The mid-17th-century building at Vene 1, dominates the square in Old Town Tallinn. To make it easier for the Town Council to keep a close eye on foreign merchants’ activity, the merchants were required to keep their goods in this Pakkhoone (warehouse). They were also only allowed to sell their goods at local shops during the very limited hours of Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8 AM and 11 AM.
The architecture of the building still followed Late Gothic traditions – including a high sharp gable, dormers, loft hatches, buttresses, etc. The carved details are Early Baroque and the best of these – the lion masks on the north façade and the half-length figures symbolizing justice on octagonal relief panels – are by Jacob Dam from a famous stone carvers’ family.
Today Pakkhoone houses the Olde Hansa restaurant where medieval style food is served.
HOW THE GRAND MERCHANTS ATE AND DRANK
Not much tableware was used. Food was brought to the table on big dishes. A slice of bread took the place of the plate, and next to it was a knife. One drank out of goblets. The meal began with ritual handwashing and prayer. The hands and mouth could be wiped on the tablecloth. It was thought impolite to speak with one’s mouth full, wipe one’s nose on the tablecloth, clean one’s teeth with a knife, smack one’s lips, or slurp one’s drink.
In medieval dishes, vinegar played an important role. It was used to preserve meat and fish. In time of plague, the use of vinegar was particularly recommended. Since sugar was a luxury, honey was used to sweeten foods. Instead of butter, pork fat was used. Cheese and wild game usually reached only the higher levels of society. Olives, almonds, figs, lemons, dates, oranges and walnuts belonged among luxury goods, not to speak of exotic spices which were even used instead of gold as a means of payment. The people of the Middle Ages knew no coffee, tea, tobacco or spirits: spices were the only practical luxury.
When someone in the Middle Ages drank water, it was a sign of poverty. Beer was designated ‘liquid bread’ and it belonged to the daily diet. Mead brewed from honey, water and yeast, was a constant part of the festive table, as was wine – particularly Rhenish wine, Romanée, and malmsey – which could be sold only in the Council cellar and under the control of the Council. Alcoholic drinks counted as a means of payment and displayed the social position of the owner.
A Tallinn visit isn’t complete without dining at Olde Hansa in the Old Town. This medieval-themed restaurant features tapestries, candles and musicians playing lutes. Within Tallinn’s Old Town square, the Olde Hansa welcomes visitors to a repast of Middle Ages dining authentically reproduced in a setting reminiscent of Estonia’s past.
The medieval restaurant Olde Hansa is designed to portray the home of a rich merchant. Now guests enjoy delicious, authentic Hansa-era meals and drinks, true period music and friendly service. All of the dishes on the menu, including many wild game delicacies, are cooked using 15th-century recipes and methods. Medieval musicians delight the guests every night of the week except Mondays.
Olde Hansa is not only medieval in theme, the concept of the restaurant more specifically focusses on the lifestyle of Hanseatic merchants in the 17th Century. Olde Hansa respectfully follows the heritage and has so far been established in Tallinn, Estonia, and Bergen, Norway. Olde Hansa considers authenticity most important and works hand-in-hand with historians, architects, and local authorities.
Olde Hansa has experienced exceptional success among both locals and travelers. Historians, artists, and craftsmen have created the atmosphere of the middle-ages. Beautiful wall-paintings, hand-made furniture and tableware, cozy candlelight and medieval music are just a few examples of the experience Olde Hansa offers its guests.
Medieval feasts with an abundance of dishes, special drinks and friendly servants in middle-age dress fill your stomach and amuse your mind with funny stories. Olde Hansa success story is a rare combination of a profitable business and genuine medieval atmosphere – an example of friendly service and rational production. Every single one of the restaurant staff spoke in character as if they were taking care of guests hundreds of years ago. Everyone was bright and cheerful, and they didn’t mind at all that I was walking around taking photos of absolutely everything in the building. They even entertained my endless questions with a smile on their face.
As for the food; the recipes and ingredients have been meticulously researched so that your dinner tastes exactly the same as in times yore – even the cooking methods have been copied! Throw in a few buxom wenches in silly costumes and you’ve got a banqueting experience more medieval than Sir Lancelot’s codpiece.
For large groups, book one of the Olde Hansa Grand Feasts and allot at least two hours for the experience. Select from the Game Feast, Saturday Feast, Merchant’s Feast, or Royal Hunting Feast. This feast includes a number of appetizers and breads, as well as Wild Birds, fillet of elk, and other well-prepared dishes. Olde Hansa feasts are as close to a medieval buffet as a visitor will get.
If would have been very easy for this place to come off as over touristy and cheesy. But what I think they got right is that instead of turning this into a medieval Disney attraction, they simply focused on being as authentic as possible, and it works.
I particularly loved the SPICED BEER and the HONEY BEER.
Even going to the bathroom is a medieval treat.
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