[Part 1 ot the essay, entitled "Geopoloitics", is not included here.]

2. Spritzer

The mythology of Central Europe is, in many respects, an additional source of frustration for Romania. Excluded, at least for the time being, from Western Europe, we discover, there, yet another territory of exclusion. Many of the authors who expand, analytically, on the concept of Mitteleuropa, forget to include us on the map of their preoccupations. They talk about Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia, which constitute a kind of select club (?the Vișegrad group?), while  Walachia?s territory is seen only by some as linkable to the same zone. One would rather say we find ourselves midway between Central Europe and the Balkans. Our vocation would be, therefore, that of intermediary spaces, of the interval, of the charm of indetermination. We have enough Central-European substance to be able to live nostalgically the mirage of the imperial Kakania[1], but not enough to really feel at home within its borders. However, there is something that links us to this mirage in an obvious, and, I believe, an irreversible fashion. Something that no one can contest us, something that has flown into our blood and that can even bestow on us some titles of excellence. This something is a drink, or, rather, a way of drinking that was invented somewhere in Austria, and which found its distinguished and incorruptible servants not so much in Transylvania, but rather in the Kingdom of Walachia, on the outskirts of the Balkans. I refer to spritzer, the teasing mixture of wine and bubbling water (soda in the classic times, mineral water more recently), which dominates with lavishness our traditional dinner tables, in spite of some dogmatic western protestations. The spritzer is the very spirit of a party, the absolute solvent to the spleen of the pub. Within its threefold being ? wine ? water ? air -, rests a true Weltanschauung. There is nothing more Central-European than the diaphanous vitality of this mixture. Central Europe is, actually, the apotheosis of the mixed condition, the euphoria of mixture: multinational, multicultural, the intersection of the Paradise with the Apocalypse, a source, but also a victim, of the two World Wars, merry and melancholic, bourgeois and absurd, Central Europe is the spritzer of Europe, its convivial ?battery?. Tonic water and diluted alcohol, the spritzer is the coincidentia oppositorum in its boulevard materialization. Likewise, Mitteleuropa is the coexistence in the bonhomie of contrasts, the place of all kinds of making up, of equivocation, of compromise. Nowhere else worlds that are so disparate are more disposed to find an agreement than here. The masculine wine dilutes in the feminity of water, the ethylic rigidity is mellowed by the sociable soda. Water becomes the receiving body of an incandescent spirit. The spritzer is the minor reply of a kind of metaphysics of the embodiment: it is wine turned into flesh, ecstasy adapted to terrestrial limitations? It is not only a perfect ?representation? of mixture, of domesticated contrasts. It is, at the same time, a symbol of the ?golden mean?, of the ?median line?.  György Konrad talked, during the 80?s, of a true ?Tao? of Central Europe: a land of optimal location (of good ?disposition?) between the West and the East, between the grave and the ridiculous. On one hand the wine, on the other the water, with the specification that water can be, in its turn, ?fiery?, or igniting, like the Slavic vodka, the Gallic eau de vie, or like the various ?waters? (Wässer) which denote, in German, fruit brandies (Kirschwasser, Pflaumenwasser etc.) The spritzer depends a lot on the quality of the soda, just as beer depends on the quality of the water. By the way: there is, in the rattling away of air bubbles in the spritzer, a reminder of the acidity of beer. You would say, almost, that the spritzer is the result of an adventurous effort to bring wine and beer closer, to confer upon wine?s sobriety the Witz (joke) of fermentation. (One has not yet reflected enough upon the great cultural conflict between southern wine and northern beer, compared to which Huntington?s incursions into the subject of the clash of civilizations are just trivial abstractions.) There it is: the spritzer tries to mediate between beer and wine, between the baroque and the classic, just as Central Europe tries to mediate between western and eastern radicalism.

An essential ? and quintessential ? virtue of the spritzer is its ?prickling? volubility. In the spritzer, wine and water are given a voice, they seem to roll their r?s and gossip. The fullness that subsequently accompanies libations is a parable of euphoria, of pride and floating nonchalance? Acidity can be pompous, but also the origin of irony. Wine is serious like a sermon, the spritzer is sprightly and sarcastic, just as beer is placid, popular, lying somewhere between gregarious merriness and monosyllabic bonhomie. Mitică cannot be imagined without the jocular irony of the spritzer. Mitică is not from the Balkans. He is Central-European. ?An inhabitant of Bucharest par excellence??  Not in the least! Mitică is Viennese. No one drinks without the desire, more or less innocent, to enter a state of giddiness, of light delirium. But if you appeal to acute spirits, to outspoken brandy, you risk a too rapid effect, without the voluptuousness of accumulation. Drunkenness that cuts you off short, like a stroke, is rudimentary. The drinker does not only want to drink efficiently, he wants to drink a lot. Or, from this point of view, the spritzer is unique. It offers an indefinite perspective to otherness, it allows for the long race, for the mile-long performance. Like Sufism?s love lyrics, it values expectation over possession. The drinker of spritzer is a specialist in postponing. The same applies to the Central-European. His destiny is defined by the dexterity to be late, to get lost in interminable negotiations, digressions and non-commitments. Everything can be postponed: drunkenness, decisions, happiness, history? And if this philosophy is typical for Central Europe, can anyone still doubt that we belong to the same space? Of course not. For us, the spritzer is not, therefore, a mere whim, a chance food habit. It is a geopolitical chance, one of the fastest ways ? possibly the only one ? towards Europe.

[Translated by Lidia Bradley, June 2007]



[1] Term inspired by the Austro-Hungarian K&K monarchy