Lifestyle

29 Mar 2021, 14:45 PM

STA, 29 March 2021 - As Slovenia is headed for a circuit-breaker lockdown as of Thursday, with kindergartens and schools shutting down as well, some headteachers are surprised with the government's decision, while others are prepared for the shutdown. All of them, however, said that remote schooling and closed kindergartens are stressful for the children.

With the British variant of the new coronavirus driving the incidence of Covid-19 in Slovenia, all non-essential services, baring several exceptions, will have to close between 1 and 11 April, while the industry has been asked to allow as much work from home as possible.

While schools for special needs children will remain open, this will not be the case for kindergartens, primary and secondary schools.

Several headteachers have told the STA on Monday that this had taken them by surprise, because the government advisory group as well as the government had said in the past that schools and kindergartens would be the last to close.

Mojca Kirbiš, the head of Maribor schools headmasters' club, told the STA that the decision taken by the government and experts needs to be respected, adding, however, that the developments are taking a toll on schools.

"All of us, teachers and students, are tired of the constant changes... We've barely returned to classrooms and established a normal rhythm but now the system is being changed again," said Kirbiš, also adding that there are no guarantees schools would reopen on 12 April under the model in place at the moment.

Several headteachers also pointed to problems regarding national competitions, some of which have been scheduled for the week slated for lockdown. Moreover, the competitors will not have an equal footing this year, they fear.

Rudolf Planinšek, the headteacher of a Kranj primary school, does not expect too many problems with the process of organising remote schooling, but is worried about grades. Remote schooling widened the gap between good and poor students, he said.

"There will definitely be some problems, but we'll overcome them somehow," he is confident. If students will be allowed to return to classrooms on 12 April, the school year will be a good one, he believes.

Irena Sivka Horvat, the headteacher of an Izola primary school, also believes that the lockdown, planned for only a week and a half, will not have an adverse effect on the grades.

She hopes that students will be able to make up for the lost time once the situation normalises, adding also it was yet impossible to say to what extent the knowledge of children had been effected.

Nevenka Kulovec, the headteacher of a Novo Mesto primary schools, believes the lockdown is a good decision if it will buy time for vaccination. It does however undermine the school's programme, but they will adapt, she said. Grades have gotten worse, students are poorly motivated and their ability to learn has declined, she said.

In secondary schools, remote schooling will cause the most stress to the finishing classes who are about to take the matura school-leaving exams that start in a month. "What if something like this happens during matura?" said Herman Pušnik the headteacher of a Maribor secondary school.

While secondary schools will close completely, kindergartens and schools will have to provide urgent childcare for kindergartners and pupils up to third grade.

Kindergartens are still awaiting instructions from the Education Ministry to learn whether childcare will be provided only to children of parents in critical infrastructure or to others without childcare as well.

They hope to receive this information as soon as possible, so as to be able to organise work and meals for the lockdown period, Romana Epih, the headteacher of the Medvode kindergarten told the STA.

Tea Dolinar, the headteacher of Kranj kindergartens, echoed this position. There is not enough time, she said, but her team is already used to such fast and stressful transitions and will make it work.

Dolinar also pointed to the stress the closures put on the children, with many small kids perceiving the return as if they are coming to the kindergarten the first time. A similar sentiment was expressed by several other headteachers the STA has talked to.

Silvija Komočar, the headteacher of a Brežice kindergarten, meanwhile said that the situation is nothing new and that the kindergarten already had a lot experience with urgent childcare and was well prepared. She also said that the closures were stressful for the children.

Meanwhile, the umbrella association of pedagogical workers has called on the Education Ministry to finally take action and establish a policy that would minimise the negative effects of the closures.

After a year of extraordinary circumstances, the ministry should finally establish a task force to communicate with the government advisory group so as to ensure that restrictions are truly proportionate.

28 Mar 2021, 16:40 PM

STA, 28 March 2021 - UPDATED 18:15 The government has endorsed the proposal from the Covid-19 advisory team to impose an 11-day circuit breaker lockdown starting from 1 April in a bid to help hospitals cope with an expected influx in Covid-19 patients following an increase in Slovenia's coronavirus transmission rates.

