Culinary Journeys

Sugar-coated travel: Europe's sweetest candy museums

Helen Van Kruyssen, for CNN Updated 22nd September 2015
(CNN) — France's Provence region is famous for its glitzy Riviera resorts, fragrant lavender fields and ancient Roman architecture.
One of its lesser known attractions is a museum dedicated to maddeningly addictive candies.
OK, so Haribo Le Musee du Bonbon might not be high on everyone's itinerary, nor can the sugary treats produced in the factory next door claim to rival the best of Provencal cuisine.
So is this a worthwhile Wonka-style experience or just an attempt to offload more Gummy Bears on a world already struggling to stop guzzling them to the point of hyperglycemia?
Located close to vineyards and the pretty town of Uzes, the museum is easy to find.
The route is clearly marked with the same official road signs France uses to point travelers to 12th-century castles or World War II battlefields.
Visitors enter by a life-size version of the dungaree-wearing boy who appears on the Haribo packaging and are given a silver-colored token to exchange for a "surprise" at the end of the tour.
Inside, there's nothing subtle about Le Musee du Bonbon.

Bubble font alert!

Haribo founder Hans Riegel was so sweet on Gertrud, his first employee, he married her.
Chris Carey
The museum is divided into four rooms that are brightly colored in red, yellow and orange -- possibly to resemble a bag of gummy bears, possibly to induce migraines.
Exhibit cards are written in equally jolly shades and -- typographical snobs beware -- with generous use of bubble font.
Throughout, there's a lingering Haribo smell (gloriously sweet and artificial) as though someone has opened a fresh bag and is waving it around.
Each of the four multicolored rooms is more or less the same -- trotting out a history of sugar before turning its attention to candy.
There's a rundown of the local licorice industry in Uzes, complete with a mockup of an old factory workshop peopled by waxwork women sternly rolling out the black stuff.
Opposite is a life-size model of Hans Riegel, the German confectioner who in the 1920s created Haribo in his laundry room.
It's a little disappointing to discover he looked like an ordinary baker rather than Willy Wonka.

Sugar rush

Marshmallow varieties are popular in France, Scandinavians love licorice and Star Mix is a UK best-seller.
Chris Carey
At this point the tour has lost the attention of any visitors under the age of 14.
They've zipped ahead to find out what they can get with their tokens.
They miss a video proudly explaining the achievements of the Haribo empire -- including the fact it churns out 100 million Gold Bears each day.
The kids return 10 minutes later chewing the contents of small bags of jellybeans they've apparently acquired from a "special machine" in room four.
Lightly hopped up on sugar, they're mesmerized by video footage of old Haribo commercials while adults read how the business developed.
In the third room there's yet another video exhibit, this one showing what happens inside a modern Haribo factory.
It's surprisingly interesting -- there's something relaxing about watching hundreds of candies take shape.
Following the factory experience, children (and adults) get to pretend to be factory workers via interactive games.
In one, visitors press buttons and pull levers so a small truck picks up boxes of candy.

Cylinders full of candy

Each day Haribo produces 100 million Gold Bears.
Chris Carey
The highlight of the museum is downstairs.
Finally, adults can see what the children were so excited about: Haribo's Willy Wonka-style experience.
It's a room with huge cylinders full of candy.
When a token is inserted, jellybeans or strawberry candies are released from a cylinder and travel down a funnel. They fall into a small bag that's then sealed and deposited with pleasing precision into a metal tray for collection.
For many adults, this sugar hit is enough, but there's no escaping the siren call of the boutique on the way out.
Nearly every iteration of Haribo is available for purchase in quantities ranging from small bags to enormous tubs.
There are also trinkets, towels and stationery.
Then it's back out into the parking lot where a long line stretches out of the museum entrance.
Life is sweet, but only if you get there early.

Five other delicious museums

Too cute to eat? Szabo-Szamos Marzipan Museum sells edible sculptures.
Courtesy Szamos Marzipan
Szabo-Szamos Marzipan Museum (Szentendre, Hungary)
A small museum featuring a variety of sculptures (including a life-size Michael Jackson and Princess Diana) made out of marzipan.
There's also an opportunity to see an artisan shaping the next exhibit.
Edible sculptures can be bought in the shop.
Museo del Turron (Xixona-Alicante, Spain)
Turron is Spanish nougat and this independent museum, close to the Turron factory, shows the history of its manufacturing process.
Tours are available and visitors get a free sample at the end, before they're guided into the shop.
Choco-Story -- the Chocolate Museum (Bruges, Belgium)
This interactive museum was opened by the owners of Belgium's famous family-run Belcolade chocolates.
Visitors can watch chocolate being made, learn how to make chocolate and, of course, buy chocolate.
Gelato Museum Carpigiani (Bologna, Italy)
The rise of Italian ice cream is celebrated in this $2.3 million museum.
Just three years old, the museum is located in Carpigiani, a 25-minute trip from Bologna.
It includes a history of gelato, lessons in how to make it and a tasting area.
Gingerbread and Popular Arts Museum (Gertwiller, France)
Located in the Alsace region of France this museum exhibits close to 10,000 items related to gingerbread-making and its history.
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