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3 March 2018 / leggypeggy

Tartu tourist office helps us find a great lunch

Püssirohukelder or the Gunpowder Cellar

The vast Püssirohukelder—or the Gunpowder Cellar—has a ceiling 11 metres high

Tartu in Estonia was a great reminder of why it pays to drop in to the local tourist office when you arrive in a new town. Last year, Poor John and I did a self-drive tours around Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, and we often visited tourist offices to find out about the top places to stay, see and eat.

For example, staff in tourist offices in Finland suggested that we visit a weird sculpture garden hidden near a highway rest stop, and try a vety—a unique sandwich served in Lappeenranta. What rewarding stops they were.

We only had a couple of hours in Tartu, so went straight to the tourist office. The woman there told us about a few places to visit around the town square and, more importantly, she told us where to have lunch.

Tartu’s lovely main square is surrounded by tempting restaurants and we’d have probably settled for one of them, until the tourist woman suggested the Püssirohukelder or the Gunpowder Cellar. It was just up the hill and beyond where we might have walked.

Püssirohukelder or the Gunpowder Cellar

Entrance to the Gunpowder Cellar

The restaurant is in one of Tartu’s most historic buildings.

In the late 1700s and in an effort to fortify the city, Catherine II of Russia ordered the construction of a gunpowder cellar. Work began on the site of an earlier fort which still had existing thick brick walls. The cellar was completed in 1778, and gunpowder was stored there until 1809.

Over later years, it was used to store beer, university carriages, fire-fighting equipment, kitchen equipment,  building materials and vegetables. At one stage, the University of Tartu used it for research projects.

It’s been a restaurant almost continuously since 1982.

As you might imagine, the place is huge. In fact, it is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the highest pub ceiling in the world, at 11 metres (36 feet).

One of their signature dishes is cream of salmon soup in a bread bowl, and that’s exactly what we ordered. Poor John said he’d drive on to our next destination, so I had a beer too. Both were excellent and the service was great.

Before heading out of town, we visited some of the sights, including the Town Hall and the bronze pig in front of the Tartu Market.

The sculpture, by Mati Karmin, was unveiled on St Anthony’s Day, 17 January, in 2008. Old Estonians believed that Midwinter arrived on St. Anthony’s Day. It was also the day they accounted for all household provisions. People ate pig’s head or ears on that day. Luckily we never saw either on a menu in Estonia.

Pig sculpture in Tartu, Estonia

Mati Karmin’s bronze pig sculpture in Tartu

Tartu Town Hall, Estonia

Out the front of the Town Hall , you can only just see the fountain called The Kissing Students. I forgot to get a closer shot

71 Comments

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  1. Catnip Blog / Mar 3 2018 3:30 pm

    I am not going to ask why you got a close up shot of the piggie – nipples and all and not of the Kissing Students. It’s all, ultimately, a matter of perspective . . .and from my perspective I love your blog.

    Liked by 5 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 3 2018 4:09 pm

      Thanks so much. Good question about why I got my priorities mixed up. Must be because I had food on my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris Riley / Mar 3 2018 3:46 pm

    That soup looks scrumptious. My mum used to make brawn out of pigs heads…. that was scrumptious too.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 3 2018 4:11 pm

      The soup was fantastic. I haven’t had brawn in years.

      Like

      • Chris Riley / Mar 3 2018 4:14 pm

        I bought some a few times when I as in the UK, but it didn’t have half the flavour of the one mum used to make. I think the one she mad3 was very labour intensive.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 3 2018 4:30 pm

        A friend in the USA used to make brawn. It was sensational and super labour intensive.

        Like

  3. pvcann / Mar 3 2018 3:58 pm

    Fascinating places, and it’s years since I’ve seen soup in bread, was a country fave over here. Love your way of telling it and inviting us in.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 3 2018 4:12 pm

      Thanks. I have a few other interesting restaurant stops to share. I prefer to do ones that are a bit out of the ordinary.