"The suspension of public life will be brief. On 12 April the restrictions easing roadmap will start being implemented again," Prime Minister Janez Janša said in announcing the measures at Brdo estate on Sunday.

However, he said the success of the measures would depend on their being consistently implemented, in which case additional measures would not be needed.

Describing the situation as a race against time, Janša said the state administration would switch to remote work almost entirely, urging businesses to follow suit as much as possible.

Non-essential shops and services dealing directly with customers will be shut down and schools will switch to remote classes with day care provided to kindergarten and up to year three primary school children of essential workers.

Gatherings of up to 10 people will be no longer allowed, while movement will be restricted to the region of residence, except for Easter Sunday, when up to two households (no more then for adults) will be able to meet, according to Interior Minister Aleš Hojs.

All in-person religious services will be suspended except for spiritual care for persons in need and cultural institutions will no longer provide services in person, Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti said.

Health Minister Janez Poklukar said face masks would again be mandatory in outdoor public spaces except for exercise in green spaces where there is enough space and on means of transport for same household members.

However, Poklukar said that non-Covid healthcare services would not be reduced because of the immense needs.

During the lockdown, public transportation will run on Sunday or holiday schedule, and road worthiness tests and driving lessons are being suspended, while ski slopes will be closed.

Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said exceptions to a temporary ban on retail and services would include pharmacies, services stations, financial and postal services and delivery.

Construction work on sites, houses and flats that are not currently settled will also be allowed, as will preparing food and drinks for takeaway and delivery without mandatory regular testing.

Meanwhile, regular weekly testing will be required for staff in shops selling mainly groceries, personal care and cleaning items, garden shops, plant nurseries, florists', produce markets, newsagents and technical goods shops.

Presenting details pertaining to her department, Education Minister Simona Kustec said that special needs pupils would continue schooling in classrooms, and sports for professional athletes would be allowed to continue.

Janša said not taking action now would translate into at least 500 additional deaths until June. "The key value is preserving lives," he said, adding that experiences of other countries had shown partial measures were not producing good results.

The lockdown is also needed to give enough time to vaccinate the most at-risk groups of the population.

Janša suggested the current roadmap out of the lockdown would be resumed on 12 April if the figures should be at least at roughly the level they are today and unless a new, more aggressive variant appeared, which he said was not likely for the time being.

Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik said the government's guidance to state administration heads is that no more than 20% employees should be in workplaces.

The government adopted the measures after the Covid-19 advisory team presented their proposal to a cross-party meeting at Brdo, which the centre-left opposition failed too attend.

The majority were in favour, but Počivalšek had initially aired misgivings about the efficacy of a new lockdown given the pandemic fatigue and low public trust.

He told the press after the government session the measures would not be effective should the opposition continue to abuse the epidemic for politicking. Janša also regretted their absence.

Mateja Logar, the head of the Covid-19 advisory team, welcomed the government heeding their recommendations, saying the experts were united in their position that resolute action was needed to prevent the virus from overwhelming the health system again.

This was as the 7-day average of new daily cases rose to 944 on Saturday, from 927 the day before after standing at 808 a week ago. Of 499 Covid-19 patients in hospitals, 105 are in intensive care.

Slovenia has reported 212,679 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic with an estimated 12,311 still active infections, data from the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) show.

The most recent NIJZ data on the death toll, released on Monday, show 4,258 had died within 28 days of testing positive by Sunday. Since then the government has reported 42 more deaths.

A total of 229,553 people have received their first dose of a vaccine against Covid-19 and 112,087 have received two.

26 Mar 2021, 13:13 PM

STA, 26 March 2021 - Slovenia has recorded over 1,000 new coronavirus cases for the third day running. With 1,032 people testing positive on Thursday, the rolling 7-day average rose to 895, government data show. Another ten patients with Covid-19 died.

Marking a rise of almost 10% from the same day a week ago, the latest cases were confirmed from 6,637 PCR tests, for a positivity rate of 15.5%. In addition 27,189 rapid antigen tests were performed.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 dropped by one to 500 after 30 patients were discharged yesterday. The number of patients in intensive care rose by two to 108.

