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International Cuisine – A European Food Tour

While you’re studying abroad and dabbling in the various aspects surrounding you, one of the most important ones to consider are the delectable goodies and treats offered in your new host country culture. Though it’s easy to turn to the familiar American comfort that reminds you of home, such as; hamburgers, pizza or a big ol’ burrito, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and explore all of the delicious cuisine!

When I studied abroad in Uppsala, Sweden I got to try so many traditional Swedish meals and snacks. Additionally, as I traveled to other countries and cities in Europe, I made it my mission to try at least one traditional (or popular) food item from each of the places I visited. So, are you ready for a European food tour? Here are the top ten most delicious foods I experienced in Europe (in no particular order)!

 1. Sweden – Köttbullar (Meatballs) 

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If you’ve never been to Sweden, but if you’ve been to IKEA in the U.S, you’ll notice that a very popular Swedish meal is meatballs accompanied by boiled potatoes, gravy and lingonberry sauce. Meatballs are a staple in Sweden and eaten regularly. I had them almost every week during my time there! The meal is hearty and of course incredibly tasty. Add a side of Daim pie if you want a treat twice as special.

2. Croatia – Fusi Pasta 

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Believe it or not, Italy isn’t the only famous country for its pasta. In Croatia, specifically the region of Dalmatia, pasta is a very popular dish and is often handmade and dressed in various ways. This pasta, called fusi pasta is a heavier in texture and can be described as a crossover between a typical noodle pasta and gnocchi. The pasta had a creamy spiced sauce, fresh vegetables and fish for an extremely affordable price! The restaurant also provided gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea at sunset.

3. Spain – Seafood Paella 

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Paella is a Spanish rice dish seasoned with saffron. While in Barcelona, I chose to try the seafood paella. Inside the paella were shrimp, mussels, lobster and scallops. This dish is extremely flavorful and oh so very filling. Definitely set me up for a much-needed siesta afterwards.

4. Denmark – Plaice and French Fries 

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The Danes have a huge affinity for fish since they are surrounded by sea. During a trip to Copenhagen and a stop in Tivoli gardens I decided to try the popular dish of breaded filet of Plaice, french fries and remoulade. Plaice is a type of flounder that is fried similar to a catfish fillet. The Danes like to use remoulade sauce instead of tartar sauce to accompany this hearty meal. The remoulade sauce is a bit sweet and tart but incredibly delicious!

5. France – French Macarons 

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French macarons are one of the world’s best desserts! They’re delicately made and flavored with infusions ranging from coffee, mocha, pistachio and rose petal. My favorite macarons are the pistachio ones. These serve for a perfect afternoon treat to satisfy that sweet tooth. And if you’re ever in a major city, look up La Duree, French luxury bakery they have the BEST macarons around.

6. Sweden – Kanelbullar 

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As you may remember from a previous blogpost, fika is an extremely important staple in Swedish life. A fika is typically deemed as a “coffee break” for people to catch up with each other and enjoy dessert or something tasty together. Read more about fika here. My favorite fika item is the kanelbullar, which translates to “cinnamon roll.” BUT, the Swedish kanelbulle taste much different than American ones. Rather than being slathered with frosting, kanelbulle are sprinkled with crystal or pearl sugar. But, the thing that sets these goodies apart from all the other cinnamon rolls is the flavor and spice. Kanelbulle are seasoned with black cardamom. Cardamom has a very potent and distinctive state, and without it, Swedish kanelbulle wouldn’t be the same.  Check out this recipe I use to make them at home here.

7. France – Croque Monsieur and French Fries 

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In France, croquet monsieur is a very popular snack. Its essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with delicious béchamel sauce. I enjoyed this one with a sweet view of the Eiffel Tower!

8. Russia – Rice, Beef and Piroshki (stuffed bread-rolls)

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During our first day in St. Petersburg we decided to jump right in! We visited a traditional Russian restaurant on Nevsky Prospekt (the main street in St. Petersburg) and ordered the daily lunch special. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the Russian name of the meal but on the menu was white rice, cooked beef and some sort of sweet and sour tasting red sauce and bread rolls. An awesome thing about the rolls in Russia is that they are always filled with something and are almost never just bread. Mine were filled with potato and the other with cabbage and ground beef. Awesome introduction to Eurasian cuisine!

