Made in Slovenia

28 Jun 2019, 14:08 PM

STA, 27 June 2019 - An exhibition on famous Slovenian architect and designer Jože Plečnik (1872-1957) and his designs of sacred objects opened in the Vatican Museums on Thursday evening, featuring 33 selected liturgical vessels as well as video presentations of his sacred architectural works.

 

Related: Playful and Austere - A Visit to Plečnik's House in Ljubljana

The opening was attended and addressed by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Culture Minister Zoran Poznič.

Šarec said at a reception for Slovenian Statehood Day, which followed the opening of the exhibition, that Slovenia should be proud and happy as this was the first Slovenian exhibition in the Vatican.

"Jože Plečnik is the greatest son of Slovenian architecture. He was a deeply religious man, which is perhaps less known, and it is not a coincidence that he created objects which we admire today."

Minister Poznič said that it was one of the largest events in culture this year. "The exhibition tells us how our artist, master Plečnik, associated the spiritual and material works in his work," he was quoted by the Culture Ministry.

Labelling Plečnik as one of the greatest men in Slovenian cultural history, the minister said that the "exhibition is an exceptional opportunity, serving as a booster of what sometimes we as a society lack - self-confidence."

Barbara Jatta, the director of the Vatican Museums, is happy that Pinacoteca Vaticana is hosting an "important exhibition of sacral objects by Jože Plečnik, a great architect and designer of the 20th century".

"Plečnik created an original and innovative style, which shows both in his church architecture and in the field of liturgical vessels," Jatta was quoted by the Ljubljana Museum and Galleries (MGML).

According to Peter Krečič, an expert on Plečnik's life and work who arranged the exhibition in cooperation with the Plečnik House curator Ana Porok, Europe and the world truly discovered the greatness of the architect's opus after his work was presented at the Paris Pompidou Centre in 1986.

Primarily famous for being an architect and urbanist, he was also a great designer, with his work being mostly showcased in three European capitals - Vienna, Prague and Ljubljana.

He established himself at the beginning of the 20th century by designing the famous Zacherl Palace in Vienna, then moved on to renovating the Prague Castle and its vicinity, transforming them into the symbol and political centre of a modern democratic state.

Plečnik also turned his hometown Ljubljana into a modern capital, having designed iconic buildings and spaces there.

Encouraged by his brother, who was a priest, he started designing liturgical vessels in 1913, including chalices, ciboria and monstrances, thus revolutionising traditional concepts of such design by introducing modern, clear lines and simple decoration featuring gemstones.

Designing the vessels, Plečnik drew inspiration from the art of sculpture, which makes those designs stand out and provides that transcendent aesthetic value which is essential to experience the sacred, according to Krečič.

The exhibition, entitled Plečnik and the Sacred, has been put on by the MGML in cooperation with the Slovenian Embassy to the Holy See, the Culture Ministry, the Ljubljana Archdiocese and Vatican Museums.

According to the MGML, Plečnik is the first Slovenian artist whose work will be showcased at the Vatican Museums. The exhibition will run until 7 September.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis received sculptor and painter Miko Simčič, the author of a one-tonne bust of the pope, made of Carrara marble, and standing on a pedestal made of two-colour Hotavlje marble.

Simčič said he had made the bust with the pope's approval, which he sees as a great honour, as Pope Francis had so far been rejecting the idea. The bust will be housed in the Vatican, and the artist wants to make more of them and give them to various cathedrals around the world.

You can learn more about the exhibition here

21 Jun 2019, 14:03 PM

June 21, 2019

After attending last week's London release of Exploring Extraordinary, a book that explores the history of Rolls Royce and Bentley and also features the work of Mateja Benedetti, the designer's latest venture, Benedetti Life, has now launched both an online store and showroom in Ljubljana.

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Photo: Boštjan Podlogar 
 

Online preorders can be made for Benedetti Life's Parrots' Poetry collection, which the firm sees as a way to reduce overstocking and therefore avoid potentially unsold items that then become textile waste.

Starting this Monday, June 26, 2019, customers will also be able to place made-to-measure orders from the collection with a Morro Sartoriale tailor.

The Benedetti Life showroom opening, at Kristalna palača in BTC City, was hosted by the always positive and friendly Manca Košir, the Slovenian author, journalist and environmental activist, and Moda Mi&Lan and Morro Sartoriale label CEO Milan Mörec.

