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Top 10 Survival Guide Tips for Vegetarian Travel to East Europe

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If you're a vegetarian and you travel to Eastern Europe, you may have a difficult time getting enough nutrition from the scarce non-meat dishes that are available as a part of a traditional Eastern European diet. After all, Eastern Europeans love their meats, and eating meat and fat has often been the only means of getting through long, aggressive winters. Vegans will have an even more difficult time - creams, cheeses, and other animal products are important staples in all of Eastern Europe. Take heart - starvation isn't your only option.

1. Vegetarians - Do Your Research

Some quick research into the traditional foods of your Eastern European destination can help you quickly zero in on foods that will work with your lifestyle. You may find it helpful to quickly do searches for recipes of national dishes so that you can identify their ingredients. Then make a list of potential entrees, side dishes, or snacks that won't interfere with your diet.

2. Learn the Names of Vegetarian Foods

Knowing how to identify vegetarian dishes or foods in Eastern European languages will greatly cut out confusion when you go to order at a restaurant. Even if you don't know how to say the word, a written list that you can either point to when the waiter is available or compare with the menu will eliminate guesswork.

3. Travel During Summer

Vegetarian foods are more readily available during the summer months. Summer produce is plentiful at markets during high summer, and they are often more scrumptious than what you can get at home.

4. Pack Vegetarian Snacks

Protein bars or other easy-to-carry vegetarian or nutritional snacks will be lifesavers when absolutely nothing else of nutritional vegetarian value is available, like on long train rides or while sightseeing.

5. For Homestays: Prepare Your Family in Advance

If you're staying at a local family's home, give them notice ahead of time that you're a vegetarian. Vegetarianism isn't unheard of in Eastern Europe, but it is sometimes viewed as unpractical or bizarre. The family, who will want to show you all the Eastern European hospitality they have to offer, will need some time to get used to the idea of serving you meatless dishes.

6. For Homestays: Volunteer to Cook

Vegetarian ingredients may be available with careful searching of large supermarkets. Volunteer to make vegetarian dishes that the whole family can try. Even if they don't become converts, they'll appreciate the effort and be curious to try something that is so far from their dietary norms.

7. Stay in Metropolitan Areas with Ethnic Restaurants

Metropolitan areas with diverse populations will have larger varieties of restaurants to choose from. Ethnic restaurants (even Chinese take-out) may offer vegetarian dishes that are both filling and nutritional. Choose a hotel close to one of these areas and scope out potential restaurants early in your stay.

8. Maintain a Positive Outlook

If you feel as though your requirements are met with derision at restaraunts or hotels, maintain a polite attitude but stay firm. Eastern European establishments are not known for their accomodating customer service, but if you are gracious about what is offered and hold your ground at the same time, the waiter or waitress may suddenly become resourceful and provide you with meatless dish alternatives.

9. Pack Supplements and Shop the Supermarkets

Still worried you may not get enough nutrition to survive 12-hour sightseeing trips? If possible, pack supplements. However, a trip to a local supermarket may be just as good, depending upon your dietary requirements. You may find that foods there will supplement you with enough vegetarian nutrition that you won't have to survive on the scan offerings at the hotel diner.

10. Make Friends with Good Cooks

If you find yourself lucky enough to be asked over to a local's house for dinner, and they provide you with tasty vegetarian offerings, compliment the cook profusely and clean your plate. More than likely, they'll have you over again for the same dish and make sure you don't go hungry during your stay.
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