Lifestyle

11 Jan 2019, 14:20 PM

STA, 10 January 2019 - The Slovenian word of the year 2018 is čebela (honeybee), the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU) announced on Thursday. More than 2,000 votes, which is a new record, were collected in the third campaign to pick the word that left the biggest mark on the past year.

Honeybee was followed by micro-plastic (mikroplastika) and a cup of coffee, while the shortlist also included woman general (generalka), orbanisation (orbanizacija), graphic novel (risoroman), hatred (sovraštvo), texting (tekstati), tactile book (tipanka) and guard (varda).

According to Simon Atelšek, researcher of the Fran Ramovš Institute for the Slovenian Language and one of the authors of the Beekeepers' Terminological Dictionary, the Slovenian terminology in beekeeping has very few loanwords.

"This is because Slovenians have always been very advanced in this field - Anton Janša was appointed the head of the first royal beekeeping school by Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa in the 18th century - so we have been exporting our know-how rather than importing it like in law, military etc."

Another interesting fact is that "we had as many as four individual beekeepers' manuals by the mid-19th century, which is extraordinary compared to any other related field," Atelšek said.

Slovenian terms used in beekeeping reflect the great respect Slovenians feel towards honeybees, he said. While there are two different terms for dying for animals and humans in Slovenian, the term for bees is the same as for humans.

Moreover, the term for the queen bee is derived from the word mother in Slovenian.

This year, more than 2,000 people cast their vote for the word of the year in an on-line poll published on the website of the ZRC and the MMC portal, and both partners' accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

That is twice as many as last year, ZRC SAZU said.

The most innovative word of the year was also picked this year. The winning word is drečka, a bag for picking up dog poop.

Word of the year proposals are collected throughout the year and then a jury of experts makes a shortlist of ten words, which are put up for a vote.

In 2016, the word of the year was refugee and in 2017 European champions.

All our posts on the Slovenian language can be found here

11 Jan 2019, 12:50 PM

STA, 10 January 2019 - Slovenians place the highest trust in firefighters, nurses and scientists, but they distrust politicians and priests the most, while they also hold domestic SMEs in high regard, a survey has found.

The survey, conducted by pollster Valicon, showed fire-workers enjoying a 93% trust rate as the most trustworthy profession, followed by nurses (76%) and scientists (61%).

The least trusted professions are priests (-53%), government ministers (-69%) and politicians in general (-86%), however Valicon said that all of them fared better than December 2016 when the survey was conducted for the first time.

The most trustworthy institution or organisation is Slovenian small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with a 56% trust rate, followed by the company or organisation where the respondents work 38%.

The police force ranks third at 30%, followed by the armed forces at 22%, while the list is trailed by the ruling coalition parties (-61%), the National Assembly (-64%) and opposition parties (-67%).

The trust rate is calculated based a margin between the number of those who say they trust an institution fairly or very and those who say they do not trust it at all or rather don not than do.

Many still dissatisfied with the general situation in the country

The survey, called Slovenia's Mirror, also found that the proportion of those who are satisfied with the situation in the country in general rose from 2% at the time of mass anti-establishment protests in December 2012 to 28.4% in December 2018.

In turn, the proportion of the dissatisfied fell from 91% to 43.9%, while 27.7% said they were neither satisfied nor satisfied.

More than seven out of ten said they were happy personally, which compares to 58% six years ago.

The proportion of those who are optimistic about the future rose by more than ten percentage points to 43.5%, while the percentage of the glum nearly halved to 18%.

But only 20% believe that the situation in society is turning for the better, against roughly 40% who believe it is turning for the worse and as many who think the situation is not changing.

The survey was conducted based on an online panel of respondents between 14 and 16 December and between 21 and 23 December involving 1,001 respondents.

11 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 10 January 2019 - The local community of Moravče, a town north-east of Ljubljana, called a news conference on Thursday to allege that lorryfuls of toxic waste from the site of a 2017 fire at the Kemis waste-processing facility near Vrhnika had allegedly been dumped at a brownfield site in Moravče, allegations that Kemis denied.

Milan Balažic, a former Slovenian ambassador to Australia who was elected Moravče mayor in last year's local elections, laid out the case to the public, urging the government to impose an immediate ban on waste disposal at the site, or else face legal action in Brussels.

"A few days ago we obtained documents proving that tens, hundreds of heavy lorryfuls of toxic waste from the Kemis fire site were buried in Moravče in 2017 and 2018," Balažic said, warning that the site is located in a water protection area criss-crossed with surface waters.

As a result the toxic water is dripping into the local brook, which falls out into the Radomlja river and from there into the Kamniška Bistrica and into the Sava, Slovenia's longest river, he said.

