STA, 21 June 2020 - The Cankar Prize, a new literature award, was won by Sebastijan Pregelj for V Elvisovi Sobi (In Elvis's Room), a novel about a generation which was growing up while the former Yugoslavia was slowly disintegrating. He received the EUR 5,000 prize on Sunday in Vrhnika, the birthplace of author Ivan Cankar, after whom the award is named.
The novel is pervaded with the memory of recent historical changes, telling a coming-of-age story against the backdrop of a broader social context from the end of the 1970s until Slovenia's independence.
The jury, chaired by Ivan Verč, said it captures very well the feelings of the generation which witnessed the collapse of Yugoslavia, the war and transition in their childhood.
In his short acceptance speech, Pregelj, who was born in 1970, said "the novel tells a story about my generation, which was growing up with some watershed events".
He believes the time has come to look back and write those stories to tell them to new generations, to introduce them to the times "which were a bit more exciting".
The novel is also about people who found themselves on the wrong side through no fault of their own and about others who found themselves on the right side without any merit, the writer said.
The prize for the most original piece of literature from the previous year - either fiction, play, essay or poetry - was established last year by Slovenian PEN, the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU), the SAZU's Science and Research Centre, and the University of Ljubljana to honour Cankar (1876-1918) and encourage top-quality literature.
The award, for which the prize money was donated by the Vrhnika municipality, was given out at a ceremony in Cankarjev Laz, a piece of land that used to belong to Cankar's poor family.
Pregelj won it against another three shortlisted authors - Vinko Möderndorfer, who was in the running with his collection of essays Misanthrope at the Marketplace, Simona Semenič with her erotic play This Apple, Golden, and Brane Senegačnik with Conversations with Nobody, a collection of poems.
The novel is not yet available in English, but while you're waiting you can read Pregelj’s earlier Chronicle of Forgetting
STA, 16 June 2020 - Chef Ana Roš of Hiša Franko was awarded two stars as Michelin presented its first ever rating for Slovenia on Tuesday. Five other restaurants got a star each: Vila Podvin (Uroš Štefelin, Mošnje), Hiša Denk (Gregor Vračko, Zgornja Kungota), Atelje (Jorg Zupan, Ljubljana), Pri Lojzetu (Tomaž Kavčič, Vipava) and Dam (Uroš Fakuč, Nova Gorica).
Roš, a self-taught cook who took over the restaurant from her parents-in-law, became the first chef with two Michelin stars in the region.
"Michelin has arrived in Slovenia at a key moment, just at the right time," she told the press. "It's not easy for tourism and the restaurant business right now. We have not laid off people and don't want to. We need each and every guest willing to get in the car and drive to Kobarid," she said.
She believes the rating proves that Slovenia is an excellent culinary destination. "Six restaurants received their stars in the first rating ... Moreover, I know that there are many candidates shortlisted for the stars and there will be great surprises coming up next year."
Roš has been celebrated for years, having been named the World's Best Female Chef by the World's 50 Best Restaurants culinary portal in 2017 and a year later made the Best Chef Awards list of 300 top chefs in the world alongside Kavčič.
She became even more widely know outside Slovenia after being featured in the Chef's Table series streamed on Netflix.
Michelin also launched its first guide to Slovenian restaurants at the ratings presentation that took place via videolink today.
A total of 52 restaurants have been awarded, however Gwendal Poullennec, Michelin Guides international director would not say how many had been reviewed in total.
He did say, however, that many, above all the starred ones, had been tested several times to make sure the experience was consistent. He also said that Michelin inspectors were excited over Slovenia's versatility and potential.
The Bib Gourmand designation for exceptionally good food at modest prices went to nine restaurants: Etna of Igor Peresson in Divača, Ruj of Peter Patajac near Divača, Gostišče Grič of Luka Košir near Horjul, Jožef of Sadmir Talić in Idrija, Na Gradu of Damjan Fink in Ljubljana, Rajh of Leon Pintarič near Murska Sobota, Mahorčič of Ksenija Krajšek Mahorčič near Kozina, Gostilna Repovž of Meta Repovž near Sevnica and Evergreen of Mojmir Marko Šiftar in Smlednik.
