We got in touch with Terry Anzur, who runs the travel blog Strangers in the Living Room, and she was kind enough to answer some of our questions, as follows.
Where are from, and why did you come to Slovenia?
I came to Slovenia in search of my family history. Growing up in California, I was told my ancestry was Polish on my mother’s side and Austrian on my father’s. My paternal grandparents left their hometown of Kresnice when it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1911. The US immigration documents listed their ethnicity as Slovene. My grandfather worked in a coal mine in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, and my father was born there. He was never allowed to learn Slovenian. My grandparents died before I was born.
When I first visited Slovenia in 2009, it felt like my home. I recognized many typical Slovene dishes – goveja juha and potica – from my childhood. Many of our family traditions also turned out to be Slovene. My son and I successfully applied for dual citizenship through ancestry. I plan to write about this process on the blog, in order to help other Slovenian Americans connect with their roots here.
What are some of the challenges you faced when you arrived here?
There’s a difference between coming as a tourist and planning to stay for a while. In the tourist bubble, you will have no problem finding people who speak some English. That changed when I got my Slovene passport. When people here learn that I’m a citizen, they expect me to speak Slovene. When opening a bank account my son had to translate for me, because a citizen did not need to go to the English-speaking desk for foreigners.
Terry and classmates in the Slovene language summer school
Because of that I made the commitment to learn the language, and I also blogged about the courses from the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana. My son studied Polish in high school at the Pope John Paul II Center in California, so learning Slovene was much easier for him.
Last summer I met Marijana Podhraški, the blogger who publishes the excellent website Let’s Go Slovenia. She is a former TV journalist and connected me with people at RTV. I was interviewed on the Odmevi program about how the US media covers President Trump [see the picture, below]. The interview was recorded in English and the Slovenian subtitles were added before the broadcast. The host, Igor Evgen Bergant, challenged me to do a future interview in Slovene. It might take a couple of years, but I am very motivated!
When did you start your blog, Strangers in the Living Room, and why?
After working as a TV journalist in the USA for 25 years and teaching journalism at the University of Southern California, I started my consulting company. One of my first clients was the government of Maldives. They hired me to teach the state TV and radio how to cover the country’s first multi-party democratic presidential election. The blog was intended to inform my American journalist friends about my adventure in the Maldives. It was a very snarky blog with comments about the cultural differences. The Maldivians also started reading it, and it became a teaching moment. I saw how blogging could bring different cultures together.
Terry by the Dragon Bridge
How do you get ideas for content?
My family of three is passionate about travel. We don’t have birthday parties, we go on trips. I share the sights, food, culture and activities that my family finds interesting. I try to provide a roadmap for other travelers to have the same great experiences. I frequently connect with popular TV shows and local journalists in the countries I visit. They also provide great ideas for the blog. Of course, I am always interested in working with tourism associations, as well as hotels, restaurants and attractions that might be interested in sponsoring a press opportunity or FAM trip for my blog. [A FAM trip is a free or low-cost familiarisation trip to promote a destination – JLF]
What is the goal of your blog?
Strangers in the Living Room recognizes that every traveler is a stranger in somebody’s living room. When you have a great trip, it’s usually because of “the kindness of strangers.” That’s a famous quote from the American playwright Tennessee Williams. But it also sums up my belief that we all depend on the people we meet along the way.
I aim for a dedicated following of engaged travelers, expats and other journalists who need practical information, or just want something fun to read. So far, the blog is growing every day. I’m in the top 1% of Trip Advisor reviewers, with more than 200,000 readers. I hope to become a destination expert on Slovenia as a gateway to adventures in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe. My son now lives in Ljubljana, and I hope to make it my second home.
What’s your day job, and how does it affect your blog?
I travel around the United States – and the world – teaching other journalists how to do their jobs more effectively. When I am not too busy teaching, I blog. I also get to visit some really cool places when I’m teaching – from Pakistan to Alaska. I try to schedule some personal time for blogging in each place.
Terry hanging out in Costa Rica
What are some posts that your particularly proud of?
Tough question. I can’t choose! I loved going to Paris to see two operas in one weekend.
I also like adventure trips like this one in Costa Rica.
But my favorite posts are about Slovenia. Tourism officials told me the typical visitor only stays for two days, just enough to visit Ljubljana, Bled and maybe the Postojna Caves. But there is so much more! Check out my two minute Slovenia video for another website, The Voyage Report.
What are some locations you recommend in Slovenia, outside of Ljubljana and Bled?
I thoroughly enjoyed Maribor, which doesn’t always get the respect it deserves.
Celje is a hidden gem. It’s got legendary counts who managed to marry into the other royal families of Europe, and its own Romeo and Juliet story. I love the tale of world traveler Alma Karlin, who is just now being embraced as a Slovene, although she wrote about her journeys in German.
And the two weeks I spent in Piran? Probably my favorite vacation EVER!
Where do you live, and what do you recommend there?
I live in California. It’s a dream destination for many travelers, especially San Francisco and the wine regions. I also recommend cultural attractions near my home in Los Angeles like the Getty Museum, as well as the craziness of Hollywood or “Surf City” in Huntington Beach. Disneyland and the other theme parks are not really my thing.
Can you recommend another blog or source of information on the Slovenian scene?
Let’s Go Slovenia is a must-read for anyone planning a trip here. Marijana also dives into some off-the-beaten path trip ideas for people already living here.
But I’d also say, don’t neglect the obvious. I’ve found national, local and regional tourism information authorities here to be excellent sources of free information and free or low-cost tours. I would include Visit Ljubljana, Maribor-Pohorje and the Slovenia Tourist Board (the I feel sLOVEnia people) as especially helpful. And I love the Expats in Slovenia Facebook group! That’s where I discovered Total Slovenia News.