Estonia welcomes about 2 million foreign visitors a year, including bachelorette parties such as this, with about 65 per cent staying in Tallinn. The fastest growing source of visitors is Russia and the average length of stay is two nights.
Tallinn – Been There

Sampling a spicy cure for drunkenness

Photo by Denis Caviglia

Tallinn – Been There Sampling a spicy cure for drunkenness

Outside the Olde Hansa restaurant in Tallinn a duo of medieval "wenches" are encouraging passers-by to sample their wares. One holds out a long wooden spoon. “Sweet almonds?’ she asks.

Dan Hayes
Dan Hayes Travel Writer

I take her up on the offer. It is rather good. “We make them with 16 different spices,” she says. “And if you eat five they’ll prevent drunkenness.” In their bonnets and cloaks the women would probably look rather out of place in most of Europe’s capitals but in the well-preserved heart of Estonia’s capital their clothing seems more appropriate.

Inside, Olde Hansa is heavily themed, with flickering candles, dark-wooden beams, long tables and musicians strumming lutes or playing recorders. More wenches pass by bearing foaming flagons of ale and the menu proudly displays dishes such as pork in beer sauce, filet of elk and marinated bear. The place might seem a bit excessive, but it is enduringly popular with visitors and celebrates a time when Estonia had a level of importance in Europe that belied its size.

Stroll the streets nearby and it is easy to see that Tallinn has one of the most complete medieval city centers in Europe, albeit one that has had quite a few nips and tucks over the years to help fend off the ravages of time.

The restaurant itself takes its name from the Hanseatic League – a group of German merchants who were a dominant trading presence in the Baltic states and far beyond between the 13th and 17th centuries. What is today Estonia was one of its more northerly outposts but its trading empire stretched as far as India, Spain and Turkey and it has been called a forerunner to the free-trade EU of which Estonia is now an enthusiastic member.

As I wander across the cobbled Town Hall Square in the early morning, when the revelers have finally called it a night and the tour guides and their charges are yet to emerge, it is easy to convince myself the Hansa merchants never left. On all sides there are steep-roofed medieval buildings in mellow tones of yellow, russet and grey and it only takes a peal of bells to complete the illusion of the Middle Ages.

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The high-end Gloria restaurant dates to 1937 and was voted one of the world's 100 most interesting restaurants in 2000, being built inside the walls of the fortress of Tallinn. Its wine list runs to 2,000 choices, making it the biggest wine cellar in the Nordic countries. Photo by Christian Goupi / Alamy

Christian Goupi

Christian Goupi

Agency
Alamy

The high-end Gloria restaurant dates to 1937 and was voted one of the world's 100 most interesting restaurants in 2000, being built inside the walls of the fortress of Tallinn. Its wine list runs to 2,000 choices, making it the biggest wine cellar in the Nordic countries.

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