Here’s the deal. There is only one thing that is above wars, conflicts, politics, nationalism and the economy. No, it is not God. It’s rakija, Goddess of all alcoholic beverages.
Distilled drops of heaven — or hell, depending on the age of the consumer, drinking experience and threshold of alcohol tolerance.
In English-speaking areas of the world, rakija is known as schnapps. And in this part of the world schnapps sounds like a type of chihuahua or a pink drink that comes with a little umbrella in the glass. Since it’s such a bad name for something that could take down a polar bear in heat and out of my deepest respect, I will continue to call it by its real name.
I’m sure you all remember the first time your tried it. That awkward moment when you are barely a teenager at a family barbecue. You are desperately trying to steal a sip of beer when all of a sudden someone older taps you on your shoulder, hands you a little glass and says with a suspicious grin: “Here, try this …”
Let me break this down for you in a slow motion.
You politely take the glass while doing an imaginary happy dance: Someone just offered you some booze! You sniff the content of the glass and after you almost pass out from the fumes, you conclude something strong must be in it. It also smells like your next door neighbor’s breath early in the morning. Doing a happy dance again because in a few seconds you will drink alcohol! WOO HOO!
As the glass approaches your mouth, you take one last look around to make sure your mother isn’t watching you. This is your last chance to taste the sweet nectar and you are not giving up on it even if you have to duck down underneath the first table to finish what you started.
The glass has now officially touched your lips. “Just drink it fast, in one quick sip” says the encourager with that weird grin still glued on his face. And then you pour the content of the glass in your mouth: It’s the end of the world as you know it.
Fire starts burning in your head. The kind of fire that would make Frodo Baggins slip a ring down your throat. Your face starts to look like one of Van Gogh’s post-impressionist paintings, spectrum of pain containing all the colors of the rainbow, until at one point it turns into avant garde monochromatic canvas, overflowing with red. Your eyes pop out, beads of sweat shimmer on your forehead, knees are shaking.
As you cough your soul out, the encourager and the rest of his entourage sympathetically pat you on the back while slowly dying with laughter.
Yes, you just had your first encounter with rakija.
This is when you swear off alcohol completely. “For the rest of my life!” you naively scream, without realizing that in a decade or so rakija will become one of your closest friends with whom you will share all the important events of your life. You will celebrate with it, drown your sorrows in it. Not to mention you will mingle with it every time you catch a cold, get a stomach ache or back spasm.
I proudly salute to the one and only. Cheers.
The article was originally written in English.
Photot Credit: Nema Etebar
Illustration: Marie Fette
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