"You understand that what has been hidden in the Moravče valley will not stay there," the mayor said, adding that "we can easily say that this is an environmental time bomb ticking at Ljubljana's doorstep".

The dump site is located on the site of an abandoned quartz sand quarry operated by the company Termit.

Asbestos, glass wool, plastic and oils in the soil

"After 2000, Termit started filling up the holes with building waste material, at least that's what's been published, including asbestos, glass wool, plastic and various oils, all of which became a serious threat to the soil, water and air in the Moravče valley," Balažic said.

He noted that the locals voted against further disposal of waste in a 2007 referendum.

Balažic accused the previous mayor, Martin Rebolj, to have colluded with the management of Termit to go around the result of the vote so that waste kept piling up at the site and even increased "to 100,000 tonnes a year".

Speaking about the waste from the Kemis fire site, Balažic said that "lorries with skull symbols" were spotted carrying waste in the valley even during Christmas and New Year holidays, with "eyewitnesses reporting that workers in hazmat suits were burying the material".

Alongside Balažic, the press conference was also addressed by Ljudmila Novak, a local who serves as MP for the opposition party New Slovenia (NSi). "Lately, we have been noticing that the tap water is strongly chlorinated and the feeling is that it's not drinkable at all."

As an MP Novak will demand a list of companies that bring material to the site, which she indicated came from Slovenia and abroad, as well as official data on the quantities, substances and oversight.

"We're wondering whether the state is wilfully burying its head in the sand, considering hazardous waste removal and processing is not regulated in Slovenia," Novak said.

"We are seeing absurd situations; a company brining in 200 or 300 kilos of building material from Koper. How is it viable for a company to haul such building material from Koper to Moravče? Either it doesn't pay or they are hauling materials that don't belong here," said the head of a local initiative Jurij Kočar.

He reported that from Kemis "130 tonnes of waste water sludge, two tonnes of building waste, presumably from the fire site, and some 60 tonnes of waste of unknown origin" were dumped at the Moravče site in March 2018.

The Kemis fire site restoration officially completed in 2017 and the hazardous waste was officially transported abroad for incineration. "These are official explanations, but it would be interesting to know what from Kemis in fact ended up in Moravče," he added.

Companies reject the allegations

Both Termit and Kemis denied all the allegations, Kemis issuing a statement saying that all hazardous waste from the May 2017 fire and restoration of the site "has been transported abroad for incineration" and that the company had documents to prove that to anyone at any time.

But Kemis admitted to small-scale cooperation with Termit prior and after the fire. "In 2017 it transported about 60 tonnes of non-hazardous waste to Termit, that is unpolluted building material, and in 2018 about 200 tonnes of non-hazardous waste collected from our business partners."

"The claims about Kemis made at the press conference today are completely untruthful," Kemis said, urging the speakers at the press conference to present the public evidence on what was in fact brought to Termit from Kemis.

At the press conference, the Moravče mayor urged the government to ban disposal of all waste in Moravče, prosecute those responsible, commission an independent report to the determine the level of pollution in the Moravče valley, and see to the removal of waste and restoration of the site.

Unless measures are taken, Balažic threatened further steps. "We will initiate legal proceedings against the company Termit, and Slovenia will be reported to the European Commission and other relevant EU bodies for breaking the Stockholm declaration and national and EU law."

Environment Minister Jure Leben has already ordered inspection of the site. "I'm the first to be impatiently awaiting the results. Measures will follow," Leben said on his Twitter account.

Meanwhile, chief environment inspector Vladimir Kajzer told TV Slovenija that seven inspections had been conducted at Kemis over the past three years and that no flaws were detected.

10 Jan 2019, 18:05 PM

January 10, 2019

If you ever wondered about the source of the Slovenian expression “bolje vrabec v roki kot golob na strehi” (better a sparrow in the hand than a pigeon on the roof), here’s a hint in a 1982 cookbook on the tricks of “our grandmothers”:

“In bourgeois houses, housewives would prepare a feast with the following menu: frog soup, cooked snails, sparrow risotto, and roasted pigeons. Before the First World War, these specialties were on offer at the Zvezda restaurant in Ljubljana, where our grandfathers liked to go to enjoy these delicacies.”

(Pavle Hafner, Ta dobra stara kuha, Pečeni golobi, 1982, p. 132)

Although sparrow risotto recipe is mentioned it’s not included in this recipe book, and in fact we had difficulties finding any sparrow recipes elsewhere, Valvasor’s 1799 cookbook included. However, there are still quite a lot of recipes that use ingredients, particularly those from the animal kingdom, that are hardly common or even considered as edible today.

