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Tastes of Europe

Solo in Oslo



Free at last. As I step out of Gardermoen Airport after customs and immigration procedures, I sight a cafe nestled between travel agencies across the street. So, now I know where I’m going first; my mouth waters as my stomach grumbles. I don’t have much luggage, just two duffel bags and a camera bag, so the brief walk is no issue.


I nearly die of thirst before reaching the cafe. It's 75°F in Oslo, the warmest city in the country, so I long for a cool drink. I enter the café hoping that it sells pink lemonade and accepts American dollars. While the former of my wishes does not materialize, a sign hanging from the counter informs me that I may pay in krones, Euro, or USD. I order a Solo soft-drink that the waiter recommended and pay for it with my native greenbacks. I also purchase a Smørbrød, some type of Norwegian sandwich. I begin to gulp the orange liquid as soon as I take a seat. To my delight, the drink softly chills my tongue just as the Trollhetta moutain will freeze my feet the next day. Once I run out of the savory drink, I bite into the ham open sandwich. Norwegian sandwiches are the best! The bread provides the crispiness, the vinegar the sourness, and the herbs the spiciness. The potatoes, probably grown near the mountain ranges of Valdres that I hope to visit soon, contributes to the unique flavor. While I gather my belongings to leave, the sales clerk offers me a box that, according to him, contains two krumkakes. Looking perplexed, as I have no idea what those are, I politely thank him and hurriedly stuff the package into my emptier bag.


Once I am out of the restaurant and the sales clerk’s sight, I reach for my travel book to look up “Krumkake,” which happens to be the equivalent of a Norwegian Christmas cookie. I can not help but wonder if they were cooked six months ago, considering it's June now. I daintily remove one of the krumkakes out of its container. The second I touch it, I almost drop it; I wasn't expecting the pastry to be so hot! Considering my innate clumsiness, I'm relieved that the krumkake lands in the box rather than on the floor. My question is answered, at least; it is safe to eat them after all! I enjoy the dainty snacks on my bus ride to the Hallingdal community, where I hike the year-long white pyramids.

Tourin’ Turin


I did not where in Italy I wanted to go first until I discover that CioccolaTÒ, the annual two-week chocolate fair, starts the next day. At the fair, I keep swallowing cups and cups of Bicerin, a popular Italian chocolate-flavored coffee. The caffeine powers up my enervated muscles and the chocolate activates my dead senses. It is just like hot chocolate but without the fluffy marshmallows. Marshmallows. Instantly, a wave of homesickness overcomes me. I don't let my overly sentimental emotions ruin the tasty drink, though. Instead, I order a few biscottis to complement the coffee. The rich chocolate of the bicerin and the sugary almonds of the biscotti melt together. I'm glad that I'm in the hilly region of Turin rather than its sun-scorched Plains.

Giardino Segreto


A new day. A new adventure: I stroll through a woody garden of the picturesque Saima Avandero. I spot a small outdoor store up ahead. Girls dressed in satin white dresses unsparingly place large rolls of bread into modest baskets woven of river-side reed, which they sell to tourists tired of the scorching heat and the endless trails. My stomach grumbles, reminding me that it has been quite some time since lunch. A waft of fresh dough and handmade cheese overcomes my scent-sensitive nose as I move nearer. This garden, with its enclosed secrets and pleasant surprises, reminds me of the garden that Frances Hodgson Burnett’s famous fictitious figure Mary enjoys in her youth. I think of the little orphan jumping about in her cardigan coat, excited about discovering the mystical garden, which mysteriously cures her cousin's injuries and astonishingly vanquishes her discontent. Although I don't acquire any healing powers or discover the secret to happiness, I manage to find spicy cardamom seeds hidden in my caesara bread that one of the girls offer me. The whiteness of the bread’s inside may be likened to the misty snow, which falls in this region only during the wintry months. Taking refuge under a shady tree, I enjoy the bread that is as toasted as my skin in the summer sun. I wonder if Mary would have worn her beloved coat if this were her secret garden.

Meditating near the Mediterranean


Interestingly enough, many other tourists, like myself, isolate themselves in the cool Mediterranean region. Preparing for the warmth, I select my whitest clothes, determined to deflect the burning sun. I swallow gallons of coconut water whenever I visited the beach.


The salted pistachios complement the scent of the saline seawater. I bounce the shells off the gritty hardboard placed as a stand for playing ball. The bag of nuts leaves my mouth dry, tongue salty, and tummy empty. So, I revisit the food booth under the shade of the blue and white striped umbrella.


I ask the youth avidly selling native sweets for the sweeetest treat available. He hands me a plate of baklava. Baklava. The name of the sweet dessert is quite misleading. It’s not black-colored or lava-like. It’s just hardened honey and crispy bread. As the sun warms my skin, the sugar melts on my tongue.

A Summer to Remember


The pictures of my mountain hikes in Norway, my display of affection for chocolate, my stroll through Saima Avandero, and my meditations near the Mediterranean Sea prominently highlight the wide variety of geography. It is hard to imagine that icy mountain ranges in Norway are roughly a couple of thousand miles from the breezy Mediterranean seashore. The variation of geography correlates with the varying cuisine. The coconut water drenches souls parched from the Mediterranean sun. The caesara bread satisfies a starving lone traveler’s hunger. The gianduitto tingles the chocolate-loving tourists' sweet taste-buds. The eclectic tastes contribute to an ostentatious exhibit of Europe's diversity. The fact that such a relatively small geography can be divided between numerous countries is unbelievable but helps one understand the emergence of countless cultures in a limited area.



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