Made in Slovenia

13 Jan 2022, 12:51 PM

STA, 12 January 2022 - The municipality of Ljubljana has announced a public call for the reconstruction of the Plečnik Auditorium, the former open-air amphitheatre in a clearing behind Tivoli Mansion in Ljubljana's Tivoli Park. It was designed by architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957) and constructed in 1933, but left to decay after the Second World War.

In Plečnik's design, a wooden grandstand was placed to the west of the clearing behind Tivoli Mansion, where the terrain naturally rises, while a gravel stage overlooked Ljubljana. Above the wooden stands stood a fountain, which was later moved to a different location, next to the Ljubljanica River.

After the Second World War, the amphitheatre was left to decay. Until the mid-1960s, the area was used to host an open-air summer cinema, which was subsequently abandoned and the site was overgrown. The clearing is now surrounded by tall trees and is a protected plant habitat.

However, when the Švicarija arts centre in Tivoli was renovated a few years ago, the idea of reviving the amphitheatre was born as well. According to the plans drawn up by the architectural firm Medprostor, the wooden grandstand will be rebuilt on a steel structure, to its former extent and in its former location, with the trees and vegetation adjacent to the clearing to be fully preserved.

The stage of the reconstructed open-air theatre will be covered with grass, and the whole area will be linked with the Švicarija arts centre and Tivoli Mansion, the newspaper Dnevnik has reported.

"When planning the reconstruction, we felt it was important not to introduce new original elements, but simply to bring in modernity and also to be true to the original," said Rok Žnidaršič, the architectural project manager from Medprostor.

According to Dnevnik, Žnidaršič added that although the project followed the form and concept of Plečnik's design, it is not a "replica of the lost architectural spatial development, but rather an interpretation of it."

You can see the details of the public tender (in Slovene) here

11 Jan 2022, 11:44 AM

STA, 10 January 2022 - The European Research Council (ERC) has granted EUR 2.2 million in funding to the project PHAGECONTROL - Development of Host Manipulation by Bacteriophage, led by Anna Dragoš from the Biotechnical Faculty at the University of Ljubljana, a prominent researcher in the field of virus-bacteria interaction.

Out of the total funding awarded, around EUR 700,000 will be allocated for a precision microscope, which will be used to study viruses that enter bacteria and change their properties by inserting viral DNA into bacterial DNA.

Some of the altered properties of bacteria may be beneficial for humans, while others may change from harmless bacteria to pathogens. The project will establish new methods and create new molecular tools to study virus transmission, which could also improve predictions of the spread of epidemics in the future.

"We will study how viruses can change the behaviour of bacteria in the first phase, the second phase will cover the molecular mechanisms responsible for these changes, and in the third phase, we will test whether viruses change the behaviour of bacteria because they are cooperating or because they are manipulators," Dragoš explained.

"There is great potential in this project to discover a significant part of the genetic 'black box' of viruses, as well as new antimicrobial compounds carried by viruses. These could eventually find medical applications, for example as alternatives to antibiotics," she added.

Dragoš is the third University of Ljubljana researcher that managed to secure an ERC grant for her project. The first one was awarded in 2011 to Nedjeljka Žagar, a researcher in the field of meteorology, and the second one went to Marta Verginella from the Faculty of Arts in 2016.

07 Jan 2022, 11:52 AM

STA, 5 January 2022 - A group of physicists at the Jožef Stefan Institute confirmed the spin liquid state even at absolute zero temperatures, as first predicted by Swiss physicist G.H. Wannier in 1950, but his wish for experimental confirmation has remained unfulfilled until now. The achievement was published in the Nature Materials journal.

Spin liquids are a special magnetic state of matter. They are the magnetic analogue of the liquid state of matter, in that the magnetic moments (spins) are disordered, but at the same time already strongly correlated.

Swiss physicist Gregory Hugh Wannier first predicted in 1950 that the spin liquid state can be present even at absolute zero temperature. This has now been confirmed by Slovenian scientists.

The project involved physicists from the Jožef Stefan Institute - Tina Arh, Matej Pregelj and Andrej Zorko, together with colleagues from the Institute of Mathematics, Physics and Mechanics and other research institutions in India, the UK, France and the USA.