Six restaurants were noted for sustainability: Gostišče Grič, Monstera Bistro with chef Bine Volčič in Ljubljana, Hiša Franko, Gostilna za Gradom with chef Davide Crisci in Koper, Gostilna Krištof of chef Uroš Gorjanc near Brdo pri Kranju, and Mahorčič.
The Plate Michelin, a designation for fresh ingredients and carefully prepared meals, went to as many as 37 restaurants.
A new app, Giro, has been launched which allows car owners to rent out their otherwise unused vehicles to those who might need them on a daily basis. The car-sharing system works in a similar fashion as Airbnb.
Users can check for available cars on a map, which reveals that the app has taken off in Ljubljana but not yet also in other parts of Slovenia. Nevertheless, the range of available cars seems to be quite impressive, from a Porsche 911 (2018) available from €600 per day and to a Renault Twingo (2003) which you can get for just €10.
Cars also seem to be rented with a daily limit of kilometres driven. In the aforementioned cases, the Porsche comes with 100 kilometres included in the price, and every additional kilometre costs €2.5, while every kilometre over the 170 km allowance will cost you €0.2 in the Renault.
It’s been a long while since most of us saw a menu, but with the lockdown eased and places opening up it’ll soon be time to go somewhere that provides food beyond your abilities to cook. To that end it’s a pleasure to once again announce The Slovenia Restaurant Awards, which highlight the best of dining out in the country, presenting the names to watch and tables call ahead for, with reservations often essential, and always recommended.
If you to read a version of this story in German, with more details and other pictures, then check out the always informative Mein Slowenien
This year was the fourth edition, with the system now a well-oiled machine that ensures fairness and balance. With an initial list of 123 nominees chosen by the Gastronomic Academy (composed of chefs and restaurant owners, gastronomic associations, the media and foodies), the competition is then opened to the public, with a vote using a secure system to deter multiple votes. Just like the voters in the Gastronomy Academy, members of the public can choose five restaurants in their own region, and with a further five votes to then assign to the other three regions, with the full list of nominees shown here.
This year there were 6,520 votes from members of the Gastronomic Academy, and 27,630 from the public, giving a total of 34,150, with the auditors Deloitte overseeing the process
Niko Slavnič, founder and host of the awards
Of course, covid-19 meant some changes were needed to the actual event, which moved online and was shared via Zoom, featuring a discussion hoisted by Niko Slavnič, founder of the awards, and representatives of three winners in the national category – Ana Roš & Valter Kramar (Hiša Franko), Uroš Štefelin (Vila Podvin) and Tomaž Kavčič (Dvorec Zemono - Gostilna pri Lojzetu) – where The topic of conversation was the current situation in the hospitality industry and the importance of adapting and innovating in order to not just survive, but thrive.
There's also a book, which you can buy here
Hiša Franko was named the best restaurant in the Alpine Slovenia region, while for Mediterranean & Karst Slovenia the title went to Gostilna pri Lojzetu - Dvorec Zemono. In the Thermal Pannonian Slovenia region Hiša Denk was chosen as the best, and in Ljubljana and central Slovenia the winner was JB Restaurant.
Gostilna pri Lojzetu - Zemono Manor won the best inn, City Terasa was chosen as the best hotel restaurant, and the Stari Pisker Inn and Pub received the title of the best culinary newcomer in the votes from the public. This year, for the first time, the award for the best tourist farm was given, the title of which was given to Domačija Majerija.
As noted above the end, the three best restaurants in Slovenia were Gostilna pri Lojzetu - Dvorec Zemono, Hiša Franko and Vila Podvin, with the awards given by Belmond, and including a bottle of the company of them received the Diplomatico Single Vintage Rum 2005.
More details on The Slovenia Restaurant Awards 2020 can be found here.
