Slovenia in pictures: Erasmus edition p.2!

The weather in Slovenia has been crazy lately, but that did not stop the tourists from exploring the country. Which of these places or scenes have you seen as well?

This time we will look at Slovenia from the perspective of the Czech student Kamila :).

Hide&Seek in Ljublana p.2

Have you found any of the previous pieces of wall art in Ljubljana? Good job! Do not stop there, since there are many more to come! This time even the famous faces from the Slovenian literary history have joined the game. Do you recognize any of these?

 

KL, 2016

Hide&Seek in Ljubljana: How many of these have you noticed? (part 1)

While walking the streets of Ljubljana, talking to the friends, listening to the street musicians, trying to avoid the bicycles and deciding which cafeteria to enter all at the same time, it is really easy to not notice them.

They are all well hidden in the small streets, under the bridges or behind the old impressive buildings. And some of them are chilling on such obvious places that we simply do not notice them. Like the Slovaks tend to say: Pod lampou býva najväčšia tma (The darkest place is under a candlestick).

I have decided to take my camera for a walk and take a picture of these wall creatures. And this is where the magic happens – once you will see them, you will never unsee them again. Give it a try and let us know: How many of them have you found?

 

KL, 2016

A year in Slovakia: The first grey hair and friendships for life

“Slovak/Slovene for a year” is a section about those who have experienced one of our countries as foreigners. We will share their stories with you, so you can take a look at the countries from the foreigner perspective.

This article is written by a Slovene student of the Slovak language and Social sciences, who spent the academic year 2010/2011 in Bratislava.

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Bratislava castle, Slovakia

The Bratislava castle, Slovakia (photo by: T. Malnar)

Zzzzzzzzzz. The sound of the alarm clock on a Sunday morning, it is still dark outside. What a horror! But this time it wasn’t hard for me to get up for I was on my way to a trip. About an hour later, I was already in Ljubljana, filled up my uncle’s station wagon with my luggage and said goodbye to the rest of my family. On that September morning my mother and I entered the car of my uncle who generously offered to give us – and especially to my giant amount of luggage – a ride to Bratislava, which took us only 4 hours.

Have I mentioned I took the whole wardrobe, if not even more? A big mistake! Clothes, footwear, cosmetics, dishes, a pile of books and dictionaries and also a few of the »necessary« local sweets, etc. Well, I applied for a 10-month student exchange and I didn’t want to leave anything to coincidence. But, of course, while I was already sitting in the car I realized what everything I have forgotten: for example my studying materials from the first year of college in Ljubljana, which I needed a lot…

We were welcomed by a nice Slovak family in a smaller town on the outskirts of Bratislava. My uncle has met them one hot summer on the Pag island in Croatia and introduced them to me in order to make sure I would do fine in the new city. So this is how I met Mrs Marta, Mr Ján and their daughters Zuzana and Daniela.

There were more amazing coincidences connected to our meeting. Firstly, Mrs Marta Botiková is a professor at the Faculty of Arts in Bratislava, which I was about to attended during the exchange. Secondly, it turned out her daughter Zuzana was going to a student exchange to Ljubljana! So at the end of the day my uncle and my mother drove back to Slovenia with Zuzana, while Marta took me to my new future home in Mlynská dolina.

Bratislava, Slovakia4

Bratislava, Slovakia (photo by: T. Malnar)

My roommate Tina who was at the moment a student of the Social Sciences Faculty in Ljubljana, was expecting us at the dorm. We have been already in touch for a few months via internet and made sure to stay in the same room. We hugged as if we had known each other for years. On that day I also ran into my colleagues from the Ljubljana faculty, who were also there to study the Slovak language. Later on Katja – who came to Bratislava to write her thesis – joined us with Tina in the room. Since they have arrived few days before me, they knew how it all worked and quickly introduced me to the timetable and the faculty activities.

Bratislava, Slovakia2

Danube river in Slovakia (photo by: T. Malnar)

The day after my arrival I was already on my way to the Faculty of Arts, which is in the centre of Bratislava. There were no big surprises, I have already visited Bratislava during the excursions with my colleagues and have also seen the faculty. I had a clue about what to expect: all the administration connected to my arrival to Bratislava, potential changes of the learning agreement content and all the other things that belong to moving to a new country and faculty. However, the stress I was going through was obvious. Not only to me, but also to my hairdresser, who has noticed my first grey hair after the exchange. But today, when I look back at it, I can finally smile.

