– Where is Slovenia?
– I don’t know? Europe Somewhere, right?
Before I left this was the question I asked my friends, both travellers and non-travellers alike. I was surprised by their answers but to be honest, prior to my first visit in 2010, I probably wouldn’t have been able to place it on the map either. Too often the nations on the ‘other side’ of the continent of Europe are blurred together. It has been two decades since countries such as Slovenia haven’t been in control over their own destiny. Now these ancient, yet fledgling, nations are no longer parts of a greater puzzle and stand proudly with the global community. There is a reinvention taking place in Slovenia, one where borders aren’t barriers but mark the lines of a proud and independent nation.
The Pride of the People
In three short days I have had a glimpse of what it means to be Slovenian. You can look out over the shores of Piran onto Italy and Croatia but know that you are firmly in a sovereign nation. There will undoubtedly be influences over a culture if a country is boarded by five others. What is Slovenian, however, is Slovenian, even down to the claims over the music we all drink steins of German beer to at Oktoberfest.
In these three days I’ve seen how a deep rooted connection with culture can give a nation the will to survive a tumultuous history. It is this connection to culture which gives them strength. The Mercury Mine in Idrija is a part of the world which has been dominated by three different regimes in the past hundred years. It has only been Slovenians which have worked the mine however. It is their land and theirs alone. It is from here I saw a pride which permeates a nation, and shows the reason for its survival.
Saving a Town through Punk Music
In the town Ajdovščina (I was told to pronounce it ‘Out of China’) there is a change taking place. The mayor of the town for over a decade was voted out and replaced with a thirty-two year old guy who was brought up on punk music. In the short time that he has been in office, Ajdovščina has seen an increase in cultural projects that actually hold meaning to a town. Not blatantly wasting money on failing industries, but building a culture which draws people and tourists to a town to start a life. One of these projects was the establishment of the Youth Hostel and Centre at the north end of town. It’s the focus point for a growth in music and attendance to live concerts which are now receiving international attention. Acts from across the globe are coming to play in Ajdovščina and to bathe in the towns punk ethic. It is not just because of one man, but a whole community of leaders in their early thirties. People such as Matej the manager of Youth Hostel Ajdovščina is just one member who has taken it upon himself to build a life there. In the days these leaders work to make this happen, and the evenings they’re all on stage rocking out.
i feel sLOVEnia
Slovenia is the only nation in the world with the word love in it, and Ljubljana can be translated to mean the same. They’re a people brought up on love, hospitality and welcoming to everyone that comes across their paths. I’ve been travelling through the south and eastern part of the country.
There are no large cities here, just villages of less than ten thousand people. In Bled I found a sense of community that I have never seen throughout my ten years of travel. Everyone would seem to know everyone, there is a connection to land and place like none other. I was shown the town by Radoc from Hostel Bledec, each part of it he could draw family links of well over one hundred years to. As an Australian of European descent it’s nearly impossible for me to do the same.
There is something special here in Slovenia, and in the coming days I’m going to immerse myself entirely into its culture to find out just what that is. Hopefully it will be some something I bring home with me.
From Buenos Aires, to Milan, to Moscow, I’ve lived across the world for the past decade. At the beginning of 2014 I started again and began the first of five long haul trips around the world, the Pan-American Highway. Along the way I will seek the stories of those incredible people whose tales remain unknown. Follow along at See Something and his Facebook page.