01 August 2011

Things Slovenian People Like

Serving food on wooden boards. When we ate out, we were inevitably served something if not everything on a wooden board. It looked pretty, made for great pictures and took away any potential for that awful sound your utensils make when grinding against a plate. They seemed especially logical when serving a slab of meat - a cutting board and a plate in one! I've seen this before, but never so much as in Slovenia.
Viticulture. Wine making has been going on longer in Slovenia than Germany, Spain or - gasp! - France. It's true. It actually predates any Roman influence. There are about 28,000 vineyards in this small country and they are very, very proud of their product. This photo was taken at a tourist office in Vipava, which had an adjacent wine shop and tasting room that was sleeker and more stylized than anything else we saw outside of Ljubljana. Our visit ended with a short informational/promotional video, which had some pretty groovy computer graphics. The wines are generally very good, mostly white and can't really be found outside of Slovenia, the countries directly surrounding and the United States, as less than 10% of it is exported. Driving through Primorska, Podravje and Posavje, vineyards are everywhere.
Outdoor activities. Well, this makes sense. The country is a veritable playground for paragliders, rafters, climbers and any other sort of outdoor sports enthusiast. The World Rowing Championship is happening on Lake Bled right about now. We saw t-bar lifts set up on hillsides in small towns and marked hiking trails just about everywhere.
Country kitsch. To be fair, we were most often in the country and the objects were rarely mass-produced. Still, outside of Ljubljana, seldom did we walk into an eatery without a sentimental bend toward traditional, folky aesthetic - without farm equipment or handicrafts strung up on the walls. It never felt disingenuous or gimmicky and was always quite pretty and comfortable, but you know. That hen above is filled with warm bread; brown under the right wing and white under the left. Beneath her are our napkins and utensils. I was hoping for a painted egg.
Hayracks. Whether they are simple drying racks like this or toplarji, the double-racked structure with storage spaces above that look like barn skeletons, hayracks are everywhere. Slovenians considered them a national icon and you'll spot small wooden models in souvenir shops.
Cockta. It's a Slovenian soft drink made out of all sorts of herbs, but mostly rose hip. I'd say it tastes sort of like a really lemon-y, sorta flat Dr. Pepper, but that's stretch. It definitely has its own flavor, which was the point back in the 1950s when it was developed to compete in the international soft drink market. You see a lot of younger people drink it, but it ostensibly holds a bigger place in the heart of older countrymen who remember it as one of the very first products to be marketed and advertised in a big way: posters, bottle design through market research, the work of Slovene Drapers and Olsons. It doesn't have caffeine or orthophosphoric acid. You know how they say you can remove rust or clean your car engine with cola? Well, that's the stuff that does it. So Cockta's probably a much safe ingestion choice.
Harmonika, which is actually Slovenian for Accordion. That confused us at first. We saw accordion shops all over the place and vintage ones decorating the halls of inns and restaurants. I can't tell you what the special significance is, I just know that they definitely seem to like them a lot.

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