Tag Archives: Slovenia

Spring & Sea

Piran, Slovenia by Of Dragons and Hearts.This weekend, we finally got to see some sun after two weeks of almost non-stop rain and snow (not the cool kind of snow that you can play on with kids, but the wet, soggy kind that makes you want to stay in). I’m all for quiet afternoons spent with a book but having a kid means you have to find some activity or they get bored out of their minds. A bored toddler = an annoyed toddler (fact).

piran2We drove out to the seaside, to Piran, which is one of the several small towns that dot the Slovenian coast. We only have some 47km of coast right at the top of the Adriatic sea (between the Italian Gulf of Trieste and the Croatian Istria) and I think it’s both quite pretty and quite underrated.

piran5The day was windy and sunny – the best kind of a spring day. Some of the fruit trees (apricots, probably) were already in bloom and there were seagulls and splashing waves and Kiddo had a great time making “woosh” sounds at the waves.

piran3We also visited the small but interesting aquarium – A. came up with the idea after we watched Finding Nemo with Kiddo and he loved it. We’ve seen it about 3 times now (in smaller sections, we don’t let him watch tv for an hour and a half) and he keeps saying “biba” (“riba” is “fish” in Slovenian). So we went to see the fish and he was so happy. He kept returning to one tank with a really large fish and yelling his version of “Hello, fish!” at it. I’d love for him to see a really big aquarium, so we’ll be looking into that if/when we travel.

piran4We’ll definitively be returning to the seaside more often in the spring, it’s just an hour’s drive away but it makes such a difference from the gray, wintery Ljubljana.

srcek

Do you ever go on day trips?

What are your favourite destinations?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Reading Translations

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My native language is not English. It’s Slovenian, a small South Slavic language with some two and a half million speakers (that’s how many of us there are in the world).

pika-nogavicka-lindgrenBut nowadays, a vast majority of the books I read are in English. I like English. I feel comfortable in it, it’s a stretchy language that is relatively easy to learn for practical communication but takes years (decades, really) to master. I liked learning it, I like using it and writing in it.

But I wasn’t born with a sufficiently high level of English to read books, obviously, so most of my childhood was spent reading translated books. I discovered some of my favourite authors this way – Roald Dahl, Astrid Lindgren, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Elizabeth Goudge, the Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Andersen, J. K. Rowling…

But I read a lot of translated English books even later, in high school, when my English was certainly already good enough to understand most of the literature. I fell in love with Mr Darcy in Slovenian, first read Romeo and Juliet, and followed Frodo on his quest to destroy the ring in Slovenian, too.

harry-potter-ognjeni-kelihI even became a translator to be able to put into my mother tongue the words of people who don’t speak my language. This may sound like some lofty, idealistic goal, but was really born of the wish to discuss the newest Harry Potter book I’d already read in English with my schoolmates who had to wait for the translation.

If I only read English (or French, I speak French, too) books now, I wouldn’t even need translation anymore. But I’d never have been able to read Russian, Japanese, Italian or German books if my fellow translators hadn’t done a wonderful job translating these works into Slovenian. I never would have met Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, or read Murakami’s wonderful novels, or One Hundred Years of Solitude, or any other classic novel, really.

rdece-kot-kecapOne of my resolutions this January was to read more non-English books. I haven’t been very good at that, apart from one French book and my current read, a translation of Patrick Ness’s Monsters of Men. So what I’m saying is that I really should read more books in translation, books from languages other than English, because novels like that made me the reader that I am, shaped my taste as I was growing up. And I miss them. I miss getting out of my comfort zone.

So this is my little ramble on a topic that is very important to me, and my pledge to try and do better and read more translations.

srcek

Do you read translations? Ever? 

If you have read “the Classics” – Dostoevsky, Tolstoi, Flaubert… – did you think about the fact that you were reading a translation? 

Do you like to get out of your comfort zone sometimes?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Castle and a Park

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I have some photos for you, dear readers, because we took a day trip to Bistra Castle, which houses the Technical Museum of Slovenia. The castle was apparently founded in the 13th century by Carthusian monks!