Under the government Covid tiers plan, Slovenia is currently in orange tier of restrictions, the third highest. The red tier begins when the 7-day average of new confirmed cases and hospitalisations rise above 1,000, but the plan may be changed by the government on Sunday.

Three of the country's twelve regions are already in red tier.

The cumulative 14-day incidence per 100,000 residents rose to 557, from 545 the day before.

Slovenia has reported more than 210,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, according to the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ).

The death toll has passed 4,000, with the most recent NIJZ data, released on Monday, showing 4,258 people had died within 28 days of testing positive by Sunday.

All our stories on covid-19 and Slovenia

26 Mar 2021, 11:44 AM

STA, 26 March 2021 - The country-wide curfew is imposed from 10pm to 5am from Friday after the government decided to shorten it in light of the coming Daylight Saving Time change. Entering into force today are also inter-regional travel restrictions in red-coded regions. A negative rapid test result is no longer valid to enter Slovenia.

Only a negative PCR test result will be accepted from today to avoid quarantine on entering Slovenia. Meanwhile, dual owners and lessees of land in bordering areas will no longer need a negative test every seven days to cross the border.

The coastal Obalno-Kraška, western Goriška and northern Koroška regions have been demoted to tier red due to a deterioration of the epidemiological status there.

According to Wednesday's government decree, there is a number of exemptions from the ban on movement into and out of the three regions, including travel for work purposes. Students who commute from the red-coded regions to other regions for educational purposes are also such an exception even though the decree does not mention them specifically.

Bars and restaurants in regions with best epidemiological status are still allowed to serve customers outdoors.

Rallies or events of up to ten persons are permitted across the country. Outdoor religious services are meanwhile capped at one person per 10 square metres or more in the case of members of the same household.

24 Mar 2021, 16:17 PM

STA, 24 March 2021 - Primary schools have been told by the Education Ministry to prepare for a hybrid model of classes involving alternative weeks for some pupils, should the coronavirus situation worsen.

The model, dubbed C1, foresees for classes to continue in-person for years one to five, while the rest of primary pupils would be in school every other week alternating with remote learning.

According to the online edition of the newspaper Večer, year eight to nine pupils would be in school the first week and year six to seven the next.

In a circular sent to schools, the ministry said the guidance did not mean yet that the C1 model would be in fact applied, but it was just to inform them of the potential scenario should the situation worsen.

The government is conducting its weekly review of coronavirus measures today amid expectations it could tighten restrictions as coronavirus transmissions have been increasing fast in recent days.

Year one to three primary pupils returned to school in mid-February, followed by other pupils. Secondary school pupils from year one to three have had alternative weeks classes for the third week now, after they had remote classes only since mid-October.

24 Mar 2021, 14:11 PM

STA, 24 March 2020 - The national coordinator of vaccination logistics, Jelko Kacin, says it is realistic to expect that 70% of Slovenia's population, or all adult residents, would be vaccinated by the summer, as the country expects to receive more than 250,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of June.

Kacin told the press on Wednesday that the country has been assured it would receive the first delivery of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine towards the end of April.

"The government will do everything to provide for the necessary quantities for the entire adult population," said Kacin.

Slovenia has so far ordered seven million doses of various vaccines against Covid, because another round of vaccination will probably be needed in the autumn, when vaccines against new strains of the coronavirus will probably be required, he said.

Residents older than 75 years will have been vaccinated by the end of the week, with those over 70 to follow next week, he announced.

Since the age limit on the AstraZeneca vaccine will be lifted, it will be also used for older residents.

The government will discuss changes to the national vaccination strategy later in the day to prioritise the group of people over 60 and then over 50, he announced.

He said Slovenia should have enough vaccine at the start of April to also start vaccinating those over 50.

He noted however the strategy could only be put in practice if enough doses are supplied, highlighting the AstraZeneca vaccine as the most problematic in this respect.

