Take a sweet escape to Cologne and Bonn
Between the two of us, my husband is the one that’s more likely to receive the giant, heart-shaped Whitman’s sampler box for Valentine’s today. I learned chocolate is a key to his heart early on in our relationship. Me? I’m all about gummy candy (sour gummy bears are my favorite). When we discovered Cologne’s famous chocolate museum is just 30 minutes from the HARIBO factory outlet store, we couldn’t wait to plan a weekend getaway to satisfy both of our sweet tooths.
We started our sweet escape with a trip to Cologne’s famous Lindt chocolate museum (Schokoladen Museum Lindt). The tantalizing smell of cocoa washed over us as soon as we walked in, and I’m pretty sure my husband would’ve floated away if I hadn’t been holding his hand. Our whole family enjoyed the fascinating interactive exhibits that show how cacao beans are grown and harvested, but our boys’ favorite part was getting an inside-look at what happens afterward: the chocolate-making process.
Imagine peeking into vats churning thick, creamy, mahogany liquid, and then getting to sample the finished product straight from a giant, golden chocolate fountain. It’s like visiting Willy Wonka’s factory without the fear of being carried away by an Oompa Loompa. Next, we marveled at robotic machinery that individually wraps the cooled, hardened pieces before sending them down the conveyor belt to be boxed up. So cool!
The highlight of the tour, in my opinion, is at the next stop on the second floor where you get the opportunity to make your own chocolate bar. Choose from a list of three varieties (white, dark and milk) and 40 additional ingredients that are both fun (marshmallows, gummy bears and Smarties candy, for example) and sophisticated (cayenne pepper, freeze-dried coffee or candied lemon peel, anyone?). While our personalized candy bars cooled, we continued the tour to learn more about chocolate through the ages. We saw elegant china sets made for drinking the luxurious beverage in Europe, early marketing strategies from American candy stores, and advertisements from around the world. I particularly enjoyed the Kinder egg toy exhibit, which had decades-worth of prizes on display. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Weekend and holiday hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. I recommend purchasing your tickets online so you don’t have to wait in line when you get there.
Important: The museum will be closed for Carneval Feb. 5 to 14, but it will be open Feb. 15 - in time to plan a sweet Valentine’s Day escape that weekend!
Riding our sugar high, we left the chocolate museum and made the half-hour drive to Bonn to visit the HARIBO factory outlet store, or Fabrikverkauf. At first glance, it looks like any other small grocery store, but you won’t find bread, eggs or milk here, unless you’re looking for a novelty gummy candy variety. Aisle after aisle, shelves are stocked with colorful HARIBO treats - truly one of my childhood dreams come true!
Despite what you may have heard, you can’t visit the factory, itself, but you can fill entire shopping carts with your favorite HARIBO gummy products at bargain-basement prices.There is even a candy bar where you can create your own special mix. Before you leave the store, be sure to hunt down the small display case featuring the only gummy candy that has been molded into the shape of a governor’s face. Can you guess who it might be? Here’s a hint: He hails from Austria, but he’s America’s favorite Terminator. There’s also a small section for kids, and a few fun spots for photo ops. The outlet store is open Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Is your sweet tooth aching right about now? Mine, too. It’s time to plan another weekend getaway to Cologne and Bonn to stock up on treats. I’ll see you there.