Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How do others see Slovenia?

Have I mentioned here a class in Argentina participating in the Walls Talking project decided to learn more about Slovenia?
They set up a website where they pool their finds and invited me to talk to them about our country - I'm really looking forward to this - we are meeting tonight on Skype. :-))

It was at their site that I came across this interesting article in Slovenia Times by Diana Evans (a Brit living in Maribor). The text is her observations of life in Slovenia - she has been living here now for almost 5 years. She says she likes our lifestyle:

The lifestyle. This is hard to explain, but let me tell you there is an advertisement running in UK newspapers saying that British people throw away a quarter of the food they buy. I just cannot imagine Slovenes doing that. People are more careful with their money, with what they buy and about what they throw away. People use the things they have and pass them on to others if they don’t need them any more. In our area, a twice a year collection of large unwanted items is enough for most people. People seem to care about the environment. There is little litter lying around and the country as a whole is clean and tidy. People look after their homes and gardens and take a pride in their own appearance. There are a lot less overweight people than in the UK due I believe to eating less processed food and also exercising more; less TV watching; more sport and other healthy activities. (I have lost weight since I moved here!).
There are many other interesting observations - for example she considers us kind and open and willing to help a foreigner. ... We thought a bit different about us here and here ;-).

Slovenia - Hungary border

Another non-Slovene explorer of our country living in Slovenia 6 months a year and beautifully writing about this in her blog is our dear Kay Raplenovich. Our current class unfortunately did not have the opportunity to meet her, but we were lucky to have had her with us on a number of occasions with previous groups. She's an American and lives part of the year in Šempeter, Slovenia and part of the year in Ohio, US.

Another very interesting site along these lines I bookmarked ages ago was also created by an American - nicknamed Pogoer. He used to live here and has posted very interesting observations and tips for foreigners interested in exploring the life in our neck of the woods.

Any other non-Slovenes out there willing to share your impressions of Slovenia? We'd love to hear from you. :-)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Graffiti - what is right and what is wrong?

Some graffiti look good and some don't, some are viewed upon with approval and some not... What is acceptable and what is not? What is funny and what is not? What is art and what an offense? Michael's photo here says it clearly... but are things really as simple as that?
I gathered below some interesting comments by my class.
Serious Crime
  • Added value, appropriate place.
    Nice graffiti look nice or say something nice or something somehow of value most of us seemed to agree. Scribbles which are only there to deface the buildings or hurt somebody's feelings are vandalism.
  • Respect other people's property.
    Edi and many others pointed out the importance of being respective of other people's property. 'It's something that has to do with age. Young people don't work and don't earn money and don't understand so well the concept of leaving things which are not theirs alone.' (I haven't thought of this before but it's true, isn't it? Most of the graffiti we see on the walls of our town looks seems to have been produced by teens.) 'Graffiti art is cool We should have designated places in towns and cities where people are allowed to do it, it shouldn't be done just anywhere.'
  • Artistic value is not a black and white concept. 'People tend to generalize things: the beautiful is art and the ugly is vandalism or obscene. But in real life things are not that simple. A beautiful graffiti on a freshly painted wall is art for most viewers, but not for the owner. A "nonsense" sculpture in our town with numerous heads sticking out of one body - is art - even though most people don't understand it and consider it an eyesore - but it's been commissioned from a professional artist so it's officially art' (Edi)
  • Urban dialogue. 'there are many graffiti makers who simply rebel against the system or joke around - their graffiti are urban responses reflecting reality of life in the area' (Tomaž)
    I kind of agree here, because I find it interesting to observe the walls in our town and study what they say about us.

    For example. Our town is a mix of all sorts of nationalities from ex Yugoslavia - in addition to Slovenes there are also many people with roots from other former Republics. Awhile ago I was on my way to Qlandia, our local mall, and I noticed a disturbing and pathetic Slovene nationalistic graffiti saying 'srbe na vrbe' (suggesting the Serbs should be hung on willow trees - it rhymes in Slovene). A humorous Serbian rhyme was added next to it in response: 'nema vrba koliko ima srba' (meaning there aren't as many willows here as there are Serbian people - not too far fetched considering how small the territory of our country is ;-)). I hate the nationalistic stuff on our walls, but this one brought a smile on my face. It is an example of this sort of urban dialogues on the walls...

    A much nicer example of this sort recently added to the wallstalking site is this:
    Kje je pa univerza - Rožna Dolina 5
    The authorities in our town (Nova Gorica) have put these signs boasting that our town is a university town along all major roads leading to Nova Gorica. The problem is they seemed to have forgotten about their old promise to also provide appropriate location for building the university campus - so an action called 'University Town' ' was organized in which activists furnished all these signs with the question ' Where is this university?
Any other thoughts on this?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More glimpses of Slovenia

Just thought I'd post this Flickr slideshow here too because it fits in nicely with the previous post - it's glimpses of my home town Nova Gorica and other parts of Slovenia (from our family trips, mostly by my husband, whose fingers are usually glued to the camera wherever we go ;-)).

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Slovenia's talking walls

Ok, we wrote about Argentina here, it's time to also post our ramblings concerning Slovenia and Slovenian walls. This is what we came up in class awhile ago:
Slovenia is a small but beautiful country criss crossed by many scenic roads. The landscape is very diverse - it only takes you a couple of hours to travel from the Adriatic coast all the way to the high peaks of the Alps (mountain range stretching across the borders in also to the neighbouring Italy, Austria and Switzerland) - we call our side of the Alps the sunny side of the Alps.
Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia
Another natural beauty is our Kras area with one of the biggest underground Karst cave system. Vojko said he heard somebody say if you ironed Slo it would be bigger than Europe. Nicely put, isn't it? :-)
Postojna cave - Slovenia
Landscape diversity reflects also in many different Slovene dialects, some are quite challenging to understand also for Slovenes not coming from the same region. We think we are reserved people, need to get to know somebody a bit before we get friendly with them.
I think that some aspects of this are nicely shown on the graffiti on this train - with rainbow stretching above the beautiful green hilly landscape and fences delimiting people's property below. People here say 'čisti računi dobri prijatelji' - meaning people have to have their affairs in order (money, property...) if they want to be good friends - what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours.
rainbow land
Our country is on the territory where a lot of blood was shed during the WW1 and WW2. Older generations still tell stories of those times. Times and politics have changed now though, and some of the people who used to be national heroes are not everybody's heroes anymore. I posted this photo and the story to our Wallstalking site - not quite a graffiti on the wall, but the actions associated with it bear many resemblances to what we typically associate with graffiti art.
Naš Tito
As far as sports is concerned, many like football here too though we think it cannot be considered national sport, like in Argentina. The conditions for practicing it are rather poor, skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports seem to be more popular. Skiing has a long tradition here. It's interesting though that while football related graffiti are quite frequent on our walls, I can't remember seeing a single skiing one.
Our typical foods are meaty ones like pršut and kranjska klobasa, dishes like jota, žlikrofi and mlinci, and sweets like potica, štruklji and gibanica - the assortment of foods differs a bit according to regions, but these are usually listed as typical Slovene foods. Some of the Slovene regions are wine-producing areas. Wine and wine drinking has long been part of our culture, something our walls testify about too.
The wine country