Tallinn, Estonia – View from Upper Town
Estonia, a small country on the Baltic Sea is independent and thriving as can be. This tiny country, a tad bigger than the state of Maryland is located near its former oppressor Russia and modern Finland. Now enjoying political independence for twenty years, the capitol of Tallinn maintains its heritage of a medieval city with fortified walls and authentic medieval food and drink. On this port call from our cruise ship, I decided to search for the oldest chocolate store and marzipan museum in Tallinn, Kalev Chocolates to satisfy my sweet cravings.
Walking around side streets to the town square, I noticed people passing by small shops, restaurants, and churches in an unhurried manner and with a sense of calmness. Beautiful linen fabrics hung in a window and the shop owner busily folded fabrics and sorted colorful yarns. I couldn’t help but step inside to explore the woven fabrics and the owner speaking very good English told me the material comes from the interior of Estonia. I couldn’t bring back rolls of fabric and I settled on a linen robe and bath sponge which was easy to pack as souvenirs from this well preserved town. I only had a few hours left before our ship was to set sail and I still needed to find the chocolate store.
I scurried my way around narrow streets noticing the decorated hand carved wooden doors. 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 main square in town 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 framed glass doors.
Kalev Chocolates dates back over two hundred years and I was introduced to the company diplomat, Otto Kubo. He proudly showed me the display case arranged with many varieties of delicious looking chocolate pieces filled with marzipan. He hand selected several chocolates and carefully arranged them on a small silver tray and offered them to me. Each bite was divine as I savored the white and dark chocolate with the almond filling of marzipan. With a fun twist, he told me the almonds used to make the marzipan come from California. Growing up in California, I immediately remembered the almond groves in the central valley and now I was 6,000 miles away eating a bit of one of our state’s top crops.
Inside the shop is the marzipan decorating area and with steady hands; the woman hand painted marzipan chick figurines and lined up the colorful yellow chicks with freshly painted orange eyes and noses. There is a nice display of old fashioned candy molds and pictures with the history of marzipan and chocolate making from years past. A sweets connoisseur is near heaven here.
Mr. Kubo, wanting to share the traditions of his homeland with me 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 said I needed to return to the ship, waved good bye and devoured another piece of chocolate disappearing into the crowd.