STA, 28 May 2020 - The Hoče-based company Sloluks has developed an innovative device for disinfecting spaces such as schools, kindergartens, companies, bars and restaurants, hotels and homes. The device uses the same ultraviolet technology that is used for disinfecting hospitals and labs, but it is described as much more user friendly.
Ultraviolet light, specifically UV-C radiation, has been used to remove bacteria, moulds and viruses in hospitals and labs for years, and in recent months it has been used to clean buses in Hong Kong, and passenger aircraft.
Using this technology, Sloluks has developed a portable, easy-to-use, safe and cost-efficient device that is suitable for broad use.
The device, which can clean a school classroom of 99.9% of impurities in a matter of minutes, according to Sloluks CEO Martin Vovk, does not produce the potentially hazardous ozone like some similar devices that are sold online.
It also automatically shuts down if it detects living organisms in the room.
The Slovenian-developed and -produced device starts at under EUR 10,000.
The device will be tested at the Selnica ob Dravi primary school in eastern Slovenia. Mayor Vlasta Krmelj said the municipality was aware of the importance of testing for innovation and improving of products that bring long-term benefits to communities.
The school hopes the device will enable it to use less chemicals for cleaning, thus creating a healthier environment for children while also cutting costs.
You can learn more about the company here
STA, 23 May 2020 - Instatext, the company behind the eponymous web platform for text improvement based on artificial intelligence, is the winner of this year's Startup of the Year Award conferred by the Slovenian Startup Ecosystem project on Friday.
Instatext is a web platform which uses artificial intelligence to create instant recommendations and ideas about how to improve a text content-wise and make it more readable and understandable.
The platform is able to restructure an entire sentence and put it in the context. "In three months since the team put the solution on the market alone, employees in academic circles have been sold more than EUR 30,000 in licences," the organisers said.
The platform has more than 3,000 users, and the Instatext comprises top experts in artificial intelligence, language technologies, natural language processing and software development, they added.
Related: Slovenian Gin Named Best in Europe
The award jury took into account for criteria - successful confirmation on the market; attracting investments from Slovenian and foreign investors; competences, commitment, experience and organisation of the team; and potential for fast growth on foreign markets.
The award is conferred by the Slovenian Startup Ecosystem project and the main organiser is Start:up Slovenija. It is co-funded by the Slovenian Enterprise Fund, the Economy Ministry and the European Regional Development Fund.
You can try Intertext here
STA, 20 May 2020 - The National Institute of Chemistry has started testing a potential coronavirus vaccine in a mouse study after receiving a green light for the animal trial on Tuesday. The nanoparticle-based vaccine contains viral antigens and could be more effective than a protein-based vaccine, Roman Jerala of the institute told the STA.
The first results of the study are expected in July when it will be clear whether the mice have responded to the vaccine by creating neutralising antibodies that prevent the coronavirus infection.
Jerala, a biochemist and synthetic biologist, is the head of the synthetic biology and immunology department at the institute where a new vaccine platform is currently tested. The project will enable a swifter, easier and cheaper way of preparing the vaccine.
The Food Safety, Veterinary Sector and Plant Protection Administration gave a go-ahead for the trial on Tuesday, almost two months after the institute submitted a request for the mouse study.
The testing commenced in a laboratory environment designed for in-vivo studies immediately after the green light was given.
Multiple constructs of protein nanoparticles and virus-like particles have been prepared to be analysed using cryo-electron microscopes.
"Given that findings about the virus and the [Covid-19] disease are developing extremely quickly, the institute prepared a somewhat amended type of vaccine during these two months, hoping to get a better cell immunity and more long-lasting protection," said Jerala.
He also announced that the institute would submit another request this week to complete trials on animals.
In each group the scientists will use six mice, constantly monitoring and testing various combinations. Altogether, the study will thus require tens of mice.
"The procedure will include the initial immunisation with booster doses in a few weeks and the analysis of serum and cell response," Jerala said.
