be easy to pack for the long trip home.

Marzipan figurines are hand paintedMarzipan figurines are individually hand painted Cute chicks freshly painted and ready for saleFreshly painted chicks ready for sale

 

Mr. Kubo, wanted to share the traditions of his homeland with me and suggested I try Olde Hansa Restaurant, a true medieval restaurant in the center of town.  Only foods from medieval times are served, including brown bear from their forests.  I looked at my watch and bade him farewell to return to the ship, and devoured another piece of chocolate — saving the bear for another time.

© 2012, M’Liss Hinshaw — Posted August 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

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  1. Estonia sounds intriguing to me for a summer visit. It is quite cold in the winter but they have great chocolates and food.

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