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How Can I Say No To the Worst Liquor in Slovakia?

How Can I Say No To the Worst Liquor in Slovakia?

Tatransky Vietor in Slovakia

Hiking through the Tatra Mountains is a welcome escape. A small distance from Poprad, Slovakia, is Popradske Pleso, a glacial mountain lake between the mountain ranges. The hike isn’t difficult, but after living in a city for the past few months, the elevation and my lack of sleep makes me feel tired. It was Good Friday, and all I wanted was to be out of the city.

We stop briefly as the path levels off to take in the view. Snow begins to appear around us. Seeing my dismay, a man to whom I had just been introduced by a mutual friend reaches into his bag and pulls out a bottle, labeled Tatransky Vietor.

At this point I’ve been exploring the food and drink of Slovakia for quite some time. I’ve savored the plum aftertaste of Slivovitz before exploring the country’s mountain caves, and sipped on Slovak wines overlooking the castles of Bratislava from their famous UFO Bridge and Tower.

But Tatransky Vietor is like nothing I’ve ever tasted before.

With one shot, I feel two things instantly. The first is warmth. Hot and burning, it slides down my throat and ignites a spark that travels down to the tips of my toes. The second is the sensation that I have just imbibed highly alcoholic toothpaste. Excessively minty, with a thick, almost slimy texture.

My friend jogs over to us, a sly but worried expression on his face. He tells me that, in his opinion, Tatransky Vietor is the worst liquor in Slovakia. My stomach churns a bit as we start moving again. Smiles and laughter fill the conversation and the warmth soon returns to my hands.

We stop a few times, each of us to have small tastes of Tatranky Vietor over the hike. We mask the drink’s flavor with Korbáčik, a hard string-cheese smoked and woven into fine braids. We are told that there will be deer goulash at the lake. I chew a pine needle later on to get rid of the taste of the liquor.

As we hike, I listen. My companions tell stories of Slovak history and describe the geology of the mountain ranges. They compare these mountains to others they’ve seen around the world: the Alps, the Himalayas, the unpredictable snow in South Africa’s mountain ranges.

Reaching the lake is something special. No matter how short or long the hike, there is something magical about reaching the destination. The moment is shared, but it’s still unique for each person. I exhale, surrounded by the looming mountain-tops and the icy lake.

I feel a tap on my shoulder, and see that familiar green liquid being proffered, tempting me. This time, a sly smile tugs at my lips. How can I say no to the worst liquor in Slovakia on Good Friday?

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