24 Mar 2021, 13:29 PM

STA, 24 March 2021 - New coronavirus cases continue to rise at double-digit rates as 1,288 cases were confirmed on Tuesday, an almost two-month high, the latest government data show. Nine Covid-19 patients died.

Nearly 7,000 PCR tests were performed and 18.5% came back positive, a share that has remained broadly flat. Almost 28,000 rapid tests were performed as well.

There were 500 Covid-19 patients in hospital, down seven on the day before, while the number of ICU cases rose by three to 99, a one-month high.

The rolling seven-day average of new daily cases rose from 829 to 855, the government announced on Twitter.

The cumulative 14-day incidence per 100,000 residents rose to 531 and the 7-day to 285, show data released by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ).

Slovenia has so far confirmed 208,589 cases, according to the NIJZ.

The country remains in the orange tier of restrictions, but the situation is deteriorating, the government's Covid-19 spokeswoman Maja Bratuša told the daily press briefing.

The government will conduct its weekly review of restrictions in the evening after it has consulted the group of medical experts who advise the Health Ministry.

Get the latest data on coronavirus and Slovenia

23 Mar 2021, 17:49 PM

Cook Eat Slovenia is one of the most successful books on Slovenian cooking aimed at an English-speaking audience, a collection of seasonal recipes that’s a clear and beautifully produced guide to potica, štruklji, gibanica, žlikrofi, kremšnita, mlinci and many more classics of the local table.

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As we noted in our review when it was launched in 2019, back when eating out was possible, “the book takes you on a tour of all four seasons and Slovenia’s 24 culinary regions, and with more than 100 dishes over 200+ pages you’re certain to find plenty of old favourites along with some you’ve never heard of. Each recipe is presented alongside a picture of the dish itself – providing inspiration as well as some serving suggestions – and thus the book also works a practical guide to Slovenian cuisine, one that outside the kitchen you can use to spot dishes in the wild and expand the range of items you order from the menu or the market, providing a checklist of things to seek out.

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It's a well-written, well-made book. Photo: Mateja Jordović Potočnik 

It's a great book, still available in stores and online, and while in happier days the author – Špela Vodovc – also offers in-person cooking classes and culinary tours, that side of her work has obviously been on hold along with the rest of the travel and tourism industry in Slovenia. Until now, that is, as Špela is coming back with a one-off opportunity to learn how to all make your Easter brighter and more Slovenian.

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Photo: Mateja Jordović Potočnik 

This year Easter Sunday is on 4 April, and you can prepare for the big day by taking a live, online video class in English with Špela and learn how to make Potica and decorate eggs using natural dye. The class will be hosted on YouTube, thus avoiding the awkwardness of Zoom calls and letting you relax, watch and cook alone, no matter what your wearing or how much you swear as you cook.

The class will take place on Friday 2 April from 17:00 to 20:00, and all you need to do is make sure you have access to a kitchen, a screen with internet access and the ingredients listed at the end of this story. Registration is required, and costs €35 per person, and can be done by clicking on the event under the calendar here.

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Look for this

If you can’t make it, then do check out the book and some of the recipes it contains, such as Tarragon Potica, Easter Breakfast - Velikonočni Zajtrk, Three Kinds of Slovenian Easter Eggs and Potato and Pasta, or Grenadirmarš. If you can make the class, then don’t forget to register and make sure you have the following ingredients ready for 17:00 Friday, 2 April 2021.

Prepare and measure ingredients in advance

Place the eggs and yeast at room temperature at least half an hour before baking.

