Mission Inspire: Tallinn, Land of Marzipan and Gingerbread

When you decide to go someplace on the spur of the moment, the anticipation is all about discovery rather than expectations. We decided to go to Tallinn on January 1st because almost everything in Helsinki was closed. We had no idea if Tallinn would have shops open or not, but we figured we could walk around in closed up Tallinn as easily as closed up Helsinki. Lots of stores were open in Old Town Tallinn, apart from my yarn mission, I fell in love with the marzipan and gingerbread I saw in the windows.

Marzipan figures for sale.Marzipan is made of crushed almonds and powdered sugar. It can be molded into like clay shapes that are painted with food dye, layered on top of a fruitcake like icing or used as a filling for a chocolate bonbon. There are many, many ways to use and consume marzipan. My favorite way to eat it is as a bonbon, but visually, the molded and painted marzipan is stunning and can look extremely realistic. As a sculptural material, marzipan has a slightly translucent quality.

Marzipan’s origins date to the middle ages, with two towns of descended from the Hanseatic League (doesn’t that name bring back memories of High School History?), Tallinn and Lübeck claiming to be it’s origin. Originally marzipan was produced as a medicine. Eventually production was taken over by sugar bakers and then chocolatiers. There’s lots of good information about marzipan on the kalev website.

kalev_2_wMaiasmokk (Sweet Tooth) is a café in Tallinn Old Town. According to the AS Kalev, the Estonian chocolate company which owns the café, Maiasmokk is “the oldest constantly operational café in Estonia.” It has been operating in the same location since 1864. They have been using the same marzipan molds since the 19th century, hand molded and hand-painted.

Kalev also has an impressive history. Established in 1806, it is the biggest and oldest sweets company in Estonia. The main market is Estonia but they also export to neighboring countries. While in Finland, I had many cups of espresso accompanied by a Kalev chocolate. I bought a lovely selection of individual chocolates and some marzipan chocolate bars for friends back home. I have to admit, it was a bit difficult to actually give them away. I wanted to keep them all for myself.

The café was really busy so if you are in a hurry, go around the corner and you get to the part of the shops selling. The shop connects to the café through a hallway. There may be a line for chocolate, but the staff is really efficient so you won’t have to wait too long. I meant to make more shops of the walls which had old tins and memorabilia but I was really focused on buying chocolate.

Maiasmokk (“Sweet Tooth”) Museum
Mon-Fri 8 am-9 pm
Sat 9 am-9 pm
Sun 9 am-8 pm
Mon-Sat 10 am-9 pm
Sun 10 am-8 pm
Pikk tn 16, Tallinn
Telephone +372 64 64 079

Marzipan Motivation Inspiration
Fine detail
Sense of translucence of the marzipan
Very retro-style, makes me think of old Valentine’s Day cards

gingerbread_4_wIn Estonia gingerbread is called piparkoogid. They are a bit on the thin side and decorated with icing. I saw lots of gingerbread window decoration, cookies, houses and biscuits of all sorts. This store completely enchanted me. I bought several cookies. They were fabulous, bit on the spicy side maybe heavier molasses taste than I have been used to.

Gingerbread Genius Inspiration
The snowflakes completely blew me away. The idea that you could hang gingerbread as a kind of mobile seems so out of the box.

I’ve seen gingerbread houses before, but the window display of the town underneath the snowflakes mobiles was so thoroughly thought-out.

The gingerbread scenes remind me that you can build and be creative with many types of materials.

I’ve come back with lots of inspiration for polymer clay designs and a desire to do some Estello or toy photography with a set I’ve created instead of on location.

Window Mania
I’m ending this post with a gallery of other interesting window displays I saw in Tallinn.

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