Monday, November 16, 2015

The First Time I Drank Rakia

My wife and I arrived in Sofia in early 2009 at the start of a two-year job relocation. We had never before lived in Europe, had never previously lived in a big city. We looked forward to the possibilities of travel and new experiences and were quite excited as we began our Bulgarian adventure. A heavy snowfall greeted my wife when she flew into Sofia, and we realized our adventures would have to wait. We settled into a daily routine of working, shopping, laundry, cooking, and living ordinary lives in a strange and unfamiliar country. Still, we were eager to venture out from our apartment and begin our explorations.

Just around the corner from where we lived I discovered a very small chef’s restaurant, called The Golden Apple. On my way home at the end of one of our first work weeks, I stopped in and made dinner reservations. It was Friday night and it would be good to go out.

The waiter brought menus to our table, and we asked for the English version. Realizing that we were newcomers to the country, the waiter asked, “Have you ever tried rakia?”

We had heard about rakia, the national drink of Bulgaria, but we had not yet tried it. We ordered rakia and drank it as we ate our starter salads. I found it a bit strong, but then, we were living in Bulgaria, so we might as well behave like the natives.

When our main courses arrived – veal for my wife and pepper steak for me – the waiter suggested a Bulgarian wine. Why not? We were keen on trying all local products so we each ordered a glass of red wine.

When my wife drinks a bit too much, she gets giggly. Our dinner became a lively affair, with the good food accompanied by laughter and more wine.

“I don’t feel anything,” I said, dismissing the affect of the alcohol. And then I got up to go the bathroom. The floor of the restaurant was rising and falling, as if I was on a ship in the middle of the ocean. My head was cloudy and it was a struggle to put one foot in front of the other. “Whoah!” I said, as I slowly, and carefully, navigated my way across the room.

Over time, I began to appreciate drinking rakia (an acquired taste, for sure). I began to prefer the potent homemade version that we received as gifts from our friends. However, based on what happened the first time I drank rakia, I learned not to mix it with other drinks. One glass of rakia during a meal is more than enough for me!

Originally published on Eat Stay Love Bulgaria


  1. I love reading your stuff, Ellis! There's always something new to learn and this time, it's Rakia. I honestly had no clue about it until now, haha. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. Take care, my friend.

  2. My hubby drank the locally made version and thought he was Jackie Chan, he is usually such a gentle quiet soul. We are often given a small bottle of the homemade some better than others. The second time he laid on the patio gazing at the stars and telling all what a wonderful world we live in. Which we do, Raki also seems a good language translater

    1. Drinking rakia can lead to some interesting situations!