  1. a) Walnut Potica:
  • Dough
    600 g (4 ¼ cups or 21 oz) soft pastry flour
    42 g (1.5 oz) fresh yeast or 14 g (0.5 oz) dry yeast
    100 g (½ cup or 3.5 oz) sugar
    5 g (0.2 oz) salt
    1 tbsp rum
    300 ml (1 ¼ cups or 10 fl oz) lukewarm milk
    8 g (0.3 oz) vanilla sugar
    50 g (1.8 oz) butter
    4 egg yolks
    ½ lemon, zested
  • Filling
    300 g (11 oz) shelled and grinded walnuts
    200 ml (¾ cup or 7 fl oz) milk
    100 g (3.5 oz) butter
    10 g (0.4 oz) vanilla sugar
    120 g (5/8 cup or 4 oz) sugar
    2 tbsp rum
    ½ lemon, zested
    1 egg white and 15 g (0.5 oz) sugar for whipped egg white
  • You will also need
    Potičnik 27 cm (10 inches) across, you can also use 2 oblong baking pan with tall sides, 25x12x7 cm (9.8x4.7x2.7 inches)
    Plastic bowl with cover, instead of cover you can also use plastic wrap
    Wire sieve
    Rolling pin
    Hand electric mixer
    Pastry cloth for rolling the dough
    Soft pastry flour to facilitate the dough rolling process
    Butter for buttering the mould/potičnik or oblong baking pan with tall sides
    Caster sugar and a thin wooden stick
  1. b) Easter eggs
  • Ingredients
    15 eggs
    Dry skin of red and brown onions
    3 tbsp vinegar
    5 rose hip teabags
    A few pinches of salt
    Different types of grass, leaves and flowers
    Thread
    Stockings, cut in 10x10 cm (4x4 inches) squares

You will also need
2 medium-size cooking pots
Sizers

22 Mar 2021, 11:17 AM

STA, 22 March 2021 - Nation-wide exams for primary school children in years six and nine were cancelled last year due to coronavirus, but they are planned to be held as usual this year. The exam is taken with a pen and paper, and it will be no different this year. But to test the option of taking it online, a special pilot project is being launched today.

From Monday to Friday, more than 40,000 pupils in forms six and nine at 441 primary schools will be taking the exam online - on a computer or a tablet - to get the ropes.

Every school has been assigned the day and several slots to carry out the e-trail exam, with the majority of kids to take it in a computer classroom at their school.

Up to 5,000 pupils will be sitting for the exam simultaneously, for which reason schools have been divided into two approximately equally large groups.

The pilot project is designed to test how the network works if used by several thousand pupils at the same time and which problems may emerge, Darko Zupanc, the director of the National Examinations Centre, said on Friday.

This should allow education authorities to see whether it would be possible for the exam to be simultaneously taken at all primary schools, or also at home.

Kids will be able to use various online tools to do the assignments, while they will have a chance to retake the exam on their home computer later on the same day.

The electronic exam will not be graded because it is not meant to test knowledge, so children will get no test results.

At the end of the exam, they will have to answer several questions on their examination experience.

Zupanc said the data obtained from this pilot project should facilitate development of systemic tools for exams and grading with new technologies, especially in case of distance learning.

The national exams for primary schools were introduced 20 years ago and were last year cancelled for the first time.

However, they are not compulsory and have no bearing on the pupils' final grades, but there is also an idea to introduce them for children in third form.

The exams are not meant for schools to compare how well their pupils are doing in comparison with other schools, but for individual schools to evaluate their own work, the head of the national commission for the nation-wide exams in primaries, Janez Vogrinc, said on Friday.

The exam is taken in three stages; children in year six will this year take it in their mother tongue on 4 May, maths on 6 May and the foreign language on 10 May.

But Slovenian Headteachers' Association president Gregor Pečan believes that in the given situation, the national exams for primaries should not be held this year at all.

A month and a half after primaries reopened following a four-month closure, gaps in knowledge are starting to emerge, he said at today's government Covid briefing.

Pečan also recalled that the exams had been cancelled last year while pupils had been distance learning only for approximately two months.

"The majority of headteachers and other educators maintain that what is needed more is peace and support to rectify the situation as soon as possible."

Although admitting not everything was as gloomy as some see it when speaking of "a lost generation", he said "very good planning will be needed to restore the situation this year and in coming school years to get the generations to the level we want".

For the same reason the headteachers are against organising various competitions for primary school children, urging "immediate suspension" of competition activities, which he said were now fully underway.

Pečan also touched on today's launch of testing whether national exams could be taken online, saying the information he had showed there were many problems.

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19 Mar 2021, 14:33 PM

STA, 19 March 2021 - University professors, teachers, municipal officials and journalists have gained the most trust of the public during the Covid-19 epidemic in Slovenia, while police officers have lost the most public trust, shows a survey by the pollster Valicon.