The key to their breakthrough was the study of a magnetically unexplored compound, using a wide range of complementary experimental techniques, the Jožef Stefan Institute said.

Andrej Zorko explained for the STA that the team was studying the magnetic properties of a certain crystal, neodymium heptatantalate, and added that from a magnetic point of view, it is possible to draw analogies with states of matter.

The magnetic moments (spins) at sufficiently low temperatures can typically arrange like building blocks in the solid state of matter, while at high temperatures, they will each point in their own direction, like in the gaseous state of matter.

Spin liquids are somewhere in between, they are the magnetic analogue of the liquid state of matter, Zorko said. "That the spins in a spin liquid do not arrange themselves in the same direction, even at absolute zero, is like water never turning into a crystal or solid matter when cooled."

Beyond the scientific aspect, this discovery could be potentially important in the light of modern quantum technologies, as spin liquids are considered to be one of the most promising platforms for storing information in quantum computing, Zorko concluded.

You can find the paper here

04 Jan 2022, 12:14 PM

STA, 4 January 2022 - The dramatic canon of Ivan Cankar, considered to be Slovenia's greatest playwright, has been translated into English for the first time to allow the West to discover a literary genius often compared to the likes of Henrik Ibsen.

Devised by the Prešeren Theatre of Kranj in collaboration with the Crane Creations Theatre Company from Canada, the project Cankar Goes West aims to present to foreign audiences what is a major part of Slovenia's literary and dramatic canon.

In his plays Cankar (1876-1918) explores topics such as political corruption and greed, morals and the quest for truth, employing complex characters.

Cankar's dramatic oeuvre has been translated into English by Michael Biggins, Rawley Grau, Jason and Alenka Blake, Tina Mahkota and Tom Priestly, who sought to preserve his style and language.

The plays Romantic Souls, Jakob Ruda, Lackeys, King of Betajnovi, Beautiful Vida, Depravity in St. Florian Valley and For the Good of the Nation have come out in physical and digital forms. Also planned is a collector's luxury edition of 400 hardback copies.

Paperbacks and e-books will also be available at Amazon, the Prešeren Theatre has told the STA, expressing the hope that Cankar's plays will soon be put on stage abroad.

Launched at the 51st Week of Slovenian Drama festival last year, the project Cankar Goes West was supported by the Slovenian Culture Ministry and the EU as part of the Creative Europe programme.

The plays are accompanied by a timeline of historical events that influenced Cankar (1876-1918) and his work and those leading to Slovenia's independence. They are accompanied by photographs of various productions of his plays at Slovenian theatres.

The translation and publication of the books mark only the start of what the Kranj theatre says is a long-term project aimed at stimulating foreign theatres to produce Cankar's plays.

As part of the project's ongoing promotion, Cankar's plays were read on stage in London late last year with further readings planned at theatres elsewhere.

23 Dec 2021, 12:36 PM

STA, 23 December 2021 - The Slovenian Constitution turns thirty today. Passed as the final act of legal independence from Yugoslavia, it was a modern Constitution at the time and practitioners of constitutional law say it has stood the test of time. Nevertheless, many believe it may be time for certain changes.

The Constitution is abstract enough to make it possible for the Constitutional Court to interpret it in line with modern standards, according to judge Rajko Knez, who presided the Constitutional Court until last week. This kind of flexibility is a feature of good constitutions, he told the STA.

The court's new president, Matej Accetto, likewise thinks the Constitution has stood the test of time. "However, it has been shown time and again that the Constitution must be understood, used and nurtured," he said.

Accetto highlighted the basic tenets of the Constitution - rule of law, separation of powers and independence of the judiciary - as perhaps the document's most important features in a crisis such as the Covid pandemic.

"Many messages in the Constitution are written precisely for moments when something goes wrong or does not run completely smoothly. And in such moment one needs to be aware of them and implement them accordingly," he said.

The Constitution remained conceptually unchanged but it has been amended several times, most notably in the run-up to Slovenia's accession to the EU, and more recently, when the right to clean drinking water, sign language and the golden fiscal rule were enshrined in the Constitution.

