Three years ago, Jovana and her brother, Bojan Misaljević, from Belgrade, decided the time was ripe to create a haven for chocolate lovers in Vienna. Practiced with chocolate and savvy in business, they opened the now well-known Chocolate Museum in the Wurstelprater. Covering 2000 m2, the museum includes everything from the history of cocoa beans, gigantic handcrafted chocolate sculptures and a jungle full of animals to interactive games, and a workshop in chocolate making, so you can do it yourself.
Today, most of us take chocolate for granted, but not all that long ago, eating cocoa beans was a privilege, expensive and inaccessible to ordinary people. – Like salt and sugar, chocolate was a commodity, a kind of currency, and the rich used it to trade for other goods, or even slaves. These beans were called “cocoa,” which means “food of the Gods.”
Entering the museum, the first thing you see are two Baroque sculptures in chocolate of the royal couple – of Marie Antoinette (daughter of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresia) and her husband, King Louis XVI of France. If they were to step on a scale, they might be shocked, as these his and her majesties weigh in at about 350 kilograms.
Just steps away is a jungle, where you can weigh a sack of cocoa beans to get a sense of the exhausting work the laborers did, and often still do every day for its production. Surrounded by shades of deepening greenery, you pass through the deep jungle, as the second station of the tour shows a world map of the industry, with colorful flow charts, and introduces you to the growing of cocoa and its trade. How exactly do cocoa pods grow? What happens when the beans are collected? Everything is covered here.
When you step out of the jungle you enter a paradise for social media lovers. The siblings Misaljević have thought of everything and created photo corners and installations for everyone who wants to be a bit creative. You can use a banana swing, play chess with 2.5 meter high chocolate “thinker” or pose next to a giant praline.
Creating Your Chocolate
You also have a chance to create your own chocolates. At the workshop in the spacious show kitchen, visitors can roll up their sleeves and make their own chocolate pralines, bars and drinks, mixing their own ingredients, spreading their own taste and love for sweets in selfmade creations.
This, say the Misaljevićes, is the secret formula:“Mix a lot of imagination and a little bit of fantasy, add chocolate and tons and tons of history together – et voila! the Chocolate Museum Vienna is done.”
The idea for the museum came, in a sense, from the city itself. “Vienna is already like a museum on its own,” said co-founder Jovana. “It has a rich history about chocolate, but there was no specific museum for it.” It began back in Belgrade, when Bojan became interested in the production of chocolate, and especially cocoa. Then Jovana moved to Vienna to study and a few years later, her brother followed to settle down here as well. Now 37, Bojan designed many innovative products for the museum and together they started the family business from scratch. “I think it was my experience, and a little bit of craziness from my artistic side – these helped me to make this concept work,” Bojan said, who just introduced a new product line for adults: chocolate penises of all shapes and sizes.
It was also an entrepreneurial spirit they learned from their father, astomatologist by profession, founder of the rock band Indexi, popular in Yugoslavia in the 1960s, and their mother was one of the very first businesswomen in Serbia who worked in sales. With the success of the Viennese Chocolate Museum, the Misaljevićes are looking into expanding abroad, and opening another museum in Belgrade, their hometown. For now they are working on producing various chocolate products, as well as creating their own chocolate brand under the name of BO-YO.
Ideas about chocolate come easily. Still, there are some rules when it comes mixing. Fruits, hazelnuts and coffee all work beautifully with chocolate. Other combinations, however, happen purely by chance.
That being said, the Chocolate Museum Vienna will never make you sick of chocolate, perhaps only crave it even more. Particularly if it is made with love and imagination.