Days 11 and 12, Switzerland: Chocolate… and Castles

A castle made of Swiss chocolate sounds like a great souvenir to bring back home.

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During the Aztec empire, chocolate was used as an offering for the emperor and gods.  It was first brought over to Europe by Hernan Corté, the first Spanish conquistador to make contact with the Aztecs, in the sixteenth century.  When it was first introduced to the Spanish court, the nobles/royals tried to maintain the drink’s authenticity by adding the same spices the Mezoamericans drank it with, but by the late eighteenth century, the practice of sweetening this often bitter drink was gaining popularity.  Each cacao seed contains between 50 and 60 percent of cocoa butter.  In 1930, white chocolate was made for the first time by using cocoa butter, milk and sugar.

(Summarized by one Zulay Daniela Valencia Diaz)

***

Most of my friends would just assume that that was knowledge gathered over the years from the rabbit hole that is Google that I then stored in my brain for later use.  But they would be wrong, as day 11 found us at the chocolate museum.  Gathering that information was a bit of an experience as Tia had to first translate from Italian to Spanish for Zu, who then had to translate it to English for me.  There were a few times when her aunt tried reading the English, but she kept adhering to the rules of Italian pronunciation, and while we enjoyed it, she, likely feeling self-conscious, gave up. After the history, we had samples and, oh boy, was it yummy.  It wasn’t as sweet as American chocolate (noticed that in England too), but that definitely did not take away from the flavor experience.  Even the dark chocolate wasn’t as bitter.

Later, we went to the lake, where we had more gelato…  even their Oreos taste great! Or maybe it was just the tastiness of the ice cream, and then the walnuts in the parts that were in the cone…  If I were to base this vacation on food alone, I would be dropping Michelin Stars like they were Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs.

The next day, we went to the Castles of Bellinzona, three castles, strategically built by the Dukes of Milan in the 1400s to prevent the Swiss Confederates from traveling farther south.  Of the three, we visited Castello Grande (and took photos with the other two in the background).  The museum had glass cases with artifacts from the Stone and Bronze Ages, along with information on common practices (for example, writing history on the ground).

Of all of the places we visited, this was probably my favorite.  Sighted people can get an idea of the size and grandeur of a place through pictures or videos.  Whereas you could show me a picture of a castle and while I might be able to see each of the parts, I wouldn’t truly be able to grasp its splendor.  I could read about it in a book, but I would, at best, conceptualize it as a huge house.  Or just take each section in stride, rather than building an entire mental picture.  And still, perhaps, you might say, what about example a miniature.  That might help, or, again, I might just think mansion.  Not castle.

So, while we didn’t actually tour the place, walking the grounds (they were huge), seeing the heights, touching the stone…  it made it so much more real.

As we were sitting by the lake the day before, I could imagine myself in a different time.  The silence (not counting people talking) was broken only by the occasional plane, and I came to realize why I’m so infatuated with this continent.  I love that, whether its Kotor, Peterborough, or Lugano, there’s this blending of old and new.  And yes, this can be found home, in historical districts, or a building that hasn’t been torn down for some kind of expansion.  But our history only goes back to the 1600s, but what’s four centuries to millennia?

I want to visit as many places as I can: the Caribbean, south America, Asia, Africa, Australia (it was less work listing continents than countries), and perhaps I will fall in love with each place.  Perhaps not.  But I look forward to the depth of history.

Anyway, it’s pretty late here.  And I want to upload my bidet experience before I go to bed.  So I’m going to end this here.  But we shall meet again in the next post.

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