The institute has recently developed a test for determining the prevention of the fusion of the virus and human cells, a way to test the vaccine efficacy as well as antibodies in persons who have recovered from Covid-19 or will have been vaccinated, according to Jerala.
The researchers will also focus on assessing whether the nanoparticle-based vaccine is more effective than a protein-based solution that is used as a basis for most coronavirus vaccine trials at the moment.
The project could deliver an innovative strategy to fight Covid-19 or potential types of diseases that might stem from similar viruses in the future.
If the animal studies prove effective, the institute will have to find partners who could conduct clinical trials.
The project is worth some EUR 500,000 with most researchers at Jerala's department working on it.
As BREG - a new Slovenian-inspired apparel brand launches, we speak to its creator Sam Baldwin about the project.
What’s the story behind BREG T-shirts?
I’m a fan of graphic design and I’m a huge fan of Slovenia, so I was looking for interesting Slovenian t-shirts. But all I could find in Ljubljana was very cliché, touristy designs: a dragon, a picture of Tito, a Slovenian flag. There was nothing appealing to me, despite Slovenia having plenty of interesting subject material. So I decided to create my own line of Slovenian-inspired t-shirts, drawing on Slovenian icons, Slovenian language and Slovenian locations. I wanted to make the designs uniquely Slovenian, but in a more interesting way than what is being offered for sale right now.
The location of Breg
In 2007, my brother and I bought an old mountain vikend in a tiny hamlet called Breg in Koroška, as we both had a huge affinity for mountains and snow. This was the beginning of my love affair with Slovenia. It’s been a challenging process renovating it over the years, with numerous problems along the way, but I love it, and it’s the reason that I grew more and more attached to Slovenia, which eventually led to me coming to live here full time.
Breg house was also the place where many of my designs were first sketched out – so it seemed fitting to name the brand after the place where my Slovenian story started. Breg also means ‘shore’ or ‘slope’ in Slovene so has a nice ring to it. You can read more about the trials and tribulations of renovating a 300-year old structure and my thoughts on Slovenian life on my blog at: www.BregHouse.com.
Where did the ideas for your designs from?
I’m from the UK but I’ve been visiting Slovenia for 13 years and living here almost three. During that time I’ve explored a lot of the country and met a lot of interesting people. The designs draw from all those experiences as I’ve seen many things that I think would look good on a shirt.
To kick off the launch of the brand – I wanted to have a mix of designs; something representing Ljubljana and Slovenia as a nation (LJ-Triglav), something for Bled (Kremšnita), something for the Vršič Pass (as I just love this road and thought it would make a nice design), and something to do with the Human Fish.
My most obscure design - Ski Mežica - is based on a forgotten ski area. Mežica in Koroška is a place dear to me as the town is near Breg, and it also has a really interesting ski history. It was once a popular centre of Slovenian skiing (being the 2nd ever Slovenian ski area after Kranjska Gora, producing at least one Olympic champion, and even having its own ski factory!) but sadly, the ski centre is no longer operating, and little remains to suggest the area was once such a Slovenian ski hot spot. I wanted to pay tribute to Mežica with a retro ski design, the type of which might have been worn during Mežica’s heyday as a ski centre.
How are people reacting to the designs?
So far - pretty positively. Of course, not all the designs appeal to all people, but the feedback has been good from both Slovenians and other nationalities. For some of the designs, only a Slovene would get the reference or joke, which is what makes them appealing to locals I think, and visitors looking for designs which are different to anything else on the market may also like them.
I’d like to build the BREG brand over time because I think there’s a space in the market for something genuinely Slovenian-flavoured, that goes beyond the typical tourist tat. Slovenia has so many interesting aspects that would look great on a shirt, and I’d like to continue to make designs which celebrate aspects of Slovenian culture but in an interesting and original way.
Where can people buy the shirts?
Thanks to coronavirus, my plans to get the shirts into shops around Slovenia have been delayed a little. However, there are two places to buy BREG products: the full range, including t-shirts, hoodies and other apparel can be purchased online at BregDesign.com – which ships worldwide.