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Manca Košir and Milan Mörec presenting Benedetti Life at Morro Sartoriale showroom;    Photo: Boštjan Podlogar 
 

Benedetti Life is a sustainable and animal-free luxury fashion label, founded by the award-winning designer Mateja Benedetti. The Benedetti Life fashion line was created in response to mounting reports on the devastating impact fast fashion has on the environment, animal and human wellbeing.

Mateja Benedetti

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Mateja Benedetti with Manca Košir                                             Photo: Boštjan Podlogar 
 

Mateja Benedetti, a Slovenia-based fashion designer, started her career as a costume designer for opera houses and theatres, her works being featured all over the world, including Milan, Paris, Los Angeles, Kuwait, and Singapore, among other locations. In 2014, she launched her first sustainable fashion brand and Vogue Italia selected it as one of the TOP 20 most promising eco-friendly clothing brands in the world that same year. In 2017, Mateja made it among the five finalists at the Green Carpet Award, conferred at Teatro alla Scala during Milano Fashion Week. The renowned Suzy Menkes interviewed her for International Vogue in 2017, and Livia Firth selected her apple-skin gown for a Grazia photoshoot, published the same year. In 2018 she received the Positive Luxury and the Big See Awards. Mateja’s work has recently been featured in book Exploring Extraordinary, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the carmakers Rolls Royce and Bentley.

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Photo: Boštjan Podlogar 
 

Benedetti Life uses only non-toxic and organically grown textile materials, makes its clothes locally, in line with fair trade and decent workers’ conditions, and guarantees no animals were abused in the process of garment creation, be directly or indirectly through the environmental destruction. By its high ethical standards and constant search for new material and productive solutions Benedetti Life sets the bar as high as it gets. Responsibility driven innovation combined with luxury fashion design results in skin-friendly, timeless creations inspired by life and nature.

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Photo: Boštjan Podlogar 
 
 

Parrots’ Poetry Collection

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Photo: Boštjan Podlogar 
 

Each Benedetti Life collection explores an animal species under threat due to the destruction of their natural habitat, hunting and climate change. It aims to celebrate the creatures’ beauty in garments, and raise awareness of the threats and related solutions that would improve their conservation status. Parrots have served as human inspiration and companions since at least Roman times. Today, many of the existing 387 parrot species are endangered, with some on the verge of extinction, due to destruction of their natural habitats and the persistence of illegal trade in wild-caught stock. These include some of the most beautiful and intelligent species, such as the big colourful Arinae from the New World, talking African parrots, cockatoos and the flightless Kakapo of the New Zealand.

Benedetti Life captures the beauty of these birds in its clothes not in cages. In the process maximum concern is placed on protection of the environment and people involved in the manufacturing process.

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Photo: Boštjan Podlogar 
 
 

Wood Stock by Benedetti Life

In collaboration with the Slovenian Wood Stock Eyewear brand, Benedetti Life also presents the Wood Stock by Benedetti Life sunglasses line.

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Photo: Boštjan Podlogar 
 

Wood Stock is a name that stands for environmental responsibility and excellence in craftsmanship. Wood Stock’s wooden sunglasses are not only locally produced but handmade by the skilful master Jaka Jančič himself, while high quality lenses are provided by a Slovenian lens producer Alcom.  The frames of Wood Stock sunglasses are made of certified fair-trade wood. Once carved, the frames are then protected with skin friendly citrus oils and beeswax.

Wood Stock by Benedetti Life offers several designs that span from a straight wooden look to rich embellishments of birds, flowers and Swarovski crystals.

Morro Sartoriale

The Morro Sartoriale showroom, which is located in Kristalna palača at BTC City, Ljubljana is an exclusive host of the Benedetti Life showroom, where customers can order made-to-measure Parrots’ Poetry Collection designs with the Mi&Lan tailor every Monday between 8:00 and 11:00 and every Wednesday from 11:00 to 18:00. Bookings can be made by calling 070 669 669 or writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Photo: Boštjan Podlogar 
 
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Photo: Boštjan Podlogar 
 

03 Jun 2019, 13:36 PM

STA, 1 June 2019 - The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first gene therapy to treat babies with spinal muscular atrophy, an innovative therapy that also involves technology developed by the Slovenian company Bia Separations.

