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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Dutch plan chocolate theme park
Machinery inside chocolate factory (artist's impression)
The Dutch role in chocolate-making will be showcased
A Dutch businessman has launched a project to turn Roald Dahl's imaginary chocolate factory into reality.

A disused tram tunnel near the central station in Amsterdam is to be transformed into the heart of a theme park devoted to chocolate.

It will boast its own glass lift and chocolate fountain, as in the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Construction is due to start next year, with the opening planned for 2009. The cost is put at 20m euros (14m).

Visitors will have a chance to see and touch chocolate while it is made, in what will be the only chocolate factory in the Netherlands.

Sweet dreams

For businessman Maurits Rubinstein, a major publisher of audio books in the Netherlands, this is a nine-year-old dream.

He hopes to attract about 350,000 visitors annually to the factory.

Exterior of planned chocolate factory (artist's impression)
A derelict site will be turned into a children's fantasy land
Last week the city authorities gave him permission to develop the 200 metre-long tunnel near the railway station.

The success of Tim Burton's film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2005, featuring Johnny Depp as the eccentric factory owner Willy Wonka, looks set to make the project even sweeter.

Ten years ago Mr Rubinstein wrote a radio play based on the book and then thought of turning the story into a board game.

But his fascination with Charlie's adventures in the chocolate wonderland made him want to build the magic factory itself.

"It is not a dream come true but a reality that will be like a dream," he told the BBC News website.

"I always believed in the project," he says. He discovered the abandoned tunnel himself and immediately knew that it was what he needed.

The money will be partly raised through bonds that parents and grandparents can buy for their children and grandchildren.

The Netherlands is the world's leading cocoa processing country, but it does not have any factories making the final product.

Instead, it supplies the major plants of Europe with the most important ingredient - chocolate paste.

A Dutchman, Coenraad Johannes van Houten, invented the hydraulic cocoa press in 1828 which helped reduce the price of chocolate.

While Mr Rubinstein admits that the Belgians are world famous for their praline chocolate, he insists that his factory will be "the sweetest and the most beautiful in the world".

He expects children around the world to visit the underground theme park and says he cannot wait himself to plunge into the tunnel and experience the adventures of Charlie and Willy Wonka.


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