      Like

  4. Vicki / Mar 3 2018 5:35 pm

    Love the look of the Gunpowder Cellar – looks very interesting and very inviting.

    Good advice about visiting the local tourist office…….even if you only have a few hours to fill.

    Do you eat all the bread after you’ve finished the soup? I sort of imagine some of it would have a rather nice taste after holding the salmon soup.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 3 2018 5:40 pm

      We ate a bit of the bread—the soggy parts—but otherwise it’s way too much bread.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Mar 3 2018 5:57 pm

    Salmon soup in a bread bowl – what could be more satisfying than that? The interior of the Gunpowder Cellar looks so interesting; I like the way the ceiling coves. Great idea to ask the local tourist office for advice about what to see. Here in the states, even cheap motels have a stand of dozens of fliers enticing you to visit local attractions, so you can pick your favorite adventures.

    Did you ever find a recipe for the vety sandwich?

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 3 2018 6:19 pm

      Funny you should ask about the vety sandwich. When I try to search for recipes, the search engine is positive I mean vet or very instead of vety. So nothing yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. toutparmoi / Mar 3 2018 5:59 pm

    What a great place to eat! I’ve had soup in a loaf once or twice – the soggy bits of bread are tasty. It’s a very old way of serving soups and stews.

    I love the pig statue, but do you know why the numbers are on it? For assembly, or for designating choice cuts? I do hope it’s not the latter.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 3 2018 6:19 pm

      I think it might be to designate the cuts, but maybe it’s just artistic humour.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Murray Foote / Mar 3 2018 6:18 pm

    Sounds fascinating!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. thewonderer86 / Mar 3 2018 6:42 pm

    Great tip. You made the most of your couple of hours in that place.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Andrew Petcher / Mar 3 2018 7:38 pm

    I always order the soup in a loaf of bread even though I am always worried about leakage.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Miriam / Mar 3 2018 8:23 pm

    Thanks for taking us along Peggy. Local tourist places are always the best source of local info aren’t they?

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 3 2018 8:42 pm

      I could never count the number of tourist offices that have guided us over the years. Top-notch operations.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. derrickjknight / Mar 3 2018 9:07 pm

    Your point well made

    Liked by 2 people

  12. beetleypete / Mar 3 2018 9:35 pm

    I would also order that soup in a bread bowl. Though I think I would avoid a pig’s ear.
    They might be very chewy. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 3 2018 10:49 pm

      I’d avoid the pig’s ears too, but the dogs love them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • beetleypete / Mar 3 2018 10:53 pm

        They are sold as dog food here too. But they make a mess when Ollie chews them into pulp! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 3 2018 10:54 pm

        Our dogs make them totally disappear. So no cleanup.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. theunassuminghiker / Mar 3 2018 9:59 pm

    The Gunpowder Cellar, what a great find! It really does pay to ask the experts. We did that in Iceland and ended up at some great restaurants that weren’t mentioned in the tour books.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 3 2018 10:51 pm

      We usually avoid restaurants recommended by TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, especially the latter. We’d rather explore farther afield.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. MichaelStephenWills / Mar 3 2018 11:10 pm

    What fun and great advice.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. lexklein / Mar 4 2018 2:09 am

    Soup + bread bowl = double delight for me as I adore both! Yum. This seems to have disappeared from menus here in the US, now that I think about it.

    I have used tourist offices for maps and sightseeing ideas, but it never occurred to me to ask about places to eat. I always felt (cynically?) that hotels (and I guess I extended that to tourist offices) just passed along names of their friends’ and relatives’ places, or other establishments where they got a nice kickback – good to hear you’ve had good success with this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 4 2018 9:22 am

      We’ve had amazing advice from tourist offices in lots of different countries. Hope you give them a go.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Empty Nest Adventures / Mar 4 2018 2:49 am

    Great post! We once played a game called Loaded Questions with a big group and one question was, “what would you do if you found yourself alone in a strange city?” The eldest person in our group’s answer was “visit the tourist office”, which was found to be quite hilarious by several in the group. Looks like she knew exactly what she was talking about! Your trip looks amazing, and that lunch!!