 The medication, Zolgensma, is manufactured by the US company Avexis, part of the Swiss group Novartis, using Bia Separations's purification technology.

Aleš Štrancar, the CEO of the Ajdovščina-based company, has hailed the approval of Zolgensma as Slovenian science's breakthrough among leading global strategic technologies.

Purification is a key process in production of medicines, in particular biological ones, because the active substance needs to be separated from other substances, which are often toxic.

The purification process represents up to 90% of the production costs of a drug.

Bia Separations's smart filters have become part of the therapy's registration, which means exclusive use of the Slovenian company's products for 20 to 30 years.

The approval makes Avexis a leading manufacturer of active agents for gene therapy, Štrancar said, adding that for Bia Separations this was a key reference project in the field.

"Our company is looking at the potential to generate more than 500 million euro in annual sales in a decade," Štrancar said.

He underscored that without this innovative gene therapy babies with spinal muscular atrophy would die before reaching the age of two years.

The medication replaces part of the flawed gene and after treatment the patients can live normally.

Štrancar noted that the therapy's approval is paving the way for development of active agents to treat rare genetic disorders in the short term, and to treat all types of disease in the long run.

02 Jun 2019, 23:35 PM

STA, 1 June 2019 - The University of Maribor, cooperating with the Tekstina company and the Institute for Environmental Protection and Sensors (IOS), has set up a demonstration lab for chemical textile recycling which has already caught the eye of giants like Adidas, Nike and Decathlon.

The lab has been developed as part of the European project Resyntex, which is helping develop technology for the recycling of low quality textiles usually slated for incineration or waste repositories.

Resyntex involves 20 partners, including the three Slovenian ones which have launched a demo recycling line in Maribor. They see it as harbouring major use potential, as it is meant to enable new findings with regard to obtaining secondary resources from various types of waste, not only textiles.

Also immense are the marketing possibilities, given that EU legislation has brought very ambitious new waste recycling targets.

"In June we are mostly offering these services to the project's partners, while as of 1 July the line will be available to all who wish to think sustainably," IOS director and Maribor Faculty of Engineering professor Aleksandra Lobnik told the STA.

"We've been engaged in many talks, but no contracts have been signed yet," she said, noting that many textile companies had committed themselves to sustainable development and would now also be bound to it though legislation.

Textile waste is being treated with chemical depolarization and enzymatic degradation. The project is extra valuable in that it is the first to also tackle textile mixtures, something not possible so far.

"Such textiles make up 94% of all textiles on the market," explained Lobnik, who is the project's technical director.

The lab allows the textiles to be broken down into basic chemicals. Cellulose is for instance used to obtain glucose and thereby bioethanol, an energy source, wool is composed of proteins that can be utilized in place of toxic formaldehyde used in wood-based panels, and synthetic fibres can be used to get fresh fibres for new textile or plastic products.

The total amount of waste textiles in the EU is estimated at 16 million tonnes annually, and "waste that now means costs can become profitable".

"What we have in Maribor is only a demo lab, which allows an optimisation of the process so that an industrial facility can be built later on," Lobnik said, explaining such facilities could process several tonnes of textile waste a day.

Along with placing the findings made so far on the market, IOS wants to further step up research with partners in the future.

"Textiles are not the only problem, there are large amounts of other waste, which is why we are already developing technologies meant to also include the decomposition of other types of plastic and materials," Lobnik said.

27 May 2019, 20:52 PM

With its long history of growing juniper berries (brina) and distilling a juniper-based schnapps (brinjevec or brinavec), Slovenia has the culture and skills needed to produce high quality gin. However, it’s only in recent years that commercial production of the spirit seems to have gained traction, with at least 14 distillers now having versions of the classic drink on the market.

We thus present part two of our series on Slovenian gin, to help you choose the next bottle or glass to enjoy.

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Aufbix is a small-batch London-style gin flavoured with juniper berries, coriander, cardamom, carob, angelica and orris root, with additional citrus notes given to the spirit with the use of  fresh peel from pink grapefruits and blood oranges from Sicily. And that Italian note isn’t the only international ingredient in the Aufbix story, as one of the founders of 78 Stopinj, the distillery that uses water from Mount Pohorje to produce it’s drinks, is from New Zealand, with a background in winemaking. Website.

