DUBROVNIK: Food thoughts from Eastern and Central Europe

This is the first meal I had in Budapest. It is a salted goose leg on curry rice with green beans and served on a tortilla-like bread.

Due to the nature of the scheduling at my university here in Dubrovnik, I was lucky enough to have a full ten days off from classes. Naturally, my classmates and I decided to use this week and a half to take a backpacking trip across Eastern and Central Europe. 

We started in Prague, then made our way over to Munich, Budapest, Zagreb, and then finally back to Dubrovnik. We met so many diverse people, saw the most breathtaking sights, learned incredible amounts of history, and, of course, ate everything in our sights. 

I have decided that Eastern Europe has a secret technology that allows them to eat the most rich, unhealthy foods all the time, not exercise, and still not become morbidly obese. We must discover what this secret technology is. 

The cuisines in these areas are all pretty similar. Czech diets are comprised of a lot of poultry and pork. My two big meals were a roast duck and a pork shoulder, both served with either bread or potato dumplings. Potato dumplings, by the way, are nothing like Asian dumplings. Both of these dishes were smothered in gravy and no vegetables besides sauerkraut could be found anywhere in the restaurant. 

You could find similar food in most German restaurants, but during our stay we became more addicted to the spicy sausages with mustard that were served from a stand in the Munich train station. They were nothing short of magical. 

Budapest was the first place we found real vegetables. The meals were just as rich but had a surprising Middle Eastern flavor added into them. 

All of these meals were absolutely delicious, and we ate every last bite off our plates. However, the downside is that any form of movement or activity is close to impossible for at least forty-five minutes after finishing one of these dishes. Like I said, they hold some secret technology that they’re not telling us about.

Perhaps the only thing that was more impressionable on me than their food culture was their beer culture. All of these cities have pride in their local breweries, and it was expected for everyone to order a local beer with each meal. 

In some instances, especially in most places in Munich, this expectation was escalated further to become outright pressure. When Germans would see that we didn’t have a beer with us at our table they would ask what was wrong with us and would then take it upon themselves to order one for us. Sometimes they would even take their own beers and pour it into our glasses regardless of what we already had in them. 

This was funny for a while, but eventually we grew exhausted of constantly drinking heavy beers. When we would voice this, Germans would either look at us like we were crazy, or they would begin to tease us for our shameful behavior. 

We discovered interesting quirks like Germany’s drinking culture in each of the cities we visited.

Prague for example, is said to be the most haunted city in the world, and there are numerous legends and scary stories to go with many different locations all over the city. 

In Germany, all the locals would insist that when we said “cheers” and clinked our glasses we absolutely had to look them in the eyes or else we would both be cursed with seven years of bad sex.

When I caught a cold in Budapest, I learned that when someone is given medicine they can’t say “thank you,” because then the medicine won’t be effective. 

While each of these cities had its own share of amazing sights and activities to learn from and see, I’ve found that experiencing the little goofy aspects of a culture is what really captivates me and makes me fall in love with traveling to new and exciting places.