Ode to Yugoslavia

June 22nd, 2016

Confession: I’m a geography snob…and, of course, somewhat of a food snob. But when it comes to clothes, jewelry, decor, I don’t even have an opinion. Cars? I bought my last one at a fire sale–literally. It had caught on fire, but just the back end. The engine and dashboard were fine; the seats a little crispy. But I’ m digressing. Let’s get back to geography, specifically world geography, or the lack there of in America.


A View from the Island of Krk in Croatia.

A View from the Island of Krk in Croatia.


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Naked Therapy

July 28th, 2014

European spas—they’re not like American spas. They’re more like sanatoriums, where staff dressed in white whisper softly and serious health treatments take precedence over beauty.

My first experience was in Italy, outside of Siena. I had had a particularly stressful week with The Entitled–a group of family (their family, not mine) and friends who refused to believe that Italy was no longer a country of peasants, and that said peasants, including myself, were suppose to cater to their every whim…at no additional cost.

Even though I hadn’t met anyone in the group before agreeing to host their tour, I had heard some of the names, seen one on TV and had read about another in HOLA!, the Spanish speaking equivalent of People magazine. But even with this important information, I was still not prepared for what I would encounter. Neither were the two women I was working with. In order to relieve the stress, Katy began chain smoking again after a 20-year hiatus, Sonia repeatedly chanted Madonna!! swirling her cigarette in the air, and I alternated between chomping on Advil and Xanax. The week ended with a multimillionaire pounding his fist on the dinner table—in a very elegant restaurant—demanding the car (or in this case, minibus) be brought around immediately. He was ready to go, even though the majority of people were still eating. That’s when I started to drink—white wine, red wine, limoncello, grappa. Whatever was available…It didn’t matter, I just needed to dull the memory of that man’s existence.



No, not the multimillionaire, but…

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(This) Jailhouse Rock(s)

July 10th, 2014

On my last trip to Slovenia, I spent the night in jail—not that I did anything wrong, because I didn’t. My only crime was knowing nothing about European basketball. More specifically, that the championship play-offs would take place in Ljubljana the night of my arrival. When I went to book a hotel, the few available places only offered astronomical rates–a rare occurrence in one of the last reasonably priced capitals on the continent.

Puzzled, I contacted a friend, who, beaming with nationalistic pride, explained how Ljubljana would soon become the center of the European universe…if only for a few days. Then, he suggested I stay in the local prison. I must admit I was immediately taken with the idea. I’ve slept in former palaces and in convents, bedded down in airports, and even slumbered in a pristine field in the Alps…that is, until I was awakened by a rapidly oncoming herd of equally pristine cows. But a jailhouse? That would be a first.


Ljubljana and its river

Ljubljana and its river

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Shut Up, You Crazy Bitch

June 9th, 2014

She was following me–around the tiny island in the middle of Lake Bled, a picture perfect spot in northern Slovenia, close to the Austrian border.

“I design all my own clothes,” She said, stopping to pose and point to her bell bottom capris and baggy blue blazer with mismatched buttons. When she turned to give me a rear view, I scurried along. She followed.

“I like Ellen DeGeneres. Do you like Ellen DeGeneres? I thought about marrying her, but decided she was too skinny.”


Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia

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Foraging 101

June 22nd, 2009

6am is the designated time of departure into the dense forested area close to the Novak lodge. Mushrooms are on the menu today and they have to be hunted down, not in a supermarket, but in the dark, damp earth. I manage to miss the outing (thank God this isn’t a real job, or I’d be fired on my first day), as well as all the morning activity in the lodge. I tell my affable hosts that it’s the jet lag, but in truth, I don’t believe in doing anything at 6am, except sleeping. Luckily, for my benefit, there’s a second excursion planned.

As a first time forager I’m quite pleased with myself, since I manage to fill my simple, round woven basket to the rim with large, cream-colored mushrooms within only a half hour. This isn’t so hard, I tell myself, why all the fuss about getting up early to start the prolonged, rugged search.

I’m soon discouraged, though, when Miriam points out that all my pristine, perfectly shaped mushrooms are poisonous and have to be discarded. She assumed I could easily handle my first task, but discovers instead that I will need close supervision. As a city girl, born and raised in Houston, Texas, in the time of mega-supermarkets, I just failed Foraging 101.

Mushroom Hunting with Miriam

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Over the river and through the woods—Kocejve Forest, southern Slovenia

June 16th, 2009

Last Fall I attended a family reunion in Slovenia, which was actually a two-week extravaganza of food and wine with my father and his many cousins. They were returning to the old country (a 100 years later) to meet their long lost Slavic relatives, whom I tracked down in 2001 (but that’s another story).

On the trip we spent a few days in the capital city of Ljubljana with its charming river running through Old Town and its many romantic bridges. My Slovenian musician friends (see the Perfect Meal post for history) all live there, so luckily I have an established social circle.

Ljubljana Castle on Hill

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