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Dorothy / Mar 4 2018 6:54 am

    You do find some fascinating places to visit Peggy. Makes me feel like packing my suitcase again. Might have to win lotto first.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 4 2018 9:43 am

      Most of our travel is camping, so very much on the cheap.

      Like

  18. gerard oosterman / Mar 4 2018 11:39 am

    Soup in bread is a great idea. One eats the food and the container. No washing up. One should have a competition to make those plastic take away containers edible. It would solve pollution.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 4 2018 6:34 pm

      Brilliant idea. I think India is making edible cutlery. Long overdue solution.

      Like

  19. Sy S. / Mar 4 2018 3:11 pm

    “… and try a vety—a unique sandwich served in Lappeenranta.”

    From LeggyPeggy regarding Vety Sandwiches;
    “I’m on the hunt for a recipe. A friend in NYC has sent some possibilities” “Thank you Sy, and I see you have emailed me some recipe hints. Many thanks.”
    If I recall, I Googled Scandinavian recipes and came up with some variations of the Vety Sandwich… One restaurant made a special bread for the sandwich. Second, I also discovered a Salmon Soup recipe and made it, but without it being in a bread bowl.
    Sy S.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 4 2018 6:37 pm

      Oh my goodness, Sy, I’d forgotten about your tips. My apologies. I’ll try to tackle recipe options when the weather cools down. It’s been running in the low 90s for the last week.

      Like

  20. kkessler833 / Mar 5 2018 9:48 am

    Great post! Love the pig!

    Liked by 3 people

  21. potluckycom / Mar 6 2018 5:31 pm

    I’m craving that soup. Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Anita / Mar 6 2018 10:35 pm

    Wow what a fascinating place to be, thank you for good share
    Kisses

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder / Mar 7 2018 6:53 am

    The highest pub ceiling, wow! That must be a great experience. The salmon cream soup looks yummy… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  24. chattykerry / Mar 7 2018 9:45 am

    Estonia – so exciting! Since the Berlin Wall came down I have been itching to visit all these places that were inaccessible before. Wonderful shots, Peggy.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 7 2018 1:25 pm

      Hope you get there soon Kerry. We loved touring the Baltic States.

      Liked by 1 person

      • chattykerry / Mar 8 2018 6:41 am

        You know, Peggy, I am not sure if I will ever get there but you never know. I have been very fortunate to travel as much as I have and enjoy visiting places with you vicariously.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 8 2018 6:34 pm

        Always enjoy your company on my travels.

        Like

  25. jeanleesworld / Mar 8 2018 1:52 pm

    YUM, I’m a sucker for bread bowl soup every time. What a perfect little stop!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. J.D. Riso / Mar 9 2018 8:19 am

    That salmon soup sounds so good. I think I passed through Tartu on my Estonia visit, but didn’t have time to explore. Looks like I missed out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 9 2018 10:07 am

      We didn’t have a lot of time there, but thought it was well worth the stop.

      Like

  27. Forestwood / Mar 10 2018 6:50 pm

    The Baltic area has so much to offer the tourist! Have you posted a little about this place before? If it wasn’t you, it must have been another blogger and certainly piqued my interest. I would definitely have gone for the soup too! Not much washing up is a fringe benefit of this serving suggestion. Reminds me a little of cheese fondue in Lucerne, which was served the same way. So much bread I could not eat it all. I also wanted to visit Tartu, but didn’t quite make it, so I appreciate seeing a little of it. The pig would make a good Monday Mystery photo, methinks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 10 2018 7:45 pm

      I haven’t written about Tartu before, but I have done a few posts on the Baltic States. Plenty more to come. You are most welcome to use the pig.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Forestwood / Mar 10 2018 8:02 pm

        I might just do that! We shall see if Drake has been there, won’t we?

        Liked by 1 person

  28. Deb / Mar 11 2018 2:53 pm

    Wow what a cool looking restaurant and that soup looks delicious!!! Mmmm mmm.

    Liked by 2 people

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