Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Slovenia Time

I really liked Slovenia. In many ways Slovenia is Eastern Europe lite, the train station in Ljubljana is brite and new , there were no masses waiting to over charge you for a cab ride from the moment you got off of your train, and everyone spoke English and was pretty friendly, but those aren't the reasons I liked Slovenia so much. I just think that Slovenia and Slovenians are really intriguing. First of all there is the national history, i.e. being conquered by everyone and pretty much no one letting them use their own language. They were part of the Roman Empire, Venice, Carenthia, Austria-Hungary, and Yugoslavia, but they pretty much all (I don't know about the Roman Empire of Venice so much) tried to assimilate the Slovenes. Ljubljana is probably one of the few placed outside of France to still have a monument to Napoleon, who was the first one to let the Slovenians use Slovene in school. A lot of Slovenian history seems to be an underdog story and I respect that.

I also just find the Slovenian identity extremely interesting. I just found myself wondering what differentiates Slovenians from Italians, Austrians, or Croatians? Not the relgion, they are all catholic, not the landscape (Slovenian is a mixture of Austria's mountains, Croatia beaches and Italy's historic Venetian towns). It seemed to me that what was really Slovenian was the mixture of all of the different cultures. Even going into the Slovenian restaurant in Ljubljana I was struck by how all the typical Slovenian dishes I had been recommended by Slovenian friends were only side dishes, and all of the entrees were standard Austro-Hungarian fare. I don't know how representative it was but is seemed to say a lot about the culture and made me start to think that what was Slovenian was maybe the mixture of all the influences in Slovenia.

Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital, also really impressed me. The historic city center looks pretty much any medium sized Austrians city (Americans read: small), but Ljubljana is much more dynamic. Austrian cities are almost pretty and well kept, but especially the smaller ones lack any sort of a youth culture, to the point where they are nice to visit during the day, but God help you if you are stuck there at night (not true of Vienna to be sure). They are the equivalent of an old person's house, everything is pretty and in order, but the plastic cover sure as hell isn't going to come off the couch. In Ljubljana you got the feeling there were a lot of young people, there was interesting graffiti, and just the feeling that something was going on. It was nice to have the plastic off.


Nella said...

Well, my parents and I certainly had an interesting few minutes because of you. They asked me the usual "oh, what's Ian up too?" (yes, my parents do ask about you frequently. Feel loved.) and after I told them "oh, he's in Slovenia", we all had a bit of a deer-in-headlights moment where our brain were all collectively trying to figure out where the fuck Solvenia was. A quick trip to Wikipedia later, I can honestly say the Inserra family Concept of the World has been broadened thanks to you. Now, when my father feels intellectually belittled by his more culturally well rounded friends at dinner parties, he can wow them with what he knows about Solvenia. When I'm mocked for being a stupid American who doesn't know her geography, I can now rub back in their faces that at least I know where Slovenia is. I don't know what my mother or brother will do with the information, but I'm sure it will be awesome and terrifying, as knowledge is power.

Barbarossa said...

I do feel loved! Amusingly one of my callings in life is to increase people's knowledge of geograpghy. This perhaps first became apparent whe I realized my parents ought at least to be able to find Kazakhstan when I was living there. I am pretty sure my mom got it down, not so sure about my dad, but none the less geographical horizonens broadened!

In terms of Slovenia, I am sure the entire nation appreciates you taking the time to find it. The people were ridiculously nice.