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Broken Bones is made in Ljubljana from a distillery that started with whisky before moving on to gin, with the aim of producing a spirit that could be enjoyed neat as well as in a cocktail. The unique flavour of the drink is given by the use of rosehip berries  and linden tree flowers, with the latter an especially Slovenian touch, given that this is one of the symbols of the nation. The name comes from when the owners, Borut and Boštjan, both had accidents when working with their first whisky barrels, resulting in a broken leg and broken nose. The gin is made in small batches, with each batch being slightly different. In addition to the standard gin, the company also produces Broken Bones Navy Strength Gin (57% ABV), and is working on Broken Bones Old Tom Gin, with added honey and matured in Slovenian oak casks. Website.

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Karakter Gin is distilled by a team who were draw to the spirit for two reasons: first for the relative simplicity of it’s production, and second because gin is a drink that allows for a wide range of experimentation. The result is thus a gin that has character, hence the name, and one that seeks to explore the basic idea of gin by brining out the complexity of the usual juniper berries and botanicals by adding various atypital herbs and spices. If that sounds intriguing then seek out a bottle or glass of Karakter Dry Gin, produced using maceration, infusion, and percolation. Website.

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Monologue Gin is the first “celebrity” gin in this series, presented by Tomaž Kavčič, the top chef of the famed Pri Lojzetu. The twist on this gin is that Kavčič has aimed to capture the taste of Vipava in the spirit, which in addioion to the usual herbs and botanicals is flavoured with rosemary, lavender and an extract of olive leaves. No website at present, but the restaurant can be found here.

Other articles in this series can be found here

 

22 May 2019, 11:30 AM

STA, 21 May 2019 - The company Hurra Studios' Little Heroes start-up project, creating personalised children's books, was declared the Slovenian start-up of the year at a ceremony during the Podim start-up conference in Maribor on Tuesday.

Little Heroes's customers can choose the name, gender and appearance of their protagonists as well as the content of stories.

In addition to personalised books, Hurra Studios also sells other products, including gift boxes, which account for over 25% of the company's business, which has led to a significant change in Hurra Studios' revenue sources, said the conference organisers.

The company has so far attracted more than 600,000 customers, with the number expected to rise to 1.5 million by the end of this year.

Its trade is also rapidly increasing and expanding to other countries. Besides Slovenia, the company is present in Italy, Austria, France, Germany and the US, while also planning to enter the British, Canadian and Australian markets.

The Ljubljana-based company employs more than 100 people in the capital and over 250 at the global level.

The award was handed out for the 12th time by a judging panel which featured entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and other members of the Slovenian start-up world.

The Podim conference is considered one of the leading start-up events in the Alpe Adria region and the Western Balkans. Last year, the award went to Next, a start-up that developed an online cleaning service platform called Beeping.

You can learn more about Hurra Heroes – also called Hooray Heroes – here

16 May 2019, 18:35 PM

Slovenia is a small country, with just over two million people and a capital where it can be hard to find something to eat after midnight. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t home to businesses, artists and designers who can enjoy its sleepy charms while still engaging with the wider world. One of these is Olga Košica, a jeweller, artisan and artist who can be found working in the small studio she shares with Martina Obid Mlakar in Ljubljana's Old Town, designing, making and selling her pieces around Europe, in Asia, and elsewhere. Intrigued by her story, I got on my bicycle to learn more about how a small business, drawn from the hands and heart, could do all this. Along with some pictures of Olga’s work, here are some excerpts from our conversation

I started my career almost by chance. I took a short course in college, an introduction to jewellery, and was fascinated. From then on I wanted to learn more. I couldn’t do that in Slovenia, because there weren’t the schools, so I applied to study in London, at the Royal College of Art, and was lucky enough to be accepted, and I did my MA there.

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Photo: Olga Košica

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Photo: Olga Košica

I already had some basic knowledge, but at RCA they really encouraged me, and saw my potential. They also provided a lot of support, in terms of, say, technicians and equipment. I was there for two years, working every day, but it was wonderful, because there’s everything at your disposal. It’s a great school.

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Photo: Mimi Antolović

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Photo: Mimi Antolović

Back then I was rying many different things, and you can still see some of those pieces here in the store. A lot of them, like this necklace, were electroformed using wax, but – as you can see – this piece is falling apart, because I’ve loaned it out for so many fashion shows, photos shoots, and so on. I did a lot of electroformed pieces in London, which looked like coral, and also beetles, a lot of beetles, because when I start something it’s like a production line.