Bratislava, Slovakia

New brige in Bratislava, Slovakia (photo by: T. Malnar)

People have asked me many times about how my exchange was. I always answer that it was great but at the same time I emphasise that it wasn’t all just wonderful. There were many problems which I had to face. I have to admit that sometimes during the first semester I shed a tear or two. And not because I would miss my close ones (thanks to the internet we surprisingly haven’t even noticed the distance) but because in Bratislava I hav found myself in situations in which I didn’t know how to react. I was suddenly all alone in a foreign country. But after all, my experience with the exchange taught me how to be independent and courageous. Now I can go anywhere and I know that I will survive. Well, maybe except for China, in that case I would have to take this statement back.

Studying at the Slovak Faculty of Arts was an interesting experience. I attended the subjects for both foreign and native students. In order to pass the classes for the natives I had to work really hard and I can honestly say that I have invested more work and energy into my studies than I would ever have at home. Therefore I have to disappoint you: I don’t have many fun stories and events from countless student parties about which I could one day be talking to my grandchildren.

What I have noticed was that there weren’t any copy shops in the vicinity of the faculty, while there are plenty of them in Ljubljana. I believe that is somehow connected to the fact that the students (at least as far as the Faculty of Arts is concerned) attend their classes regularly and that is why they are not in the need of copying the notes from each other. I got the feeling that their approach to the studies is somehow more serious and that they take the first exam terms more often.

Well, in spite of the fact that I went to class every morning like a good girl, I still have attended few parties. All the Erasmus students who spent the spring of 2011 in Bratislava will probably remember this period by the world championship in hockey that took place in April and May in the capital of Slovakia. That was when Bratislava was overflown by hockey supporters from all over Europe, including Slovenes. The centre of the town has transformed into a real cosmopolitan capital and the parties went on till late hours. According to my experience, the Slovaks are in comparison to the Slovenes slightly more reserved when it comes to meeting new people, but I am sure that there are some exceptions. Like I have already said, I have made few friends in Bratislava that I managed to keep until today, mostly thanks to the internet. I keep promising to go back and visit them for some years now.

It would be wrong of me not to mention Saša Vojtechová Poklač, the language lecturer of the Slovenian language, who is (with the help from the Slovene embassy in Bratislava) ensuring the promotion of the Slovene language and culture in Slovakia and the development of international and intercultural contacts. Numerous events and meetings at the embassy have helped the foreigner students to accommodate in Bratislava faster and feel like we are at home.

Bratislava, Slovakia5

Bratislava, Slovakia (photo by: T. Malnar)

On the other hand, the Slovaks are used to live more modestly. The Slovenes have truly left the times of Yugoslavia behind and have become consumers with the big capital C. There are no doubts that we have noticeably bigger houses (maybe even too big) and drive good cars, even if they are »over our budget«. In Slovenia many students have their own car, while I haven’t noticed anything like that during my student exchange in Bratislava. The Slovenes also give more money for fashionable clothes. The life standard of Slovaks is lower, which I have noticed soon after my arrival to the dorms. They were modestly equipped and in the desperate need of a thorough renewal. I didn’t trouble myself with that much, I just took it as a part of my experience.

Bratislava is a capital that is waking up from socialism, developing in the spirit of capitalism and opens up many opportunities. I can’t wait to observe its changes and progress the next time I visit.

 

Tjaša Malnar, 2016

 

 

How to recognize a foreigner in the TOP SECRET mode in Ljublana? (Blog)

It is my third day in Ljubljana now and even though I have been here for few weeks on Summer school before, I still feel like a foreigner. I am doing my best to not make it as obvious for the others, but it is really hard for me to tell if I am doing a good job. If you are wondering, how to recognize a foreigner in the top secret mode in Slovenian crowd, I have listed some possible useful hints for you!

  • this simple

    It was this simple all along!

    We hide our papers with hand-drawn maps made by our Slovenian friends and walk the streets super confidently. In the Ninja mode you don’t want the others to know that you still have no clue which direction the Aškerčeva street is and what is the difference between Cankarjev dom and Dom Ivana Cankarja.

  • The sudden confusion when the waiter asks us if we are eating on “boni”. What is that thing and why do I still not have it if it makes my eating routine easier?
ljubljana bike

Ljubljana, bicycle (photo by: K. Lalikova)

  • Struggles with the pavements and the bicycle section. Yeah, we have that in my home city as well, but it is not like I would get a serious jump-scare every time I accidentally step on it. Slovenes drive their bicycles FAST and pretty often. So we foreigners always check twice on which side of the pavement are we walking.
  • The forced smile and head shake when people guess where we are from according to our accent, yet they all guess the same country and it is really not even close to our home.
  • The super flattered smile when they compliment our Slovenian. Seriously, that will never get old for me. Especially if they skip the previous point.
  • Our stubborn insistence on speaking Slovenian. Me no speaky English. Moraš govoriti slovensko. (OK, I guess this only applies on the students of the language. The others are really lucky that Slovenes are so educated when it comes to English!)
lljubljana castle

Ljubljana street view, Slovenia (photo by: K. Lalikova)

  • Trying to not be obvious, we try to take the pictures of the gorgeous buildings and Prešeren’s statue (with his half naked muse in the background) in the least suspicious moments. Only Instagram can know our secret!

