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Archive for February, 2007

If one by the sea

Sorry for not blogging much but I’ve just moved to a new place near Rijeka (Croatia) and do not get much time online for now. Things are good, I have a place overlooking the Adriatic sea so I can’t complain, the weather though has reminded me of Ljubljana with lots of fog and drizzly rain but it will get better and when it does I’ll be out exploring and adding pictures to this blog.

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On the eve of my departure from this wonderful experience which has been Slovenia I find myself asking just one question. Does this really have to end?

The answer unfortunately is yes; all good things do come to an end. But that is the only way they can start again or start another chapter, and that is where things stand for me now. I will make every effort to come here for visits again as often as is possible.

In looking back on my time here, three months turned into nearly six, my SIT turned into Euros, hikes turned into history lessons, people I meet become friends, and an old house become a home. If that were not enough this unusual winter I even experienced the unique beauty of seeing snow-less Alps and a seaside blizzard .

I’ve been able to meet and exchange views with many wonderful people of all walks of life, from the a homeless man on the side of the road to a deputy economic minister, architects, historians, artists, inventors, exchange students, business leaders and even a TV network. I’ve enjoyed such recreational activities as playing basketball with local teens and hiking hillsides with pensioners. I’ve visited old Roman ruins and seen new constructions being built, walked historical landmarks (POT, Žiri, Krn, Memorial) and visited new attractions, I’ve pleaded for the hopeless causes of the past and partaken of all the conveniences of modern living in this fast developing nation. I’ve visited the four corners of Slovenia (Kranska Gora, Ptuj, Novo Mesto, and Portorož) and many other towns and cities in between.

I was even able to visit places historically intertwined with Slovenian history like southern Austria (Carnithia) and (the once Slovene but now Italian port city) Trieste.

I’ve written nearly 50 essays, blog entries and book reviews on Slovenia during my time here and experienced countless more things then I’d never be able to put down in words as I lived life in Slovenia.

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As I start packing, there is not much this blogger has collected in the way of souvenirs and trinkets to remember this visit by, but what I am packing away for safe keeping (aside from the nearly 1,600 photos I’ve taken) are the memories of friendships, acts of kindness and consideration that I have felt from everyone I’ve met. From the gracious folks I’ve lived with these many months to the many people I met by chance that showed kindness, a kind word, companionship, a meal, a drink, a chat or just a cheery “Čivio”. That is the Slovenian experience I don’t want to forget, ever.

I realize I got nothing I had expected from my time here (a two week visit and then off to Novi Sad was the original plan), but everything I could have ever hoped for.

Thank you all,

I have been truly blessed.

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Those who follow my blog know I’ve ranted at times trying to champion the causes and find solutions for historical or social problems I’ve seen here in Slovenia be they old buildings, the youths disinterest in anything more then temporal materialism, or intolerance for Muslims and gypsies. Those are all important but not among the main memories I’m leaving with.

The other day I got on the bus heading to town and was preoccupied with one of these “euphoric crusades” on my mind. Another man got on the bus a few stops later, obviously homeless and at least a hundred cents short of the 1.20 Euro bus fare. The driver had to do his job and not let the man ride without the full fare, most of us felt sorry for him but only one lady stood up and said, “here, have this” and proceeded give him a spare bus token from her purse to give to the driver. We all could have done that, yet she was the one who did. Then I thought to myself, Slovenia will be alright without my latest crusade as long as there is still people like her in this world.

The next time I was out walking I had an opportunity to follow her sample. I saw a very old man across the street from me trying to get off the curb and cross the street before the light went red again. I did not have to think twice how to respond this time, I went over and took his frail arm in both hands and helped him down the curb and onto the side I’d just come from.

 

These are the things that make the world better, in our lives, in our families or just for a perfect stranger in need. We often get so busy looking for the big things and ‘saving the world’ that we miss the most important and often little things right there in front of us. As long as we can keep that chain of kindness going everything else will be alright and start to sort themselves out.

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The other day I was in town and had heard that the castle lift had been completed so I went to take a look at it.