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Photo: Rok Marinšek

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Photo: Rok Marinšek

I work freelance. This is my workshop, so here I can handmake certain pieces. But when I work for Zlatarna Celje I just make the designs, not the physical pieces. I've been working with them for 14 years now. I did some gold collections, but mainly I worked on their silver line – LENCIA.

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Photo: Olga Košica

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Photo: Olga Košica

Another project I spend a lot of time on is 3-D printing, which I do along with the graphic designer Rok Marinšek for the Chinese designer Masha Ma, to be used as part of fashion show at Paris fashion week.. They’re made of polyamide, and they’re really fun. We started about 6 years ago, when in Maribor they’d just got a huge machine. It was very exact, the best for its time, and they wanted some designers to use it, to see what could be done.

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Photo: Rok Marinšek

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Photo: Matjaž Banič

We played around with it and produced some really interesting things. Some of those were taken to Paris by Andrej Skok, a Slovenian stylist who works with Masha Ma, and that’s how that collaboration started. We produce some of this here in Slovenia, but for certain pieces we send the files to i.materialise, a Belgian company.

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Photo: Rok Marinšek

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Photo: Rok Marinšek

 I move between different projects and different ways of working. So sometimes I’m working on the computer, producing a file for 3-D printing, and with that you can go into incredible detail that wouldn’t be possible by hand. For example, I made some 3-D printed frozen flowers, and you can see the ice. But these aren’t real frozen flowers that were scanned, they were all designed. And then when you have the data of course you can change the size, stretch it, copy-paste it, move it around. In that way you can get a lot of different pieces out of one design element.

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Photo: Mimi Antolović

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Photo: Olga Košica

But then I also enjoy making the pieces myself, in the workshop, because that can be more spontaneous. Of course, people are surprised when they come to the workshop and they see the reality. Jewellery is very delicate, but the process of making it can be very brutal, and you need a lot of force to stretch metal, change its shape, or make some wire. Which is why this all used to be seen as men’s work.

You can see more of Olga Košica’s work on her website or, if you happen to be at the far end of Ljubljana’s Old Town, visit her workshop instead at Gornji trg 26.

13 May 2019, 16:00 PM

We’re huge fans of the K67 kiosk, the modular unit that (as noted in our earlier feature):

was designed in 1966 by the then young Slovenian architect Saša Janez Mächtig (b. 1941, Ljubljana), a former student of Edvard Ravnikar, and put into mass production in various colours two years later. It was made of reinforced polyfibre, steel, and glass, and was intended as to be used as part of modular structures – as seen in some of these photographs – as well as for temporary events. While they stopped being produced shortly after Slovenian independence, many still remain in use around Eastern Europe, although more have disappeared, and others sit abandoned, waiting to be rediscovered by urban explorers.

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Saša Janez Mächtig, the designer, in front of one of his many creations. Screenshot from the www.24ur.com report

While one of these little wonders sits in New York’s MoMA, another has is now touched down not far away in Times Square, as part of the NYC Design Pavillion, fulfilling one of its more traditional roles as an information centre. The event runs until May 22, and you can see a short video report on the K67, including an interview with the still vibrant Saša Janez Mächtig, here. The president of the Times Square Alliance, Tim Tompkins, can also be seen saying that the aim of the event was to present the best design from around the world, and joked that the K67 brought a little bit of Europe into the New World, a bit of beauty to a not-so-beautiful place, even a bit of socialism to the centre of capitalism.

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K67s in the wild, courtesy of Google Image Search

You can learn more about the K67 in our earlier story, and add a little excitement to your time in Slovenia, and nearby, by then being to spot a design classic that really does deserve the title hidden gem.

All our stories on architecture in Slovenia can be found here

12 May 2019, 15:18 PM

If you enjoy gin then what better way to turn your habit into a hobby than to explore the world beyond the big names, and if you’d like a good excuse to restock your liquor shelf with intriguing bottles and varied tastes then consider entering the world of Slovenian gin

To the ill-informed this might seem like a risky proposal – what would Slovenians know about gin? But this would be a mistake akin to dismissing Japanese whisky or Californian wine. More so, perhaps, as Slovenia not only has the climate and knowledge needed to produce the drink, but a long history of working with juniper berries, producing a native spirit known as brinjevec (sometimes brinavec).

