Chocolate Festival in Opatija

Have you ever been to a chocolate festival? I’ve visited a chocolate museum in Prague and a chocolate factory in Austria but it was only this year that I went to the Chocolate  festival in Opatija, Croatia for the first time.

Opatija is a lovely seaside town in the Kvarner Bay and the oldest tourist destination in Croatia. Many counts and earls and kings frequented Opatija during the Austro-Hungarian empire (19th ct)  when Opatija was the favourite spot for many noblemen. It definitely deserves more attention from the travellers nowadays.

Opatija, Croatia
Advent Wreath in Opatija

The Chocolate festival was held at the first weekend in December (2-4.12.2016) for the eleventh time. Every year the main part of the festival is held in the oldest hotel in Opatija, Hotel Kvarner. However, the chocolate festivities are spread around the whole town including its beautiful parks. There are special menus at restaurants and cafes too. You can also enjoy chocolate wellness & spa programmes at Opatija’s hotels.

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Did you open your chocolate Advent calendar today?

I woke up this morning with only one thought on my mind. It is 1 December which means that I can finally open my new Lindt chocolate Advent calendar. I bought it in mid-October when I was going back from a business trip to Italy. My new colleagues asked me if I bought it for a kid, but no, I blushingly explained, I bought it for myself. Yep! That’s me, carrying a big chocolate Advent calendar back home from a business trip. And I’ll be 33 in 17 days!:) But what can I say, I just love chocolate Advent calendars. The waiting part, the excitement part, the part when you get to open a new window each day which hides a new sweet treat and the tasty chocolate itself. It’s the best thing ever!:)

chocolate Advent calendar

I didn’t really have a chocolate Advent calendar when I was growing up. First of all, I grew up in 80’s and early 90’s in a country that no longer exists, deprived of shopping malls, McDonald’s and a mobile phone until the age of 16. I got my first PC when I was finishing high school. But you know, I had better childhood than most kids today. I spent my days playing outside with real friends. And reading lots of books, of course. Anyway, I’m digressing too much, the point is, there just weren’t Advent calendars and most other things until I was a teenager. So now, I’m making up for some things, like the absence of a chocolate Advent calendar by buying it for myself. And I enjoy it shamelessly. I probably enjoy it more now than I would have when I was a kid!

I used to buy ordinary, plain, chocolate Advent calendars but last year I splurged a bit and got myself a Ritter sport chocolate advent calendar. You can read the story about my last year’s Advent calendar here. I loved it! It was just great!

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Visiting a chocolate museum

Old Town Square, Prague
Old Town Square, Prague

On a summer day few years ago I visited a chocolate museum. I was in Prague on my own and I was utterly charmed by Prague’s beauty. I don’t remember anymore how I found out about a chocolate museum but I put it on my to-do list for Prague because… Well, do you need a reason to visit a chocolate museum?

Muzeum čokolády, Choco-Story Praha is located in Celetna street which is near the magnificent Old Town Square with its fairy-tale church (the Church of Our Lady before Týn ). Upon entering the museum and paying for the ticket I was given some milk chocolate. I believe there would be more museum visitors if all museums implemented such strategy 🙂 I wandered around this small museum munching on my chocolate. I read about the origins of chocolate and about Aztec culture. Then I watched a short documentary film about the production of the chocolate. It was very informative but I also found it a bit sad because all the money from the chocolate consumption goes to big international companies who produce chocolate bars and pralines while the countries that grow cocoa beans are still poor. Unfortunately, that’s the case with most resources. Then I browsed chocolate wrappings from all around the world and rejoiced when I found some very old ones from Croatia.

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Easter at home or away?

Easter eggs and Easter chocolate bunnies and spring and cakes and family gatherings are a part of my Easter memories. But I have also travelled during Easter weekend in the past years and have experienced slightly different Easter celebrations.I still fondly remember Easter I spent in England in April 2010. I had Easter lunch in one of the most picturesque English village-Lavenham.  Before the lunch we walked around the tiny but very medieval looking village and took photos of quaint half-timbered wobbly houses.  Then we had our superb Easter lunch at the Swan and enjoyed the piano music. The whole experience was so lovely and so British!:)

Lavenham, England
Lavenham

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Visiting a chocolate factory

Zotter chocolate factory, Austria

When I was a child I thought that visiting a real chocolate factory would be a dream come true. Many years later formally an adult but still very childish in manner occasionally, especially when it comes to food according to my loving husband, I did visit an actual chocolate factory. In November 2013 my husband and I visited Zotter chocolate factory in Riegersburg, Austria. Firstly, we wandered around nearby town of Graz and then in the afternoon we went on our visit of the Zotter chocolate factory. The visit costs 14.90€ for an adult but it also includes the all important tasting of chocolate.

