The Julian Alps to Lake Erie
Slovenian culture has hardly influenced my life. It has had no overwhelming presence in my life growing up. I was not raised by the culture, I only witnessed it. I was baptized and grew up Roman Catholic, the major Slovenian and Italian religion. However, since my first communion, I only go to church for holidays. Rarely, has a Slovenian dish made its way to the table for family dinner. Everything in my life related to this culture was previously an afterthought. The only real outlet I had into Slovenian culture was through my dad’s mother, Joanne. I want to learn and understand this culture and country that have influenced my family’s lives. While filling pages in my own life’s story, sculpting who I am, I look back at the Slovenian culture that influenced both Granny’s, and my own life.
Going Places: Slovenian Women’s Stories on Migration.
Milharčič-Hladnik, Mirjam. Mlekuž, Jernej. Akron, Ohio: The University of Akron Press, 2014.
In Going Places, Milharčič-Hladnik, Mirjam and Jernej Mlekuž, the editors, compile stories of Slovenian immigrant women and the gauntlet of leaving home for better fortune. These stories are presented through preserved letters written between family members, narratives, and personal experiences of women migrants from Slovenia. These tales illuminate the lives of Slovenian women who were forgotten in history. Going Places allowed me to view what life was like for women when Granny was growing up.
The book starts by setting the cultural tone of sexual inequality. In Slovenia, and other European countries at the start of the twentieth century, women were always second to men. The book illustrates a group of Slovenes, disembarked on Ellis Island in 1906, and their first interaction in America. An American guard brings the group a bucket of water, at which the men push ahead to get at. The guard halts them exclaiming, “Ladies first!” A Slovenian man quipped back, “First comes man, then a long time nothing, then comes the woman.” Ecstatic at the events unfolding before her eyes, one Slovenian woman stepped forward, grabbed the ladle full of water and boasted, “Long live America, where women are first!”
This sets the tone for what Slovenian culture was like as well as its first clash with American culture. Granny was a third-generation Slovene-American. Her father, Gary, was born in Pennsylvania where many Slovenian immigrants moved to for work in steel mills or coal mines. His father, Anthony, was born in Slovenia and immigrated to the United States, through Ellis Island, in 1886. Granny was born in 1930 and raised in northeast Ohio, near Cleveland, which was the largest hotbed of Slovene immigrants in the United States. “It is said that in 1909, nine Slovenians a day arrived in the city.” Slovenian culture remained strong where Granny grew up so these stories pertain to her life.
Throughout history, the voices of women have been hushed and seldom recorded. This book uncovers the other half of history seen through the eyes of women. Through the stories and letters of multiple women, this book has given me a novel perspective on history that Granny witnessed. “The starting point and the outcome are transparent. The question that needs to be asked is what was happening in transit.”
History of Geneva.
City of Geneva, Ohio. N.p., 07 Aug. 2014.
“Pioneers from the eastern seaboard states, hearing tales of Ohio’s fertile soil, arrived daily in this area coming in oxcarts, some on horseback and many in foot.”
Granny grew up in Geneva, Ohio, which is a tiny town in the most northeast corner of the state. The whole northeast region of Ohio contained a concentrated populace of Slovenian Americans and immigrants in many towns. Geneva sits on Lake Erie and was founded by pioneers from the east who heard of Ohio’s prosperous lands. It was named after Geneva, New York, a quaint little town. I have never been to Geneva and have little knowledge of the area. This article has described a detailed history of the town and has enlightened me. This unknown region has given life to my family and I am thankful for it.
“In the early years, the south ridge (route 84) was the main road. It was here the first frame school house was erected. . . “
This article by the City of Geneva has illustrated the history of the town to me. The article reads from the start of colonization to modern times and includes important stops on the way. The article illustrates to the viewer the change Geneva has been through, from nothing, to a one stop town, the purchase of their first fire engine, increase to a population of three thousand, and its role in the automobile industry.
“Geneva’s greatest contribution to the auto industry was . . . in the life of Ransom E Olds, born in Geneva in 1864, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Phiny Olds. When in his teens, the family moved to Lansing, Michigan and Ransom’s interest in the automobile grew and it was here the first Oldsmobile’s were produced, including the “REO” named for Random E Olds.”
Having little knowledge of where Granny is from and what life was like in Geneva, the article helped satiate my desire to uncover. It showed me how the town evolved and what it was like when Granny lived there. The article gifted me a background of where Slovenian Americans thrived.
Flavors of Slovenia: food and wine from Central Europe’s hidden gem.
Milhench, Heike. New York: Hippocrene Books. 2007.