Statements by prominent jurists indicate some changes may be needed in future, though they are reserved as to what scope such changes should have.

Peter Jambrek, the first president of the Constitutional Court and one of the main authors of the Constitution, told the STA the Constitution had turned out to be very stable and firm and did not need major changes since it is "brief and clear, does not go into particularities and concrete solutions."

He believes the only potential change should be a new electoral system "if the necessary majority emerges".

Miro Cerar, a jurist who acted as secretary to the group that drafted the Constitution, proposes more far-reaching changes. He told the STA provisions on the composition and powers of the upper chamber of parliament, the appointment of ministers, election of judges and the composition of the Judicial Council are ripe for change.

Similarly, Tone Jerovšek, a former judge and one of the authors of the Constitution, singled out the appointment of ministers, which are now named by the National Assembly at the proposal of the prime minister, an arrangement he said was unique.

It would also make sense to implement changes regarding the electoral system and the upper chamber of parliament, which Jerovšek thinks should be strengthened.

But Cerar also warned that all changes must be careful and substantiated. "It would be damaging to interfere in the very foundations of the Constitution if this was not absolutely needed."

For years the most often voiced complaint about the country's Constitutional framework, at least from the ranks of jurists, has been that it opens the door too wide to the Constitutional Court, which has resulted in a very high caseload for the judges.

According to Knez, the last change of the act governing the Constitutional Court made access to the court easier, prompting him to warn the State Attorney's Office that the time it takes to process motions was becoming a problem that could end up being adjudicated by the European Court of Human Rights.

Jerovšek agrees that access to the court is too broad, as evidenced by thousands of applications the court has had to deal with during the pandemic.

He thinks the court should accept only the most glaring cases of violations, which would reduce the caseload and allow the court to delve deeper into each individual case.

You can read the constitution here

16 Dec 2021, 17:15 PM

STA, 16 December 2021 - Slovenia is already a European power in the field of artificial intelligence, said the Minister for Digital Transformation, Mark Boris Andrijanič. As he pointed out on Thursday at the European AI Forum in Ljubljana, Slovenia has the highest number of AI researchers per capita in Europe.

Slovenia hosts the UNESCO Centre for Artificial Intelligence and has an extremely vibrant AI community, minister Andrijanič pointed out in his address.

"We draw our strength from more than four decades of artificial intelligence research at the world-renowned Jožef Stefan Institute," he added.

Andrijanič also touched upon the importance of linking cutting-edge research with industry and the public sector, and highlighted Slovenia's decision to make digital transformation and AI one of its top priorities during its EU presidency.

"During Slovenia's presidency, EU ministers endorsed the general approach on the digital services act, the digital markets act, the data governance act and the network and information systems security directive, which together form the backbone of new digital legislation in the EU," he said.

According to Andrijanič, the first compromise text for the artificial intelligence act was already prepared during the Slovenian presidency. This will be the first comprehensive legislative framework for AI in the world, he pointed out.

"Artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies know no national borders or other limits of this kind. It is therefore crucial that we all work together to harness their unlimited potential," Andrijanič added.

Andrijanič spoke at the European AI Forum, a pan-European non-profit initiative addressing the field of artificial intelligence.

This year's conference addressed the key challenges of AI deployment and the legislation dealing with issues of data in AI. It was organised by the AI4SI initiative and the Association for Informatics and Telecommunications at the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

15 Dec 2021, 15:41 PM

STA, 15 December 2021 - The Slovenian register of intangible cultural heritage has been expanded with three new entries: the traditional building of nativity scenes, the traditional Slovenian festive pastry - potica, and the health profession and practice of midwifery.

The nativity scene is a popular Christian tradition, a display of art objects that represent the birth of Jesus, usually exhibited around Christmas time in different forms, with figures representing characters from the nativity story.

Nativity scenes have a long tradition in Slovenia, but they were revived particularly in the 1990s, says the website of the Culture Ministry.

In 1990, the first live nativity scene was staged in the Postojna Cave, while a life-size nativity scene was built on Šmarna Gora near Ljubljana in 1991. The first documented nativity scene in Slovenia was displayed in 1641 in a church in Gornji Grad.

