Slovenia acted relatively early in closing things down for COVID-19, and, at least compared to some other countries, people seem to be following the guidelines and behaving responsibly. But while we all know the headline figures - how many cases, how many deaths - what about some other numbers? One place to turn is this excellent website from Joh Dokler, that pulls together a lot of data and visualises it. What we put in the headline, and main image, is hospitalisations and ICU occupancy, but look at the bottom of the graph and you can see a lot more - tests, total tests, cases, total cases, and so on.
Daily tests, daily cases
It's interesting to play around with, and with luck over the next two weeks will show that the social distancing and hand washing we've been practicing have paid off, and life can return to something like normalcy, albeit with the knowledge we're all gaining about the value of small joys, the fragility of our systems, and the fact that we're in this together. So click here to explore more, and take care to be kind with the time you have left.
All our coronavirus stories can be found here
If you're British and here on vacation or for life and want to go "home", then be aware that your options in the immediate future are decreasing by the hour. In short, and to get this post up as quickly as possible, follow the advice in the following tweet.
✈️?? Travel advice: https://t.co/n3p0XtWXOP pic.twitter.com/dfi9e1kY0W
Sam Baldwin – founder of Slovenia-inspired apparel brand, BREG (www.BregDesign.com) runs to the hills in the Slovenian hinterlands of Koroška to wait out Coronavirus craziness and live the simple life.
Other parts in this series can be read here
What a difference five days makes. Life in Slovenia (and much of the world) just changed beyond all recognition. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but few would have believed we’d go from normality to almost total house arrest, in a western democracy, in five days or less.
The domino rally of stringent measures, normally only seen in authoritarian states, has – for now – obliterated life as we know it. All public transport ceased. All cafes and bars closed. All non-essential businesses closed. No public gatherings of more than five people. No leaving home except for food. No leaving the country. No leaving your municipality. Slovenia, like many other countries in Europe, is now closed for the foreseeable future.
I was fortunate to have ‘got out’ while I still could. I ran to the hills of Koroška where, in 2007, my brother and I bought a 300-year old ramshackle cottage up a mountain. We had grand dreams of restoring it. If had we known the problems we would encounter along the way, we might have thought twice.
It’s been a labour of love, but never have I been more relieved to wind up the logging road and arrive at Breg as I was last week. After numerous transportation problems (all public transport in Slovenia ceased to operate then my car almost broke down) I had made it just in time. BREGxit could begin.
I always had the thought that in some sort of end-of-days scenario, Breg would be a good place to wait out the apocalypse. Now I’m putting that theory to the test. Surrounded by beech and evergreen forest, but not much else, Breg is surely Slovenia’s Premiere Self-Isolation Destination. I have adequate supplies of food, a forest for a backyard, and enough moonshine schnapps to see me through Covid pandemics 19 to 23. (Schnapps is an especially valuable resource as it also doubles as hand-sanitiser).
The social isolation will likely become my main adversary. I had hoped to have company, but my Austrian girlfriend had to make a mad dash back across the border as Austria announced it was sealing itself off. It’s hard enough having a long-distance relationship between two countries when the borders are open but being unable to leave our homes adds a whole new challenge. However, if I’m going to be locked down anywhere, then Breg is where I want to serve my sentence.
Up here, it’s a simple life. There’s no WiFi but I have a long list of tasks; old houses require plenty of attention. Yesterday I repaired a stone wall and transplanted a plum tree. This morning I awoke to a fresh blanket of snow and wandered the frozen forest.
I’ve been thinking about the people who built this house almost three centuries ago. They had most of the materials they needed, surrounding them. Wood from the forest and plenty of stone. They just needed time. And now time is what I have in abundance. I plan to make good use of it to do things in a way its creators would approve of.
I am lucky to have two of the most amazing neighbours you could wish for, who keep an eye on me. They have a small-holding here and have taken to leaving a hot, homemade meal at my doorstep each day. I speak to them from my window each morning (I need to ensure I’m COVID-free before closer contact) as they go about their chores. It’s one of the few places in Slovenia where I can practice speaking Slovene without fear of the conversation switching to fluent English.
As life slows down, or rather, comes to an emergency stop, I start to wonder how Coronovirus will change our world, permanently. We are suddenly living through a giant experiment in the reduction of global consumption. After years of being told we should fly less, buy less, drive less and eat less by environmentalists, COVID-19’s sudden appearance is forcing us to do doing exactly that. It’s only been five days, but already I am more mindful about my habits. I’m more careful about food and other resources, ensuring I don’t let anything go to waste. I’m starting to realise what I really need and what I don’t miss at all.
There are tough times ahead; it’s hard to see how the economic landscape will recover any time soon. What will life look like after this is all over? Will we in future refer to the wonderous, decadent, and now long-gone era of ‘Before Virus’ (BV), where you could buy anything you wanted and fly anywhere in the world? There will be some lessons learned I’m sure.
I‘ve also noticed how coronavirus has brought people together. In the last 5 days, I’ve been added to three different new whatsapp groups of old friends or extended family. The virus is – for now – giving us a reason, (and for many, the time) – to reconnect with people.
