STA, 31 May 2021 - Gašper Kralj, a 47-year-old writer and translator, has won the Cankar Prize for the best original literature published over the past year. He was awarded for his novel Škrbine (Stubs), a "story about unwritten stories".
The novel's hero sets out to write a story about his grandmother, of whom there are hardly any traces in the archives of the institutions she worked at.
He records bits of his and his grandmother's lives on pieces of paper, stubs that are read by a woman who tries to edit them into a possible story.
The award jury said the novel is a "convincing introspection" about the limitations and possibilities of putting into words bits of life that cannot be converted into a finished story.
The EUR 5,000 Cankar Prize, a tribute to the writer Ivan Cankar (1876-1918), is awarded annually for the best original literary work of the past year, published as an individual book in Slovenian language.
The award-winning work can be from any area of Cankar's creative opus (a poetry collection, a novel, a drama, a collection of short stories or essays).
It was established in 2019 by Slovenian PEN, the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU), the SAZU Research Centre, and the University of Ljubljana.
The first recipient, declared last year, was Sebastijan Pregl for the novel V Elvisovi Sobi (In Elvis's Room), a novel about a generation which was growing up when the former Yugoslavia was slowly disintegrating.
STA, 29 May 2021 - A new documentary film Wild Slovenia is coming to cinemas in autumn. As the film makers recently revealed in an online discussion, the film aims to bring the stories of Slovenia's diverse flora and fauna to domestic and international audiences.
Slovenia is home to more than 22,000 animal and 3,500 plant species. More than 800 animal and 300 plant species among those are protected.
Matej Vranič, the film director, explained that the diversity of Slovenian ecosystems will give the film a unique angle.
The film aims to present around 40 animal stories, the result of the director's many years of nature observation.
Vranič, who has already directed one award-winning documentary, Birds of the Lake, said that Wild Slovenia focused on mammals and birds.
The film is aimed at a wider audience, both domestic and foreign. Since foreign audiences are used to big-budget documentaries, it was necessary to reach higher production standards.
Co-screenwriter Marjan Žiberna said that the basic message of the film is the footage itself. The text only complements the visual information with information and emotions.
If the film arouses interest and amazement in viewers about Slovenia's nature, it will have achieved its purpose, he added.
The film was shot over a year on a variety of locations, including the Alps, the Dinaric Alps and the Adriatic Sea. It is almost completed, only the ambient soundtrack remains to be added.
The current plan is to bring it to cinemas in early September and then to TV screens next year. They also want to launch a shorter version for foreign TV stations.
STA, 21 May 2021 - The Slovenian pavilion was launched online at the 17th architectural exhibition La Biennale di Venezia on Friday. The Slovenian project focuses on the Yugoslav-era community centres as a type of social infrastructure, highlighting the role of architecture in building a sense of community.
Slovenia's contribution to the international show is entitled The Common in the Community: Seventy Years of Community Centres as Social Infrastructure. A virtual stroll through the pavilion reveals a study on a post-WWII vision of building community centres in Slovenia, cultural, business and educational hubs.
Right after the Second World War, the goal was to set up 523 such centres in rural areas across the country amid post-war reconstruction and modernisation efforts. More than 330 were indeed built.
The heritage and societal role of this phenomenon remain relevant today as well, said the pavilion's architects Blaž Babnik Romaniuk and Rastko Pečar, who created the Slovenian exhibition along with curators Martina Malešič and Asta Vrečko.
Their project also addresses current challenges such as the increasing gap between urban and rural areas, exploring how to construct spaces that would boost a sense of community. It is not merely a documentation of past events but a reflection on the centres' role then and now, according to Babnik Romaniuk.
The display focuses on four topics, integration, aspiration, unfolding and witnessing. A large table represents the first, bringing visitors together and creating a sense of community.
Models and graphic interventions displayed on the table stand in for the second topic, presenting the architectural aspect of the project. A light installation hanging above the table features 523 elements representing the target number for community centres, what the post-war project aspired to along with a societal change but never realised.
