I Still Haven’t Learned To Throw Away A Bottle – 7 Ways Bottles Are Practically Cherished In Slovakia


Twice Removed

August 4, 2016

Allan Stevo

In Slovakia a good bottle is a keepsake, a treasure reused over and again. Bottles are the timeless containers that good memories are poured from and good stories shared around. Bottles are almost as central to Slovak culture, as the homemade spirits and wines that flow from them are central to European culture.

Though I live in America now, it’s been hard to look at an empty bottle and toss it immediately, as is the American way. There is just too much intrinsic value to it. That intrinsic value exists 6,000 miles away in Slovakia, not in urban America.

  • 1. You can’t easily drink slivovica from a 40 liter demijohn (though perhaps some have tried). The re-used bottle is an important medium that links demijohn, serving glass, drinker, and a fun time. The serving glass too is an important part of this equation. It is said in Slovakia that only a drunk would drink from a bottle.
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  • 2. You bring bottles to people who make wine and homemade alcohol, of which there are many. They will have an endless use for them and might even send you away with a bottle full of their latest creation as a thank you present.
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  • 3. You bring bottles to the market to fill with wine or alcohol. You may be charged extra if you don’t bring your own.
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  • 4. You keep bottles around the house in case you have an alcohol in need of a new container. Perhaps a big two liter plastic bottle of homemade alcohol that you purchase or have gifted to you will be redistributed as gifts into smaller bottles.
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  • 5. Well constructed bottles may be used around the house for a variety of homemade items ranging from syrups or juices to things that I cannot even fathom. Many Slovaks make things at home that they proudly present to guests and a well constructed bottle could easily be a meaningful part of that presentation.
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  • 6. You might hang onto a nice looking or novelty bottle because you want to serve alcohol in the nice bottle. Popular novelty bottles in Slovakia range from long rifles to tiny little barrels like those carried by St. Bernard’s through the Swiss Alps. The most exotic of these in Slovakia tend to be containers for medovina, a wine made from honey.
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  • 7. As a subset of the previous, you might refill an expensive empty bottle with a less expensive alcohol when you pour a drink for a guest, as a way to deceptively add to a guest’s experience. If the guest is bold enough to ask if it’s really “xyz” expensive spirits, which no one would ask, then you tell them. I have a friend who does that, though he is not Slovak. I have yet to meet a Slovak who does this. I think the Slovaks I know are likely to own up to it and proudly serve even very cheap alcohol in the original bottle if that’s what they purchased.

Contrary to this opportunity where the reusing of a bottle is so significant in Slovakia that it even has a pronounced social aspect, there’s practically nothing I can do with a bottle in the context of my American life:

They are an item for the recycling bin. I can make a decision to seek out a recycling bin or just toss it. When I used to blow glass I would crush bottles and throw them into the furnace. Some places have deposits to encourage bottles (usually plastic and not glass) to get recycled. New York is full of hunched over Chinese women with giant garbage bags of plastic bottles walking into the nearest Walgreens, Duane Reade or CVS to return them. They are a mere temporary container. Though significant energy goes into constructing bottles well in America for marketing purposes, more or less bottles have no place in American society once they are empty.

The empty bottle of European alcohol siting on the windowsill where my friends and I placed it to momentarily move it out of the way is a burden for me in America (How can I not waste it?) and a treasure in Slovakia (Who will I give it to?).

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Photo credit: lifehacker.com, ourwastematters.com

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