Monday, March 15, 2010

MARCH 2010

We have greatly enjoyed the company of students in Slovenija. Many students are very enthusiastic about using the language that they study for 9 years in school and are excited about speaking with us, helping us and even teaching us. We had a lovely tour of Kanal provided by students of Barbara Kragelj from the Primary School.

Bob and Kanal tour guides

Kanal ob Soči is a village that straddles the Soča River. This village of about 1,500 tells a lengthy and complicated history. The area was settled in prehistoric times and the Romans built the first bridge across the river. The history of this walled city covers generations of Slovenes who were attacked by the Turks, devastated during border wars between Venice and Austria between 1615 and 1617, and they were in the middle of the Tolmin Peasants' Revolt of 1713. They lived under occupation of the Austrians, Napoleon, Austrians again and suffered great destruction during WWI. The bridge that joins both sides of town was destroyed in WWI and rebuilt while under the occupation of the Italians. Now there is great pride in the history, events that celebrate the uniqueness of the village, high diving contests off the bridge into the river, concerts in the courtyard of the old walls and a celebrated international competition men's volley ball team.

Bridge over the Soča River - the moon whole was under water during the most recent flood

The oldest house in Kanal

Church and old walls

Wednesday, March 10, 2010



A vacation at my own home, in Slovenija with my husband and my friends is the most glorious type of holiday. Our friends have wined and dined me as the prodigal companion returned from the other side of the world and I feel much loved and appreciated. It has been really nice!


Except for a visit to Ohio at Christmas Bob has been here since September teaching at his school [the gimnazia] and at my school [the technical center] and maintaining our Slovene life. He has had standing Wednesday, Friday and Sunday invitations for dinner with care packages sent home with him; he has not suffered at all when it comes to food. Our friends really don't believe that even when I am here he does most of the cooking and he is very capable of cooking for himself, but he has been so thankful for the regular companionship and the delicious variety of culinary treats that not a single complaint passes his lips. He has also been invited a lot for coffee, walks, to share special celebrations and share in the daily life of our community. The Slovenes have really shown the beauty of their hospitality. Now that Bob and I are together for a month the kindness and commitment to our friendship continues to overwhelm us. We are truly blessed.

I was surprised how easily I slipped right back into our lives here. The apartment feels comfortable, I know my way around, the activities feel normal and I am delighted that I feel so cozy. I think I need to start using the phrases "at home in Slovenia" and "at home in Ohio" because that is indeed how I feel about this split life. Both places are happy homes.

Milking sheds in the pasture at the base of Krn

When I return to Ohio I do see life through different eyes. The farm living and being surrounded by the natural energy of the deer, birds, woods, fields, gardens and streams is more precious than I ever noticed before. Our garden paradise is a place where I can intimately feel at one with the forces of creation on a daily basis. Even all the snow brought me joy. When we live in Slovenija we are surrounded with another culture and all my senses tell me that I am a stranger here, but a welcome friend. The differences in the culture are beginning to feel normal and even the confusion of language doesn't worry me any more. The natural wonders are so extremely different than Ohio that each time I feel the snow capped mountains, the shimmering turquoise So?a river, the hill top hiking paths, the carpet of wild flowers in the forest and the slice of the burja wind I am thrilled by the uniqueness of the discovery. How can it get any better than this?

Ave Maria on the path to Opatija Selo on the Kras

Opatija, Croatia

Bob surprised me with a holiday vacation in Opatija, Croatia. This coastal city has been a favorite for centuries as the Austrians sought warmer and sunnier escapes from the cold snowy dampness of Vienna. Even Emperor Franz Joseph built a villa at this seaside village and with his blessing the aristocracy competed for the most elaborate retreats. Now there is a seaside walk 12 km long named after the Emperor who hid from the winter at the sea.

Opatija harbor view

Sadly we only had one day of sun and 2 days of pouring down rain. At times the sky blended with the Adriatic Sea and the view from our hotel window was a creative blend of gray. Except for some walking under umbrellas we spent much of our time snuggled in front of the Olympics. Euro-sport showed continuous live broadcasts so we saw sports that American audiences often miss; curling, biathlon, and hockey games played by countries other than the US. The best was watching skating with NO COMMENTARIES so that we could really hear the music and just watch the athletic artistry.

Dodging rainy days we have hiked in Slovenija and Italy amongst the emerging wild flowers. Unfortunately the weather was not the warm spring I was hoping for, but we bundled up and took to the hills any way. We found a great hike from Opatija Selo [not the same Opatija as in Croatia – in Slovene the stress is on the 1st a – in Croatian the stress is on the i ] across the border to Italy and back along the Kras. The path is another WWI road and all along we saw trenches that had been dug into the lime stone or built from limestone rocks. Now bushes and trees trip you as you try to investigate, but on both sides of the path the trenches and the horrible existence of the men who built and lived there haunt the trail. My most common phrase while we are walking in these treacherous hilly areas is “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?” How could fighting in this bumpy, rocky, steep terrain for 5 years through the worst winters recorded in Europe be a good idea? How did the army communicate when young men from all over the Austrian-Hungarian Empire were conscripted into the army? [languages spoken in the empire were; Bosnian, German, Hungarian, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian, Romanian, Croatian, Slovak, Serbian, Slovene, Russian, Italian] How did women and children survive once the men were dragged from home to fight and how did they manage when every tree was cut down and the military machine was crushing everything in their path? Painful energy remains in these hills and people are still finding harmless remains left behind from the WWI soldiers [photo of a hob nail that attached itself to Bob’s shoe] and sadly when foundations are dug unexploded shells from both wars are still found and sometime to a tragic end.

Hob nail

WWI trench

Fortunately I find wonderfully positive energy in this place that overpowers the energy of hate and violence of war. This is a land where people have lived, laughed and loved for thousands of years and the Spiritual forces vibrate strongly. At the times when I feel the most connected to the Spirit of the Earth and all who dwell within, I am reminded to trust by the blue heron who crosses my path. On 7 March over 50 birds waited for me in a field and then gave me a show of circular flight.

Herons flying in Kobarid