Studying abroad, the expectation is that you are going to be immersed in a new culture, and have the unique experience of being part of it while you are there.
Pizza in Italy
In all advice I got everyone told me the places I should see in each city and the things to do. In Copenhagen it was go to Nyhavn or rent a bike and bike around the city. The advice I did not get was try a Danish pastry or a Danish brunch, however this probably should have been the first thing anyone said. While the sights and activities were incredible, nothing made me feel more immersed in the culture than enjoying their foods. In each place I went it was the local cuisine that made me feel connected to the city where I was. For example, standing on the Charles Bridge in Prague, among the hundred other people taking pictures, I felt like a tourist. However, sitting in a pub eating goulash and drinking a Pilsner felt like an entirely authentic experience. When it comes to food, I got the sense that I was experiencing something that locals experienced. While they might not frequent the touristy spots or take the city tours as we did, eating their food was a way I could feel like one of them.
Cake and Coffee in Sweden
Every place I visited had such a unique culture and with that comes unique dishes and food traditions. When planning for a weekend trip, some of the most fun research I did was looking up the best authentic and “hole in the wall” restaurants. Finding these places was challenging. I knew that I did not want to go the places recommended in tourist books or on the travel websites. If the place was going to be full of American tourists, it was probably safe to assume that it is not a place favored by locals as well. I ended up asking around and getting recommendations. If I knew someone who spent a lot of time in one city, I would ask them for the hidden gems. I ended up finding most of the restaurants we ate at this way. There were definitely some trips where we were told the touristy spots were too much of an experience to miss, so we went. For example in Vienna we could not avoid Hotel Satcher for a piece of Satcher chocolate cake, likewise in Paris we had to try Café Angelina for their amazing and arguably life-changing hot chocolate.
Chicken Tagine in Morocco
It is nearly impossible for me to choose a favorite meal or food when looking back. Everywhere was so different and that is what made it all so exciting. Copenhagen’s food culture will always hold a soft spot in my heart because it was the place I lived. Denmark’s traditional foods, like smoked fish and Smørrebrød were not my favorite, but Copenhagen had a distinct food culture. Brunch was one meal that the Danes did very well. Traditionally for brunch you would order a plate, which would include and assortment of smaller components such as bread and jam, cheese, fruits, eggs, etc. For me, who loves breakfast but can never decide if I am craving savory or sweet, this was the ideal solution.
Brunch in Copenhagen
Danes also had exceptional bakeries. When you think pastries, you might first think of France, however the Danish pastries I had were some of my favorite. My personal favorite, kanelsnegle, is a popular Danish pastry. It took every ounce of my will power to not stop in the bakery every morning and get one before class.
Kanelsnegle in Denmark
All in all I do not think my experience in Europe would be complete without the food. It is such an important part to all cultures that not indulging just did not seem right. Furthermore some of my best memories involve long drawn out European meals, talking with friends, and taking in the city life.
Olives and Tapenades in Provence