I love the weekend. The possibilities. The realities. The adventures!

Friday night I found myself in a liquor store while on a date – he is also a beer nut, but not quite as fanatical as me … we’re working on this. 😉 It was fun and a really cute way to spend time together. I am trying to learn what he likes and what he doesn’t like so we can explore new beers together – okay enough gushing. Well, as we were walking to the beer section of the store, I did a double take. I couldn’t believe what I saw! I had all but forgotten about this item and that I’ve tried it.

For some of you loyal readers, you’ll remember I wrote a blog post back in October about Ouzo when I found out I was to travel to Rome, Greece & Turkey with Lino Rulli and The Catholic Guy Show crew. Little did I know, it has a cousin called Raki (pronounced Rock-E) and can be found in Turkey. Raki is an unsweetened, anise-flavored spirit that is popular in Turkey, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia and other Balkan countries as an apéritif. It is often served with seafood or meze. In Turkey, Raki is the national drink and is traditionally consumed either straight, with chilled water on the side or partly mixed with chilled water, according to personal preference. So as I was walking through the liquor store, the bottles with EFE written on them caught my attention. “EFE like Ephesus? What’s this?” I said to myself. Upon further inspection, I realized what this was and laughed out loud, telling my date to come over and look (he was totally clueless as to why I was SO amused).

RakiAs soon as I saw the bottle of Raki on Friday night, I quickly snapped a photo and uploaded it to Facebook asking my fellow pilgrims if they remember this. Joel from The Practicing Catholic suggested I write a blog post about it. This post is dedicated to you, Joel! Cheers!

So in May, I traveled to Rome, Greece & Turkey on the trip of a lifetime (with a group of the very best people I’ve ever met!). We stopped for a morning in Ephesus, Turkey. After touring the House of Mary and the ancient city of Ephesus (Want to know more about this? Check out my appearance on the Among Women podcast with Pat Gohn), we were let off the bus and ushered into a strange situation. Without really even knowing what was going on, we were shuffled into a building and told to walk up some stairs. SAY WHAT? Only the day before had we found out the United States killed Osama bin Laden and here we are in Turkey as American Catholics. Need less to say, we were all a bit on edge.

Turkish Rug MakingThe bottom floor of this building was a jewelry store and as we climbed the stairs to an upper room led by people who didn’t seem to speak English very well, we were all growing in our nervousness. Here we are in a foreign country entering a room with no windows and not really knowing WHY we were here. The room was lined with benches and had rugs hung on the wall. We sat down and they asked us if we wanted something to drink. I must confess, I had a moment of pure fear thinking is this a trick question? Are you all gypsies? Are they trying to poison us? They gave us a few options of beverages: Raki, Red/white wine, water and Turkish coffee. But a gentleman began to speak and he calmed our nerves – slightly. He started out the greeting by asking us if we were happy “Are you happy? We are happy. Are you happy?” He was trying to relate to our feelings on the events of the day before. The whole situation was extremely bizarre. But quickly we realized we were in a rug shop and were there to watch how Turkish rugs were made – he explained to us how the Turkish government wants to ensure this art form is continued so they select young Turkish women to be paid to do this trade in particular. It turned out to be a really neat part of the trip.

In a few minutes, our drinks arrived as we watched a young woman weave a beautiful rug and men laid out hundreds of rugs for us to see (and hopefully purchase). I had ordered both a Raki and a Turkish coffee. I started with the Raki. WHOA. Keep in mind it was 10 a.m. and this is a powerful apéritif! I wasn’t ready for the slap in the face that it delivered. It is usually 80 proof and tasted like a harsher version of Ouzo – the licorice flavor was overwhelming. Some other folks who ordered it couldn’t even get past the smell so they never even tasted it. They served it to us straight. It was warm. And boy, it was tough to drink. After pushing myself to finish it (I didn’t by the way – too powerful!), I had a nice flush to my face and I enjoyed some traditional Turkish coffee. YUM. Although it had lots of grounds at the bottom. Gross. I would for sure order it again, however.

It was definitely the most bizarre occurrence of our trip, but it brings a smile to my face as I remember how nervous we all were. It was quite the experience to try a new liquor this way. I can’t say that I’ll go out and buy a whole bottle of Raki, but I can look at it fondly when I see it or maybe could enjoy just a shot out at a restaurant. However, it will forever remind me of my experience in Turkey. Who’s ready to go back? I know I am.