This book allowed me to obtain an understanding of traditional Slovenian dishes. Food is an opening to peer into other cultures. It opens a door for outsiders to step inside and absorb others’ ways of life. Food was my primary source of Slovenian culture in life. I have only been to Slovenia once and it was when I was a small child. No other cultural facet has impacted my understanding of Slovenian culture like food has. I ate Slovenian dishes at a low enough frequency that it wasn’t a routine part of my life. However, one dish that usually finds a place at our family table is prosciutto. My dad’s brother, Uncle Mike, is the one to usually bless us with this divine creation. Prosciutto is a thinly sliced, dry-cured ham that is popular among Central Europe especially along the Adriatic coast. It is a big Italian dish as well.
For every big family gathering in my family, there is a subsequent feast to follow. Some dishes change throughout time, some remain the same, but almost always there is an appetizer tray with prosciutto and cheese. I grew up around the tray as it centralized our family and provided grounds to socialize. This small food item is a constant that remains throughout my life. It is important because the dish will reappear at feasts, and in my stomach. It signifies the Slovenian culture that has silently been embedded in our family.
Uncle Mike is as much a talker as Granny is; he always entertains us with stories of his travels. He always talks about the places he’s traveled, specifically the people he’s met. His wonderful stories sprout from his past conversations over meals. He would eat rich prosciutto while illustrating his experiences from when he was my age, listening to elders as I do. Prosciutto is more than a dish, it is a cultural item that strongly resonates in my family. This cookbook allowed me to reminisce of dishes I grew up eating but with a different perspective.
Gobetz, Edward. Countries and Their Cultures. Advameg, Inc., 2006.
Edward Gobetz covers almost everything one could imagine about Slovenian Americans. With exquisite detail, Gobetz answered many questions I had about Slovenian Americans. My first inquisition the article covered was about the first Slovenes arriving in the United States. Almost all my Slovenian relatives arrived in the United States around 1885. Gobetz explains that my relatives arrived during the largest influx of Slovenian immigrants which occurred from 1880-WWI. When looking at my ancestors travel documents, I noticed that many had them listed as Austrians rather than Slovenians. Gobetz explains that “Slovenians were then shown either as Austrians or jointly with Croatians, or under several other broader labels.” My Slovenian family chose to be labeled Austrian as they were from the Carniolan region, near Austria.
The article goes into incredible detail describing Slovenian culture. Gobetz, when talking about assimilation of Slovenian immigrants, explains to the reader that, “They have been anxious to own homes, often with vegetable and flower gardens. Approximately 48 percent of Slovenian refugees bought their homes after being in America on the average of ten years.” Reading about how anxious Slovenian immigrants were to become American home owners is something I never imagined I would uncover during my research. Gobetz repeatedly fascinated me by offering up such small intimate details of Slovenian culture.
Some of my distant cousins living in Geneva own a winery. Wine has always been a staple of Italian and Slovenian culture. I always remember there being red and white wine at our family dinners but I never knew how important it was to the culture. The article states, “Slovenian wines have won many international prizes and some Slovenian Americans continue to make their own wine, even if they no longer grow their own grapes. Slovenians in the ‘old’ country traditionally have been known for their hospitality.” It makes me ponder whether other local Slovenian Americans use my cousins’ grapes for personal wine. Gobetz continues the article describing other facets of Slovenian American life e.g. radio stations to listen to, military, cuisine, and relations with Slovenia. Gobetz has astonished me with his intrinsic details about Slovenian Americans.
Images of America: Geneva.
Bradburn, Susan. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2003. Print.
Susan Bradburn, a local resident of Geneva, Ohio, is the author of this book. Geneva is the self-proclaimed, “best location in the best location in the nation.” The fact it is written by a resident drew me towards the book even more. She gives the reader an unparalleled view of the city. Bradburn received knowledge and pictures from her friends, relatives, and even the city’s fire department. This book gave me a visual interpretation of the city where Granny was born and where Slovenian Americans thrive. I literally saw the city develop through the 1900’s while reading amazing commentary of the growth. Bradburn does a wonderful job of giving the reader a homey feel, as if they had been to Geneva before.
The descriptions of the pictures illustrate to the viewer what the pictures cannot. Bradburn shows the viewer pictures of Geneva in the early 1900’s then comments on what the viewer is looking at. An old house turns into a home owned by A. Tyler. An old factory becomes The Geneva Metal Wheel Company, the largest steel wheel and industrial pneumatic tires producer at the time. Bradburn has done an excellent job of collecting and compiling pictures of Geneva and events that have unfolded there.
