The Magic Medicine – Slivovica
Simply put, drinking is part of the Euro trip experience. It wouldn’t be a Euro rip if upon your return you didn’t have copious stories to tell of your drunken shenanigans, reckless nights and efforts to navigate your way back to the hostel speaking in a foreign language. Having recently returned from my own Euro trip, parts of which are a complete and utter blur, I thought I would educate my fellow Western travellers on one spirit in particular that blew my mind. Having arrived in a distraught and sickly state to the Slovakian town of Bratislava with my fellow lads, I felt that a night of rest was exactly what the doctor had ordered. I soon came to find that this was quite to the contrary. My friends insisted we explore the nightlife on our first night. Thanks to their insisting, later in the evening I was cured by the traditional Slovakian spirit, Slivovica. After just one big gulp, I felt a physical shock and was practically unable to move, but then a magical feeling came over me. I felt the warm rush all over my body and a sense of ease, happiness and not a care in the world. Needless to say whatever sickness I had before had been completely knocked out of me. I later heard that many Slovakians use this liquor as an alternative for antibiotics and the flu and I can certainly see why.
Slivovica is a brandy usually distilled from plums (although other wild fruits can be used) and results in transparent and strong liquor with a 50-55% alcohol content, but the homemade versions can often go much higher than this. Wondering how this magical drink is made? In Slovakia, a large quantity of fruit is placed in a barrel and then left at room temperature for approximately 6 weeks to ferment. The resulting concoction is then heated in a closed off vessel in order to allow the alcohol to vaporize before it passes through a cooler, condenses and then proceeds to come out into a bucket. The resulting liquid is distilled a second time round to produce what is known as palenka, a type of liquor ready to be drunk.
But ladies and gentlemen I must warn you, this beverage is not for the light hearted. After a few gulps of this Slivovica, the warmth that overwhelms your body may make it difficult for you to move and the physical shock after your first few gulps certainly catches you by surprise. I am certainly not the only traveller to have experienced this legendary drink. Eric Freymond, the Carpathian Wanderer, also stumbled upon Slivovica when partying it up with some Ukrainians in a small bar in Považská Bystrica, Slovakia. However, my fellow traveller made one key error and chose to mix Slivovica with shots of vodka and beer. Alas, not only could he not walk that night but woke up with quite the hangover. So warning to all: if drunk alone, this liquor won’t give you a smidgen of a hangover (some Slovakians even take a few shots for breakfast) but when mixed, expect a rough morning hugging your best friend, the toilet.
Regardless I vouch for this spirit as the best cure to any sickness or flu you may be experience. So fellow Euro trippers, make sure you head to Slovakia and give Slivovica a try. I guarantee it will not fail you!