 

Yet, after all, I have to say I don’t really mind it when people can tell that I am new around here. I have only met Slovenes who were really supportive and friendly once they found out I am trying to adapt in Ljubljana and making an effort to master the dvojina of their language. And after all, the sooner I will find some good Slovenian friends, the better for me. So, the next time you will see someone jumping into the air when the bicycle passes by, don’t be shy and compliment their Slovenian. 🙂

KL, 2016

 

F. Prešeren, A. Sládkovič: Were those ladies worth it? (blog)

marína dom_Lalíková

Locks of love on Marína´s house in Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia, (photo by: E. Lalíková)

When it comes to the similarities of Slovakia and Slovenia, we have one to share with you on the Valentine´s Day. It has something to do with our most famous poets – Slovak Andrej Sládkovič and Slovenian France Prešeren. If you have never heard of them, no worries, we got you covered.

Both poets were creating in the 19th century, when the national awakening was coming to life. The fight for the right to become an independent nation was everywhere – but especially in the literature. All the poets spent days and nights finding new rhymes to words like nation, independence, injustice and language. They searched for the evidence in the nature, folklore, everyday life of the village people.

And in this burst of nations, here they were: Sládkovič and Prešeren. Two guys, who just fell in love A LOT.

Not to be ironic, their poetry was connecting love and nation in the most brilliant way. The way Sládkovič loved Slovakia, was identical with the way he loved his muse – Marína. Or, at least he claimed so. However, on the Valentine´s Day, we will not talk about the national struggle. So let´s get back to those similarities – ladies.

Sládkovič fell in love while teaching the exceptional Marína. Somewhat we believe that she was radiantly beautiful and incredibly smart, because why else would he write over 290 stanzas for her? His Slovenian colleague Prešeren found his new meaning of life in Julija. He expressed his love in the same manner – through sonnets. Prešeren wrote the whole impressive masterpiece, Sonetni venec, which has remained the pride of Slovenes until today. He is considered the first author of the Slovenian artistic poetry, proof that Slovenes are just as capable of creating art through their language as any other European nation.

Yet what is the next parallel of these two? Firstly, they were criticised for writing about love and intimacy, when there were more important topics to cover. Secondly, both got heart broken and refused by their muses. They lived in their pain, digging in it deeper and deeper and expressed the process of this whole masochism in their art.

Now we are thankful to them, impressed even. But to be honest, if we were their friends back in the days of the 19th century, we would slap them both in the faces and tell them to get a life. To find a new woman, new hobby, new thing to write about. Tell them, that nation needs their attention much more, than some woman, who is more interested in the account of the man than in some fancy words written in the ordinary peasant language.

We would ask them, what we are also asking ourselves today: France, Andrej – were those girls of yours worth it? Were they really so exceptional? Or if you would look closer, you would find missing teeth, wrinkles, irritating lack of hygiene or would notice that they gossip about all of their friends, including you?

I bet we all know the answer. They wouldn´t care, just as the people do not care today. Love is blind, people are always hungry for passion and so it seems, it can move the humans to incredible or devastating actions.

But Prešeren and Sládkovič found the hole in the system. They have gone through their suffering in such a way that did not impress their muses, however, did help out their nation. They made the places they lived in – Ljubljana and Banská Štiavnica – the cities/towns of love. And – to conclude their masterpiece – they made the women who have refused them be always remembered as theirs – “Prešeren´s Julija” and Sládkovič´s Marína. So after all, they have won.

LJ ducks

Love locks on the Ljubljana bridge in Slovenia, (photo by: A. Jordan)

The females, who were perfect only on the paper, became with the sonnets immortal. And after all, we have to give them credit for that as well. Because hardly any big passionate love poetry was created out of pure love to poet´s wife and to the mother of his kids. All that those ladies often got was just a drunk and busy daydreaming husband, who did not help out at home. It was the “gold diggers” (as we could call them today) who got the sonnets from the poets and the rich guys as husbands.

So our SLOV:SLOV love story is at the end here. None of the poets found their happy ending, but they found their meaning in life and were followed by hundreds of artists, who were inspired by their work. After all, maybe love is not always about the happiness, but also may be the source of inspiration and the way how to set the inner genius free. Think of that when celebrating the Valentine´s Day this year and maybe take the time for some 19th century Central European love poetry as well ;-).

K. L., 2016