One of the unique experiences that comes with staying in people’s homes instead of hostels or hotels is getting the chance to taste truly authentic food and drink. After hitchhiking my way into Sophia for the first of many times, I was given a small glass full of clear, delicious smelling pear rakia, homemade by my host’s father in the countryside. Rakia is the traditional national liquor of Bulgaria and other Balkan states, all of whom claim that they created it. It’s made by fermenting and distilling fruit and comes in a variety of “flavors”, most commonly plum, grape, and apricot-they all taste like fire to me. The 2 fluid ounces of spirit, which can be anywhere between 40% and 60% alcohol, is meant to be sipped throughout a meal, but I couldn’t hang with that: I shot mine straight down and needed to soak it up with carbalicious banitsa immediately. However, it’s a definite MUST try when in the Balkans.