It’s interesting being able to see such intimate pictures of a small town I have never visited. I feel almost as if I have invaded the town’s privacy. The book shows the viewer such insignificant but informative events like the first ever Miller Foundation award dinner. The ceremony was hosted at the Geneva Inn on state route 534 and Seymour S. Stein won the award. Even though Bradburn does not indicate what the Miller Foundation, or who Seymour S. Stein are, it still feels so intimate. This edition of Images of America has given me an intimate view of Geneva, Ohio.
36 Hours in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Doyle, Rachel B. The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 18 Feb. 2017.
The New York Times article, “36 Hours in Ljubljana, Slovenia,” written by Rachel Doyle, explores the capitol of Slovenia, Ljubljana. The 36 Hour series consists of itineraries for visiting the world’s cities for a weekend. My lack of resources limits my traveling abilities so this article might seem pointless, but it was quite the opposite. I have only been to Slovenia one time when I was a child. My family and I visited cousins, toured old castles, ate great food, and more. This article, even though I participated in zero of the recommendations, brought me back to when I visited Ljubljana. The capitol of Slovenia harbors the culture I saw years ago, and this article is my time machine.
Once in Ljubljana, the article recommends going to the new museum quarter. This area harbors cultural spaces, converted from old WWI barracks. This is where the new Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova opened, which bolsters Eastern European art. After visiting the museum quarter, the article recommends goulash and pastries for dinner.
I don’t remember ever eating goulash in Slovenia, but I have had it in Munich. The goulash I had in Munich was stellar, and comes from the Bavarian culture that influenced Slovenian culture extensively. One meal I do remember in Ljubljana was dinner at Gostilna As. It was so amazing that I distinctly remember that dinner. We sat outside under some trees adjacent to the restaurant. The trees’ branches were illuminated with tiny lights, impersonating stars in the trees. It was so beautiful; the trees glowed as if we inhabited a fairy tale. I only ordered farfalle, i.e. bow-tie pasta, with butter. I can’t begin to describe the pasta except that it was so good it’s distinctively lasted in my memory for so long. I do and don’t wish I had tried a more traditional dish. I would have liked to indulge in Slovenian cuisine while in the capitol, but that pasta was so damn good.
Post dinner activities recommended wine tasting and grand performances, both rich in Slovenian culture. The article recommends the reader watch a show at the Slovenian National Theater, Opera and Ballet Ljubljana. Doyle exclaims, “The 120-year-old cherub- and fresco-laden building is nothing if not grand, with a pink neo-Renaissance facade and copious marble sculptures.” Old buildings like this define the beautiful landscape I remember of Ljubljana.
The next morning consists of people-watching with coffee and a pastry, as well as touring around Ljubljana’s fashion scene. The article then recommends exploring the Central Markets to satiate one’s lunch appetite. These markets are outrageous. Doyle explains that, “. . . sellers hawk everything from seasonal squash to horse pâté.” The rest of the article recommends exploring more of the city’s buildings, followed by dinner and clubbing. The next morning, Doyle recommends brunch, then biking around the city, followed by departure. This article is fantastic because it augmented my memories as well as gave me insight into what Ljubljana is currently like. The article beautifully illustrates to the viewer what Ljubljana and Slovenian culture are really like.
Ritual in Its Own Right: Exploring the Dynamics of Transformation.
Handelman, Don, and Galina Lindquist. New York (Oxford): Berghahn, 2005. Google Books. Berghahn Books, 30 Jan. 2005.
This book explores many different cultures and their rites, however I focused on the Slovenian day of Furez. Furez is the Slovene day of pig-sticking where pigs are slaughtered and turned into sausage and other pork products. This special day has a set plan in which a butcher, his friends and family go about. I chose this source because it enlightened me about how traditional Klobasa is made. Klobasa is the traditional Slovenian sausage.
The editors start by setting the tone of the day. The day starts out with a solemn tone. The head of the house, the gospodar, invites over other guest butchers to participate. Once everyone arrives, the butchers sit around a table with the gospodar at the head. They eat a small, quiet breakfast, the gospodar says a prayer, crosses himself, then pulls out his special pig killing knife. The knife is kept separate from others and is said to have special powers. The Slovenes believe that it is the knife, with its own powers, that kills the pig rather than the gospodar. The butchers then take the pig outside and hold it down. The gospodar then takes his special knife, utters “with God’s help.” and stabs the pig through the jugular and into the heart killing it. The gospodar then etches a cross below the neck with blood on the pig. The pig is then blessed with holy water preparing it for human consumption.
