Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Two Weeks On in Slovenia          

The visit here has been terrific.  I've been busy with travel between Ljubljana and Maribor twice weekly.  Ljubljana is the country's largest city and capitol at about 310,000 while Maribor is approximately one-third the size.  The Society has started a small residential college in Maribor to serve Catholic students at the 26,000 student University of Maribor.  In a few weeks they will open up a small residential space for men in Ljubljana.  Only recently learned that the University of Ljubljana has about 65,000 students.  Huge.  

The Slovenian universities are different from the U.S.  They do not have a central defined campus.  Rather the various faculties or departments are scattered throughout the city.  In Maribor there are a few dormitories for perhaps one-tenth of the students.  Those rooms are reserved for Slovenian nationals and one or two other groups.  Thus students have to find their own lodging.  It took several walks through Maribor to begin recognizing the various university faculties. 

MAGIS, the Jesuit residential college in Maribor, fills an important gap in that it offers a community living arrangement for men and women who are either Slovenian or from other countries and studying in Maribor.  There is a focus on community life, prayer and liturgy.  When Mass is not celebrated in the chapel at MAGIS there is a church on the ground floor of what had been the Slovenian Jesuit novitiate where there is daily Mass. The students are a happy supportive group.  Peter is hoping to have Catholic American students who wish to study in Maribor consider living in the college.  Every student living there speaks English.

Slovenia is a beautiful country.  It is most definitely a photography heaven.  It is very mountainous to the extent that World Cup skiing events are held here.  Alas, this year has been atypical in that there has been almost no snow.  Temperatures are hovering in the 40's and a bit above while dropping into the 20's at night.  Yesterday felt like a spring day back in the States.  There is snow in the higher mountains visible from my room but nothing down here on the ground in either Ljubljana or Maribor.  Once on the ground the streets, buildings, and shops supply unlimited possibilities.  I would add that there are no flowers or other accents at the moment.  I suspect it is glorious here in the spring.  Hope to find out some day.

Both Ljubljana and Maribor are very safe.  This has been confirmed by many.  I've been out at night alone with the camera without anxiety or fear.  The only place in the world I've felt the same lack of fear when out late at night with the camera is Taipei.  Certainly never felt safe after dark in D.C., even on the exclusive streets of Georgetown. 

There is a surprising amount of graffiti here.  Wish I knew Slovenian.  Some of the it is very elaborate.  It could not have been done in just a few scrawling moments. 

Love the food.  Having grown up in a Polish-American household and town (along with Slovaks, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, and other Eastern and Central European ethnic groups it is like a flashback to childhood.  I asked one student for a recipe for a Slovak form of haluski.  Amazing.

The Jesuit community has been very friendly and supportive.  The men in our house are fairly young.  Peter, the superior who has been a friend since we lived in Georgetown, is beyond energetic.  He makes the 90 mile trip to Maribor twice weekly.  He is going tomorrow but I will stay behind because of the weather (see next paragraph).

The weather has been interesting.  Ljubljana is relatively cloudy, foggy, and rainy.  It has rained a lot.  On non-rain days the skies have been mostly cloudy.  Tomorrow's forecast is for mostly sunny.  Thus, I will stay behind when Peter goes up to Maribor  so I can go up to the castle that overlooks the city.  Was there on Sunday without the camera.  Tremendous views of the city.  I may go up tonight with a tripod to do some night shots (the skies are clearing) and then go up again tomorrow during the day.  Peter has had me taking a lot of photos of various facilities for students and now wants some atmospheric shots.  I'm pleased to oblige. 

Am going to post a bunch of photos of Slovenia with explanations.  Easier than simply trying to explain things.  I return to the States in six days (rats).  Preaching at Mass on Sunday.  Will try to post homily.
 A small home in Maribor.  I'll be this guy doesn't have to explain his choice of home decor to a homeowner's association at a condo complex. 

There is a shop on the left bank of the river in Maribor not far from MAGIS.  It takes perhaps five minutes to walk there.  I saw this silver sequined dress with the sun bouncing off it.  Immediately the song Let's Face the Music and Dance began playing in my head as Fred and Ginger danced what is perhaps their masterpiece on the screen.  Ms. Roger's dress, heavily sequined and probably over 20 pounds, was an important part of the dance because of the way it moved.  The graffiti adds a touch of absurdity to the shot of an (at least formerly) elegant dress. 

It seems that every other hilltop is crowned with a church, chapel, or shrine.

 Maribor and the bridge leading from our place into the center of town.  

Slovenians are a hardy bunch of people.  It was in the low 40's when I took this but people were still sitting outdoors at cafes drinking coffee.  Only a few outdoor cafes seemed to have heating elements in place.  Most people just sat there bundled up to drink coffee or smoke.  There is a surprising amount of smoking here. 

The interior of the Franciscan Church in Maribor.  Had been seeing the spires of the church for a few days and decided to try to find it.  Glad I did. 

A cobblestoned street in Maribor.  The rise from the river to the town is rather steep.  There are many small and tortuous streets and alleys leading up from the river.  Note the 'street art' as one friend called it, to the left.

Liked the facade of this house.  The photo would not have been as effective with the open windows.  I'm guessing some of this is student housing. Note that there are no front yards.

Two views of the interior of St. Nicholas Church.  Talk about baroque. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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