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European Trip
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a bunch of my friends are planning a european trip...spain, germany, belgium and austria..and they want me to go. it would be a 3 week trip...how on earth am i gonna survive out there for that long? i wont have the luxury to pick and choose restaurants the way i do when im on my own, its going to be oh this place looks good lets eat here kinda trip. i will never ever survive so i would either starve or get sick..i cant be too picky cause the other guys wont tolerate my pickiness. what do i do? i feel like i would be missing out on a wonderful opportunity if i passed. when i was in france last year i basically had a nervous breakdown cause of the food situation..no one understood my allergy cards and one day i ate canned tuna and power bars i brought with me for lunch and dinner. any suggestions?

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I recently went on a three week trip to Germany, Austria and Belgium. I survived although I have to say that the food wasn't the highlight of the trip. Everything seems to be crumbed, dredged in flour, or cooked with beer.

For dinner I ate mostly baked potatoes, parsley potatoes, pan fried fish and salads with olive oil. For lunch I usually just bought cold meat, cheese, and salad stuff and had a picnic. Breakfast was hard and I usually just ate in my hotel room. If I went out my only option was fruit and yoghurt.

You can buy gluten free packaged foods from the Reformhaus health stores and DMs and Rossman drug stores in Germany and Austria. I stocked up on gluten-free snack bars, bread rolls and cornflakes. I didn't find anything in the supermarkets but I didn't go to many.

I did find gluten free stuff in Belgium supermarkets. I was so excited that I lugged a packet of gluten free crepe mix home with me to Australia and it was fantastic!

There is a steakhouse chain called Maredo in Germany and Austria that has a gluten free menu. I ate there a few times and had no problems.

Ethnic restaurants are a better option than German ones. There are lots of Indian and Mexican places where you should be able to eat safely. Italian and Spanish restaurants are also good if you get things like paella and risotto.

My travel cards worked pretty well. I also used them in the supermarket. I would waylay people who were shopping and get them to read the ingredients list for me. Be aware that in Belgium they speak three different languages - Dutch (Flemish), French and German - so you'll need cards in all three languages. I went to Bruges and was unaware that they spoke Flemish there. Luckily I had an iPhone travel card app that was in Flemish.

Check out these websites:

http://www.dzg-online.de/english.41.0.html

http://cye.freehostia.com/travel/belgium.html

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Congratulations on going to Europe! My husband and I go 2 or 3 times a year. Food used to be a huge reason for travel - now, not so much. :( Eating out is the hardest part of the whole celiac thing for me, especially as a big foodie. In three weeks from now we'll be in Croatia where it is far tougher than many European countries because they have so few diagnosed. There are no Croatian gluten-free products so they import. But that is where our house is so that is where we go! Thankfully there is a lot of fresh grilled fish, meat and veg. Gelato is a big issue due to CC. Plus there is a huge gastronomic festival that we love in Croatia that I won't be participating in this year. I used to look so forward to that. I do, however, have lots of gluten-free snacks with me as I find airline food yucky and nauseating (I'm not really a fan of flying).

Though I have not been to Germany, Austria, etc. since being diagnosed much of my family lives in Germany and at least celiac disease is fairly known there. And some yummy products are obtainable such as Schar which is fabulous. Germany is actually better than France when it comes to celiac disease, CC and so on. We're going to France next year and look forward to it but are going for my husband's AGM so are going to the top restaurants in Paris - I'm going to have to be a pain, call ahead, and so on. Sigh...

It is a real struggle admittedly. To travel around Europe unable to relax because you must constantly be on guard when it comes to every single thing that goes into your mouth is tough. Especially yummy food countries! But it CAN be done. I feel for your situation, however. Is there any way you can do your own thing sometimes especially if your friends will not put up with your "pickiness"? Can you find the fruit/veg markets? That's what we'll have to do.

When do you leave?

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I've never traveled for the food and have had no problems being gluten-free anywhere in Europe.

Skip the restaurants and get meat and cheese or whatever from the market. You'll have more money to spend on the really fun stuff, and you'll be better friends with the rest of your travel mates if you haven't spent every minute together.

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I did gluten free in Belgium this winter for work, and I did alright. Lots of grilled and steamed seafood options - and you can get a grilled steak w/fries and salad anywhere. Since they don't eat things like onion rings, fried chicken and cheese sticks, their fries are pretty safe from cc. Many people speak English, especially in Brussels and other large cities. You can also find stuff in grocery stores and markets. For breakfast, I bought yogurt, fruit, and hard boiled eggs at the grocery and ate in my hotel room rather than chance the buffet.

I've lived in both Germany and Austria, but not while being gluten free. There's pretty good celiac awareness I think, but I doubt you'll find lots of ready-made restaurant options. Breading and sauces thickened with flour are extremely common. Look for 'gegrillt' (grilled) and ask for things to be served without sauce (ohne Sosse). There is lots of Thai and Indian food. Someone mentioned Mexican, but in my experience that isn't common in Germany or Austria - and if you find it you'll have to watch for flour tortillas, unsafe tortilla chips, and flour in sauces.

You'll be able to find stuff at the Reformhaus. Many cities have large outdoor markets where you can buy fruit, cheese, nuts, etc. for cheap. The main one in Vienna is very large - it's called the Naschmarkt and it's close to the city center. Worth a visit regardless of your diet. If you can, go to these markets or the grocery and stock up on snacks so you won't be forced to eat anywhere you feel is unsafe. Do you know what cities you'd be visiting? Berlin, for example, will be much easier to find options in than many German cities just because there are a lot of trendier health food type places there.

For shopping, many products in the EU have multi-lingual labels. In German, gluten is the same as English, and 'gluten frei' is gluten free. Zoeliakie is celiac, Weizen is wheat, Mehl is flour. You should also check out the German celiac association - there should be plenty of people there who know some English and can give you advice. This is the English-language section of their site: http://www.dzg-online.de/english.41.0.html

Above all - don't let your worries about the food keep you from a great trip! Even if you have to live on fruit, nuts and cheese for 3 weeks, it'll be worth it!

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