This is a true story.
I am a choco-holic. Seriously, I have a problem. I’m not ashamed of it though. There is nothing better than savoring a tiny piece and letting it melt on my tongue until it dissolves into nothing.
The next thing I know, I’m half a bar in.
Still, I could do this all day.
My sister thinks I’m crazy. She doesn’t understand how I can limit myself to that one indulgent treat night after night—or is it day by day?
I don’t know to how explain my love for dark chocolate. I’m continually on the hunt for the perfect blend of ingredients for the optimal flavor. My pet peeve (other than people chewing chocolate like it’s a meal) is brands overcompensating for the bitterness of dark chocolate with sugar. Blech. If I wanted super sweet chocolate I’d eat milk chocolate, am I right? No offense to those who like it—my body just doesn’t have a high sugar tolerance.
Also, fat content and cocoa % matter. 70% cocoa is my least favorite ratio—too much fat to cocoa so it just ends up tasting bland.
Which is why I keep coming back to Lindt Excellence bars: delicious chocolate with a variety of flavors to satisfy any craving without the punch of sugar that other brands have.
And I’ve tried them all! 70%, 78%, 85%, 90%, 95%, 99%, and 100% dark.
Like I said, I have a problem.
On the other hand, Lindt also has the sweeter options for when I’m craving a nice mix. I can hands down say the Dark Sea Salt is my favorite, followed by Dark Raspberry, and then Dark Chili. That sweet and salty bitter heaven makes for a decadent treat any time. (Other flavors we have in Canada are: lime, strawberry, almond, hazelnut, orange almond, sea salt and caramel, all the darks, coconut, mint, red peppercorn, black currant).
But I digress. My real story begins while I lived in South Korea, teaching English for a year and half. Chocolate is not really a thing there. Quality chocolate is difficult to come by because there are other snacks that are more sought after. I was fortunate to have a “foreigner” market about three minutes walking distance from my apartment. One day, almost a year later, I spotted a bar of my Dark Sea Salt Lindt at the checkout! I couldn’t believe it! I finally had access to my favorite one! Quality over quantity.
After my teaching contract finished, I travelled South East Asia for two and a half months with my coworker. Her plan was to visit three major European cities before going home. Rome sounded lovely, so I did some math and decided to take a detour before coming back to Canada. After Rome, I could steal another five days in Slovakia to see family and friends—I hadn’t been in nine years!
On our third and last full day in Rome, we stopped at the bus station so I could buy a ticket to the airport that departed at 4:30 am. Inside the station was a Lindt store, and I had to venture in! What I saw took me completely by surprise! There were so many different flavors of Lindt bars that I couldn't get in Canada: Lemon, Pistachio, Cherry, Apricot, Fig, and Pear! WOW! I was in heaven.
However, I only had a carryon, and not much room left for six bars of chocolate (the amount I had to buy to get a deal). On top of that, I didn’t want to take out more cash if I didn’t have to. So I put the chocolate back on the shelf and decided that I didn’t need it. Sigh. It was only chocolate after all…
Actually, it was only money. After we returned to our AirBnb, I realized the chocolate was not as expensive as I thought—I’d done the currency conversion wrong. I kicked myself. I should’ve at least bought the apricot one!
Here’s the thing about apricots: in my opinion, they are the perfect fruit. When baked (I’m envisioning topped with streusel), they melt into the pasty like chocolate. When you bite into them, they become velvet in your mouth. And when they’re optimally ripe—a mix of sweet and sour heaven—combined with sugar, flour, and egg, your taste buds explode with the level of flavor that you didn’t know you needed! YUM!
Damn! I had robbed myself of the experience! I didn’t think I’d be able to find that flavor anywhere else as I know flavors can be country-specific. My last chance was to get lucky at the airport. I woke up at 3:30 am and trudged my ass forty minutes through the streets of Rome, navigating with offline maps to make it to the bus stop. To my chagrin, the airport did NOT have a chocolate store. I was SOL. Oh well, maybe I’d find some in Bratislava, or the internet could lend a hand once I returned to Canada…
So once in Bratislava, I traipsed the aisles in search of their Lindt Excellence flavors. I discovered a Grapefruit Lindt bar. OMG! What a combo! But Apricot was what I was really after. Italy didn’t have Grapefruit, so I bought it to try and to share with my family back in Canada. Can I say that this chocolate is perfectly paired with white wine? It’s a stretch—chocolate and white wine? But damn it works!