The third topic, unfolding, is invoked with the help of a door, a portal that provides information and opens up the project to a wider community. Witnessing is embodied in a short film by director Vid Hajnšek exploring the past, present and future of these communal spaces, the team behind the exhibition told the STA.
At the launch of the pavilion, they highlighted that the centres boasted a certain aesthetic. They were designed by acclaimed architects of that era, who put a lot of thought into the siting of the buildings.
It is interesting that after 70 years locals still use them, Malešič said.
The project was selected in an open call by the Museum of Architecture and Design as it best addressed the issue of living together as a community or even a planet, according to the head of the pavilion Matevž Čelik Vidmar.
He believes the centres have been a venue of cultural changes and could perhaps perform this role today as well when society faces new challenges.
The display is accompanied by an extensive publication, featuring seven texts and four visual chapters.
This year's La Biennale di Venezia, held under the slogan How Will We Live Together, will get under way on Saturday. The exhibition will put on display architects' visions of co-existence amid increasing political polarisation and socio-economic inequalities.
You can learn more at the official website
STA, 20 May 2021 - The town of Ravne na Koroškem is known for its baking achievements. They made a 120-metre long apple strudel some years ago. This time, they decided to bake a 370-metre long nut roll to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
The intergenerational centre in Ravne na Koroškem wanted to mark their 7th anniversary by baking the longest potica, a traditional Slovenian nut roll.
But since it was recently protected by the EU and defined as ring-shaped, they decided it would be too much work and opted instead for a straight nut roll and contacted the Guinness World Records.
They got the information from London about the basic ingredients, which are flour, eggs, sugar, milk, yeast and filling. The record contenders then asked for some additional ingredients and chose walnuts and rum for the filling.
They were also warned about the already existing record for a nut roll, which is 350 metres. "This is why we went for 370 metres," said Darja Krevzelj from the intergenerational centre.
The preparations took two weeks as 80 volunteers had to grind 232 kilogrammes of walnuts as well as provide 386 kilogrammes of flour, 43 kilogrammes of butter, 772 eggs, 348 litres of milk and 33 litres of rum.
There was also a lot of work with preparing all the documents to organise the path where the nut roll will be placed and then measured. "And hopefully, we will make it into the Guinness Book of World Records", said Marjana Kamnik from the intergenerational centre.
The record-contending walnut roll was baked on Wednesday on seven locations, including two restaurants, while the majority was baked in the local retirement homes.
Today, it was be put in a 370-metre long line from the intergenerational centre all the way to Javornik Castle.
They have to meet certain requirements to set the record. The nut roll was measured by a geodesist and then served to the participating institutions and to the visitors for a token contribution.
STA, 10 May 2021 - Laibach have announced a new European tour called The Coming Race, which is to start at the end of October. Before that, the band is scheduled to perform at the Exit Festival in Serbia in July. Whether the festival will happen at all, given the current situation, will be known in the coming weeks.
"The organisers assure us that the festival is confirmed and advertise it as such. We will know in the next few days or weeks whether it will actually happen or whether it will be postponed again," the group said of the Exit festival in Novi Sad, which is scheduled for 8-11 July.
Laibach also announced a new European tour, The Coming Race, with the first concert planned on 29 October in Schorndorf, Germany, although they said that the real tour begins next year. The first part will be in February, the second part probably in the autumn. In the meantime, they plan to play a few more concerts and festival appearances.
The form and structure of their tour abroad are unclear, as it depends on the epidemiological situation, and the situation in the countries they plan to visit is currently similar to Slovenia. On their official website, Laibach announced concerts in Germany, Belgium, Romania, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Poland and the Czech Republic until the end of February 2022.
Related: 70 Quotes for Žižek’s 70th Birthday
"Concert programmes are diverse, because sometimes we perform at festivals and we generally present a festival programme there, while other times the organisers have expressed the wish for a programme with more emphasis on the diversity of our repertoire," the group explained.
