How Sweet It Is...

Trip Start Oct 25, 2007
Trip End May 15, 2008

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Flag of Germany  ,
Wednesday, January 30, 2008

When I was little kid, my Mom used to give us spare change so that we could walk to the store and buy candy. My brother usually bought taffy or those ring suckers that you stick on your finger. Not me...I ALWAYS bought chocolate. I was particularly fond of Hershey bars and Butterfingers but I would eat almost anything as long as it had chocolate in it.

Now that I'm all grown up, I eat chocolate almost every day. So you can only imagine how excited I was when I found out that there was a Chocolate Museum here in Cologne. When Steve first told me about it, he said that there was a "chocolate fountain" inside where you could literally taste free-flowing milk chocolate. That's all I needed to hear.

When we first got to the museum called, "Schokoladenmuseum Koln", it wasn't anything like what I was expecting it to be. For some reason, I thought it was going to be a series of chocolate rivers and waterfalls like you would see in a "Willy Wonka" movie. And when I saw all of the little kids waiting to go inside, I was certain that it would be geared toward children. But when the tour began with the "Origin of the Cocoa Bean", I quickly realized how wrong I was.

Fairly certain that most young children have no interest in cocoa beans or even know what they are, I suddenly realized that this REALLY was a museum and not the animated children's tour I originally thought it would be. Feeling quite foolish, I recovered nicely knowing that no one knew of my ignorance (especially Steve).

When we first began the tour of the museum, we had the option to go on a group tour or walk through it on our own. Clearly we chose the latter. Neither Steve nor I had the patience to listen to a tour guide jibber jabber for an hour. Anyway, as we made our way through the museum, we saw numerous pictures, artifacts, and displays that showed the cultivation process of the cocoa plant. We learned that the beans of this plant are used to make cocoa, which is the key ingredient in chocolate. On average it takes 35 cocoa beans to make one candy bar!

Once we walked through the actual "museum" part of the tour, we entered the "processing" area. In this section, we watched chocolate go through various stages as it cycled through several different types of machines. Though the process was very interesting, I found it difficult to pay attention because the aroma of chocolate was so distracting. When something smells so good that it makes your mouth water, it's hard to focus on anything else. All I could think about was skipping to the end of the tour so that I could have a taste. It was almost unbearable! Those of you who love chocolate as much as I do, know exactly what I'm talking about!

Because of Steve's background in Engineering, he was fascinated by how everything worked. So while he was reading the display at EVERY single station, I had no other choice but to stare at the chocolate running through all of the machines. It was torture. I saw milk chocolate everywhere...spinning on wheels, flowing inside tubes, and dripping into tanks filled with even more chocolate. It was almost too much to take!

When we entered the next area of the tour, my eyes nearly popped out of my head. All I saw before me were little milk chocolate candy bars running down a conveyor belt. I had all I could do not to reach out and grab one. Steve finally grabbed my arm and said, "I know they look good honey, but don't you want to see how they got where they are?" Confused at first, I realized that I had just walked to the end of the next tour instead of starting at the beginning. Not a bad detour as far as I was concerned!

At the beginning of the "candy bar" stage as I like to call it, we watched a machine pour melted milk chocolate into a mold (which looked like a big ice cube tray). The mold then passed through a cooling machine in which the chocolate solidified into little squares. Once the mold exited the cooling machine, the chocolates were picked up by a large suction cup and placed onto a conveyor belt. From here they were automatically sorted (defective ones being pushed aside). The "good" chocolates were then sent to a wrapping machine where they were foiled, placed into gift bags, and put into boxes.

As I mentioned before, the entire we were in the museum the only thing I could smell was chocolate. So by the time we reached the "chocolate fountain" for our sample, I didn't just want a taste anymore, I wanted a drink! Since that wasn't an option, I settled for a wafer dipped in melted milk chocolate instead. It was by far the best chocolate I have EVER tasted! It was so rich, creamy, and smooth that it made me feel fuzzy inside. After I ate my sample, all I wanted was more. I thought about going back up to get another taste but I knew the lady handing them out would remember me (along with the 20 other people who had just gotten theirs as well!) Maybe next time...

Once we finished our tour of the museum, we stopped at the gift shop on our way out. Since it was my birthday, Steve told me I could pick out whatever chocolates I wanted. Talk about opening up Pandora's Box! I have been in numerous candy shops in my life but nothing has ever compared to this. The entire store was filled with chocolate! They had every kind of chocolate you could think of...truffles, candy bars, chocolate figurines, and even some bizarre chocolates filled with red pepper, jalapenos, and tapioca pudding. They had it all!

For my birthday present, I chose a gift box with an assortment of truffles (which is very strange for me because normally I don't like assortments). I usually stick to one kind of chocolate because I always know what I'm going to get. With assortments, you take your chances of finding more good pieces than bad ones and so I usually didn't take the risk.

In a way it's kind of ironic because before Steve and I came to Germany, that's pretty much how I approached life as well. I always chose to do things the same way because I always knew what to expect. Fearing change, I never took risks to see if there were more good outcomes than bad.

Well, after living in Germany for two months now, I've realized that you can't survive in a foreign country without taking risks or expecting change. Every time I walk out the door, I'm taking a chance that I don't get run over a bicycle, get lost, get hit by a train, or get kicked out of a bakery (just to name a few!). I've come to accept the fact that change is inevitable no matter where you are. And to my great surprise...I have really come to embrace it. I look forward to new adventures now and every day I wonder what's going to happen next. Because as I've learned along the way, "Life is like a box of never know what you're going to get!"
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