So, like for everyone else in Slovenia and most of the world, I begin a new, unknown phase of life. For the foreseeable future, I’ll be living alone, wandering the forest, splitting wood, repairing, planning, fixing, digging, and writing the BREGxit diaries. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
Other parts in this series can be read here
STA, 21 March 2020 - Even though public life in Slovenia all but ground to a halt on Monday in a bid to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the Environment Agency (ARSO) has not detected any improvement in air quality.
The biggest source of air pollution in the country is coarse particulate matter (PM10) from household solid fuel boilers, whose contribution in the given situation is not smaller, but possibly even bigger, said ARSO.
Air in Slovenia is as a rule at its best in spring or autumn and limit values of pollutants are rarely exceeded at this time of year.
"Comparing air particle pollution this week and the week before, particle levels this week are generally slightly higher than last week, which is a result of meteorological conditions," said ARSO.
Slovenia has enjoyed a spell of stable warm sunny weather, which also means temperature inversion for the greater part of the morning as a result of which morning particle values are elevated.
As for the impact of the suspension of public transportation and air flights and a reduction in commuter traffic, ARSO says this could be reflected mainly in emissions of nitrogen oxides, but this type of pollution is not problematic in Slovenia.
Moreover, monitoring also shows that it is too early to draw any conclusions on the impact of the shutdown on NOx levels.
ARSO noted that industry contributed only a small portion of air pollution recorded by its monitoring stations, so they could speak of a reduction in emissions.
STA, 22 March 2020 - A strong earthquake with its epicentre just north of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, was felt across Slovenia Sunday morning. The 5.3 magnitude quake struck at 6.24am at a depth of 10 kilometres and was followed by two strong aftershocks, according to the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC).
The tremors were picked up by sensors all across Slovenia, according to the Environment Agency, with people all over the country reporting having felt the quake to varying degrees.
Social media photos and videos from Zagreb suggest extensive damage to buildings, including hospitals.
At least one death was initially reported, however the Zagreb children's hospital head Goran Roić later said that efforts were underway to resuscitate a 15-year-old that had been reported to have been killed in the earthquake.
The teenager is in a highly critical condition, he highlighted. Other people have reportedly suffered injuries as well.
Meanwhile, in Slovenia there have been no reports so far about damage in localities closest to the epicentre.
In the border town of Brežice the tremors were strong but Mayor Ivan Molan does not expect damage beyond fallen roof shingles. In nearby Krško there had been no reports of damages either, Mayor Miran Stanko told the STA.
Krško is home to Slovenia's sole nuclear power plant, which is roughly 50 kilometres north-west of Zagreb and hence close to the epicentre.
After conducting a preventive examination of systems and equipment, the power station reported that the earthquake had not caused any damage or any other impact on operations. The power plant is operating normally, said the Nuclear Security Administration, adding that no alarms had gone off during the earthquake.
The Infrastructure Ministry said earlier on Twitter nuclear energy experts were conducting analyses in line with protocols and there was no reason whatsoever for a shutdown.
Following the earthquake, Prime Minister Janez Janša talked to his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenković and offered Slovenia's assistance to Croatia. He was joined by Foreign Minister Anže Logar.
President Borut Pahor also expressed his solidarity with Croatia during a phone call with his Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanović.
Due to the technical problems related to the quake on the Croatian side, border crossings Rigonce, Obrežje and Slovenska Vas have been closed.
Looking for a distraction and a fun way to give your Slovene a workout? The check out some of the trailers for movies that were playing in local cinemas in the first three months of the year. All are in the original languages, with Slovene subtitles, apart from most of the kids’ movies, which are dubbed and this still of educational value. If you want to see all our dual text posts, then they can be found here.
STA, 20 March 2020 - With tourism grinding to a halt as the country fights the coronavirus outbreak, Slovenia could learn some lessons regarding housing policy, including that the market should not be trusted just about everything, Dnevnik says in Friday's commentary.
The commentary notes that people who lease their apartments via Airbnb have quickly realised that they will have no turnover whatsoever as tourist visits to Ljubljana steeply dropped with the arrival of coronavirus.
They have started advertising one- to two-month leases, and then also for longer periods, but of course, in the time of quarantine and self-isolation, this did not help either.
Real estate agencies are closed, people are locked in at home and no one is looking for an apartment if this is not really necessary. Completely unrealistic expectations of owners are another problem.
No one knows when the situation will normalise, and when it does, much time will need to pass before tourists fill up Ljubljana again, Dnevnik adds in Airbnb Apartments Are Now Good for Locals.
As for many people renting apartments to tourists is the principal activity, and not only a side business, these individuals, as well as many others in the tourism and hospitality industry, are in a difficult situation.
It seems that a majority of people feel no empathy towards real estate owners who earned money via Airbnb, and there are even calls that they should show their social responsibility by renting out their empty apartments to medical staff for free.
"The people's reaction is understandable, but it would be wrong to succumb to anger at this moment. Reason tells us that if we learned something from this crisis, it is that not all bets should be placed on the market."