As suggested in the quote above, the big changes in traditional cooking did in fact occur no earlier than in the second half of the 20th century, when the so-called second wave of globalisation affected not only the ways of life in the Old World, but also the world in general. And its effects, due to cultural exchanges and the consequences of the environmental degradation following the process of industrialisation, sooner or later revealed themselves on every person’s dining table. Traditions were thus forced to reinvent themselves at a very rapid pace.

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Kazina (1932), Congress Square in Ljubljana , the location of Zvezda restaurant where most of the dishes below were served long into the 20th century

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Kazina today

In this article, we take a look at some of the meat dishes that used to be served at bourgeois dining tables long into the 20th century, but are either not as common now or completely gone from “traditional” Slovenian cuisine.

 

  1. Frog legs.

Although frog legs remain a delicacy that can still be found in a handful of restaurants across Slovenia, Pri Žabarju (At the Frog Hunter’s http://prizabarju.si/en/ ) being one of them, they are far from as common as they used to be. The Ljubljana marshes, for example, used to present an abundant source of frogs and their legs, which at least since the beginning of the 16th century could be found at the city fish market, located at today’s Fish Square in Ljubljana.

In the abovementioned book, we find several frog leg recipes, including one for a frog soup, which goes like this:

“In spring, when frog hunters began hunting frogs, our mother often cooked us frog soup. Us, the kids, appreciated fried frog legs more, but our father preferred the soup. There’s lots of work with frog soup, as its preparation is quite demanding.”

Ingredients:
2 litres of vegetable stock
parsley root and leaves
2 lovage leaves
celery
leek
25-30 frog legs
2 tablespoons of peas
salt
pepper
nutmeg
 

For the vegetable stock finely chop the listed vegetables and boil them in two litres of water for about with an hour, with the addition of some salt, ground pepper and nutmeg.

We stir fry the frog legs in fat and then add the vegetable stock to the pan. Then we add the chopped green parsley and cook for another 15 minutes.

The soup is served with toasted buns.

  1. Pigeon roast

Pigeons used to be farmed in the cities and countryside, and were prepared in various fashions, including roasts, stews and risottos.  Here is a recipe for pigeon stew from the Hafner’s 1982 cookbook we’re using for this story.

Ingredients:
4 young pigeons
4 slices of dried bacon
50 g of lard
50 g of butter
100 g of ham or bacon
Onion
chopped leek
4 sardine fillets
beef stock
1 dl of white wine
4 lemon slices
2 cloves of garlic
parsley
salt
pepper
 

We clean the pigeons and rub in the salt and leek. We cover their breasts with bacon and tie them with a string. We roast the pigeons in hot lard. In a separate pan we put the butter, chopped onion, chopped bacon, chopped parsley and chopped sardine fillets. Lightly stir fry these and add salt. We then pour in the beef stock and white wine and let it all simmer. Then we add the roasted pigeons and lemon. We stew until the meat is soft. We serve the pigeons in the pot they were stewed in.

  1. Stuffed garden snails

Although most of the people I know consider land snails as a non-food, they still appear to be quite a popular delicacy, especially in Europe, albeit less so today than they used to be. In Slovenia, garden snails used to be picked in spring, when they were still sealed and hibernating and their digestive organs empty. If we pick them later, they first need to be starved, which according to Hafner usually takes two days. We put the snails in the fridge so that they retract into their shells and seal themselves. When closed we place the animals into boiling water and cook for 20 minutes. After this first boil, we extract the snails from their shells and remove their bowels – apparently these organs will be easy to see and extract at this point. Then we put them in a strainer and sprinkle with rough sea. We then rinse them until all the slime is gone.

The cleaned snails should now be cooked, continues Hafner, in a soup made of chopped carrot, half an onion, thyme, pepper berries, and root parsley. We can also add some white wine, vinegar or lemon juice and salt. In this soup we cook the snails for about an hour, depending how big they are. If we are going to use the shells, they first need to be thoroughly cleaned using hot water and soft brush.

Ingredients:
6 snails per person
60 g butter
stock
4 cloves of garlic
green parsley
salt
 

We prepare garlic butter with parsley, stirring finely chopped garlic and parsley leaves into butter and adding some salt. In each of the snail shells we add a teaspoon of soup then push a snail in and seal the opening with the garlic butter. We place stuffed snail shells in a pan and bake them in a hot oven for about five minutes. We serve them hot.

Some special utensils are used when eating this dish: a scissor-like tong for holding the snail, a small fork which we use to get the snail out of his or her shell and a small spoon, where we pour the soup from the shell.

