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I don’t know how anyone who loves chocolate as much as I do could visit Hamburg and not go to the Chocoversum unless they just didn’t know about it. I didn’t know about it myself until planning my trip there, Now that I’ve been, I can say it’s one of my favorite activities in all of my travels around the world.

What is the Chocoversum

The average German consumes 22 pounds of chocolate a year – the equivalent of 91 chocolate bars. Most of this chocolate arrives from the tropics into Hamburg’s port. To educate people on Hamburg’s role in chocolate, the Chocoversum Chocolate Museum opened its doors in 2011. Since then, it’s been fattening, I mean fascinating visitors with everything chocolate related.

Of all the museums I’ve been to, this is one of the best. Maybe that’s just because I love chocolate so much, but I also loved how interactive it was. I mean, I don’t think five minutes went by without getting another mouthful of some form of chocolate.

Selfie at Chocoversum with Chocolate Wafers

The English Guided Tour

There are up to five guided tours a day in English, ranging from about $13 to $19 depending on the day and how far in advance you book. I booked a tour during my two days in Hamburg. It wasn’t easy to squeeze it in considering how many activities there are within Hamburg, especially during the Christmas season, but thank god I did! If you were only in the city for a day, I’d still recommend this museum, along with Miniatur Wunderland.

Chocoversum Tour Types of Chocolate

The tour went through every step of the chocolate process, starting with the trees in South America and Africa. I was shown the cocoa pods harvested from the trees and the beans inside. I was one of the three lucky guests who got to try the raw bean. It was fleshy and bitter, somewhat similar to a lychee nut. I couldn’t detect any trace of chocolate in the bean, and I honestly don’t know how someone discovered the process to get chocolate from the pod.

Selfie at Chocoversum Getting Cocoa Bean

The tour went on to show how shipments were made, including inspections for mold and insects, classifying the quality of the beans, etc. I loved how the museum set up the display like an actual dock with a shipping container and provides the instruments used by shipment inspectors.

Chocoversum Tour

The next step of the process is the roasting, which starts to bring out the chocolate flavor. This creates what we know of as 100% cacao since no sugar or fat has been added to the mixture yet. We all had a chance to try some of this too, but I was probably the only one who really enjoyed it. It reminded me of chocolate-covered espresso beans.

Chocoversum Tour Roasted Chocolate Samples

Finally, we came to the machines that churn the chocolate into its final state. The first machine grinds it down into a thick, crunchy paste, kinda like crunchy peanut butter. This is the phase in which they add sugar and various flavors. The ratio of various ingredients is a trade secret of each chocolate company. This is also where most of the cocoa butter is pressed out of the chocolate, to be used later in the process. Of course, we got to taste this too.

Chocoversum Tour Grinder

The second machine grinds the chocolate down between steel rollers to an astounding 30 microns (about 0.001 inches). This powder is quite surprising when you eat it, as it basically converts into natural chocolate in your mouth with its remaining small content of cocoa butter. Most chocolate will melt at body temperature, so in your mouth, the powder is just like a good quality chocolate bar after a couple chews.

Chocoversum Tour Fine Grinding

The last machine does a process called conching and kneads the chocolate with milk, sugar, cocoa butter and all the other ingredients into the final product, whether milk or dark chocolate. The machine was invented by the creator of the Swiss chocolate company Lindt and is how the various European brands (and perhaps a few others around the world) produce such high-quality products.

Chocoversum Tour Samples

Making Our Own Chocolate Bar

Perhaps the best part of the tour was the laboratory. Toward the beginning of the tour route, we entered a preparation room where we were each given a chocolate bar mold. We got to choose between milk and dark chocolate, and then had 21 different toppings to add to our bars. Some people got really creative with their flavors. Personally, I went for a two-tone. One side of my dark chocolate bar had espresso beans and crushed amaretti biscuits, while the other side was candied ginger and coconut flakes.

Selfie at Chocoversum Making Chocolate Bar

I left my creation in a fridge to cool while the tour continued. The bar was then brought to me at the end of the tour to package up and take home. As much as I love chocolate, it took me several weeks to finish my bar.

Selfie at Chocoversum with Chocolate Bar

Visiting the Chocoversum

You can tour the Chocoversum Chocolate Museum most days of the year. The times vary each day, so you just have to check the website for the day you want to go. The regular tour lasts for 90 minutes, although there’s also a 60-minute tour if you’re short on time, or a longer tour which includes a meal if you’re feeling fancy. If you have the Hamburg CARD, you get a 20% discount on your tickets. I’d definitely recommend getting that card, as it will give you free transport around town too. Also, wearing some clothing you don’t mind dripping chocolate onto…just in case.

Selfie at Chocoversum Getting Chocolate

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Chocoversum Pin

Further Reading

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary ticket to the Chocoversum on behalf of Visit Hamburg and the Chocoversum Chocolate Museum. As always, all views and opinions are my own. I am not responsible for any obsessions, obesity or overdosing as a result of consuming too much chocolate at the Chocoversum.

Laos is the most bombed country in the world per capita. The horrific story behind this and its ramifications are found at the UXO Museum in Luang Prabang.

What is the UXO Museum

UXO stands for UneXploded Ordnance. In other words, bombs that didn’t detonate. During the Vietnam War, from 1964 to 1973 the American military extended the war into Laos, fearing reinforcements by China into Vietnam. At least that’s one of the reasons the history books give – if you believe them. The books also mention an attack on the Pathet Lao, a communist group in Laos, but that doesn’t account for bombing the entire country. Personally I think the Vietnam War was a front to bring opium products into the US, as depicted in the movie American Gangster (except that it wasn’t black gangsters behind the operation).