The upcoming tour will feature some new material from the soundtrack album for the film Iron Sky: The Coming Race. In the coming months, Laibach also plan to release a new album with Mute Records, Wir sind das Volk. It is based on the texts of the distinguished German playwright and poet Heiner Müller, created as part of a project also named Wir sind das Volk at the Hebbel am Ufer theatre in Berlin.
"We might also mention that we have just released a documentary album We Forge The Future under the independent Austrian label GOD Records, featuring footage of our concert at Madrid's Reina Sofia Museum in 2017, which coincided with the exhibition Capital to Capital," the group added.
Things are finally, slowly opening up again, and one event on the horizon is the Brin Gin Festival, to be held on the 2 and 3 July (2021) in Dutovlje – although check in on Facebook to keep up with developments.
The promise of this event, along with the reopening of bars, is a good excuse to check back with one of Slovenia’s more interesting gin producers, Karakter. We first met the team behind the distillery at Brin 2019, in a long, hot afternoon of sampling food and drink. And to be honest, after your fifth or sixth gin things do tend to become something of a blur, and even a dedicated professional, armed with a pen, notebook and press card to ensure continued access to free booze may think about calling it a day and faking a report. I overcame such doubts, however, and continued my research for the sake of our readers until ending up at what I think was my last stall of the event, Karakter’s. There I heard the story of the handcrafted gin they’d been making in Bohinj, and enjoyed the revelation that is their Cherriot gin, infused with wild cherry and a charming pink, even picking up a bottle, possibly two, to continue my work home.
Juniper berries (Slo. brin), a key ingredient in gin, have a long tradition of cultivation and use in Slovenia, most famously in the spirit brinovec
Waking up the next mid-day with a sore head and surrounded by evidence of personal failings and gross indulgence, high and low, I swore off alcohol for some time, but did eventually return to that bottle of cherry gin and enjoy it. And the other day, almost two years later and with bars reopening, the summer soon upon us, I finally got around to contacting Karakter again, to find out what I’d forgotten.
Note that the following interview with Urban Bajrič – who together with Matic Bezjak and Timi Rožič is behind the various projects – was conducted under covid-secure conditions – at a distance, and with all participants disinfected with gin.
Urban, making gin
How did you get into making gin?
At first in 2016 we started homebrewing beer, and we liked playing with different aromas, flavours, infusions, etc. After brewing quite a few batches of beer we thought about setting up a business, but at that time, there were already many breweries. So we made some research and decided we would try our luck with distilling. We opened up our business in February 2018. After our first two products, which were gin, we got a chance to take over Karakter Bar, called Paviljon at that time, and we did. A year after that, we started Zanoodle, an Asian bistro in centre of Ljubljana. Now, after everything that’s happened in the last year, I think it is time for us to go back to our roots and focus on distilling and fermenting again.
What gins can people try now?
We have two gins at the moment, Imagine and Cherriot.
Imagine Dry Gin, which we used to sell under the name Karakter Gin, is a London Dry type, but not a classical juniper heavy gin, instead it’s very fruity, balanced and fresh. It’s made with 25 botanicals used in total, the traditional and red & black currant berries, along with cranberries, kaffir lime leaves, wild thyme, rose petals, mountain pine and some others we’ll keep a secret for now. On the technical side we use all three ways of preparing the botanicals, percolation, infusion, and extraction, with the distillation taking place using a 100-litre column still. We’re based in Bohinj, and we wanted this gin to reflect that, so some of the botanicals are picked locally, such as wild thyme and mountain pine. We use 8.5 kg of botanicals per 100-litre batch, and 6 kg of that are fresh berries, with this freshness making it into the gin through the slow distilling process and generous cuts, using the foreshots and tails. We’re very proud of this gin, and especially since it won a bronze medal in the New Western style gin at the Craft Spirits Berlin Awards for 2021, the world’s largest competition for handmade craft spirits.
