Slovenia: Poetry, Green Views, Cuisine and More

Slovenia is a small country with a very healthy and sizeable blogosphere, which includes several blogs from expats. Here's a roundup of what some of them have been talking about in the last few days.

Feb. 8 marked Slovenian Culture Day, also known as Prešeren Day, in honor of Slovenia's most beloved poet, France Prešeren, who died on this day in 1849. To mark it, Ljubljana residents gathered before the statue of the national poet in the square of the same name and listened to a recitation of his poetry, including Slovenia's national anthem.

Dr. Filomena reported that those not able to attend the recital could follow it live through the website of Radio Kaos, one of the sponsors of the event.

For those that don't know Prešeren's work, Adventures in Wheelville has posted one of his poems titled Midwastes of Africa:

Mid wastes of Africa a wanderer sped:
He found no pathway; night was now afield.
Through clouds no stealthy glimmer was revealed;
Craving the moon, he made the grass his bed.

The heavens opened, moonbeams then were shed;
He sees where poison-serpents are concealed,
And where their brood of cubs the tigers shield;
He sees the lion upraise his wrathful head.


Preseren Day
Photo used with permission of Jennifer Dorroh

Jennifer Dorroh reported that to mark the occasion of Slovenian Culture Day, Ljubljana’s museums offered free admission to visitors:

The National Museum, which was packed with families visiting a hands-on nature exhibit, even welcomed guests with bowls of candy and juicy Clementines. Learning is sweet.

Jennifer Dorroh also reported that Slovenia ranked 15th worldwide on the 2008 Environmental Performance Index, a list of countries rated on environmental indicators such as air pollution, water resources, biodiversity and habitat, productive natural resources, and climate change. Slovenia's ranking is lower than that of neighboring Austria (6th), but higher than the rest of the countries it has borders with: Italy (24th), Hungary (23th), and Croatia (20th). The United States ranked 39th, Jennifer added.

In other good news, Café Piran was pleased to see about a positive feature article on Slovenian wines that was published in the Los Angeles Times at the end of January, and which included tasting notes on some of the wines.

On a culinary note, Un argentino en Eslovenia [es] answered a reader's query and posted the recipe for ajvar, a red bell pepper spread that is popular all throughout the Balkans. He was also happy to find out that ginger is available in Slovenia (but not ground cumin), a discovery that he proved with a photo.

For those who read Spanish, Un argentino en Eslovenia is a blog full of sharp, humorous and ironic observations on the Slovenian way of life and the blogger's own culture shock. One of this blog's categories is entirely devoted to ‘bureaucracy’ and another one contains a series of “Unwritten Slovenian rules”. As an example, here's number 74:

Por alguna razón que se me escapa, aquí en Eslovenia es costumbre quitarse los zapatos apenas uno llega a casa, e intercambiarlos por unas pantuflas. Tal arraigada es la costumbre que en todas los hogares siempre hay disponibles varios juegos de pantuflas para los invitados… […]
Ahora bien, el tema roza lo ridículo cuando las famosas pantuflas son igual de exigidas cuando hacen 40 grados de calor, o cuando toda la casa está completamente alfombrada; evidentemente es más fácil lavar las pantuflas y la alfombra, que los pies.

For some reason that I can't understand, there's a custom here in Slovenia of taking off your shoes as soon you get home, and replace them by slippers. This custom is so deep-rooted that every home has a few sets of slippers available for guests… […] However, this issue becomes quite ridiculous when the ever-present slippers are equally required when it's 40 degrees outside, or when the whole house has a carpet; obviously it's easier to wash the slippers or the carpet, than the feet.

In a later post, he even added a photo of the protagonists of what the blogger calls “Pantuflasgate” (“Slippersgate”).

Another Spanish-speaking Slovenia blogger, Una española/gallega en Eslovenia, writes about her life in Ljubljana, a city that she likes for being so green and with so many options for hiking. On Prešeren Day, for example, she described how she went on a city hike on a path called Pot:

[…] es un camino de 33 km que rodea la ciudad, donde la gente va a caminar, andar en bici, pasear al chucho o simplemente desconectar del asfalto de la ciudad. Aunque la mayor parte de las zonas están realmente en el centro de la capital, podéis ver en las fotos que parece que estemos en medio del bosque. Y es que es lo bueno que tiene Ljubljana: no es la típica capital donde no se ven árboles en kms a la redonda. Aquí se puede disfrutar del campo en el mismo centro de la urbe.

[…] it is a path that surrounds the city and is 33 km long, where people go for walks, cycling, walking the dog or simply disconnecting from the asphalt of the city. Although for the most part the path is really in the center of the capital, you can see in the photos that it looks like we are in the middle of the woods. And that's the good thing about Ljubljana: it's not the typical capital where you don't have any trees in many kilometers around you. Here you can enjoy the countryside in the very center of the city.

But it's not all hikes in Ljubljana, as Una española/gallega en Eslovenia recently had to go to a dentist to get a wisdom tooth removed and was very impressed with the treatment she received, which in her own words was even “better than in Spain.” However, she was unhappy to discover that the national health care system coverage that she got was very basic, and so she had to get additional policy:

En el país con forma de gallina, cuando consigues un trabajo consigues un seguro médico, por supuesto. Pero es un seguro médico básico […] Para evitar todas estas molestas situaciones, hay que hacerse un seguro médico adicional, o “Dodatna zavarovalna”. El sistema es simple: pagas unos 250 euros al año, y para hacerte más llevadero el atraco a mano armada de tener que pagar dicha cantidad, recibes un bonito paquete en casa que incluye: la súper camiseta “Jaz zate, ti zame” (Yo por ti, tú por mi), una megafashion carpeta para meter tus pólizas cada año y… atención!! Una bolsita de té Vzajemna con sabor a hierbas!! (legales). Pero aún hay más: un bono de descuento de nada más y nada menos que 20 euros!!
Pero qué suerte tengo!!

In the chicken-shaped country [Slovenia], when you get a job, you get a health insurance, of course. But it's a basic health insurance […] To avoid all these unpleasant situations, you have to get an additional health policy or “Dodatna zavarovalna.” The system is simple: you pay 250 euros a year, and to make the loss of such amount of money easier, you receive a nice package at home including: the super T-shirt “Jaz zate, ti zame” (Me for you, you for me), a megafashion folder to put your policy papers in every year and… behold!! A tea bag “Vzajemna” made of herbs!! (the legal ones). But there's more: a 20-euro discount coupon!! I'm so lucky!!

To finish this roundup, let me share another poem by Prešeren, posted by Scabiosa Trenta in her blog, titled Where Now?:

I drift in dark unrest and pain.
Where now? you ask, and ask again.
Ask the wild horses of the sea,
The scudding clouds’ wild company,
As they are whipped when winds ride high,
Scouring the plains of earth and sky.
Not one of them could answer where,
Or guide me out of my despair.
But this I know beyond surmise -
I'll never more behold her eyes;
Yet earth contains no hiding-place
In which I could forget her face.

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