At the Crossroads

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Text: Žikica Milošević

Slovenes had a long tradition, but as a Westernmost of all the South Slavs, were subdued to strong cultural pressures during the last 1500 years. Fortunately, their culture survived and only got richer by foreign influence

BORDER SLAVS

If you are a Slavic nation, and you reside so much to the West, you simply have to be influenced by Germanic culture. It happened to the Czechs, it happened to the Poles, it especially happened to the Sorbs, or Lusatian Serbs, as we are used to call them. And it definitely happened to the Slovenes. But, contrary to the aforementioned nations, Slovenes experienced less Protestant influence and more of the Italian one. Unlike other Slavic cultures, the Slovenes have been greatly influenced by German and Austrian cultures, a result of centuries of rule by the Austrian Habsburgs. Italian influence is evident in the regions that border Italy. It could be, of course, seen everywhere.

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Slovenia, Triglav - a hiker contemplates the horizon (Photo by: Andia/UIG via Getty Images)

Slovenia, Triglav – a hiker contemplates the horizon (Photo by: Andia/UIG via Getty Images)

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OLD SLAVIC CUSTOMS PRESERVED

Slovenia has, however, always preserved its ethnological features and traditions. One of the most striking elements of the national Slovenian pride, although not unique for the Slovenians (it could be seen in Eastern Serbia, south Hungary or even as far as Sardinia) is the apperance of the kuranti figures. They are famous for their beasty and monster-like appearances, and kuranti are usually appeating during the Carnival season, which is in the early spring. The figures from Ptujsko polje are especially interesting.

Let us go a bit further into some of the more peculiar customes. Even today, the kozolec, a traditional rack for drying hay and other field crops, can been seen all across Slovenia. The double kozolec is unique in the world and delights the eye with the originality of its construction and its ornate decoration. Along with its universally known breed of honeybee, a special feature of Slovenia is the colourful beehive panel decorated with religious, historical, and frequently humourous scenes found on the front of the original Slovene beehive. In the 18th and 19th centuries there were at least fifty thousand in existence, and the more than six hundred preserved motifs remain a genuine gallery of folk art.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 02: Mina Spiler of Laibach performs on stage at Electric Ballroom on April 2, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Brigitte Engl/Redferns via Getty Images)

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – APRIL 02: Mina Spiler of Laibach performs on stage at Electric Ballroom on April 2, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Brigitte Engl/Redferns via Getty Images)

SOELDEN, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 23: Zan Kranjec of Slovenia in action during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Giant Slalom on October 23, 2016 in Soelden, Austria (Photo by Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

SOELDEN, AUSTRIA – OCTOBER 23: Zan Kranjec of Slovenia in action during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men’s Giant Slalom on October 23, 2016 in Soelden, Austria (Photo by Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

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Among Slovenia’s many historical legacies, its original skis arouse special respect. One of the oldest means of transportation on the high Bloke plateau in central Slovenia, they were first documented in the 17th century.  Well, no wonder Slovenia is such a ski superpower! And a heaven for skiers.

MENTALITY AS A MIXTURE

Much was said about the Slovenian mentality, and sometimes they feel quite contradictory. Of course, it is a result of their mixed influences, and many times Slovenes tend to oppose the immediate neighbour or a prevalent discourse. During the times of the Habsburgs, the prevalent feeleng was Slavic identity, in Yugoslavia they felt very Middle European in comparison with their Balkan fiery compatriots, emphasising their own inclination towards the rules and order, and now, in the EU, they feel different and more at ease and lively than many of the stiff nations of the Union. and the truth is somewhere in between, of course. Now they cannot wait to hang around with the ex-Yugoslavs and flock to Belgrade for a New Year’s Celebration, and feel like rule-breakers. The people and their identities! But the truth is – Slovenians are a nice mixture of everything, which is particularly visible in their cuisine.

CUISINE AS A MIXTURE, ONCE AGAIN

Slovenian cuisine is a mixture of the Central European cuisine (especially Austrian and Hungarian), the Mediterranean cuisine and the Balkan cuisine. Historically, Slovenian cuisine was divided into town, farmhouse, cottage, castle, parsonage and monastic cuisine. Due to the variety of Slovenian cultural and natural landscapes, there are more than 40 distinct regional cuisines.

Ethnologically most characteristic Slovene dishes were one-pot dishes, such as ričet, Istrian stew (jota), minestrone (mineštra), and žganci buckwheat spoonbread; in the Prekmurje region there is also bujta repa, and prekmurska gibanica pastry. Prosciutto is known (pršut) in the Slovene Littoral. The nut roll (potica) has become a trademark and symbol of Slovenia especially among Slovene diaspora in America. Many decades in Yugoslavia opened the door to the Balkan additions, just as many centuries under the Habsburgs opened the door to the Austrian and Hungarian dishes, and this made Slovenian cuisine unique and tasty.

EPILOGUE

Slovenes might feel contradictory, Southerners wheen they are surrounded by Northerners and vice versa, they might feel very “Eastern” and rule-breaking when they are surrounded by the rule-obbeying, and stuck to order when they see the Balkanic mess, but nevertheless, this adorable mixture must not necessarily be neurotic – it is quite marvellous and delicious!

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