Monday, 13 February 2017

Tallinn's Raeapteek offers remedy for broken hearts on Valentine's Day

I came across this article in the French press tonight and thought I would share.  The original story was written in French and can be viewed hereSaint-Valentin: en Estonie, on soigne les coeurs brisés à la pâte d'amande

Inside Tallinn's famous Raeapteek Pharmacy

On the eve of Valentine's Day, a pharmacy in Tallinn founded in 1422 promises to treat broken hearts with an almond paste whose recipe dates back to the Middle Ages.

Located on the market square in Tallinn's historic old town, the Raeapteek pharmacy has been operating for 588 years and boasts being the oldest in Europe.

"Since the Middle Ages, we have been preparing and selling a special recipe for treating heartache'', says Ulle Noodapera, a pharmacy employee.

"We still manufacture this special almond paste because the demand has been maintained for centuries and there are always patients with symptoms of heart sickness," she adds.

The exact recipe remains a carefully guarded secret.

"It is not an ordinary almond paste, but a special recipe that dates back to the Middle Ages. It contains 72% almonds and 28% other undisclosed ingredients", says Noodapera. The mysterious almond paste costs 1€ for 40 grams,

The Raeapteek is no ordinary pharmacy. A separate room features displays of potions used over the centuries for their miraculous qualities - dried frog's legs, perch eyes, black cat blood, lanolin extracted from dirty sheep's wool, fragments of an exotic mummy, worms in Oil, burnt bees, wolf tripe and rabbit hearts.

"You can find it funny and ridiculous but there was always a reason why these products were prescribed by a doctor and sold at the pharmacy," says Noodapera.

"For example, valerian was recommended for people with vision problems, because cats love it and are known to have very good eyesight."

The history of the Raeapteek pharmacy has been intertwined with that of the Estonian capital through the centuries.

Founded by the German physician Johan Molner in 1422, it passed in 1580 to the hands of a Hungarian doctor named Johann Burchart Belavary of Sykava, whose family led it for the next three centuries.

During this period, the pharmacy also functioned as a club popular with the gentry and where alcohol freely flowed.

"During the Middle Ages, the pharmacy functioned as a kind of closed club for those in charge of the municipality of Tallinn, who liked to gather there after the working sessions at the Town Hall, " says Noodapera.

"The possibility of gathering at the pharmacy gave them more privacy to party than the pubs in the city. In the Middle Ages, the pharmacy also sold alcohol, so there were plenty of drinks to warm the Spirit,"she adds. The eight spice Klaret remains popular to this day.