The second addition, Slovenian potica, is a traditional Slovenian festive pastry made of rolled leavened paper-thin dough and filled with any of a great variety of fillings.

The characteristic potica is round with a hole in the middle, and made with a filling of walnut or tarragon. There are also variants with quark, hazelnut, pumpkin seed, poppy seed, and even salted ones with cracklings or bacon.

Potica is commonly regarded as the most recognised pastry in Slovenia. It is thought to have originated as a ceremonial type of bread that was made in the country as early as the Middle Ages. The first to mention potica was Slovenian priest Primož Trubar in 1575.

See the recipe for potica from Cook Eat Slovenia

The third addition to the register, midwifery, covers the specific knowledge and skills of childbirth support. Traditionally, midwifery was an exclusively female activity, and midwives have held a special status within the community.

As it became more professionalised, a midwifery school was founded in Ljubljana in 1753, and the first maternity hospital in Slovenia was established in 1789. Today, there is also a special midwifery course available at the Faculty of Medicine in Ljubljana.

14 Dec 2021, 21:10 PM

There’s not much time left to sort out your Christmas gifts, so as your mind races as to what will delight yourself or a loved one this year consider making a visit to a seasonal pop-up store in central Ljubljana, offering items produced by local designers with sustainability in mind.

The store will be open this Thursday and Friday, 16-17 December, at Igriška 3, Ljubljana, right by the charming  Mali Nebotičnik, or Little Skyscraper, a nice area to explore in terms of architecture, food, drink, and interesting shopping, and one that’s just set back from Slovenska cesta – easy to fit into whatever other plans you might have. Scroll past the related images below and learn more...

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Here, from noon to 8pm, you’ll be able choose from a wide array of items, including: recycled silver jewellery (Tina Košak - www.floiosjewelry.com), decorated water bottles (Darja Malešič - www.darjamalresic.net), clothing (Vita Ivičič - www.makosh.si, and Petra Turk - www.ringana.com), bags (Gojka Rak - www.naramobags.com), pet accessories (Molly and Cooper - www.mollyandcooper.com), knitwear (Ksenja Baraga - www.baragaga.si) and even time spent with a Marie Kondo Home Improvement Consultant (Tina Markun – www.tinamarkun.si), if you feel a little overwhelmed.
 All on 16-17 December, noon to 8pm, at Igriška 3, Ljubljana

13 Dec 2021, 13:32 PM

STA, 9 December 2021 - A pop song without which Slovenians can hardly imagine a New Year's Eve is celebrating its 50th anniversary. To mark the anniversary, a museum in Maribor honoured its singer and citizen Alfi Nipič with an exhibition which traces his 60-year career while he marked the anniversary in hospital ill with Covid-19.

The lyrics for Silvestrski Poljub were written by Dušan Velkavrh and music by Jože Privšek, while Nipič, now 77, recorded it on 8 December 1971.

The exhibition, termed I Shall Remain a Musician, is a collaboration between Nipič and the Museum of National Liberation.

It brings insight in Nipič's entire career while focussing on Silvestrski Poljub as "the crown of his songs", the museum's director Aleksandra Berberih Slana said at the opening on Wednesday.

"We're extremely happy that Alfi chose our museum as the partner for the exhibition. Fact is that the musician has left an incredible mark on the city of Maribor, Štajerska region and Slovenia over the past 60 years," she added.

The idea was that Nipič would sing at the opening, but he could not make it as he has been in hospital for Covid-19, including ten days in intensive care.

Still, he thanked the medical staff for their efforts by signing them Silvestrski Poljub in his hospital bed with an oxygen mask, posting the recording online.

Nipič inherited his talent from his mother and started singing while still in secondary school. His career started rising in the decade between 1962-1973.

The same year he recorded Silvstrski Poljub he also joined the Avsenik Brothers, the most popular Slovenian Oberkrainer or pop folk music band, until 1990.

During the 30 years he was in the band he recorded over 250 new songs, won 16 golden records and toured German-speaking countries, as well as the US and Australia, after which he went solo and formed his own pop folk music band.

His son Dejan Nipič said at the exhibition opening that his father had wanted this exhibition very much, as well as the book, which will be published in the coming months.

