Sunday, July 28, 2013

Food of the Gods - Chocolate and Cheese - Switzerland Day Two

Did you know that the Swiss eat more chocolate per person than any other nationality? Yep, it's true. And our mission on day two of our visit was to find out why. With the help of a friendly train station attendant we purchased tickets to get us to the Cailler Chocolate Factory and for the tour inside. Since we had checked out of temple housing that morning, our travel was encumbered by our large backpacks but we managed. In about an hour and three trains later we arrived here:
Well, not really. But this is a pictoral representation of the factory's strategic location in the mountains of Switzerland. The tour was impressive and unexpected. I anticipated following a tour guide who droned on about the secret processes of chocolate making. What I got was more like the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride at Disneyland minus the moving boat. We walked through lavishly constructed rooms through which the history of the cocoa bean played out in audio and visual. The Aztecs used it as a pre-war energy drink, the royalty and aristocracy of Europe used it as an aphrodisiac, and finally a few geniuses combined it with cocoa butter and cream from Swiss cows and made the confections we love today.
 Once we were through the smoke and mirrors portion of the tour we did get to see the more mundane nuts and bolts of the thing. Big sacks of cocoa beans and a whole room of running machines churning out small chocolate bars were explained by placards along the walls and windows.
But this - this was the cherry on top.  The tasting room. I'm not sure what heaven will be like, but I do know they need one of these. 
 That lovely man in the middle just kept refilling the glass trays.  The only rule was that you couldn't take any chocolate out of the room. But you could taste all the varieties as much as you liked.
 They were all so divine. And brilliant as a marketing strategy because we exited this room into the retail store where we all immediately purchased our favorite morsels from the tasting room. Yes, this was definitely a highlight of the trip. If I lived here I think I could do my part in keeping up the nation's chocolate consumption figures.
    After purchasing enough chocolate to gorge ourselves on and still have enough to share with kids and friends when we got back to Turkey, we got back on the train and headed to our next destination - Gruyere.

 Getting there was a long story involving a missed train stop and a "one minute walk" that turned out to be forty uphill minutes all while carrying our big backpacks. But we did make it. First to the chateau and quaint village on the high hill and then to the cheese factory itself.
 Look at all that cheese! Once again we did the tour, which this time was a less flashy audio guide walk through. Geoffrey purchased a wedge of two different kinds and some bread which we snacked on while we waited for trains to take us to Lake Lucerne.  That forty minute hike was probably fortuitous considering all the delicious calories we consumed in this one perfectly glorious day!

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