  1. Barbecued dormouse

Dormouse hunting has been popular in Inner Carniola for centuries, and the first historic account of the practice dates back to the 13th. Dormice used to be an important source of fat, protein and fur, and the original reason for hunting them was survival. Today, however, the main goal of polhanje as dormouse hunting is called in Slovenian, is not in catching a dormouse, but rather in the continuation of a tradition which mainly remains as a fun social event.

In Hafner’s book we read that “we hunt dormice in the late fall. The traps are placed on old beech trees and in pear orchards. Gourmets know well what a treat roasted dormice are. However, one needs to know how to prepare them properly. There are two ways to prepare them: on a barbecue or in a pan.”

Ingredients:
6 dormice
6 snow pears
6 slices of bacon
salt, pepper
 

Dormice are barbecued in the open air, after we have caught them. A skinned dormouse is threaded on an iron skewer, with a snow pear and a slice of bacon pushed into its belly. Sprinkle the animal with salt and pepper and place on the barbecue. Since dormice are hunted when they’ve stuffed themselves getting ready for winter, you have to pay attention so that the fat doesn’t catch fire.  

  1. Boiled crayfish (Astacus astacus)

Crayfish used to be quite a popular dish in Slovenia, and it would still be so if the domestic varieties had not been depleted by duck plague 140 years ago, which was brought to Europe by the American invasive variety Signal crayfish, that is immune to the disease but spreads it. On top of this the number of autochthonous crayfish varieties are also shrinking due to human interference with their habitat, whether by water pollution or replacing the waterbeds with concrete floors. This is why crayfish hunting is banned in Slovenia, at least as far as the local varieties are concerned, and the recipe below, written in 1982, serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of environmental degradation and how it can change our diets:

“Two kinds of crayfish live in our streams, European or noble crayfish (jelševec) and stone crayfish (koščak). Jelševec is of a much better quality, since it is bigger and tastier.

We first clean the crayfish with a brush and then boil them while still alive. We heat a pot of water with a parsley root and some leaves in it. Before we place a crayfish into the boiling water, we pick it up by its back with our left hand and with the thumb and index finger of our right hand we hold the middle fin of its tail, rotate it and pull out. This way we remove the crayfish’s guts. We then boil the crayfish until they are red.

The hot boiled crayfish are then placed into a porcelain bowl. We add some of the soup they were cooked in, plus some chopped garlic and parsley, and place them on the dining table. We offer vinegar, oil and lemon so that every guest can season them the way he wishes.” (Hafner, p. 168)

10 Jan 2019, 12:50 PM

STA, 8 January 2019 - The Koper Science and Research Centre (Znanstveno-Raziskovalno Središče Koper) has won a EUR 2.8m project as part of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to study and help overcome the obstacles to the integration of migrant children into European societies.

The three-year project will run until the end of 2021, the Koper centre said in a press release on Tuesday.

This is the first Horizon 2020 research project in the field of social sciences that will be led by a Slovenian centre, said the Koper centre, which was picked among 30 bidders from all over Europe.

The project entitled Migrant Children and Migrant Communities in the Changing Europe will study the inclusion of migrant children in the societies of European countries from the perspective of the child.

Based on field studies carried out in ten countries, recommendations for legislative changes and political measures will be made. Computer applications featuring tools aimed at improving the integration of children into the society will be developed for use in almost all EU countries.

Field research will be conducted in primary schools and high schools, migrant centres and asylum centres in Slovenia, Austria, Spain, the UK, Denmark, Poland, Italy, France, Greece and Turkey.

Researchers will develop various computer apps for teachers, migrant children and local children to promote multiculturalism and dialogue.

The Koper centre will cooperate on the project with three other Slovenian institutions - the Peace Institute, the Faculty of Computer and Information Sciences, and the Faculty of Design.

09 Jan 2019, 15:15 PM

Skrbovin’ca is new project run by the City of Ljubljana and four day care centres for people with disabilities. It’s a good reflection of how the city has changed over the last few years with regard to how it considers the needs of all members of the community. And while these changes are the results of the efforts of many people, it’s notable that the City’s Mayor, Zoran Janković, has taken a personal interest in the matter.

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Skrbovin’ca, which means “care trade”, is a multifunctional space that at first pass looks like a souvenir store, albeit one selling handmade items rather than mass-produced factory goods of unknown origin. Here you’ll find the creative products of Slovenians with various disabilities, physical and cognitive. In addition to making the items on sale, people with special needs also work as shop assistants, consultants, mentors and in other positions, gaining valuable experience and connections, becoming more engaged with the community they live in.

Related: What's on in Ljubljana this week

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What’s more, it’s located right in the heart of Ljubljana, in the same building as the Tourist Information Centre by the Triple Bridge, on the corner nearest Town Hall (opposite Vigo ice cream store, to be exact), and is also one of the city’s official Info Points for those aged 65+ (although anyone, of any age, is assured of a warm welcome and somewhere to rest inside).