Back to the point: the apricot chocolate was on my radar. I tried searching online in Canada and couldn’t order it from anywhere—even overseas. However, I vowed that the ever elusive apricot chocolate would one day be mine…
Cut to two years later. 2020, two weeks before COVID shut everything down on March 15th. It was February 20th. My paperwork from the Slovak consulate had finally arrived, meaning I had eight days to submit my EU passport application in person before the paperwork expired. I’d been jumping through hoops for six months, and ultimately decided that applying in the motherland was superior to applying in person in Canada. For a few extra hundred bucks, I could see my family, have a place to stay, and even rig it to visit the UK on my way home to see my aunt and uncle (who I hadn’t seen in almost ten years, too).
I knew I was flying into Vienna, then taking a bus to Bratislava, Slovakia. And I knew Slovakia didn’t have Apricot Lindt, but what if Austria did?
I checked the Austrian Lindt website.
I knew it! It was available!
So I scoped out Schwechat Airport online, hoping that I could score in one of the airport’s stores. I came across a grocery store. Perhaps it stocked chocolate and the selection would be diverse enough.
But it would be tight. I was scheduled to land forty-five minutes before my bus departed for Bratislava. That’s okay. I could always make it the following Wednesday morning when I was departing. The grocery store opened at 5 am, so I knew I could pop in and out at the last minute if I had to. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The Universe had other plans for me. My trip started great, but the only issue was that we were landing about twenty minutes late, so I would have to go straight to my bus—if I could catch it. With me I had a Slovak SIM card, which I hadn’t swapped out yet. I didn’t feel like reaching into the overhead bin for my carryon so I searched my backpack for something to open the compartment.
I knew we were going to prepare for landing soon, but I still was reluctant to get into the carryon and dig around—but I knew I had to. My gut was telling me to do it now while I was in the air because then I’d have to seriously hustle if I was going to make that bus!
Fine. I succumbed. Lucky for me I was carrying a new phone as a favor for a friend. It had the SIM pin to open the compartment. I got up and rummaged around for the box. I swapped my SIM card and returned to my seat. Literally, two minutes later the seatbelt sign turned on. Phew, I made it. Now I could keep my cousin Sasha updated on what was happening.
When I landed, I had twenty minutes to clear customs and find the bus stop. I booked it through the long hallways, dodging passengers where I could, racing for the moving walkways as my phone connected to the network. I had all my documents ready to go, but now it was a waiting game. In the queue, I pulled up my bus ticket information. Twenty minutes 'til departure. I figured the queue would take at least fifteen minutes. Yikes!
I checked the bus schedule and saw that I had a few options if I missed the bus, which put me at ease. As I read onto the fine print, I noticed a caveat: I could rebook my ticket within fifteen minutes of departure at no charge!
Two minutes to rebook and complete the transaction? Winning!
My fingers danced on my phone screen and I secured another ticket. The next bus was leaving an hour later, but only arriving in Bratislava thirty minutes later than the initial bus. Time was of the essence because I still had to get to the Slovak consulate and apply for my passport that day so it would be ready for pickup before my outbound flight. Excellent. Thank goodness for a cellular network because the WiFi was a bust. Good thing I listened to my intuition and changed that SIM card, eh?
After updating Sasha, I cleared customs and had an hour to spare. Oh, whatever should I do? I guess I could find some breakfast…or chocolate!!!
So I visited the grocery store I found online. I grabbed a ham sandwich, then had to see if I was right! I wove through the tight aisles, scanning for that white and black packaging that proudly bared the silver script lettering of the ever-delicious Lindt.
Aha! Then I spotted it—a stand dedicated to all the bars.
So. Many. Flavors. But do I declare?
I wheeled my carryon closer as I zoned in on my target.
Victory was mine!
Apricot Lindt! I had found it! And what was this? Blueberry? Hmm…
I was going to grab one apricot bar, but there was that feeling again…my intuition telling me that I should just grab two off-the-bat. At this point I’d been up for 33 hours, so I chose the path of least resistance and listened. If anything I’d just carry it around for later.
While I waited for my bus, I tore into the bar and had a piece. It was no Sea Salt or Chili…that’s for sure. And it had almonds in it…I would’ve preferred not, but the chocolate was not bad in itself. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was expecting…perhaps a little more apricot flavor? Also this lack of sleep wasn’t putting me in the mood to really taste the chocolate and feel it out. You might be thinking that was very anticlimactic, but I do have a few more points to share if you’d let me indulge you.
So, I made it to the passport office. 36 hours of no sleep, but the lady who took my passport photo said I looked great. Thanks…if you like dark circles under your eyes, haha. It was just past 1 pm and I was determined to stay awake until evening. Sasha took me to her work, and I passed the time editing my novel….as best I could while fighting to focus on details.
