It was one of my first visits to the Adriatic Coast in the summer of '07. It happened near a city called Zadar, but this story could have happened anywhere in Croatia - anywhere in the Balkans for that matter. I ordered a drink at a recommended pizzeria. It was a friendly place - one of those restaurants where the waiter will have a conversation with you and you realize he's not doing it just to get a bettter tip. And you know when you've had one of those days when the first thing you want to do when you sit down is have an ice-cold drink? It was one of those days.
So when the waiter brought a tiny glass of water with no ice, I got hotter than I already was. "Can we ask this guy for some ice?" I tried to ask my wife cooly. Petra laughed and told the guy I was a foreigner and I like ice. He smiled, turned and hurried to the kitchen, returning quickly with an ice-cube.
One measly stinkin' piece of ice.
"I can handle one ice-cube", the waiter explained to us after we asked him for more ice, "but after two I'll have a sore throat for weeks."
And that's how it went down. I'm not exaggerating.
Let me clinch it with another example from a guy who grew up in Bosnia but spent a lot of time in the States. His wife told us about how they went to a seven-eleven together in Florida one time and got one of those huge drinks they sell for 99 cents. When he took his first gulp of the ice-filled drink, he put his head back, let the cold fluid sit in his mouth to warm it up, and only then dared to allow the beverage to trickle down his throat.
You think I'm making this up? I'm not. But I will say this; the fear of ice and cold things that exists here, is matched by a fear we Americans obsess over. More on that next time.