Brina is the Slovenian name for the berry that gives gin, along with various other botanicals – each producer using their own selection – its distinctive taste, and here we’ll note that botanicals, distillation and restorative liqueurs are also all part of the country’s cultural heritage. And gin, if not quite in the DNA, is certainly in the bloodstream of a growing number of Slovenians.

We thus present part one of a brief guide to of the bigger names in domestic gin production, the ones you might find in good liquor stores and bars across the country, and soon, perhaps, abroad.

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Berryshka, based in Dolenjske Toplice, is family firm that started in 1950 producing essential oils. While this remains the core business, the company has long applied its expertise in extraction and distillation to other products, including a range of spirits and fruit liqueurs, with drinks that are low in sugar, come with no artificial colours or additives, and are made using natural spring water. These liqueurs are based on natural flavours such as cherry, aronia, walnut, blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry, and juniper – the berry that gives gin its distinctive taste. Berryshka juniper products currently include a brinjevec – marketed as brandy and sold in both original and oak-barrel aged varieties  – and two gins. London Gin Berryshka follows the traditions of the most popular gin, with a neutral alcohol flavoured with juniper berries, angelica,  iris,  cinnamon,  liquorice,  cardamom,  anise,  cumin,  lemon, and coriander, while the while the more distinctive BrinGin Berryshka has the alcohol provided by juniper distillate, producing a drink that can be savoured neat, or enjoyed with the usual mixers. You can find Berryshka’s liquers and chocolates in many stores, but for the full experience you’re welcome to visit the factory, which also produces handmade chocolates, an experience that could easily be combined with a trip to Novo mesto, or the nearby hot springs. Find out more the company’s website.

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Brin Gin is the work of Erik Sarkič, a third-generation brinjevec producer who grew up with a deep background in junipers and distillation. The move to gin was thus natural one, opening up new markets for the family business, and arguably making better use of the berries, since a litre of brinjevec requires around 8 kg of them, while the same amount of gin gains it’s more subtle flavour from just 20 g. In his mission to dive deeper into the flavour profile of the juniper Berry Erik is supported by Matevž Kmet, a biochemist who works as a consultant for the firm and has the air of a mad scientist, or at least a man for whom the greater the challenge, the more exciting it is to consider. Together Erik and Matevž dream up new products and then work to make their dreams become reality. One of these, still in the experimental stage, includes an alcohol-free gin, for those who love the taste of a good G&T but want to maintain a clear head. Another is what’s intended to be the world’s best, and most expensive, gin – with production of this now completed, and the launch only waiting on the perfect bottle to be found. Finally, Erik and Matevž are also working on a product that will be made entirely of juniper, including a juniper wood bottle. You can keep up with the latest developments, and order a bottle online, here.

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DTG (Dry Tergeste Gin) also takes its own approach to the classic spirit, and is yet another small producer showing that the Slovenian tradition of brinjevec means the country is well positioned to become home to a variety of boutique gin brands, all of which are worthy of a place on your shelf. The name refers to Tergeste, or Trst (or, you must, Trieste), and Martin Žužek Kres, an anthropologist by training who developed the drink, wants his products to reflect the history of the land. However, DTG doesn’t just have a story to tell, but also a product that distinguishes itself from other gins in a number of ways. For one, it avoids the use of grain alcohol to give the drink its kick, and instead relies on alcohol produced from the juniper berry, mixed with a unique coffee cherry brandy. Coffee cherries are the fruit that grow around and protect coffee beans, and contain both caffeine and antioxidants. Their use in gin doesn’t produce a coffee-flavoured drink, but does give an interesting taste that can be enjoyed neat, without ice, or with mixers. In a sign of how quickly the Slovenian gin scene is set to evolve, the company has three new products that are still in development, but which I was lucky enough to taste at a recent event, and these will add to the flagship drink’s flavour profile with the use of spruce, thyme, and wild mint. Look out for DTG in stores, or order a bottle online.

All the parts of this series can be found here

08 May 2019, 16:51 PM

May 8, 2019

You might know of Klemen Slakonja from his international hit Putin Putout that rocked YouTube in 2016, and with 23 million views is perhaps the most successful Slovenian video on the platform to date.

