Monday, December 1, 2008

They drink the votki raw, and in large quantities

That this part of Finland was but little cultivated was too evident, from the scanty and bad quality of the subsistence to be met with in all the villages through which we passed, and in which we were rarely able to procure any other species of provisions than the coarsest brown bread, baked as hard as a sailor's biscuit, or burnt rather to a cinder, which in appearance it pretty much resembled. Add to this a little fish, dried or salted, sour cream, and sometimes, though not always, salted butter — and you have the sum total of what may be expected in a Finnish village. Fortunately we had been informed of this scarcity before starting, and had laid in a tolerably good stock of tongues, chickens, and other good things, together with a small supply of eau de vie, which we thought would have been sufficient, with the addition of any other beverage we might chance to meet with ; but in this we were disappointed; we found nothing whatever but the ardent spirit called Votki : so that when our little stock of brandy was exhausted, we had no alternative but to resort to this native liquor, which we had heard much abused and execrated as a most villanous beverage, but which we did not find to deserve such a character. The flavour is more that of whiskey than any other spirit, is exceedingly fiery, but, when mixed with hot water and sugar, is by no means unpleasant.

John Barrow: Excursions in the North of Europe: Through Parts of Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway (1835)

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