Things we can't live without... and some other quirky stuff in our homes
I just cannot imagine my life without slippers. For us, slippers are something so natural that we don’t even think twice what we will wear on our feet when we enter somebody’s house. I never understood slippers are not a customary thing, till I started traveling the world. And when I didn’t find them where I travelled, I brought my pair with me every time. They make me comfortable, protect my feet from getting cold and it just feels nice. In our homes every member of the house owns its own pair, grandma and grandpa have their own ones as well, close to the entrance of our home we have a basket full of them for our visitors. It is just uncustomary to walk around in somebody’s house barefoot or God forbid, in shoes that have all the dirt from the outside. Slovenians are generally very hospitable people, but this is where we will always draw the line – when visiting, shoes off and slippers on, that is the rule!
I cannot imagine our household without a meat and salami slicer. Every time we have guests from abroad this is the object that gets the most admiration. “Wow, we see this only in delis.” For Slovenians is a must – have. It is many times one of the first things you purchase when your kitchen is done. It is a super popular wedding gift. And when I think of it – we do really use it on daily basis. It is to cut the bread, that we buy in loafs or to cut salami that we buy whole, usually from a local farmer. In the Christmas time it helps us thinly cut prosciutto or ham on Easter. And when it breaks… you will sit in your car and go purchase a new one right away.
I know, I know – you have one at home. But when Slovenians talk about toaster we actually mean a grill. This is another one of those objects that is a must-have. And not only to make ham and cheese sandwiches. We use it a lot to actually warm the old bread slices and making benefit of bread even when it is already a few days old. In one of the previous posts I mentioned how Slovenians really cherish and respect the bread and you rarely find a person that tosses it away. Toasters are actually a great way to use the old bread and making toasted delicacies year round. If you are in need of just a little tiny snack and don’t have much at home – a slice of bread toasted with a bit of butter on top, mmmmm, hunger is satisfied in a minute.
We like to re-use and re-cycle. A part of being Slovenian is knowing how to store foods for the upcoming months. And there is always a cycle in food that we are following. Especially the food that we get from the forests: mushrooms, asparagus, chestnuts, wild berries, etc. And when those containers get empty, you know the time has come that nature will be giving us fruits again. Containers vary in sizes and shapes. If it is worth keeping, it will go into storage. A common phrase used in our country is often “it might come in handy one day” – and honestly many times it does.
Just because we love to drink tea. Why bother waiting such a long time for water to boil when you can have a hot cup of water done in a minute. We love drinking herbal and fruit tea in Slovenia. Together with some lemon and honey they are a perfect companion for a cold winter day. When we catch a cold in the winter we might even prepare a hot lemonade with it.
In old homes of Slovenia most likely you will always notice a brick made stove that radiates the heat and is being warmed with actual wood. This fireplaces have represented the only heating method back in the old days, today they are used for decorative purposes and to get through the periods when central heating is not needed but it is still too cold to stay without heating. There is something about those fireplaces. if you are lucky, they have big openings where you can watch the fire and hear the cracking of the wood. It warms you all the way to your bones. And there is no nicer thing than sitting by a fireplace like that and listening to the tales your parents and grandparents are sharing.
On top of those fireplaces you might find some funky stuff. Many times people display some pottery, but a lot of houses would have a strange looking object sitting on top of that as well. It has a shape if an iron and it actually is an iron. Most of them were made out of cast iron, the top part of it would lift up and it would get filled with some hot coals from the fireplace. When the iron warmed up, the housewives were ready to start ironing. It was a big task – iron without coals in it could easily weigh about 3 kilos, so it was a very good exercise for the lady as well. No wonder all of them were so fit. I am happy we don’t need to use it anymore and they only remained as souvenirs from the past.