Secondly, if you’re lucky enough to be in Slovenia, you’ll find selected lines at Črno Zrno coffee store in Ljubljana, in Gornji trg, the Old Town, and soon, once lockdown has been lifted, other locations around Ljubljana and the rest of Slovenia. Again, check the website (BregDesign.com) to see full list of Slovene stockists.
Will there be more BREG designs coming soon?
Yes – I have a sketch book full of ideas, so I’ll be bringing new designs out over the coming months. The hardest thing is deciding which ones to do next. Keep an eye on BregDesign.com to see he latest releases.
We recently came across a new augmented reality (AR) travel app for Slovenia, TaleUp, and so got in touch with Žiga Novak, of Travel-Slovenia to learn more about it, as well as some of his other projects
How did you come to work for Travel-Slovenia?
Well, Travel-Slovenia is my own project, which I’ve run from the very beginning, from the first idea until today. I always liked to travel around Slovenia, and to discover new places, not just those known to everyone, as I was more into hidden locations, small local offers and so on.
While discovering this places I decided to start writing about them. But at the beginning it was just a blog, for which I didn’t have much time. But sometime later, I saw a different way of doing this, and that’s how Travel-Slovenia was born. It’s changed a lot over time, as at first I didn’t really know what I wanted. But since then things fell into place it started growing from there, and I started working with other people, groups and companies.
What kind of groups?
One example is Society Farjovca, with their hike to Trstelj, for which I also made the logotype. I also created the graphics for their Sage hike, which was unfortunately cancelled, due to the corona crisis.
Another nice example of a something smaller, that not everyone knows about, is the Society Baška grapa heritage, for whom we made a presentation movie about their traditional hike along a themed path related to the classic Slovenian movie On Our Own Land (details). We also work with larger institutions, like museums. For example, we cooperate with the Technical Museum of Slovenia, and through our page visitors can get free tickets for a visit.
What does Travel Slovenia offer visitors?
Travel-Slovenia aims to be the ultimate web tourist portal, which tries to present various locations around Slovenia and bring them closer to foreign and domestic visitors. Slovenia is a small sub-Alpine country, which offers unique experience and unforgettable moments. Travel-Slovenia, as an online tourist guide, tries to provide as much information about Slovenia as needed, so the visitors will leave it with beautiful impressions.
The portal includes various categories, from facts about Slovenia, history, Slovenian things (like animals, wines, food, movies, etc.) Slovenian words and texts (poems, our anthem, and so on), hiking, historical and other attractions, walking and cycling locations, castles and mansions, presentations of the cities and what to do there, monuments and much more.
In 2019 we started with project Mobility Slovenia, and the goal is to connect various locations in the country and make it easier for tourists to travel around and see more than the usual sites. For this we started to work with Nomago, a company that runs buses, airport shuttles, and other transport services.
To provide more personal insights into Slovenia, and promote the country to people who looking for new experiences in a clean, green environment, we started the Trail blog. Here people can read about our trips around Slovenia, gets to know interesting sights and things to do.
I should also say that if someone is planning their next trip while stuck at home then we can also answer any questions you have about travel in Slovenia. We can even make a full package for a custom tour, all we need to know is what you’d like to do here. What you’d like to see, what kind of activities, your budget and so on We can even provide a tourist guide, if wanted.
Slovenia has a lot to offer, more than many people know, and we want to create stories, and memories, for everyone.
As you said earlier, you also work in the field of Augmented and Virtual Reality. Can you tell us about the TaleUp app?
Of course. While looking for new partners I came across the agency Dragon Lines, with their lead tourist guide Dragan Bekčič. We hit it off, and soon started to talk about working together. The idea came, and I was able to make it with VRsolution lab. Finally, after 5 months of hard work and development, the app saw the light of the day, on March 1st. 2020. We released it for Android phones (on the Google Play Store, here, and on the Huawei GalleyApp).
In future more locations will be added, more stories created. And we are also looking for new partners to join the app, and be presented in interactive way, with augmentation of their location or products with virtual content. If anyone wants to learn more about that, then they can visit our page.