Slakonja, originally from Brežice, started his impersonating career somewhere in high school, then studied at the Academy for Theatre Radio Film and Television, and fooled around on the local Radio Energy in Krško. In the late summer of 2007, he performed at the welcoming ceremony for a hammer thrower, Primož Kozmos, who was returning silver from the World Championship in Osaka. There, Slakonja was spotted by a national radio journalist, who notified Sašo Hribar, the main host of the popular Radio Ga-Ga Show, of the young talent.

Slakonja accepted the invitation and performed on the show several times side-by-side with the current Slovenian prime minister, Marjan Šarec. Below is an excerpt from his first appearance. The plot of this show was the funeral of Angela (one of the show's recurring characters):

In 2008 he landed his first job as a TV host, in a  popular family Sunday afternoon show called NLP on RTV 1. In 2011 he hosted his first EMA show, which chooses the Slovenian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, and did so again in 2012 and 2016.

From 2013 to 2014 he hosted two of his own comedy shows for commercial TV stations, namely Zadetek v petek (Full on Friday) and Je bella cesta (Damn). Below is an example from one of these shows, in which he is impersonating Modrijani, a Slovenian oompah band, while the song talks about the uptight, obscenity free culture of the Slovenes, in which everyday words hint at sexuality.

2016 was the year of a big international breakthrough for Klemen Slakonja, when his Putin Putout YouTube video went viral, which was followed by much-viewed parodies featuring Angela Merkel and Donald Trump.

 

Also in 2016, Klemen Slakonja played himself as an aspiring serious actor turned popular entertainer due to public demand in a play Ubu the King, directed by Jernej Lorenci and produced by Slovenian National Theatre Drama.

 

In recent years, Klemen Slakonja has produced nearly 50 video parodies of local and international pop-singers, politicians and other public figures, so it’s not surprising that he last year decided to put them all on stage in the form of a concert.  Three of his concerts in the main Gallus Hall of Cankar home were sold out. Then he organised a Slovenian tour, with three concerts that were to take place in Maribor, Ljubljana, and Portorož this spring, the last one scheduled in June. However, all of the concerts were cancelled due to illness and technical issues.   

Although Klemen obviously needs some rest, we hoped he would at least appear during the Eurovision Song Contest later this month, announcing Slovenia’s “points” to Tel Aviv and perhaps cracking a joke or two while doing so. After all, he managed to post a rather raw but funny parody of this year’s Slovenian entry “Sebi” on his Facebook in March. The job went to Lea Sirk instead, who might not be able to hide her disappointment if Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl win.

You can see all of Klemen’s videos on his YouTube channel, here.

07 May 2019, 13:00 PM

STA, 6 May 2019 - A team that also featured five Slovenian researches has published a ground-breaking cell differentiation paper that can potentially help revolutionise personalised regenerative medicine, Slovenia's Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) has reported.

Contributing to the paper, published in the journal Molecular Cell, were London-based researchers Miha Modic and Jernej Ule, Gregor Rot of the University of Zurich, Tjaša Lepko from the Helmholtz Centre in Munich and Boris Roglej of IJS.

The researchers described the regulatory network explaining the starting events leading to an effective differentiation of stem cells and the development of an embryo. The findings are considered groundbreaking for the understanding of cell differentiation processes.

The researches were examining the molecular mechanism of the differentiation of pluripotent cells, which differ from adult stem cells in that they are capable of differentiation into any cell of the human body.

Induced pluripotent cells can then reprogramme any cell of a person's body into induced stem cells. These can in turn be differentiated into all cell types, for instance also the patient's own beta cells that produce insulin, meaning they have the potential to revolutionise personalised regenerative medicine.

A complex series of studies allowed the researchers to discover in what way paraspeckles, irregularly shaped compartments of the cell that do not exist in the nuclei of pluripotent cells, are formed during the differentiation of stem cells and what role is played by RNA (Ribonucleic acid)-networks and RNA-binding proteins.

According to IJS, paraspeckles are the new "rising stars" in the field of cellular biology that can potentially help explain a number of conditions in the human body but are poorly researched.

Along with the utility for regenerative drugs, the understanding of these regulatory networks could also shed new light on various conditions, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

The paper, titled Cross-Regulation between TDP-43 and Paraspeckles Promotes Pluripotency-Differentiation Transition, can be read here (PDF).

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