First, it was schnapps -- not brandy. Many rural Slovenians take pride in their home-made schnapps, which varies in quality from delicious to "Holy shit why would anyone make liquor out of cumin?" Most of the folks I spoke with in old taverns across the ancient town claimed salamander brandy is not hallucinogenic: It just hit harder than normal moonshine and "took the legs out from under you." When I asked if I could find any, the answer was always the same: "Not here. But some shady rednecks in the village over still brew it."
This town, in the beautiful Poljanska Valley, had a nickname my interpreter, Neza, always translated as "Clusterfuck." She drove my friends and I into the valley to find Clusterfuck, and the truth about salamander brandy ... but, unfortunately, we didn't get much more information. It had been common after World War II, some old-timers told us, but times were better now -- so who'd drown salamanders for a high anymore?
My trip to Slovenia ended with new friends, wonderful sausage, and bitter disappointment: Salamander brandy is real, or had been. But I'd failed to find it. A normal website would've left the story here. But this is Cracked, goddammit, and if we don't spend thousands of dollars tracking down the truth behind every single error in our articles, what will we spend thousands of dollars on? More Getty images of Ryan Gosling?
Luca Carlino/NurPhoto via Getty Images
I had to cash in the company 401(k). It was the right decision.
Sure, that's actually a wonderful use of our funds. But this is too!
As soon as I got home, I ordered a European fire salamander from the internet, because we live in a world where strange foreign amphibians can be on your front porch within 48 hours of an impulsive decision to buy one. DON'T WORRY -- I didn't drown the little guy in schnapps. I'm not a monster. After giving him a month to settle in, I just sort of ... milked him.