What does AR bring to the experience of travelling?
The app is made so that the user can see historical places or objects that do not exist anymore, or can only be seen in the museum. With the app one can see them on the original spot, at the real location and on their mobile device, in the real size. In that way people can experience history, something from the future, or an imagined past, like a tram in the air for Ljubljana.
Another option is the augmentation of certain products. For example, we work with the chocolate shop Cukrček, where the AR content can be found at their locations around Ljubljana – next to Town Hall and the Robba Fountain, Trubarjeva cesta and Miklošičeva, behind Prešeren square.
App users can also get a discount for purchases, all they need to do is show the coupons that can be found under locations with the % sign.
How has coronavirus hit the project?
Are you working on any other projects now?
Yes, I’m working on a lot of new projects, and also took this time to learn new things. Just recently I made some new AR content that lets you step into a new dimension and to see a virtual with animals, which you can then walk around using your mobile device. I’ve also been working on an AR still life project.
As another interest I also organize events with electronic music - hardcore, hard techno, techno and hardstyle – under the name Factory of Sound. For that I created the FoS AR app, to augment our posters, leaflets and other graphics with virtual interactive content. Like TaleUp, it’s available for Android devices (Google Play Store or and Huawei GalleryApp)..
STA, 3 May 2020 - Slovenian journalist Blaž Zgaga is one of 17 recipients of this year's Freedom of Speech Award given out by the German public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle to journalists from 14 countries who have been persecuted for coronavirus reporting. All other recipients come from non-EU countries.
Zgaga, a freelance journalist and a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, received the award for being harassed by the government and receiving anonymous death threats, the jury said.
Other recipients come from Serbia, Belarus, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Turkey, Jordan, India, Cambodia, the Philippines, and three from China.
Deutsche Welle has been giving out the award annually to initiatives and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to human rights and freedom of speech.
Previous award winners include the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, the White House Correspondents' Association, and the Mexican journalist and author Anabel Hernández.
MP of the senior coalition Democrats (SDS) Branko Grims responded to the news on Twitter by saying that the fact that Zgaga received the award proved only that Deutsche Welle staff did not understand Slovenian. "I think that giving Blaž Zgaga a freedom of speech award is like giving Metod Trobec a women's rights award."
He was referring to a serial killer and rapist, whose victims were women.
STA, 3 May 2020 - A three-member team from Grosuplje has developed a device for disinfecting cash using ultraviolet light. The device called Cash Cleaner is said to be the only in the world to disinfect up to 100 banknotes a minute.
"Our lives are slowly returning to normal, but we'll have to be more careful after the pandemic," says Žan Brezec, a member of the team, adding that some countries, including China, South Korea, Hungary and the US, were already disinfecting money or keeping it in quarantine.
Cash Cleaner was developed during the lockdown. "Developing it during the lockdown was quite a challenge. We had to change the construction and design of functional parts several times to adjust it to the locally accessible materials and production processes," said Brezec.
After a lot of team work, testing, trouble shooting and improvisation, the device, using the same UV technology that is used for disinfecting hospitals, labs and clinics, was developed using own funds in just over a month.
Brezec said that several Slovenian banks were interested in the device and that one of them would start testing it in the coming days. But he would not disclose the name of the bank.
"At the moment we can make one device a day but if orders increased we could optimise our production and make up to 100 devices a month," Brezec told the STA.
The team says only three similar devices were currently on the market. One was designed in South Korea during the 2012 MERS epidemic but it uses a different technology, whose efficiency is not backed by sufficient scientific research, according to the team.
In China, they have UV devices, but each banknote is not treated individually and the process is time-consuming, and the third solution was developed in Turkey but its realisation is expected only in 2023, Brezec said.
"Our solution is ... the only device that exposes each side of a banknote to UVC rays for a specific period of time, meaning that each banknote is disinfected in less than a second and ready to be used."
You can learn more about the Cash Cleaner here