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The castle has very pretty grounds complete with a river spring that powered their mills, an artificial pond overgrown with algae so it looks even more romantic (and it has ducks!) and an avenue of trees.

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We had a snack on a shaded park bench, wandered around the halls featuring crafts like woodworking and blacksmithing, and admired cars made long before we were born.

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There’s something steampunkish to these old machines, don’t you agree? I pretended they were used for much cooler stuff than paving roads or pulling train carriages. What would be the use for these two, do you think?

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Several years ago, we visited the Munich Technological Museum, which is so huge you can’t get through all the collections in one day. This one was much more manageable and even Kiddo admired the machines (making brrm-brrm sounds and pointing with his chubby fingers) and didn’t get annoyed at all.

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I made A. take a picture of me here because I thought it was the most beautiful path I’d seen in a while. There’s something serene in the ivy- and moss-covered tree trunks and the light was nice. (Can you see that I cut my hair? It’s quite short now!)

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Did you know magnolias made such freaky fruits? I Googled “magnolia fruit” and came up with even more interesting results but I was very surprised by this bulbous thingy. My grandparents (and my mother-in-law) have a magnolia bush in their garden but it never made this.

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See? Very pretty. I think we’ll be returning here for more strolls and perhaps a picnic once Kiddo is older and able to walk on his own (and once he’s old enough to understand he’s not supposed to touch the exhibits… that might take a while). The following photo, I think, shows the best view we encountered. I heard people get married here, which must be magical.

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If you’d like to see more castles we visited, try this and this and this!

Do you have a favourite museum? Is it technical or artsy? 

Do you prefer day trips or long vacations?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Blue

DSC_0021Last week, we spent four days at my parents’ weekend house. While it rained one day (YAY for Ikea and new stationery!), it was sunny most of the time, so we took long walks and I took photos. I didn’t even do anything to these photos (I’m trying to learn about photography and photo editing but it’s a process…). Some were taken with our Canon camera and others with my phone. This first one is a view of the Gulf of Trieste from Via Napoleonica, an old road that offers magnificent views and a shelter from the wind even in the middle of the winter (or so we’ve been told).

DSC_0005After one stormy night, the skies were washed clean and the clouds were amazing.

DSC_0028Look, a bear! (Or possibly a weasel.)

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They’re so fluffy!

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I really appreciate my husband. He kept the kiddo occupied while I played at being a photographer. (I mean, I obviously appreciate him for so many things but I can imagine stopping constantly can be a bit frustrating…)

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I love the burnt summer grass, the colours are pretty.

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That bottom one looks like a macaron/hamburger.

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And this is the lovely view from Vremščica, a hilltop near my parents’ house. We could see for miles and miles around, the air was very clear. We also found delicious wild strawberries and saw some donkeys and sheep!

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srcek

Do you get fascinated by the skies sometimes? 

Have you been taking any (day) trips this summer? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Unplugging

strunjan-seasideWe spent two days at our seaside, in Strunjan, last week. We don’t often go to the Slovenian coast, opting instead for Croatian beaches, which are, admittedly, prettier than ours. The weather was great, 31°C (88°F) and slightly windy so it was actually rather cool in the shade. The water was cold-ish but refreshing and clean and we strolled to the top of the cliffs to enjoy the afternoon sun (HOT, especially when pushing the stoller uphill) and the view over the Gulf of Trieste.

strunjan-cliffsIt was our first time staying at a hotel with the kiddo and we liked it very much (especially since it was also a break from all the cooking and cleaning we have to do each day!). The food was good, the nights colder than in the city, and the mosquitos managed to avoid the kid and only feasted on A. and me.

strunjan-sunsetBut best of all, I think, was the fact that I unplugged from the web a bit, only checking my Instagram account (I’m an addict, what can I say?). I read a lot, but also just enjoyed hanging out with my two favourite people. As much as I love my computer(s) and internet, it’s sometimes great to put it all away and just be.

srcek

Do you like to unplug from time to time?

Or are you fused to your smartphone and computer?