When I visited I met with Emir Okanović, the man who works there on most days and is able to provide assistance in five languages, chatting to me in perfect English and then slipping into German or French as needed when others arrived (he also speaks Serbian).

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Emir Okanović. Photo: Emir Okanović

Emir was keen to stress the City’s support for this project, which was run on a trial basis for the first year or so, a test that it passed before officially opening in late 2018. He also noted that the tourist population, like that of Slovenia and developed nations in general, is aging, and that meeting the needs of such visitors makes economic sense, as well as making the city more accessible and welcoming to all.

Related: Ljubljana by Wheelchair - New App Highlights Most Accessible Spots in the City

“Ljubljana by Wheelchair [another City-sponsored project, as reported here] focuses on physical disabilities and mobility, but they tend to forget other disabilities, such as impaired hearing or vision, and especially people with combined disabilities, who are physically and mentally disabled. At Skrbovin’ca we take a different approach. We work with combined disabilities, so there are limits to what people can do and we have to work within these, but that’s also the niche we’re trying to fill, because this is a community that’s rather neglected, and is often otherwise unemployable. The items here are made on a production line basis, with strict quality control, and the producers are paid for their work.”

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I visited in December

In short, Skrbovin’ca is a very welcome addition to the downtown area, and a hopeful sign that in the years ahead, as Ljubljana continues to grow as a tourist destination, the needs and concerns of all its residents and visitors will be listened to. The store and information centre is open from 10:00 to 20:00, and can be found at Mačkova ulica 1, 1000 Ljubljana. You can visit the Facebook page here, and the Instagram here.

09 Jan 2019, 12:30 PM

STA, 9 January - Questions are being raised in Slovenia about the adequacy of criminal law and judicial discretion after it was reported that a man who raped a drunk woman was charged with criminal coercion rather than rape because the woman, passed out drunk in the man's apartment, did not - and could not - resist.

 

Dnevnik reported earlier this week that a man from Koper was sentenced to ten months in prison for raping a family friend, who was passed out drunk in the children's room in his apartment.

Testimony suggests the woman woke up after he had already undressed her and started raping her; she tried to resist but he continued to force himself upon her until he completed the deed.

While such an act would be widely expected to result in a rape conviction, the court had a different view and after a series of appeals that went all the way to the Supreme Court, the perpetrator ended up being convicted of a crime that is not even classified as a sex crime.

“Not rape when the perpetrator uses force after the sexual act has already begun”

In the last sentence handed down by the Koper Higher Court after the appeals, the judges held that it was not rape when the perpetrator uses force after the sexual act had already begun, which is why he was convicted of criminal coercion.

In this particular case, this in effect means that the drunk woman sleeping, waking up only after he had already started to rape her, was an attenuating circumstance for the perpetrator.

The crime occurred in 2015 and the bulk of the court procedures took place in 2017.

The case raises a series of questions, most notably about the definition of rape in the Slovenian criminal code.

As Dnevnik emphasises, the law says that rape occurs when a perpetrator coerces the victim into sexual intercourse with force or with serious threats. There is no mention of consent at all.

The current Slovenian criminal code was adopted in 2008 and revised several times since then, most recently in 2016, but the definition of rape has not changed.

Mirjam Kline, the head of the department for juvenile and sex crime at the Ljubljana District State Prosecutor's Office, told Dnevnik the model of coercion in place in Slovenia was outdated.

"It is also unjust because we always focus on the victim: how she resisted to make the perpetrator interpret that as resistance and knew this was against her will," she said.

Matjaž Ambrož, a professor of criminal law at the Ljubljana Faculty of Law, meanwhile pointed out for the Delo newspaper that the Higher Court had argued in the retrial the act constituted rape, but procedural constraints prevented it from re-classifying the crime after the District Court had already reduced it to attack on a feeble person.

Calls for a redefinition of rape

Several media have stressed that in countries such as Germany and Sweden the criminal code has already been changed to focus on consent, which would make sense in Slovenia.

This point was also raised by the Association for Non-Violent Communication, which called for a redefinition of rape.

"We know from our work with victims of sexual violence that rape is often caused without coercion ... in particular between sexual partners, where perpetrators commonly use indirect forms of coercion and threat," they said.

Despite the calls for change, the Justice Ministry said no changes were on the horizon at the moment since focusing on consent would be even more difficult for courts to process given that rapes are typically crimes without witnesses that rest on testimony by the victim and the perpetrator.

But it later said it took comments by the expert public to heart and would host a meeting next week to examine possible changes to the criminal code. "We expect them to present their views on the subject. Based on the conclusions of the meeting, we will be able to provide an estimate about potential shortcomings of the valid legislation and requisite measures," the ministry said.