It is interesting to see how religious and methodical the process is. Just the killing alone has multiple religious aspects to it including etching a bloody cross in the pig. Almost all Slovenians are Roman Catholic, as I am. It is interesting to see the disconnect between food consumption today compared to what it once was. I seldom pray before I eat, I only go to church anymore on holidays, and I rarely kill my own meals. The book shows the reader how truly different life and culture was. I can only imagine my ancestors performing this rite, just as those in the book are. This book makes me ponder whether any Klobasa I’ve ever eaten was prepared during Furez.
The Rough Guide to Slovenia.
Longley, Norm. London: Rough Guides, 2010. Print.
I chose this guide because it is one of the only books which extensively talks about Zuzemberk, Slovenia. Zuzemberk is where my ancestors are from. Its location is in lower Carniola, the region which encompasses the southeastern part of Slovenia. Zuzemberk is a small town but is known for its monstrous castle. The castle lies above the Krka river looking down over the municipality. Most of the castle was razed during WWII but restoration has been ongoing since 1966. The changed aesthetics are hardly noticeable. Nowadays, the castle courtyard plays host for summer concerts and festivals. The courtyard boasts a beautiful forged iron fountain with incredible sculpted animal heads spewing out water. The towns location on the river allowed for many water-powered installations like sawmills and iron works. Nowadays, the river hosts many water activities like kayaking.
A manor located a few kilometers from the castle was once a key element of the city. Soteska Manor was destroyed by partisan units during the war, however, to prevent German troops from appropriating it. A path from the manor leads to the Devil’s Tower, a tower whose interior is lined with mythological murals and pillared architecture.
Being able to read about Zuzemberk was fantastic. Granny has told me that our ancestors worked as tanners in the castle. Even though the guide does not talk about leather working, it is interesting to see other medieval craftsmanship in the town. When I return to Slovenia, besides visiting my family in Ljubljana, I would love to visit Zuzemberk. I can’t imagine the feeling of returning to where my ancestors once thrived.
Grapes of Wrath Sour Slovenia-Croatia Relations.
Kavcic, Bojan. Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 01 Mar. 2017.
This article illustrates to the uninformed how important wine is to Slovenian culture. Teran, a special type of wine fermented with grapes from the red soils of the rocky Karst plateau. the article states, “The name [Teran] long had protected EU status for Slovenia.” This plateau is shared by Slovenia and Croatia. This leads to the issue. The Slovenians are fighting the Croats over the usage of the name Teran when describing wines. Slovenians claim that this wine is a national product, in the same sense as Klobasa. “This has provoked an outcry in Slovenia, which has threatened to sue Brussels to protect what it sees as a national treasure,” Kavcic writes. They believe if the Croats can use the name, they will call any inferior wine Teran wine. The article also gives perspective from Dejan Zidan, Slovenia’s Agriculture Minister, who exclaims, “The fight for Teran is essential for us . . . It represents the struggle for Slovenia’s position in the EU.” This is the most recent conflict between the two nations. Tensions have remained between the two nations since the collapse of Yugoslavia, which led to the formation of both countries. I chose this article because it explicitly details how important such a small idea, like the name Teran, is to a culture and a nation. I’ve never had Teran wine but wine itself has played an important role in my family. I enjoy the parallel between the importance of Teran wine to Slovenians and wine to my family.
A Tour Through Some Parts of Istria, Carniola, Styria, Austria, the Tyrol, Italy and Sicily, in the Spring of 1814.
Baring, T. London: S. Hamilton, 1815. Google Books. Princeton University, 23 June 2010.
This book is probably one of the most interesting reads I’ve ever experienced. The book entails an unknown author and his journey through the reopening of the continent of Europe in the spring of 1814. The book explains that the reopening occurred after the defeat of Napoleon and the French army. The author travels through Lower Carniola and Styria during his adventure, where my ancestors are from. I chose this book because it gives a first-person insight into what it was like when my ancestors lived in Slovenia. The author almost humorously draws comparison between Carniolan women and English women. The author states, “The appearance of the people, particularly that of the women, is healthy: they have a good deal of the ruddiness of English rustics.” He goes on to exclaim that other aspects of Carniola remind him of England, the cleanliness of the people, their agricultural methods, even the trees and produce. The author also recounts his witnessing of a trial of delinquents. They were sentenced to confinement and public flogging he recalls. The author discusses how religion plays a strong role in the region. He says that the Catholic area contained little images of religion besides representation of Christ’s crucifixion. However, he notes that almost every child he saw on his travels would stop at the crosses, get on their knees, and say a quick prayer before popping back up and continuing their journey. He noted that it reminded him of Catholic Spain, but mild.