The survey, carried out between 26 February and 5 March on a sample of 1,032 adults, is part of the ongoing Mirror of Slovenia series that was launched in December 2012.

Valicon said on Friday as it presented the poll that the rate of trust in small Slovenian companies was up by 11 points compared to the previous measurement to 63 points to solidify them on the top of the list for organisations.

The "company or organisation in which you work" remains second on the list (44), after recording an eight-point growth, and education is third, followed by shops and retailers and large Slovenian companies.

The list of organisations with a positive rate of trust concludes with healthcare, military and police, with healthcare and police having lost some of the public trust since June 2020 - the former three and the latter six points.

Compared to November 2019, healthcare has actually gained 19 points, while the negative trend for the police continues, as their rate is down by 12 points. The rate is at 14 points, compared to the highest measured rate of 33 in 2014.

The key institutions of the executive and legislative branches of power and the Catholic Church are at the bottom of the list. The National Assembly is last with the rate of -60, which is actually a 5-point growth compared to the previous poll.

Government coalition parties have a rate of -58 (a 2-point growth) and the government a rate of -57 (a 3-point drop), and the list of institutions with a rate of below -50 concludes with the Catholic Church (-54).

The most trustworthy profession is still that of a firefighter, followed by nurses and scientists, while doctors, (small) entrepreneurs and teachers also enjoy the trust rate of above 50.

At the bottom of the list are "politicians in general", who trail government ministers, state officials, priests and company directors.

More on this data (in Slovene)

18 Mar 2021, 17:12 PM

The selection of the winning entry concluded the 13th international Plaktivat competition, which this year was centred on the social concept of solidarity. A total of 336 submissions were entered in the competition, of which 176 arrived from abroad and 160 from Slovenia. The final submissions came from 28 different countries.

The expert panel – consisting of Sašo Petek (Agencija 101), Katja Petrin Dornik (Grey), Vasja Grabner (AV studio), Domen Husu (Yin Young), Martina Kokovnik Hakl, Luka Bajs (Grey), Tomaž Drozg (TAM-TAM) – was most convinced by the creative solution “Snežak” – “Snowman” by Peter Zabret, Rok Flego, and Lenart Slabe of the Pristop agency, as seen at the top of this story.

Related: Proglas – Where Slovenia’s Advertising Creatives Are Free To Shine

Sašo Petek, creative director at Agencija 101 and chairman of the panel described the chosen entry as follows: “The winning poster fits all the criteria of a good poster and simultaneously succeeds in presenting the complex theme of solidarity in an original, simple, and warm way. Its playfulness speaks to all generations and inspires solidarity in all of us.” 

This time, the TAM-TAM Institute’s Plaktivat aims were to stimulate and strengthen solidarity in society, open a discussion on the fundaments of the values of solidarity, and reflect on the role of solidarity in forming a better society in our future.

In recent years Plaktivat competitions have been receiving an increasing number of student entries, which is why the organisers decided that this year would be the first to include a student category. In total 117 works were entered by students, with the winner being chosen by Nejc Trampuž, Alja Herlah, Blaž Rat, Alja Horvat in Nejc Prah. The lucky entrant in the student category is Tina Nunar (Academy of Figurative Arts, Univesity of Ljubljana), with the poster seen below.

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Design: Tina Nunar 

The posters promoting solidarity are already on the streets and can perhaps be seen in a neighbourhood near you as they’re appear on 500 TAM-TAM poster locations across Slovenia. If not, don’t worry – you can seem below.

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Design: Chia Hsiang Lee, Taiwan

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Design: Zlatan Dryanov, Bulgaria

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Design: Nenad S. Lazić, Serbia

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Design: He Huang, China

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Design: Yuanchao Wang, China

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Design: Alja Herlah, of Type Salon, Slovenia

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Design: Metka Knap, Slovenia

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Design: Lara Oset and Eva Gjörek, of  Agencija 101, Slovenia

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Design: Katrin Bittnerová, Czech Republic

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