Americana supreme and international phenom – the World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta, Georgia

I had only heard about this dream world, this Neverland, where I could partake in all-you-can-drink Coke products from around the world.  We don’t usually keep soda/pop/soft drinks in the house.  Nothing good comes from guzzling that carbonated booze. . . except evoking fond memories.  This wonderland of flavored corn syrup took me back to my first visit to Mozambique Island, the Ilha (to see photos of the Island, read this previous post).  This was in the days before the World Heritage Site boasted any restaurants or quaint lodgings or luxury hotels.  It was just us in the 1990’s: dusty, Teva-footed white teenagers and some Mozambican kids running up and down the dusty alleys, wearing only shredded shorts.  It was hot.  It was humid.  We sat on the stoop of a little shop that carried few items on its shelves.  The outer edge of the small veranda on which we were sitting was missing large chunks of concrete.  With few flies and not even a bird in sight, it was surprisingly quiet.  Then I heard it.  A low hum.   Whrrrrrr.  My ears were well tuned to the vibrations created by a refrigeration unit.  I turned around and there it was.  That it existed was not nearly as surprising as the fact that it worked.  It was on.  In pristine condition, it must have been recently delivered.  Through the unsmudged glass of the shiny new Coca-Cola refrigerator, I saw several bottles of Fanta and Coke.  Were they actually cold?  Or had the purveyor only turned on the unit when he saw a perspective customer?  These are the kinds of things a cynical teenager thinks.  No matter.  The price was right and, like always, we could count on the contents being sterile and safe to drink, unlike any other beverage within a hundred miles.  We took and drank.  It was cold.  It was perfect.

That’s my Coke story.  I have more, like the time we ordered our food and drink at a restaurant somewhere in Africa.  The drinks came and we finished them off two hours before the food came.  Or the warm bottle of Coke pulled from a dusty crate sitting by the side of the road at a border crossing.  These are the kinds of memories those marketing gurus at the Coca-Cola factory in Atlanta, Georgia conjure up for every one of the thousands of visitors that walk through its doors.  The “factory” is as much museum and entertainment center as an homage to Americana gone international.  In a small theater visitors can view a continual film of multilingual television advertisements for Coke products from around the world.  We sat mesmerized for nearly thirty minutes and almost – almost – got teary-eyed during one of those dumb commercials.  And then there’s the 4-D theater (add real snow, moving seats and strong wind to a viewing with 3-D glasses).   The short film follows the trail of Coke being delivered by bicycle in the slums, by canoe in the Amazon and by various other means of transport utilized around the world, with the intent of getting a bottle of Coke within 10 minutes of every person on the planet.   I don’t recommend the film if you are trying to find a dark, secluded place to nurse a hungry baby whilst keeping the older children entertained.  While the back seats of the theater are stationary and therefore seem ideal for nursing, the occasional spurts of water and blasts of air really distracted my little man from dealing with his hunger pangs.  An acceptable alternative location for nursing is the aforementioned theater where the Coke commercials are viewed.  There, red benches are wide and padded, so you might as well change the baby’s diaper while you’re at it.

And then enter soft drink utopia.  Each of the five illuminated pillars, one for each region of the world, dispenses up to ten varieties of Coke products.  Hey kids, all-you-can-drink soda!  Yes, I let my four-year-old and two-year-old try as many drinks as they wanted, even allowing seconds on favorites.  I recommend filling your cup no more than in inch full of drink each time.  An overdose of sugar happens quicker than you think.  Eventually they all start to taste the same anyway.  As you exit the area, each visitor is offered their own glass bottle of Coke as a souvenir.  Yes, a souvenir.  But don’t just let it sit on a shelf at home, warm and collecting dust.  Keep it in the fridge and pop open that fizzy nectar when you need to escape to memories of Cokes gone by.

What’s your Coke story?

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To plan your visit and to learn more than necessary about everything Coca-Cola, visit http://www.worldofcoca-cola.com .

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Red bottles indicate bottling plants. The photos are Coca-Cola employees around the world.
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A large display case contains numerous pop art items (pardon the pun). Here are few.
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The all-you-can-drink cathedral.
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My favorite, Stoney Tangawiza from East Africa! Where else can you get this in the U.S.? Nowhere.

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8 thoughts on “Americana supreme and international phenom – the World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta, Georgia

  1. While living in Uganda for a year we tried to visit different parts of the country. On one trip we were zipping along and noticed armed guards lining the road for quite a stretch. We thought we must be approaching an embassy or something, but no, it was simply the Coke bottling plant! As we drove slowly by the front gates we saw guards checking each person going in or out of the plant. We found it vastly amusing that such value was placed on the Coke products. That experience helped us understand a bit better the custom of keeping empty Coke bottles in the car, because you couldn’t buy a fresh Coke without turning in a bottle. Seriously, they would not sell you a Coke unless you had a bottle to exchange in addition to the cost of the Coke.

    1. Great story! I guess in some places Coke bottling factories are the only thing keeping people employed. Got to protect that. And those are pretty strict rules about the bottles. Makes tossing glass bottles in the garbage, like we do in many parts of the United States, simply outrageous.

  2. In Nampula, Mozambique, we passed Coke crates around from missionary to missionary as people came and went. We were the recipients of someones crate so, for a special treat, we’d periodically trade it in for a crate of full bottles. Apparently a bit like Uganda. Great post!

    1. Yes, those glass bottles are a high commodity. I’m always reminded of how precious the bottle was in The Gods Must Be Crazy. We don’t hold them in quite as much esteem as the San bushmen in the movie, but they are pretty valuable!

  3. I love your blog!! Thanks for commenting on mine. And, oh, how I remember the Coca-Cola museum well … thanks for taking me back. I think the best Coke I ever drank was during a summer I studied in Mexico. And, as you said, it felt so good to have a little taste of “Americana” amidst a “foreign land.”

    1. Until I visited Georgia and the museum (and then started telling people about our visit), I didn’t realize how much of an established Southern cultural icon it is. People down there are pretty loyal to their brand, but then again, so are many Coke drinkers worldwide.

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