The other gin have now is the Cherriot Infused Gin that you tried before. That’s made with a total of 17 botanicals, the traditional ones plus things like beetroot, almonds, dry pears, and raspberries. Then After distilling that’s infused with wild cherry and hibiscus flowers, As with Imagine, we get the full flavour from the botanicals by using percolation, infusion, and extraction. The result is aroma that’s like a sweet gin, although no sugar or other sweeteners are added, it’s all from the natural ingredients.
So right now we have a traditional gin, with the feeling of Bohinj, and a sweeter, cherry gin, both of which are ideal for drinking neat or with a mixer.
Lake Bohinj - not a bad place to be
You mentioned Bohinj and how it inspired your Imagine gin. What’s it like working there? work?
Bohinj is a special place, everyone knows each other and sometimes people know more about you than you do. Wherever you go you have to drive for at least 30 minutes, and whatever you do, there are a thousand eyes staring at you. Just like any small, isolated community I guess.
But if you can look past some minor setbacks, Bohinj is a fantastic place to live and work. Of course it’s easier to run a business in Ljubljana, but if I had to start the distillery again, with the knowledge I have now, I’d still choose Bohinj. I love it.
Karakter Bar, by day...
In addition to gin, you also have the Karkater Bar, Zanoodle Bistro & Shop – can you tell us something about those?
Sure, Karakter Bar (opposite Hotel Jezero - Ribčev laz v Bohinju, 4265 Bohinj Jezero) is a place to relax, enjoy a cool gin and tonic and live music on a warm summer evening. Before COVID there was a lot going on, and with any luck there will be again soon, with live concerts from Slovenian jazz, folk and pop artists, culinary events in collaboration with local chefs, along with children’s events, weekend barbecues, and so on.
ZANOODLE is a Slovenian-Asian fusion bistro in Ljubljana not far from Križanke (Rimska cesta 21, 1000 Ljubljana) with an ever-changing menu that includes everything from soups with homemade noodles, to dry aged beef, seafood, desserts and burgers.
Can people visit the distillery of they go to Bohinj?
We don’t offer guided distillery tours as a service, but we’re very happy to show people around the distillery when they come and buy a bottle of gin. That kind of ‘tour’ can take up to eight people, and we can walk you through the process from start to finish. The main reason people like to visit and see the distillery is because we don’t hide anything, we’re happy to explain everything about our gin and the production process. This kind of knowledge-sharing and openness is important – for us, the customers and the business. Our process and our ingredients are 100% natural, so we have nothing to hide.
How did COVID affect your work?
To be honest, a lot. We depend on bars and restaurants, and these were closed or had very strict limitations for more than eight months, and that really hit the demand for gin. That said, the situation is now improving and we’re optimistic and hope that everything can get back to normal as soon as possible, that Slovenia can enjoy the summer. When things do reopen we want to encourage people to support their local businesses in these challenging times. Every order you make at a small hospitality business – a restaurant, café or bar – makes a difference and helps them to recover, and with it the local community.
What do have planned next?
There is a brand new product coming in June 2021, with the Brin Gin Festival in July being the first official event where everyone can try it. What we can say is that we are developing experimental fruit brandies that will be available in limited quantities – coming later this year.
Where to find Brin Gin Festival
Where can people try and buy your gin?
A list of locations is available on our Instagram account (we are still working on our website to highlight locations). For a perfect gin and tonic, head to Zanoodle in Ljubljana or Karakter Bar in Bohinj. Bottle purchase is possible in many local shops in Slovenia and of course through our website, with shipping throughout Europe.
STA, 7 May 2021 - Uroš Seljak, a Slovenian physicist, cosmologist and astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley is among the recipients of this year's Gruber Prize in Cosmology, awarded by Yale University. It comes for his significant contribution in developing methods of key importance for studying the creation of the universe.