In order to keep out the Chinese, the US military dropped millions of bombs all across Laos. How many? An estimated 280 million bombs totaling two million tons – i.e. four billion pounds! That’s almost the same tonnage of bombs that the US dropped on both Europe and Asia in the entirety of World War II. There were 580,000 runs, amounting to a new bombing every eight minutes over the full nine years! The worst part is that an estimated third of the bombs didn’t explode upon impact. That means that there are roughly 80 million unexploded bombs in Laos. 80,000,000!

What really doesn’t make sense to me is that the majority of the bombs were dropped in the southern end of Laos, furthest away from China. Not only that, China didn’t have to go through Laos to get to Vietnam. I guess when you’re doing something as stupid as dropping a couple billion pounds of bombs on a country needlessly, you’d also target the wrong part of the country. Then again, I’ve never really withheld what I feel about the men who run America…and I’m not even talking about the President.

The UXO Museum in Luang Prabang documents the bombing of Laos – which the US called the Secret War. There wasn’t a lot about it that was secret. Furthermore, the UXO is more than just a museum. It’s the team of people across the country who are clearing out the live ammunition shells so that farmers can return to the fields, children can explore the jungles and the daily casualties can cease.

Visiting the UXO Museum in Luang Prabang

The UXO Museum is about a mile away from the city center of Luang Prabang. Perhaps I should mention where Luang Prabang is too. This is the city in the center of northern Laos on the Mekong River. It was the capital of Laos from 1949 to 1975 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can get there by bus from Hanoi, Vietnam or Udon Thani, Thailand, or you can take the slow boat down the Mekong River from the border of Northern Thailand. Oh, and Laos is that country between Thailand and Vietnam in SE Asia.

I consider the center of town to be the beginning of the night market street. To get to the museum, just walk up the street (from the intersection where the night market is) away from the Mekong River. After three quarters of a mile, the street ends at a T-junction. Make a right, walk three streets and make another right (just before the park with the golden statue of the king of Laos). The museum is a little ways down on the left just before the road curves. Or you can just follow the link below.

UXO Museum Entrance

The pathway to the front door is lined with inert bombs, some rising 10 feet out of the ground. There’s no one around to give you information. I’m assuming these bombs are just a fraction of those that the UXO have already pulled out of the ground from around the country.

UXO Museum Warheads

The museum is actually only a single room with several displays. Each display has several old munitions from the war, weapons, suits and different artifacts, each one with a full information display.

UXO Museum Grenades

In the center of the floor is a huge SUU 30 B Cluster Bomb. Designed to hold up to 600 “bombies” (little bombs), this one has 400 softball-sized explosives piled in one of its halves. Cluster bombs were banned from warfare in 2008 (incidentally the same year that Iron Man came out showing the Jericho Cluster Bomb destroying a mountain range). The damage had already been done in Laos, and now there’s a new UXO-related injury or death nearly every day of the year.

UXO Museum Cluster Bomb #1

Taking my time, I spent about half an hour reading all the displays and taking photographs of the artifacts. It’s a really chilling experience to see what the country went through…and continues to go through with all the live bombies strewn around the countryside.

UXO Museum Information Board #7

Well, technically the museum is two rooms. The first is the display room, while the second is the video room. There’s a large flatscreen where they play two different videos on a loop…at least when there are visitors.

The first video focuses on the missions of the US airforce pilots that were dropping the bombs, and what the war was like. There are some veterans from both sides recounting stories. It essentially goes over the information you saw in the previous room, but with videos to go along with the data.

(The above video on Youtube isn’t the one shown in the museum, but it’s just as informative.)

The second video is way more brutal. It’s a training video recorded in Laos and shown to young students across the country to educate them in the dangers of UXO. It documents three victims of UXO explosions and the scenarios in which they occurred – digging in the fields, picking up old scrap metal and making fires directly on the ground. All these things make it nearly impossible for an agrarian society to survive, especially when you factor in how the scrap metal from a single UXO can net a farmer a full eight months of wages.

Fixing the Problem

As I mentioned, the UXO isn’t just a museum. It’s the government-led organizational to clean up the unexploded ordnance in the country. To date, just in the Luang Prabang region (one of the less-bombed regions of the country), they’ve spent countless hours clearing the fields and detonating live ammunition.

The real mind-blower in this is what the US has contributed to these efforts. Since 1993, the US has been making donations to the UXO…at the rate of $4.9 million every year. That equates to just under $118 million over 24 years. On the other hand, when you adjust for inflation, the US was spending $13.3 million on their efforts to bomb Laos…every…single…day! If you factor in the nine years that the US spent bombing Laos, it comes out to a staggering 40 BILLION DOLLARS after you adjust for inflation.

Can you tell I’m not too happy with what the US did to Laos?

Quick Facts

  • Location: Click Here for Google Maps’ Location
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri 8 a.m. to noon; Closed Saturday and Sunday
  • Admission fee: Free
  • When to visit: All year. It’s indoors, so you can also visit if it’s raining.

A Visual Tour of the UXO Museum

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The UXO Museum Pin

Further Reading

Planning to visit Laos? Here are my other stories on what to do there, and some of my personal adventures.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.