12 Dec 2021, 12:14 PM

STA, 10 December 2021 - A Slovenian folk music ensemble called Štirje Kovači (Four Blacksmiths) from the northern Koroška region has made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the longest active polka music band in the world. The ensemble has been making music for nearly seven decades.

The band had been striving to get into the book for a year and a half and this week it finally received a certificate confirming its Guinness feat.

Štirje Kovači have been producing music and performing for 67 years without any breaks under the leadership of accordion player and singer-songwriter Franc Šegovc.

"We're very honoured to have got into the Guinness Book of Records. This feat is a culmination of 67 years of work, hard work," Hermina Šegovc, the wife of the bandleader, told the STA. She joined the ensemble as a singer in the early 1970s.

The band was formed in 1954 by four young boys who worked at an ironwork company in Slovenj Gradec. The ensemble, which still performs and appears on TV and radio, has seven members today. The track Kam Le Čas Beži (Where Does Time Go) is the band's best-known song.

Over the past seven decades, Štirje Kovači have recorded more than 40 albums and been performing in Slovenia and overseas, including for Slovenian communities in the US and Canada.

The band's achievements have been immortalised also by an exhibition at the Koroška Regional Museum which, Hermina Šegovc said, will soon display the ensemble's latest feat as well, its Guinness world record.

10 Dec 2021, 16:37 PM

Back in May 2020 we reported on the launch of a new Slovenia-inspired apparel brand – BREG Design Co.

Despite starting up in a pandemic, BREG have survived lockdown, and even released several new designs including a new winter collection. We caught up with the creator – Sam Baldwin - to find out how things were going.

What are the new designs about?

As always, I look for interesting elements of Slovene culture, history, food, landscape or language, and base my designs on those. I find no shortage of fascinating Slovene things which inspire me.

The Slovene Grammar [https://www.bregdesign.com/slovene-grammar/] design is for anyone who ever tried to learn Slovene; a language with grammar so complex, it has been known to cause brain damage. It’s inspired by a classic brand of Slovenian cigarettes that used to be made in Ljubljana at the tobačna.

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The Velika Planina [https://www.bregdesign.com/velika-planina-hut-head/] design celebrates the iconic shape of these beautiful Shepard’s huts which are unique to Slovenia and have a really interesting form.

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The Bled Block t-shirt [https://www.bregdesign.com/bled/] plays with the town’s most iconic cake, and TR3 design [https://www.bregdesign.com/ljubljana-tr3/] celebrates the ‘brutal beauty’ of Ljubljana’s twin tower blocks.

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And finally, BREG Classic [https://www.bregdesign.com/classic/] is a simple design that plays with the Slovene language.

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Where can people buy BREG shirts?

For the full range of designs, colours and garments, the online store is the easiest place to buy: BregDesign.com.

If you’re based in Slovenia, you can also find selected lines at our partner retailers in Ljubljana [https://www.bregdesign.com/buy] centre, Šiška, and Vrhnika.

How has the pandemic affected the business?

Covid appeared at exactly the wrong time for starting a new venture! I had just hung the first shirts up in a café in Ljubljana (the excellent Črno Zrno) when lockdown struck and everyone closed their doors for business. So it wasn’t quite the launch I was hoping for. (I wrote a bit about that experience here: How I started a Slovenian T-shirt Brand During a Pandemic

But in hindsight there have been some good things to come out of the Covid situation too. Online sales have been strong, especially outside of Slovenia, and the situation also gave me time to experiment with different approaches.

Despite all the travel restrictions and corona chaos, I still managed to build up a network of retailers and hundreds of shirts have been sold. My thinking was: if I can make this work during a pandemic, then I can make it work anytime.

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Will there be more designs to come?

Yes. I am constantly sketching out new designs. For the shirts sold in stores in Slovenia, we normally do a limited print run of just 100 shirts. I normally prefer to then print a new design rather than repeat a previous one. So, there’ll always be fresh BREG designs coming!

I’m working with my design partner Valeriya of One Line Art, and there’ll be plenty more fresh designs coming in 2022.

To see all designs visit: www.BregDesign.com

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