Seljak has been awarded a gold medal and will share the US$500,000 prize with his colleagues Marc Kamionowski of Johns Hopkins University from Baltimore and Matias Zaldarriga of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
The accolades will be conferred on the winners at the 24th International Conference on Particle Physics and Cosmology (COSMO'21), which will take place on 2-6 August at the University of Illinois and online.
The work of the trio focused on the cosmic microwave background (CMB), which is residual electromagnetic radiation from the early universe, when atoms were created, and radiation from the primordial plasma.
Atoms have remained in the form of matter, while radiation remained in the form of a faint background noise that encompasses the entire universe in all directions and presents an image of the universe when it was approximately 379,000 years old.
The award winners have developed a mathematical method for studying the early universe, back to the first fraction of second of its existence. The findings were first published in the Physical Review Letters journal in 1997 are still studied today.
By observing polarisation, the cosmologists were able to determine the age of the universe at 13.8 billion years and that it is 5% ordinary (baryonic) matter, 26% dark matter and 69% dark energy.
Their work has inspired new generations of research programmes whose objective is to discover the last remaining part of the cosmological model, i.e. inflation or the theoretical inception of the universe or the Big Bang.
The Gruber Prize in Cosmology had been received in the past by other scientists from this field, and now it goes to the scientists who had set the foundation. The prize also recognises their lifetime achievements in cosmology.
Even before the 1997 article, Seljak and Zaldarriaga developed a computer code, called CMBFAST, that facilitated the studying of certain aspects of CMB by thousand times. The code is available to scientists free of charge.
Born in 1966 in Nova Gorica, Seljak graduated from the University of Ljubljana and also earned a master's degree there in 1991, and then a PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1995.
After post-doctoral studies at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, he worked at Princeton University, Zürich University and International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste. He has been teaching at Berkeley since 2008.
Read more here
STA, 22 April 2021 - Slovenska Potica, a rich traditional cake made of special dough and filling, has been protected with the traditional specialities guaranteed label (TSG), meaning the cakes sold as Slovenian Potica will need to be certified for their shape and recipe, while not geographically limited to Slovenia.
Slovenska Potica will have to meet standards of dough, fillings and shape. It can have five different traditional fillings (walnuts, walnuts and raisins, raisins, tarragon, or tarragon and cottage cheese), and must be baked in a round baking pan to produce a hole in the middle. The smallest allowed diameter is 14 cm.
All producers who want to make the protected Slovenska Potica will have to get a certificate, while others can continue selling potica as "potica" or "orehova potica/walnut potica" etc.
Learn how to make potica and more with the Cook Eat Slovenia book
Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek said he was very proud that as Slovenia's ambassador and traditional cake, potica will help enhance Slovenia's profile abroad.
"Slovenian cuisine has very rich tradition. Slovenian food has its identity, which reflects in its EU-level protection. Potica is definitely a food which best symbolises a festive menu of Slovenians," he wrote in today's statement.
An application to protect potica was submitted to the ministry by several chambers of agriculture, food-processing industry, commerce and small business in 2017.
The ministry protected the cake at national level the same year and submitted an application for protection to the European Commission in early 2018.
Austria objected to Slovenia's plans, arguing it wanted to protect its producers that make cakes with similar names, such as Potize and Putize.
Slovenia and Austria then reached a deal allowing Austrian producers to continue using these names, as the goal of Slovenia's bid was to protect the name Slovenska Potica", not potica or any other derivates.
The ministry said today that potica had a special place in Slovenian cuisine and that as Slovenian speciality it is almost a national symbol.
It is made in all Slovenian regions, while varying in name, filling, type of dough and shape. More than 100 various types have been recorded.
STA, 21 April 2021 - The National Institute of Biology (Nacionalni inštitut za biologijo - NIB) has licenced its gene therapy know-how and technology to a spin-off called Niba Labs, which will develop and commercialise technologies for the characterisation and quantification of therapeutic viruses used in gene therapy.
"The path leading to this moment has been long, for we have conducted a lot of basic research that has helped us to build up top-level know-how in virology and develop methods that will now be applied," NIB director Maja Ravnikar said on Wednesday.
