Last night, I ended up in a bar in Athens after speaking at a conference with a Swede, an English lady, and two Estonians. It could have been the starting point of a really bad joke (A Swede, a Dutchman, an English lady and two Estonians enter a bar …), but it was the starting point of a remarkable evening. Sharing stories, habits, laughs, cries and thoughts and making new memories. And then one of the Estonians told me about “Karu tuleb, karu läheb”

The idea of Karu tuleb, karu läheb

“Karu tuleb, karu läheb” translates into “the bear comes, the bear goes”, but it might be better to remember it as “the beer goes, the beer comes”. The bear referring to the Russian part of the habit – wodka.

The idea is remarkably simple yet painfully painful and bordering suicidal:
You start out with a full glass of beer.
Every time you drink a sip of beer, you replace the volume in the glass by wodka (“the bear”). This, until the glass is fully replaced by wodka.
And then you’re only halfway.
Because from then, every sip of wodka you drink it is replaced by beer again until all the wodka volume in the glass again has been replaced by beer.

Maybe needless to say and as put aptly by one of the Estonians: “many have seen the bear come, very few have seen the bear go”.

Tempting as it might have been (ahum), I didn’t try it that evening.
Terviseks (cheers) to karu tuleb, karu läheb.

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