To be honest I was both disappointed and not surprised at what I saw. I’ve been visiting this beautiful city for months now and have expressed at different times my thoughts, raves, disappointments and fears of this city and it’s historical preservation, and this is just the next unfortunate architectural misstep to be completed. This carefully laid out and well built structure has the looks of a dumbwaiter, you know those lifts that carry food up to another floor in an industrial restaurant or kitchen.

castle-lift-lj07-jw.jpgThat’s what we got here now to bring paying visitors up to a medieval castle. While it does work as a quick disabled access to the castle and will help ageing tourists get up without incident like I witnessed before, I will never take this as long as I’m able to walk or even crawl. I will be climbing the hill trail or steps every time out of protest of this sad project. Is this what experiencing the old town is about? Being hurled in the air like food in a glass cookie jar?

What is frustrating to me is that his city has wonderful opportunities to improve the city and yet squanders them in unoriginal and uninspiring ways. I was glad to see a local magazine I picked up in a hotel lobby address this same issue and compares this ‘wonderful mess’ to a number of other much more interesting and beautifully built similar lifts of other European cities like in Bern, Salzburg, Budapest, Dresden, Zagreb, and Graz and others, unfortunately no one seems to have done this kind of research beforehand or even get creatively drawn ideas from school children to have a beter idea of presentation. This most basic and ugly single-car funicular structure  trades counter-weight with an iron slab instead of the usual second car. There could have been more then enough room on the hill for two pretty cars, though under these circumstances we just have to be glad there isn’t two of them.

What was really sad was not only did they not care to make the lift blend in more to the historical setting of the castle and old town but they carved out the whole area below the hill next to centuries old buildings with stainless steal railings and paving that shows no interest to match what is already there. My guess is that they are planning to knock that down too and just add another modern and culturally insensitive building in it’s place while developers wait to block the castle view altogether with a new Kolizej building one day.

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Here is something new I will add to this blog of pictures that I take that are not necessarily taken to illustrate my writings or city experiences but more for fun and a candid look into life in the XYZone.

Today I was in Celje so pictures will be from there but some could have been from anywhere, I’ll post proper pics of the sights and write about the city at another time.

For a Picture of the Day fix (mostly sights from Slovenia that you will not see anywhere else) you must only pay a visit to the cyber Piran Cafe, tell him I sent you and stay as long as you like, the tab is on me.

Banking on the Savior?

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This picture is in Celje and I thought it interesting that this bank had one of the largest crucifix on it I’ve seen here. Slovenia is a Catholic country but not to the dramatic displays of their fath to the tunes of Mexico or the Philippine Islands, my feeling is that in the wonderful architectural design it was not first intended to be a bank but it is now. It does illustrate the struggle I see people here experience and feel that God is way up there and not on their level and the bank/credit/capitalistic world is at their eye level and their tangible god of right now.

Law and Order

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This is a gorgeous old building that has brass wall-plates reading “Odvetnik” (attorney) and a posh law firm in the ground floor on the Celje city center but is just abandoned on the top making for a stark contrast but very common sight here as people do not seem to realise that if the top of the building rots, leaks or falls down all their investments on the bottom floor are useless, but then they are lawyers, they can sue.

If Mr. Bean were born a Balkan…

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…he’d drive this Zastava 750 and be really cool and prompt a luxury car brand to buy the rights to it and make a remake that would be featured in blockbuster Hollywood movies, driven by good robbers and smart blonde’s (go figure), and cost as much as a full car for only half the leg room and support the whole economy of Serbia, but alas, he is from that little island that sings to a queen and drives a car who’s name even makes reference to it’s tininess, what a bean-head.

This proud car was once the ‘people’s car of Yugoslavia’, now it is the only car you are still legally allowed to drive fully intoxicated and if all your driving points are gone…if you can get your grandma’s one to start (don’t worry you won’t go anywhere), though not something you would want to get stuck inside of with a full balder, not even the front seat.

This one is nicely restored and a nice paint job on it. There are not many left, at least not road-worthy in Slovenia unlike Bosnia and Serbia. I would love to have one one day before they are all gone, not that I’d ever fit driving in one but a great piece of automotive history from former yu go slav…eh…ah.

It is kind of like the bumble-bee theory, it does not know it can’t fly so it does, no, this is like people did not know cars could go more then 40 km/h and sit on a seat bigger then a thumbnail in the 60’s so they drove this 25 HP car and were still making them up untill 1985!

They say “freedom has no limits” and so I’m sure people were just happy to be on the road and own their own car, while passing up others on mules, but perhaps these designers should have had just a little bigger vision, like a convertible model or at least a sunroof so those of us more then 5 foot tall could enjoy driving it too – from the back seat.

This is how one guy drives (or should I say drags) his

This is how everyone else does.

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