This piece is fascinating because unlike other accounts of Slovenia, this is from an age where very few are personal tales. Reading this historical tale of an English merchant traveling Europe has given me a perspective that no other book or read could give me. I can only hope that during this merchant’s travels he somehow crossed paths with one of my ancestors but I will never know.
Susel, Rudolph M. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. American Home Publishing Co., 13 May 1998.
Even though originally my Slovenian American ancestors reigned from Geneva, Ohio, a lot of my closest relatives, like Granny’s sisters, live in Cleveland. Cleveland specifically is the largest hub of Slovenian activity and Slovenians, besides Ljubljana. This article discusses how Slovenians came to Cleveland, in a similar fashion to how they came to Geneva. I chose this article because it details exactly how Slovenians became Slovenian Americans. Those that arrived in Cleveland came mostly between 1870 and the start of WWI. Susel explains that the Slovenians faced a gauntlet with the onset of the first World War. With Slovenia being part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, tensions grew between the Slovenians and the Americans. This is also when Slovenian immigration halted. Susel states, “The war years seem to have been a watershed for many of the immigrants, as they came fully to realize the permanence of their commitment to America.” The tensions settled after the war and cultural importance grew within the Slovenian community including intensification of activity within the community. National homes were built to support cultural identities, serving as anchors in the settlements. The most famous being the Slovenian National Home built in 1924. The community expanded between the two World Wars and after the second, a professional class emerged in the community; this included many physicians, attorneys, and politicians. As time moved forward and the community grew, they slowly lost their ethnic conscious. The Slovenians of Cleveland still support the cultural organizations sporting their heritage, but not with the same intensity.
This article is interesting because it details many cultural institutions specifically in the region that I knew little about. Being from Atlanta, there is a rivalry with Cleveland in basketball. Learning about one’s enemy is the best way to humble one’s enemy. It is wonderful learning about this city and my ancestors’ involvement in it. Granny’s sister, Kathy, lives in Cleveland and I hope to be able to travel there soon. I would cherish the opportunity to visit the cultural institutions I’ve read about, like the Slovenian National Home, as well as go to a Hawks win over the Cavaliers.
Ana Roš: The Female Chef Who Put Slovenia on the Map.
Springer, Kate. CNN. Cable News Network, 7 Mar. 2017. Web. 9 Mar. 2017.
This article details the gauntlet Ana Roš went through to become the world’s top female chef. She has brought Slovenian cuisine into the world’s spotlight almost single-handedly. Springer states, “With the Michelin Guide not yet in Slovenia, it was the highest culinary accolade Roš could bring to her nation.” Ana Roš grew up affluent in Slovenia. She was a youth on the national ski team, and an outstanding student. She was born to a doctor father and journalist mother. Ana Roš later went on to pursue international diplomatic studies at university. Before she left for college, her future husband gave her an ultimatum: either follow her heart back to the little valley with him, or continue with her diplomatic career path. Obviously, she chose to follow him back to his restaurant. Her family shunned her, the workers of the restaurant eventually quit, and soon all she had was the restaurant and her husband. “After just two years, she was producing innovative dishes of a world-class standard and, in 2010, an article in Italian magazine Identità Golose brought her Europe-wide attention,” tells Springer. She became a committed mother and chef, turning the restaurant into one of world class. “I could have failed as a chef and failed as a parent. But I was highly motivated in both.” I chose this article because Roš, as well as myself, are fixated on Slovenian culture. As I research my heritage, she transforms traditional Slovenian cuisine into modern dishes garnering incredible praise. Her goal is to keep ingredients and ideas Slovenian. I admire and respect her journey to becoming the best in the world at her profession, while taking Slovenian culture with her the whole way.
A Balkan Journey: Slovenia to Croatia
Crevar, Alex. Outside. Mariah Media Network LLC. 2017.
Alex Crevar of Outside went on a trek through the Balkan peninsula's new mega trail, a 1,250-mile journey through multiple countries. Crevar states that his goal is, “. . .to walk several sections of the route, which, like the range, parallels the Adriatic Sea and connects countries down the length of the Balkan Peninsula.” Crevar starts his journey in Slovenia before moving south towards Croatia and Bosnia. This mega trail corridor will showcase an underutilized mountain range to a global audience attracting attention to the area. Crevar, through the trail, is attracting views to the area in the same sense that Ana Roš is with her food. I used this source because Crevar delivers a novel view of the area, one of the rural side.