Why It's Unique: Granted, it's not made of pothole-filling tar, but in a region where lutefisk and reindeer are considered normal, the idea of tar on pancakes doesn't actually seem outrageous. Tar—or terva—syrup comes from pine sap and has a strong, smoky flavor. It has been described as tasting like the smell of pitch, the tar used to seal nautical rope and decks. If it doesn't whet your appetite, you can also buy tar soap, available in most supermarkets here.
Where to Find It: In most supermarkets, as well as in Helsinki's famed Stockmann department store. You can also sample it in pancakes, ice cream, or schnapps, at Helsinki's Restaurant Savu, built in a former tar-barrel storehouse.
Cost: About $8 for a bottle of syrup and about $3 for soap.
Why It's Unique: These harps—reportedly the first made in Israel in 2,000 years—are, in part, inspired by the Old Testament story of David playing his harp for an ailing King Saul. David was onto something: a study found that harp music does have healthful effects on listeners, perhaps by regulating heart rhythms. Plus, these hardwood lap harps (door harps, which chime when the door opens, are also for sale) are beautiful, even for novice strummers.
Why It's Unique: This puts those old tequila worms to shame. These bottles of—well, let's just say elixir—include a pickled snake, often a cobra, coiled inside. The alcohol, experts say, neutralizes the venom. Like many colorful Asian delicacies, this one supposedly has painkilling or Viagra-like benefits, depending on whom you ask.
Where to Find It: In markets, especially in Snake Village outside Hanoi.
Credit: Courtesy of "Oomingmak" Musk Ox Producers' Co-Op/Laurie Lashlee
Qiviut Nachaq (Hat), Alaska
Why It's Unique: Made of the soft underbelly of a musk ox—shed naturally every spring—qiviut (pronounced "kiv-ee-ute") is renowned for being extremely warm and never scratchy. It's perfect for hats, caps, and scarves. And craftspeople knit their home village's signature pattern into each piece.
Why It's Unique: Don't worry—nobody's culling these cute hoppers just for kicks. While kangaroos are protected in Australia, their sheer numbers dictate a government-sanctioned harvesting; the results are used for meat, leather, and yes, even bottle openers. In fact, no part is spared: you might also come across 'roo paws crafted into backscratchers.
Where to Find It: Gift shops, particularly in Cairns.
Why It's Unique: Who would have guessed that this little-black-dress of candy bars could get so exotic?In Japan, green-tea Kit Kats—in which the wafers are coated with a pale green-tea-infused candy coating—are the most notable, but you can also try yubari melon, white maple syrup, pineapple, or even pumpkin Kit Kats. Another hot candy of late has been the "chocolate larva" made by Akita confectioner Komatsuya Honten. While, thankfully, there are no actual larva parts involved, the worm-resembling candies are made of chocolate, cornflakes, and another local snack favorite, dried squid.
Where to Find It: Supermarkets and convenience stores in Tokyo.
Why It's Unique: The Russians are still shedding remnants of their past, selling U.S.S.R. generals' fur hats (complete with red star), military coats, and more. Even if you want to call this kitsch, at least it has historical (and sometimes even fashionable) significance.
Where to Find It: Markets on Old Arbat Street in Moscow, or the bustling Izmailovo Market, outside the city center.
Cost: On Old Arbat Street, hats and coats run $80-$120. Izmailovo Market, a little more out of the way, boasts prices of up to 30 or 40 percent less—and usually has a wider selection.
Why It's Unique: Pumped from 3,000 feet below the ocean's surface off the coast of Kona, the desalinated MaHaLo water is touted as being exceptionally pure, free of pesky pollutants, and rich in the nutritious trace minerals not found in other bottled waters (it's already a big hit in Japan, where most of the inventory is sent).
Credit: Courtesy of Famous Newfoundland Screech Rum
Newfoundland Screech Rum, Canada
Why It's Unique: Technically, this rum is made in Jamaica, where it was once traded to Canadians for salt fish (who got the better deal?). It has been imported, bottled, and distributed up here for so long, however, that it's considered homegrown. Originally much stronger than your typical rums, it got its name during World War II when an American soldier stationed in Canada supposedly took a generous shot of it and let out the namesake outburst. Unlike most rum one finds in America, Screech is aged at least two years, resulting in a mellower flavor.
Where to Find It: Canadian liquor stores, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador; read more at screechrum.com.
Why It's Unique:New Zealand reportedly has so many possum running around that this has become a common and accepted fabric. It's distinctly warmer than sheep's wool, locals say, while also lighter in weight. Plus, if it matters, it's considered one of the least flammable textiles around. (Think about it: have you ever seen a possum burst into flames?)
Where to Find It: Gift shops in Christchurch, Auckland, or Wellington, under the brand names Lothlorian or Merino Mink.