9. United Kingdom – Crumpets 

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Although the most typical British meal we all know and love is fish and chips, a popular breakfast food in England is crumpets! Crumpets are sort of like pancakes and are made from yeast, and are essentially a fluffier English muffin. Brits often dress up their crumpets with butter or jam and of course, a cup of tea. Yum!

10. Spain – Bocadillos (Montaditos)

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In addition to tapas and their other world-famous foods, Spain boasts these delicious treats called bocadillos. Bocadillos are essentially crusty, spanish bread topped with any of the toppings or fillings that your heart desires. We visited a very popular bocadillo restaurant called 100 Montaditos, where on Wednesdays any montadito is only 1 Euro. These make for a perfect snack at any time of day.

Making the Most of Your Surroundings: My Weekend Excursion to Croatia

Guest Blogger: Cristina Valdez, Program Assistant at the Illinois Study Abroad Office
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No matter if you’re abroad for winter break, summer break, a semester, or an academic year, it’s important to optimize your time and take advantage of the country to the fullest. Of course, the studying part of being abroad is extremely important; but part of being abroad also includes enjoying the culture, scenery and adventure. This was one of my main goals as I embarked on my study abroad semester to Sweden. During these six months, I was able to ravel to 9 different countries, and one of my favorite weekend excursions was to Zadar, Croatia. Croatia itself wasn’t necessarily on the top of my travel list, but after attempting to book a trip to the Greek Island of Santorini with my friend Jessica with no success, we received a recommendation from another friend who raved about her time spent in Croatia, so we decided, why not?! The flight from Stockholm was extremely affordable and it cost us a little over $100 roundtrip! Jessica and I researched the area beforehand, and had a clear plan of all the activities we wanted to participate in, but once we arrived in Zadar we were enthralled by captivatingly blue waters and a city that was riddled with adventure.
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Since we only had three short days to spend in the area, we began to explore as soon as we arrived. On our first day, we rented bikes from our hostel and headed towards the Old Town. Zadar is divided into two parts, and the Old Town harbors a lot of historical sites and ruins, and it remains impeccably preserved. Bikes and cars are not allowed inside the gates of the Old Town, and the area is routinely cleaned by city employees.
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Zadar is located on the coast of Croatia, and is home to the Adriatic sea. The beach is accessible from essentially anywhere in the city. While walking around, we would often discover stairs leading down to the beautiful water. The Adriatic sea is the third cleanest sea in Europe, and the water is crystal clear, (literally!).
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During our second day, we took advantage of an excursion offered by our hostel. Hostels definitely come in handy when attempting to plan excursions or getting to know local culture or cuisine while visiting a new city. In my experiences, hostel staff has been quite friendly and eager to help. Our excursion was kayaking in Zrmanja! The scenery left us dazzled. Only in photos had we seen such beautiful nature! We stopped at this gorgeous waterfall for lunch, and later on, an even lager waterfall followed:
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The excursion lasted all day, and in total we kayaked 14 kilometers, which is almost 8.5 miles!! What a thrill!
 After recuperating from our kayaking adventure, the next day we explored the Perivoj Raljice Jelene-Madijevka gardens and the ruins of the old city. The gardens were filled with blooming flowers, which was perfect for the wonderful spring weather. In addition, we ventured over to the Archeological Museum and the Museum of Ancient Glass, where we observed a professional glass blower in action.

These are only a few of the incredible activities I was able to do in Zadar, and it was truly an phenomenal experience that allowed my friend Jessica and I to wholeheartedly immerse ourselves in the Croatian culture and to explore a country that was previously somewhat unknown to us.

Zadar was beautiful, and the sunsets, even more so. I’ll let the picture speak for itself.
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I would advise any student abroad to fully take advantage of any free time outside of classes or studying. Though studying is the main priority, it’s important to also get to know one’s host country and host city. Then, if feasible and affordable, explore the rest of the region or neighboring countries. Though not all continents are as accessible for travel like Europe, no matter where you’re studying abroad you should be prepared for the adventure set before you. All you have to do is look outside your window!