Graz
Graz

Our visit started with a short viewing of the company’s history in a small cinema-like room.The film also explained briefly the origins of chocolate and its production. Then we were given audio-guides and a pretty ceramic spoon for the tasting. We weren’t supposed to keep the spoon but we did 🙂 You can taste everything you see and at the end of the visit you find yourself in a cafe-like room where you can make yourself one hot chocolate. There are clear signs stating only one hot chocolate per person ( we did comply to that rule). Of course, you left the factory via the gift shop but after a lot of hard thinking I didn’t buy anything. You are probably asking yourself: she left a chocolate factory without a single bar of chocolate? Yes, I did. Frankly, by the end of the visit I was almost sick with the mere thought of seeing another chocolate let alone eating one.

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Chocolates & New Year

I hope you’ve spent a wonderful Christmas with your family& friends. Are you already getting ready for New Year’s party?

I love family gatherings even though I feel a bit exhausted afterwards. Probably because I always eat too much and make it my mission to try every single kind of cake there is 🙂  I’m not ashamed to say that I haven’t baked anything for Christmas; I like baking and I make mean muffins but somehow I still haven’t done any Christmas baking because we always get so much cake from our families so there’s no point really.

Since it was my birthday a week before Christmas ( I’m now 32! Ouch! ) I got probably a few kilos of chocolates as my present together with other normal stuff and together with Christmas pressie. 🙂 So I’m starting the new year as a newly made chocolate magnate! I wish! 🙂 Anyway, since we got so much cake from my mum we’ll leave the chocolates for the time being and enjoy them after new year’s and my husband’s skiing trip (I’ll be home alone with the cat &chocolates, not a good combo).

Bday chocolate presents
Birthday chocolate presents
Birthday and Christmas chocolate presents

As far as New Year’s wishes and resolutions I wish you all love & health & happiness. I’ve had a good year but I was too preoccupied with an issue that I have no control over to be able to fully appreciate what I do have e.g.good health and loving family &friends and a very cool job sometimes. I don’t want to feel that anxious and frustrated anymore. However, that’s easier said than done but I will try to express more self-love. And hopefully that which I have desired for so long will eventually happen.

Regarding this little piece of blog world that I call my own I can say that it has brought me so much joy! It’s wonderful to chat with other fellow travellers and to explore other blogs and to get ideas for new trips. Where am I travelling next year? I’m not sure yet. I have a few ideas but it really depends on some other things too so I’ll keep you posted. And I’ve got something exciting planned for my readers! 🙂 Stay tuned!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and lots of exciting new trips!

xoxo

Tanja

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Christmas markets in Vienna (Dec 2015)

What says Christmas better than having a mug of glühwein (mulled wine) in one hand and a giant pretzel in another? Every town in Austria has its own Christmas market but perhaps the most famous ones are in Vienna, the city of the waltz. The Christmas markets are scattered around the center of Vienna but there are a few at the outskirts too.

The biggest and the best is the Christmas market (Christkindlmarkt)  in front of the City Hall. It celebrates its 30 year anniversary this year. Beware of the crowds though! You should visit it twice. Once during the day so you can see the goods at the different stalls (Christmas decorations, chocolates, gingerbread, candles, ceramic ware, leather notebooks, etc.) and once in the evening so you can admire the Christmas lights and decorations which hang from the trees. If you have got children then you can take them to participate in the Christmas workshops in the City Hall so they can make marzipan cookies or candles or other stuff for a small fee. You can also hear Christmas carols or Christmas stories read by different Austrian celebrities at the stage under the giant Christmas tree. Of course, there’s plenty of choice of food and drinks. You can have hot chocolate, or punch or mulled wine in beautifully decorated Christmassy mugs. The average price of mulled wine is 3.50 euros, but you actually pay it 6 or 7 euros because of the deposit for the mug. If you return the mug you get back 3 euros, but if you decide to keep it ( and it is so nice that you would want to keep it)  you actually paid your drink 6.50 euros. But it’s worth it. Trust me, I had the best mulled wine and punch at Vienna’s Christmas markets.

Every Christmas market has got its own style of the mug so you can drink around and decide to keep the one you like the best or collect them all 🙂 You can eat sausages and you can have soup in the bread or baked potatoes or chestnuts or toasted almonds and many other traditonal foods. So, don’t be on a diet when you come to Vienna! Apart from all the gorgeous foods&sweets at the Christmas markets there are so many old fashioned traditional pastry &cake shops  that you just can’t say no to a piece or two of cake.

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