Every weekend provides the opportunity for couples and families to stroll the boulevard in the heart of town, Svobody (Freedom) Avenue, to see and be seen, to run into friends and neighbors and commune, to make dates for later at a café or restaurant.
Festivals draw people downtown regularly. I attended the book festival in September without understanding its significance or its reach. I have only learned about it since and hope I can come again. We almost missed the coffee festival in the fall, because we spent the afternoon climbing to the top of castle hill. Luckily, when we climbed back down to the bottom of the hill, there was the festival spread out before us in the town hall square. We missed the jazz festival because we were on our way home for Christmas. But now that we are getting in to the rhythm of things, we know where to look for festival announcements and plan to be better festival while we are still here.
Earlier this month, it was time for the chocolate festival – and I was not letting that one go by without attending. While the availability of samples was not what I anticipated, still, the air sparkled with excitement—unless that was spun sugar.
The festival took place in an exhibition hall near the city art gallery. A small fee admitted me into a swarm of smiling humanity of all shapes and sizes, most anticipating taste testing, and the rest ready to fulfill the anticipation.
Booths and little branches of popular cafes lined the outside walls of the hall. I was sort of surprised to see a chocolate fountain, until I realized that I couldn’t get near it to take a photo – both kids and adults lined up for chocolate coated fruit created and presented in a flourish by the young ladies in their crisp, clean booth. I was drawn to a delightful display of bon-bons and bought a box as a gift to the next person I visited.
Chocolate art was big on the menu. Who knew? We had seen a school for chocolate artists and a museum of chocolate carving on a trip to Barcelona. Here, the quality of the work was not as high, but the enthusiasm was out of this world. Highlighting the entrance hall was a booth featuring two sculptors carving a wall of chocolate.
Inside the main hall, young chefs were competing in a succession of carving contests. Photos of proud chefs with their creations, their prize certificate and their parents were being posed and taken all over the place.
Meanwhile, in the center of the room an artist was painting a masterpiece in liquid chocolate while she was being interviewed by an emcee. Projected video on a screen on the stage meant we could follow her progress on the big screen.
Other displays and booths features chocolate making materials and utensils. I wonder if I made enough chocolate whether I might train myself out of wanting to eat it whenever I smell it. On the other hand, I don’t think I could ever lose my taste for chocolate. It’s a mixed blessing to be living in a place where they celebrate it, not just with an annual festival but by making and selling scrumptious confections every day of the year. Sigh. I brought some chocolate home for Christmas presents for the family. I hope everyone enjoyed them.
Now, as for my own relationship with chocolate, I can take it or leave it. I take some and leave some every day when I make that daily decision: milk chocolate or dark.
((Warning to me: Chunks of chocolate in this photo are much, much larger than they appear…)