For this reason, the state needs to regulate apartment renting via Airbnb, create conditions for an orderly rental market, and build public rental apartments as a priority. This would be a precious measure during the recovery period.
All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia are here
A foreign climber, with no details yet as to their name or nationality, fell to his death this morning while climbing Little Triglav, one of the peaks on the mountain’s ridge, with the body being recovered by a helicopter team. The Kranj Police Department noted that the man was well-equipped, and stressed that during the ongoing epidemic it’s better that people avoid all outdoor pursuits that could lead to significant injury, since rescue teams, health workers and other emergency services are already overwhelmed.
This echoed a recent call by the Slovenian Mountain Association (Planinska zveza Slovenije) that people should stick to easier walks and hikes near their homes during this period, stating: "To prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, we will do the most we can to stay home - the mountains will wait for us, and the mountain huts have closed their doors until further notice. Let's not stress ourselves unnecessarily in the mountains, so that this will not cause accidents and the additional burden on the rescue and medical staff. "
STA, 17 March 2020 - The local authorities at the lakeside resort of Bled have called on the national authorities to help them maintain the popular Lake Bled and remedy the deteriorating state of the water, which has been coloured red for months due to the spread of cyanobacteria.
The open letter from the Municipality of Bled has been sent to the National Assembly, the Slovenian president, government and the National Council, calling for immediate state aid in the maintenance of the lake.
The state is being asked to draft a detailed plan for management of the lake, including measures for improving its state.
"We have been struggling to keep Lake Bled healthy for years, but we are not able to bring it back to a good state on our own, without urgent help from the state and the broader regional community," the local authorities say.
They noted that, according the Environment Agency, the ecological state of the lake had deteriorated in recent years, resulting in the spread of cyanobacteria, which have coloured the lake water red.
The excessive direct and indirect intake of any nutrients and fertilisers in the lake should be prevented, which requires an adequate legislative basis, the municipality added.
Another request is that a by-bass road is constructed south of the town of Bled, to be used by drivers who are not destined for Bled, but further west, towards Lake Bohinj nearby.
The local authorities want that the National Assembly pass a special law which would tackle these problems comprehensively, in particular when it comes to Lake Bled as the "greatest asset".
They believe that measures and powers at the local level have been exhausted, and that the fight to preserve the lake requires the competences and powers which exceed the local government framework.
From August 2019: Brown Algae Warning at Lake Bled
With most of the public institutions shut because of the COVID-19 epidemic, some of the cultural activities are now moving online, while others have relaxed their copyright protection a little.
Ljubljana Puppet Theatre
Since theatres closed their doors for the time being, Ljubljana Puppet Theatre decided to make videos of four of its most popular shows available online. Vihar v glavi and Romeo & Julija are appropriate for teens, Ti loviš! and Štiri črne mravljice for everyone from the age of 2 or 3 respectively. Videos are accessible from here.
There are several thousand e-books at Biblos available to borrow free of charge for anyone in possession of e-reader and a Slovenian library card. A total of 826 of them are in languages other than Slovene. Sign in using your library acronym and registration number (e.g. Mestna knjižnica Ljubljana: MKL123456) along with your library password.
Home schooling materials
The Slovenian Film Centre has made available a selection of Slovenian films, which will stay online for a week while the programme will change every Monday and Thursday. Films are not necessarily equipped with Slovenian or English subtitles, but can be found on this website with a click on the title of a movie.
Galleries and Museums
If you’d like to visit National Gallery, this is now possible with a virtual walk through its current exhibitions at the virtual gallery website.
For anyone interested in news related to February’s meteorite and other interesting natural science related stuff, you can follow Natural History Museum’s Facebook site.
TV- RTV SLO
National broadcaster has adapted its programmes to the fact that most people, children included, spend time in self-isolation at home. Programme can be viewed live from here, and the show’s archive is available here.
Although empty shelves due to panic buying are well known in Slovenian history, the items deemed important then and now point to a certain change in lifestyle.
While the main items currently in great demand include pasta, canned tomatoes and meat, and those that are widely (or quickly) sold out yeast, onions and toilet paper, old newspapers suggest that at the end of 1974 people mostly stocked up with sugar, oil and washing powder.
On December 19, 1974, Dolenjski list wrote:
Translation: Hunting for detergents. A few days after oil and sugar went up in price, the stores ran out of washing powder. People purchased all the stock. Fearing a price hike, they tried to supply it for at least a while, and stores quickly ordered new quantities to fill the shelves again.
Translation: Consumer fever’s been shaking again: stores can barely keep up with delivering items from storage to shelves.
The cause of concern in 46 years ago was not a global epidemic but rather inflation, with 1974 appearing as the beginning of what became more or less a reality for the next decade and a half.
Translation: Buy, it will be more expensive! Interestingly the relevant authorities for the recent rise in prices of oil and sugar kept their knowledge to themselves and in highest secrecy while people were buying these things in bulk a week before that. Although warehouses were full of these foods, an unusual rise in demand an occasional lack of sugar and oil appeared in some places. The speed of delivery couldn’t meet the demand.