What are your plans for this summer?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Reading Fantasy in a Tiny Country

discussionHi, I’m Kaja and I live in Slovenia. Usually, that’s not really important for this blog, but today I want to talk about how living in a very small country affects my (genre) reading habits.

Slovenia is one of the smallest countries in the European Union both by surface and by the number of inhabitants. It is this last number – a bit more than 2 million citizens – that is important here. To put this into perspective, London has more than 8 million people. Queens, just one of the boroughs in New York, for example, has 2.3 million. Ljubljana, our capital and my home town, has approximately 300,000 inhabitants.

Where am I going with this?

I always considered myself to be a big fan of the genre. I read fantasy (not so much sci-fi but still), I buy books, I blog about them, I try to make other people read them. My husband probably reads even more fantasy than I do. All in all, by Slovenian standards, we’re that weirdo couple who can always be counted on making incomprehensible LOTR-related jokes and then sniggering while others watch with bemused expressions on family meetings. My grandma still talks about the time I dragged her to the cinema to see The Two Towers with a pained expression.

But I’ve been participating in this weekly feature, Tough Travels, for several months now. It’s great fun and I love doing it but what it brings to light every single week is just how little I really know of the SFF genre.

In Slovenia, we have one major chain of bookstores owned by our largest publishing house, Mladinska knjiga. They have a pretty well-stocked English section in their largest store in Ljubljana but if you go to the fantasy aisle, you’ll only find the usual suspects: George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Robert Jordan, Robin Hobb, a shelf or two with vampire-related paranormals, and a couple of other titles. It’s no wonder – these are the bestsellers, of course, but what I’m trying to say here is that there is no place I (or any other fantasy enthusiast) can go to browse the titles and discover something a bit less popular.

Sure, I can order books online (which is what I do most of the time, anyway) and have them delivered from the US, for example, but I have to know which ones I want, first. Ok, so I got into blogging – only last year – and I use Goodreads, but I’m computer literate – and most importantly I SPEAK ENGLISH VERY WELL (at least I’d like to think so…).

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ime-vetra

Patrick Rothfuss: The Name of the Wind (translated by Sergej Hvala)

The real problem arises when you’re a Slovenian reader and your English is passable (it mostly is with people under 50 in Slovenia, pretty much everyone can make themselves understood in English, one of the side-effects of your language only having 2 millon speakers is the absolute need to learn a foreign language – or two) but not great. You might be able to order pizza and coffee, but you prefer your movies with subtitles and you’re certainly not up to reading a 900-page monster of a book with very elaborate language. Or maybe you just like to read in Slovenian. If that’s the case, your choices are severly limited in terms of fantasy literature. Again, the number of authors that have been translated is abysmally low: Tolkien, of course, Martin, Hobb (just one trilogy), Gaiman, Le Guin, and now Rothfuss.

I think there are two main reasons for this lack of translations:

  1. Fantasy is still a very underrated genre here. It is perceived to be childish (we do have plenty of translated books for kids – and young adults – that’s true, both the classics and the new(ish) titles). This is slowly changing, probably due to the popularity of the HBO’s Game of Thrones which has bewitched our audiences with violence and nudity. :)
  2. There are very few people who actually buy and read (fantasy) books. The average print run for a popular book (like a translation of a historical romance) is 2000 copies. For something like Harry Potter, it might be up to 5000 when all is said and done. Ime Vetra says 1300 copies for the hardback. Books get very expensive because of this!

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I wish there were more people who read fantasy in my country. While the situation is definitely improving, we still have a long way to go. It’s probably important to note that there is very, very little original Slovenian fantasy out there, especially for adults (we do alright with fairy tales and some children’s books).

I wish there were more author events, debates, and other fantasy-related occasions. I only ever saw George R. R. Martin and Patrick Ness and I’ve been to a couple of small-scale fan debates in the last year but there’s still much to desire. I’m seriously thinking of starting my own association or something with several like-minded people…

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What is your experience with reading fantasy? How did you get into it? 

Do you go to lots of author events, conventions, talks and such? 

Where do you live?

I’d love to hear from you! :)