We got to her place around 4 pm. She lives in our grandparents’ old apartment, but it’s renovated and is quite modern now. I dropped my stuff in my bedroom and retrieved Olga, my cousin’s Dachshund. We took her for a walk while we picked up Sasha’s son, Richard, from preschool and made for the playground. We had to tucker those two out for the night. I was trying to hold out, reminding myself that for dinner I’d have Slovak wine, bread, butter, and ham—it’s usually all I wanted when I visited—and I wasn't going to let jetlag best me just yet.
The next day I woke up and helped Sasha with some last minute ski trip packing. I was invited but declined because I wouldn’t see my other friends and family, and it was so rare that we had the chance to visit.
Sasha left for her trip. It was just me and Olga in the apartment until Lucas (her husband) and Richard came home in the afternoon. I noticed Olga was licking something in the kitchen about twenty minutes ago…like a white paper of sorts. Weird, but aahhh, I was sure it was nothing. That reminded me that I wanted to check out the Slovak crime book collection Lucas had.
I had a few hours to kill before my other friends were available, so I picked the most interesting title and began to read. It was slow going. I didn’t read much Slovak even though I spoke it alright. It was really cool to see how they write dialogue over there. Instead of English quotes, they used two commas to start and then open quotes to close the dialogue…so weird to get used to—which is why it was slow going.
As I read, I started thinking of that chocolate again. Maybe now was a good time to try it out, on a fresh palate. I stood and went to my bag. Olga was still really intently going at that piece of paper.
Ok, I was curious. What the heck was she eating? I didn’t see Sasha give her any treats and it certainly wasn’t kibble. I decided I should probably listen to my gut and check.
I strode over and focused on the white rectangle. OMG! It was paper! I pulled it away from her, and as I did, my eyes widened in horror. I knew what it was before I could even register that I knew. The Apricot Lindt bar.
Oh no! No, no, no, no, no!
I knew it was weird that she was going after something so intensely (no pun intended: the bar is called Dark Intense).
Crap! How much did she eat?! Chocolate is lethal to dogs!
I pulled it away from her and checked the wrapping.
Six. Whole. Pieces! Out of ten.
This was bad. It couldn’t be happening.
Sasha leaves and my chocolate kills her dog, I thought. This is it! What the heck am I supposed to tell Richard? That Olga’s dead when he said bye and kissed her a few hours ago? EEEK!
What’s more is that I didn’t have Sasha’s cell number because we communicated over WiFi—nor did I have Lucas’s...
Hopefully Sasha hadn’t left town yet and could get reception. The drive to the ski hill through the mountains was three hours. I had to get Olga to the vet ASAP! Or something!
I was reeling, but I finally managed to snap out of it. I called Sasha through WiFi. She picked up! YES! I stuttered out what happened, hoping the right words came out. Again, I could speak Slovak, but I still had to consider my words so they formed properly—language is a very interesting thing. Plus, I was trying to remain calm.
Sasha started laughing. She said, “Misha, you know what? Olga has eaten more than her weight in chocolate over the years. Don’t worry, she’s lived through worse!”
I just closed my eyes and felt a wave of relief wash over me. Another close call, but I came out on top. “I’m always good,” I said. A little phrase I started saying a long time ago. The Universe was always looking out for me. I was so grateful at that moment.
At least I still had that other bar left—good thing I trusted my intuition—and I’d still get the chance to pick up another for my family back in Canada on my way out…or so I thought...
Long story short: the day of my departure I overslept by an hour and half. I woke up just as the last bus I could catch was leaving, and the only option was to wake my cousin and ask for a ride. If I made this flight, it would be cutting it hella close—closer than before! So, it was safe to say that I wouldn’t have the chance to shop around. My next stop was London and I doubted they had Apricot Lindt there (I was right about that).
We were silent on the drive, weaving through cars on the pitch black highway, going 130-140 km/h. I tried not to let my anxiety creep on. A song on the radio told me that “...everything was going to be alright”.
And it was. Sasha got me to the airport fifteen minutes before boarding. Thank god I didn’t have to go through International Security, but I didn't know that until I was suddenly sprinting straight through Duty Free. I reached my gate in five minutes, panting. I let Sasha know I was okay and she told me that I had a horseshoe up my butt. An oil truck flipped on the highway a little while after we got onto it, and traffic was backed up going into Vienna.
I made it again! I guess I did have that horseshoe after all. The flight actually boarded late, and as I sat in my plane seat and looked out the window, I smiled. Everything worked out, just like the song on the radio said it would.
And I had gotten my chocolate.