The response came after public outcry over the case started escalating and several groups took up the cause.

Amnesty International Slovenije, an NGO, publicly called for changes to the criminal code that would be "compatible with international human rights standards, meaning it would be based on the absence of consent."

Institute 8 March, an NGO fighting for equal rights, launched an online petition demanding legislative changes based on consent that garnered over 1,000 signatures within hours, and the Left, an opposition party, initiated a formal motion asking the government to change the legislation according to the "no means no" model of consent.

08 Jan 2019, 18:00 PM

"What are you doing?"

Kate was wondering why I was staring at the sidewalk as we sipped wine at Zvezda on Congress Square.

"That strawberry," I told her, likely slipped off someone's dessert at the cafe. I said I was calculating how long it would be before it was stepped on in the summertime, near-constant pedestrian stream. Given fastidious and careful-stepping Slovenes, I figured it stood a good chance of remaining intact.

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The berry in question

The strawberry scene unfolded during our most recent Ljubljana sojourn, an intermittent story that began in 1991. Tank traps, troops and tension we saw back then at Congress Square, across from Zvezda, are long gone, replaced by the EU, the Euro and stability.

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Tank traps in Congress Square, 1991 (Kongresni trg)

Slovenia, mostly unknown then, is now a world destination, attracting ever-growing numbers of visitors, to Bled, Ljubljana, and a slice of the Adriatic. But we worried on this trip, perhaps even facing the dismal prospect of being overwhelmed.

In 1997, I returned to study Slovene, and saw some early changes. In my notebook, I fretted then whether Slovenia could "survive the onslaught of western 'civilization,'" EU membership, and maintain historic links to the Balkans, and their once-fellow Yugoslav citizens. The "fragile beauty and rhythm of the 'club'," which I felt strongly in cozy Ljubljana, could be easily shattered, I wrote, two decades ago.

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A time before "I feel Slovenia" - "Why should the Europeans have this terrific little secet all to themselves?"

Now, with Slovenia on the map, that seductive "I Feel Slovenia" slogan has worked all too well, no need to be lured. (It came as little surprise that as I finished writing this, Slovenia announced record tourist visits in 2018.) But what is the breaking point? Does a Venice or Amsterdam loom for Ljubljana, and maybe Slovenia, inundated by tourist waves, upending what they had come to experience?

This year, we came in June for three months, my first time as a citizen of Slovenia. Citizenship in the "old country" had always seemed like a crazy pipe dream. But in 2014 I applied, assembling roots records, my multiple newspaper accounts about our repeated visits, and assisted by a Ljubljana friend, a retired lawyer.

All four of my grandparents — John Puc and Johanna Starman, and John Krze and Frances Lustick — migrated a century-plus ago to Rock Springs, an unlikely multi-ethnic, coal-mining town in the high, cold desert of southern Wyoming USA, where I grew up in a sort-of Slovenian enclave. My mother made potica, we bought kisla repa from another family, and kranjska klobasa made by a Slovenian guy who also operated a highway motel. We never missed the yearly "grape festival" at the Slovenski Dom, and one fall Sunday everyone in the family joined my blacksmith grandfather in his basement to grind grapes, shipped to local Slovenes from California.

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Slovenski Dom, Rock Springs, Wyoming,  in 2011. Photo: Yurivict, GNU Free Documentation License

I wrote in my application that I considered citizenship to be fulfilling the dream of one of my grandmothers, who never learned English, always feeling, or so I thought, that one day she'd return to her beloved green Slovenia, leaving that dusty Wyoming desert behind.

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Travel documents from 1991

Back in early 1991, when we had planned our first visit, it was still Yugoslavia. But when we arrived in September, although border guards were handing out SFRY (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) "certificates" for travel, almost overnight it had become Slovenia. Despite independence, there was uneasiness. Our friend Stanislav Fortuna stashed gas masks under the couch, at the ready. By the Triple Bridge, currency sellers hawked newly minted Slovenian tolars, beneath Prešeren's statue. The old-line department store, Centromerkur, was still in business (that's where we purchased material Kate only recently used to make kitchen curtains in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we now reside in the USA). Titova Cesta, the main drag, was virtually empty late nights.

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Currency sellers in Prešeren, 1991

That's all a distant memory. Centromerkur has vanished, replaced by the trendy Galerija Emporium. No longer is curtain material made in Slovenia, — no, our seller told us this year — all textiles are from Italy.