Ravnikar said the new company, the NIB's second spin-off, would operate on the global market and collaborate with all Slovenian biotech firms in this segment.
The revenue from the licensing of the technology will be reinvested into research. The NIB and Niba Labs will continue collaborating on the research and commercialisation of the technologies.
According to Niba Labs' head of R&D, David Dobnik, the technology involves deploying viruses to act as delivery vehicles for replacement genes in the treatment of genetic conditions.
STA, 20 April 2021 - Supercomputer Vega was formally launched in Maribor on Tuesday, putting Slovenia on the global map of computer superpowers. It is the first in a series of eight planned high-performance computing (HPC) centres in the EU.
Vega is a 6.9 petaflops supercomputer, which means it can do 6.9 million billion computing operations per second, and it cost EUR 17.2 million.
Currently the most powerful supercomputer in Slovenia has been set up as part of the national project to upgrade research infrastructure (HPC RIVR) and EuroHPC, a public-private partnership for European high-performance computing.
It is located at the Institute of Information Science (IZUM), whose director Aleš Bošnjak said there were currently only 13 countries in the world with more powerful supercomputers.
"Our supercomputing power is just behind that of the UK and before Russia's," University of Maribor Vice Dean Zoran Ren said at the online inauguration event. He believes it will enable Slovenian and European scientists outstanding discoveries.
European Commission Vice President in charge of digital transition Margrethe Vestager said the first supercomputer launched as part of EuroHPC was an excellent example of cooperation at various levels.
"Supercomputing will enable European small and medium-sized companies to enter the hi-tech economy of the future," she said in her address via video call.
She also pointed to the role European supercomputers could play in supporting artificial intelligence to produce new medicines and save lives.
Janša, who had the honour of turning on the computer by symbolically pressing a red button, also highlighted the role such machines have in addressing contemporary challenges, including Covid-19.
"Vega will enable scientists to discover new materials and components, help them model global phenomena, discover new medicines and medical therapies in the fight against cancer and other serious diseases.
"It will also help companies, mostly those developing the most state-of-the-art products, for instance in pharmacy, car industry or energy. With these and similar steps the EU is resolutely threading the path of strategic autonomy," he said.
Education and Science Minister Simona Kustec stressed top science, technology and advanced industry could develop only on the basis of top knowledge and infrastructure.
"The initiatives such as EuroHPC enable and encourage joint planning and investments in the European research area, thus further strengthening and connecting it."
Vega is named after 18th-century mathematician and physicist Jurij Vega.
It was co-funded by the EU from the European Regional Development Fund, the Ministry of Education and Science and EuroHPC.
The EU's other seven high-performance computing centres will be located in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain.
STA, 18 April 2021 - Painters Milena Usenik and Franc Novinc are this year's winners of the Rihar Jakopič Prize for lifetime achievements, the top national award in fine arts and visual art. The 2021 Jakopič Prize will meanwhile go into the hands of painter Silvester Plotajs Sicoe, the judging panel decided last week.
It is yet unclear when the awards will be given out, as the event will depend on the epidemiological situation in the country.
This year, 27 artists have been nominated for the Jakopič Prize and the judging panel decided to take more time than usual to decide on the winners.
Because there had been so many nominations, the judging panel decided to give out not only the Jakopič Prize, an annual award, but also two lifetime achievement awards of equal significance.
It also decided to give special commendations to painters Uršula Berlot and sculptor Paola Korošec.
Even though it is not yet clear when the award ceremony will take place, an exhibition honouring Usenik, Novinc and Plotajs Sicoe will be staged between 22 April and 15 May at the Gallery of the Slovenian Association of Fine Arts Societies.
Named after Rihard Jakopič (1869-1943), a pioneer of Slovenian Impressionism, the Jakopič Prize was first given out in 1969 by the Association of Slovenian Artists, the Academy of Fine Arts and the Museum of Modern Art.