On June 30, my group and I disembarked from our cruise and set foot on Estonian territory. Even before we left our stateroom, the panorama of Tallinn was astounding. Never heard of Tallinn? It happens to be the capital of Estonia, which is located in the Gulf of Finland, just 50 miles south of Helsinki. In 2011, Tallinn was ranked as a global city and is one among 10 digital cities in the world. This means that the capital has a strong economy and its people are happy. Although Tallinnians (I think that’s how they call themselves) follow contemporary trends, they are also very proud of their rich history.

As a tourist, one is surprised to stumble upon the wealth of cultural traditions in Tallinn. In fact, after walking through a few medieval arches, I was surprised by such colorful architecture.


It was Sunday, and the day started slowly, but soon many other tourists crowded the streets. It didn’t seem to matter, since my focus was on the aesthetics of local traditions – they astounded me.


Tallinn’s historic center abounds with preserved architecture from the Middle Ages and beyond.


No matter which plaza you’re at, you’ll notice that the locals of Tallinn make you feel right at home.


Although it was summertime, this merchant urged her customers to plan ahead and stay warm in the cold months ahead. She sold exquisitely-handcrafted winter mittens and gloves. Honestly, how could one resist that smile?


However, the Medieval Shop caught my eye and I literally ran in.


Being a chef and entertainer, I could not resist the modern glasses, fashioned in the medieval manner. As I handled the glasses, I remembered that in the Mid Ages, people reached for roasts of meat with a dagger and then handled the food with their hands. As hands became greasy, diners got a steady grip on glasses by holding on to the “prunts” or exterior bubble-like protrusions. These glasses are modern versions of prunted beakers.


As we left the shop, we noticed a restaurant that was about to transport us back to the 13th century.


Obviously, this is where the culinary aspect of Tallinn began, for we immediately arrived at Olde Hansa, a restaurant whose design and fare is based on a merchant’s home from the 1200’s to 1400’s. We sat outdoors and were immediately served a coarse but rich-tasting bread with creamy, herbed butter. Mmmmm – not bad at all for the Middle Ages.


Since there was no coffee during that time period, I wondered if this restaurant truly played the part. So what did I ask for? You got it!


Our server was fantastic, never letting on that she was “frazzled” by so many demanding guests at the Hansa Merchant’s home.


Although we dined outdoors, some guests asked to be served in the banqueting hall.


No matter where one sits, the fare is delish! Can you see the salmon, caviar, eggs, pickles and bread?


True to the times of about seven hundred years ago, spices were used in abundance.


Imported cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pepper and other costly ingredients were added to meats, sauces, vegetables and more.


I felt that everything I read about Medieval times truly came to life on June 30th. I experienced a memorable day in the Middle Ages.


Well, not quite. I wasn’t dressed appropriately. But this flute-player was in full costume.


Finally, we had to get back to our ship, but not before doing some last-minute shopping.


And then – it was back to the 21st century.


We all had a blast in Tallinn!

Text and Photographs ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real