On the streets of Ljubljana, meanwhile, a more significant change: Increasingly more, and swifter, cars. Vehicle swarms unnerve bicyclists on narrow roadway bike lanes, so they opt for sidewalks. I call it "outsourcing danger," squeezing hapless pedestrians, forced to watch for oncoming and approaching bikes (and even motorcycles!) on what were sidewalks supposedly reserved for walkers. POZOR! That became our byword as pedestrians, which we are because we prefer foot, bus or train.

Bicyclists have also become more aggressive. They no longer "behave normally," Stanislav says. He's been riding bikes for nearly seven decades, he says, but now feels uncomfortable on the increasingly fast-paced streets.

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Postcard of Town Square, 1969. Wikimedia, public domain

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Postcard of Congress Square, 1969. Wikimedia, public domain

Also, less cars! It's a delight to walk the Triple Bridge, passed Prešeren, without dodging smoking autos and lumbering buses, the way we saw it in 1991. Tito's name has been scratched, and now Slovenska Cesta is off-limits to cars (mostly), for buses and walkers only. Now that's a refreshing change, promoting pedestrianism.

But bigger, better, faster — an unsavory USA import — has, alas, afflicted Ljubljana. Thankfully, pedestrian markings on streets still stop cars, though it's smart to glance left and right, just to be sure.

Surprisingly, there was little mention of Melania Trump, the Slovenian-born export to the USA, who left for bigger things and bright New York lights. The one-page In Your Pocket Guide writeup on Sevnica, her birthplace, doesn't even mention her. The only signs of Melania we saw were "first lady" products, tagged to fend off lawsuits she's filed to protect her name.

On the housing front, other changes. When I arrived in 1997 for language study, only three private rooms were for rent, one on Friskovec, where I stayed until relocating to a student dorm near Bezigrad. Now, hostels, hotels and Airbnbs abound, even in Mestni Trg, all of this giving neighborhoods a less-permanent feel.

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It was when I was at Friskovec that I found Metelkova, in its early raw stages, a time of honest energy and creativity. One late night I heard drums, and wondered what was up behind the walls on the street. The next night, I found out, through a newly opened hole, and happened upon Channel Zero, and a punk band passing through — Scared of Chaka, coincidentally, from Albuquerque, USA. I'm from Wyoming, I told a shocked Dave Hernandez, the band's frontman, who later formed a more widely popular USA band, The Shins.

A 2018 whirl through Metelkova left us feeling differently. Recent fires, a spat of sleazy characters milling about and police wandering around offered a different vibe. At Celica — an abandoned prison in 1997 — cordialness lingered, though one worker lamented that with the takeover by the company managing the Castle, a more mainstream and profit-oriented operation loomed.

Related: Celica - Former Prison, Hostel, & Full Artistic Experience in Ljubljana’s Metelkova

Down by Prešeren, other changes. By August, swelling tourist crowds intent on discovering "Europe's best-kept secret" noticeably thickened, at Trubarjeva, the Triple Bridge and the dragons. The crowded frenzy, unlike the 1990s and even latter-years Ljubljana, was amplified by street performers — a non-local mishmash of maddening, out-of-place bongos, incessant mandolins and disruptive break dancers. We longed for the Romani band that frequented the bridges, in 2014 and 2015, to feel that real Balkan beat, and felt sorry for the drowned-out, lone Slovenian accordionists cast into the sonic shadows.

To experience old-country spirit and heart, we left Ljubljana, for the out-of-the-way. By pure chance, we had met Sonja Bezjak at Carlos Pascual's "Pocket Teater." Even more fortunately, her home was near the Mura River in little-touristed northeast Slovenia, a region Kate by coincidence was reading about in Feri Lainscek's novel, Murisa.

Related: Slovenia's Foreign Entrepreneurs: Carlos Pascual, Working Writer

We drove with her to Ljutomer, where Slovenian language blossomed. Then, to Trate, her home, near an aging castle that housed mental patients where she and other volunteers established a "museum of madness," to focus on perceptions of mental health. We floated the Mura, and met stalwart river-protectors fending off misguided hydropower developers, an effort that's succeeded in getting UNESCO status for the river ecosystem.

Sonja's parents prepared a garden-fresh vegetable dinner, evoking that Slovenia past now receding all too quickly. It was all like a dream, I told them, recalling my grandparents' kitchen table in Rock Springs, my grandmother making lunch for my grandfather who walked from his blacksmith shop.

We returned, and lingered a bit longer in Ljubljana, lamenting our impending departure. One of our last stops was at Zvezda, and my strawberry watch. Alas, fate finally intervened. I glanced away for a moment, and when I looked back, the berry was smashed on the sidewalk.