Together with the cup of tea goes also a good book. Slovenians we love to read. We cherish the written word and love our writers and poets. Lots of them have been considered among our national heroes. We even celebrate two holidays connected with culture that are days off from work. I am not sure how many countries in the world have that. One is celebrated on October 31st as a Reformation day, the day when our first book was printed in Slovenian language – not the Bible, but the ABC book, because you have to learn how to read and write first, before you can read the Bible. Second holiday is celebrated on February 8th as a Day of Culture, when our greatest poet dr. France Prešeren has died. Maybe you think it is odd that we are celebrating on such sad day – but the point was actually to show people that even if the greatest poet died, the culture didn’t and with keep on celebrating it, we continue appreciating the work he and other authors have done for us. For the same reason the collection “Naša beseda” (Our word) has been published and celebrates authors of Slovenia and their remarkable work. And because it has been done in a very classy way, it decorates the shelves of numerous living-rooms throughout the country.
Because we all love nature and most of us own gardens, this is a must. Housewives love their vases and like to stick flowers into them and into every corner of their homes all the time. They are also a never missed decoration when making birthday family photos. You gather the kids around the table, centre of the table is reserved for the cake and on the side, unmistakably is always a vase full of flowers. I guarantee if you visit any Slovenian and ask them to open up their childhood photo albums, this is one of the images you will find for sure. In the winter vases are abandoned for a while, but when housewives are creative, even then they can be filled in with whatever dried plants and bouquets they prepared. Most of these vases have been a gift or something that has been inherited from a previous generation. Lots of them come from a worldwide known crystal producer of Rogaška, that is relying on over 350-year old glass making tradition and is among one of the most renowned businesses in Slovenia. This crystal vases can be a beautiful wedding or a birthday gift, on numerous occasions our politicians and celebrities give them away as gifts to visitor to remember the time they spent in our country.
Another one of those wedding gifts that you can find in most homes around Slovenia. Usually this is a beautiful artisanal object that serves more for decoration than for the purpose of burning candles. Most of them have been done by blacksmiths from Kropa, a tiny village with an ancient tradition of metalworking, dating back to about 14th Century. If you visit the town it feels like you would step back in time and very step of the way is accompanied by the works of their blacksmiths: unique iron fences, wrought iron window covers, quirky door handles, iron street lamps, iron dragons, etc. The little village has a stream of water running through that has helped with the production of iron throughout history. The most famous were iron nails that have been sent all over Europe to support buildings and structures and still hold them up even today. Lots of nails were also used for military shoes – the production was so vast that the blacksmith were not drafted for the army. Most blacksmiths of the country come from here – so this is why the candle-stick holders are always connected with this little tiny village.
This little pink-white-blue tube is a guaranteed winner of all hand cremes that are on sale in Slovenia. It is the cheapest of them all, it has been in use from as far back as I can remember and you can find it literally in ever single house. I don’t know why it is so special and so beloved, but I guess the popularity goes back to the days with not being such a globalised world and when cosmetic products were not in such wide variety offer as they are today. Then our grandparents got used to them, they passed on the knowledge to their kids and their kids to their kids. And so the story goes. I love the cream. It is a good one. It helps with dry skin and protects it with a tiny layer of film that is created when creme is massaged into your hands. It sits on my night stand and I rub it in every night before going to bed. The smell of that cream reminds me of my Grandma. And with her so many nice memories are connected and lots of knowledge that she passed on my mom and me. So this cream is not just a cream. It is a memory, it is a tradition. And I hope when years pass my grandkids will be following the tradition. And maybe they will think of me before going to bed.
Yep. We have one. We are after all Europeans. When I am touring around Europe with guests this is something I always have to talk about. “What is that tiny little sink in the bathroom? Why do you use it for? And how do you use it?” Or even better, “Tina, that little sink, that is a pissoar right?”Questions like this are a norm and sometimes I can just laugh about the ideas that people have regarding bidets. But honestly – we do have it at home and we rarely use it. I think we use it more to soak clothes with stains in it than for its original purpose. When kids are lazy and they don’t wanna take the shower, they just wash their feet inside of it. But of course bidet’s primary function is to wash our intimate parts in a style of riding a “Harley Davidson”. Numerous times I had to defend bidets in front of our guests and I must say they are gaining on popularity, especially after the covid-19 outbreak and the lack of toilet paper in parts of the world that are not accustomed to owning one.