Three water mistakes

Three times when I was wrong about water in three states.

1. Romania

It’s post-New Year’s Eve morning in the country that doesn’t recommend drinking tap water. Maybe you could but you shouldn’t. The natives don’t. They are Orthodox too. We have just had a joyous if boozy celebration that included jumping around to “Ka-la-shnikov” with a bunch of Albanians.

And now it’s morning, and as you can imagine, I’m thirsty.

The household is still asleep as I’m ghosting around in search of water. I remember the tap warnings and don’t go there. No bottled water in the fridge. No water anywhere. Finally I spot a big plastic bottle, half filled. I have a good long swallow.

“Nooooo!” comes from the doorway. It’s my Macedonian hostess.

I’m alarmed, not knowing if the result will be instant death or just a severely upset tummy. But then her words slowly paint a picture:

“It’s holy water!”

Thank you, priest, for having come to this home and blessed this water that has just saved my life. See? There must be something inside.

2. Greece

Two weeks of the Peloponnese with two Peugeots. The other one is on a bit of a strike. There are turns where it simply stops and we have to wait. On one such turn we decide to make a camp of it. Not many if any other car passes but if it does, it’s welcome to stop and party with us to my random mixed tapes and tequila shots, lemon and salt included.

Actually, it must stop because the broken car blocks the road.

When tequila runs out, we switch to a spur-of-the-moment idea: vodka, melon and cinnamon.

The next morning the mouth is dry again. The thirst is real. The search for water is imminent. Again, all others are still asleep as I roam around. No water in sight.

Then I find a plastic bottle in the trunk of one of the Peugeots.

I don’t mind, be it holy water, motor cooling water, cooking water.

The Peloponnese is not Crete where water is great wherever you take a sip and you can order “water from the pipe”, as Journey liked to call tap water.

We’ve had a round of tummy trouble already after I obviously didn’t cook the cooking water long enough when making pasta e fagioli.

But in that moment I don’t mind any of that. It’s a clear cool liquid. I open it, place it at the right angle and let it flow.

The first gulp makes me instantly reconsider and spit it out.

In Slovenian we call water voda. What a difference one added letter makes.

No digital photos from that trip. This is Lefkas Island years later.

3. London

Not long after the two instances above comes London. I arrive at night and the train brings me from the other airport to the King’s Cross. I roam around wiggling two suitcases in search of my hotel.

I pass Hotel California but that’s not that.

Amazing how tiny hotels here are. When I finally find mine, the room is not big enough to swing open my larger suitcase.

Before, down in the lobby, I notice the newspaper open on the page which says: “Slovenia. Know your enemy.”

It’s the World Soccer Championship and we are the enemies. This is one of the three reasons why I’m in town, wearing Team Slovenia sponsor’s shirt and hat (Union beer). I’m going to face the enemy in a pub on their turf, but they call it “the Slovenian pub”. Alas, they only serve the other beer and it runs out by the second half.

The steward on board of the cheap flight had ended his routine speech with “Let the best team win”. It didn’t. The team with the untouchable, penalty-providing Rooney won.

Luckily, I have the company of my lovely friend and Pearl Jam in Hyde Park to look forward to.

But that came later. Now it’s the first night in my room, it’s late and I’m thirsty. I didn’t think to pack water and now I keep glancing at the tap in serious concern. Should I have some? Nahhh. Look at this place. This London, so dirty.

Instead, I discover the friendly little water heater and have a tea, and a coffee, and a tea, and a coffee in a neat little row. With compliments of the room.

When I learn in the coming days that London’s tap water is – of course! – drinkable, I imagine if all the millions of people who live or pass here daily needed to buy water to survive.

And now think: Just how far removed we are from such a day?

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27 thoughts on “Three water mistakes

    1. Oh, Jan, so good to hear! I was age one at the time. 🙂 I’m not sure about Germany and their water quality these days. In my home here in Tuscany, for example, the water should be good to drink and we do it, occasionally, but it has a taste and smell and the level of limescale I’d prefer to do without.

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  1. hmmm – Manja, I’m detecting a pattern here … thirst after a night of celebrating 😉 I do like your style. If you’re going to party, party hard!

    I am so used to drinking water from a tap, I don’t really give it much thought. If I opt for bottled water when I’m travelling, it’s only because I don’t like the taste of the local water. It proved to be a serious lapse in judgement in Tanzania though 😉

    … and yes, there is a world of difference between voda and vodka. I imagine that was quite the eye-opener when you’re expecting the cool refreshing taste of water 😆

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    1. Oh, Joanne, there was a pattern but that was a loooong time ago. I’d die now if I had to party like we used to. Also, Slovenians are a thirsty bunch. Peer pressure is tremendous and it’s hard to escape it but I did it. In Italy they drink a glass with the meal and that’s how I drink now. So happy.

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  2. Sounds to me like your “mistakes” worked out well (pardon the pun). I’m not sure what the state of water is in S. Africa but I believe they hit the bottom of the well. Many places in the world suffer shortages of clean drinking water. Some of us are very lucky indeed.

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  3. Three very funny stories here! Seems strange to me that they would keep holy water in a plastic bottle just lying around but, then again, I’ve never had to store holy water…
    Out of curiosity, did the vodka + melon +cinnamon combination work quite well? Do you remember what kind of melon it was? I’m guessing it must have been quite good, considering how thirsty you were the next morning 😉

    And for reference, tap water is ok to drink in Australia too, but the taste varies across the country, and I’ve been told not to drink it in smaller towns, particularly those near mines.

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    1. Thank you, Pistachios, I’m always glad when you come to read. 🙂

      It was a pretty battered plastic water too, no label or anything, if I recall correctly. The combination would work in any case, we were beyond caring. We were simply indignant that we ran out of tequila and still wanted to hit slammers and grabbed the three most similar things. 😀 The melon was surely orange. I only knew that one and the (red) watermelon for the longest time, only later I was introduced to yellow and green melons. Rome has excellent water too, as does my town of birth Ljubljana in Slovenia (although not all over – we were lucky), but my home here in Tuscany is a part of a condominium with own water full of limescale and it doesn’t taste good at all.

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      1. Haha I guess in that case, just about any combination will work 😉

        It’s interesting finding out about the water quality in different places. I would’ve assumed all of Europe was ok. I suppose a cautious sip is usually enough to tell!

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