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I recalled my sort-of life mantra — nothing, no matter how delicious and wonderful, lasts forever. Likewise, it may be, to our dismay, and my grandmother's dream genes, the way of Ljubljana, and Slovenia. Perhaps I'm wrong, and anyway we're still coming back, to savor ambiance of the "club," deep friendships, and drink from that well of wonderfulness, while we can. But I think I'll just stop telling folks what a swell place it is, lest they may actually all come, eroding our pleasantness.

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08 Jan 2019, 11:49 AM

STA, 7 January 2019 - Road accidents in Slovenia last year resulted in a total of 92 deaths, which is 12% less than in the year before, when the number of recorded deaths on roads was the lowest in the last 60 years. Last year the number was actually below 100 for the first time ever on record.

Presenting the statistics on Monday, the Infrastructure Ministry noted that Slovenia was among the EU countries where traffic safety had improved the most in recent years.

The ministry, which will present the statistics in more detail at a press conference on Thursday, added that the number of people who sustained serious injuries in traffic accidents had also dropped last year to below 800.

Only in 1990 Slovenians roads claimed more than 500 lives, as well as in 1994, after which the number of road casualties started to decline gradually, to drop below 300 for the first time in 2001.

The number dropped below 200 for the first time in 2009, when the motorway network saw a major expansion and road toll stickers were introduced, while the number neared 100 in 2017, when a total of 104 casualties were recorded.

Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said that despite the positive trends, these numbers should not be perceived as satisfactory, as both individuals and state institutions could do more for traffic safety.

Our goal must be a minimum number of road victims, and Slovenia should look up to countries like Sweden, which has no more than 25 deaths on roads per million people, as well as the UK, Netherlands and Estonia.

Four persons have already lost their lives on Slovenian roads in 2019, including two today alone in a severe accident near Kočevske Poljane in south-eastern Slovenia.

All our stories tagged statistics can be found here

07 Jan 2019, 12:24 PM

January 7, 2019

The administrative court suspended the implementation of the decree on the removal of brown bears from nature, which the government endorsed at the end of last November. According to the decree, 200 bears were planned to be taken out of Slovenian forests. Among these, 175 were supposed to be shot, while the remaining 25 were expected to die due to accidents or other causes.

Related: Brown bear photography in Slovenia

In December, the environmental protection organisation Alpe Adria Green (AAG) brought an action against the decree and a request for an interim injunction. The group is convinced that the decree violates the Nature Conservation Act, the Habitats Directive and the Constitution. The AAG noted that the government endorsed the decree despite numerous complaints on its drafting, and that the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning did not answer the requests for an explanation as to why such a number of bears had to be removed from nature. At the same time, the AAG expressed its expectation that the decree will also be annulled.

This is not the first time that the court has intervened in the destiny of large wildlife in Slovenia. The same decree that involves bears previously included eleven wolves to be taken out of nature, but after a public hearing the wolves were removed from the proposed cull. The Environmental Ministry took this decision after two judgments of the administrative court, which ruled that the reason for shooting the wolves, which was given as preventing the animals from killing livestock, and thus maintaining public acceptance of wolves, was not sufficiently substantiated.

All out stories about bears in Slovenia are here.

07 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 6 January 2019 - The Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (Ministrstvo za delo, družino, socialne zadeve in enake možnosti) has issued a call to subsidise projects targeting dating violence and gender-based stereotype in a bid to promote gender equality.

In a national survey conducted in 2010 almost half of the women questioned reported having experienced psychological violence in relationship with their partners. One out of four (23%) reported being subject to physical violence and 7% said they experienced sexual violence.

Such violence often begins even before the partners move in together, so it is important to raise awareness and empower young people to recognise early warning signs such as when one of the partners tries to limit the other partner's contacts with friends or checks on her phone calls or text messages.

"Such form of violence is not talked about often enough and young people often have misconceptions about partnerships," the ministry said.

Related: Domestic violence remains common in Slovenia (feature)

One of the campaigns that deals in part to dating violence is Click-Off, an EU-subsidised project implemented since 2017 which has been raising awareness about online bullying of girls.

The ministry is also offering subsidies to projects helping boys to overcome gender-based stereotypes and social expectations about the role of women and men in society.

An international conference organised by the ministry in October for teachers heard how gender-based stereotypes are being fought in Finland and Iceland, calling for similar projects in Slovenia.

In a call open until 28 January, the ministry would like to encourage NGOs to address gender-based stereotype in the fields where they affect boys such as in deciding on their academic and professional careers or in how they perceive their role in a relationship.

The ministry is planning to subsidise at least five projects with up to EUR 10,000 each. The total available sum is estimated at roughly EUR 50,000.

The call is not aimed at research projects but rather at smaller projects conducted by NGOs for the first time. Experience has shown that such pilot projects are met with a good response among young people on the ground.

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