Slovenia in 5 steps

Salt, bees, spas, sport, fresh air and (a little) food. All the symbols of Ljubljana’s pavilion

Tomaz Kavcic - chef at Pri Lojzetu in Zemono, half

Tomaz Kavcic - chef at Pri Lojzetu in Zemono, half an hour’s drive from the Italian border – here at the entrance of his country’s pavilion, Slovenia. Using his hands the chef filters salt crystals from Piran, one of the country’s most important symbols

Were it not for the I Feel Slovenia sign, written in gigantic letters, you’d hardly notice the pavilion of the old Yugoslavian feud at Expo. At the entrance there are small street food stations making a little shade. Lighting up our way, however, there’s Tomaz Kavcic, Slovenia’s Cracco – and chef at Identità Expo until tomorrow night, with a winning menu on variations on broth.

He’s the one to introduce us to the content in this rather discreet structure, structured on five important symbols in this country bordering with Italy (it’s incredible that not all Italians know this). The first is also an emblem of Kavcic’s cooking: salt. Back in 2007 this elf from Vipava charmed the audience at Identità Milano with his salt plate. It wrapped meat and fish better than a steel grill. At some point he said, full of lyricism: «Salt is the piece of sea that didn’t want to return to the sky».

A mirror beehive serves to underline the importance of bees in the world’s ecosystem

A mirror beehive serves to underline the importance of bees in the world’s ecosystem

The salt workers from Piran and PortoroĹľ, well represented in large basins right behind the pavilion, know it well. Salt is so pure that in Ljubljana and its surroundings they call it the “white gold” of Slovenia. After the sea crystal, a large mirror beehive opens up, recalling the country’s second pride: bees. The number of precious honey varieties sweetening the palates of the two million inhabitants of the country (only 100 per square kilometre) are countless. This scarce density is the secret of the serene proliferating of the insects, bees from the Carniola breed, which are elsewhere decimated by pollution. A very popular theme at Expo (for instance, also in the UK pavilion and in the ingredient of which chef Cristina Bowerman is ambassador). And rightly so: if all the bees in the world would suddenly disappear, humankind would do the same within 4 years.

Salt, bees and spas. The centre of Posavje, in the South-East, is one of the most important in the world, with all sorts of spas. While bottled water has a record concentration of magnesium. Besides, who hasn’t heard of Postojna Cave? With a million tourists every year, it is the most famous tourist destination, the only one in the world with a double track train crossing it. Something the pavilion of course reminds of.

The blackboard with Slovenian specialties

The blackboard with Slovenian specialties

Thanks to its large valleys and prairies, Slovenia means most of all sport, the fourth element in the country: cycling, hiking and climbing. A drawing of the peak of Mount Triglav, 2864 metres, is there to remind you that «You’re not a real Slovenian if you have never climbed to the top». The last theme, the fifth one, is the high quality air: famous pilot MatevĹľ Lenarčič recently proved that the black carbon emissions on the hills of Slovenia are among the lowest in Europe. Which allows the fields of buckwheat below to give origin to extremely fragrant bread.

With this we arrive to food, to which, to tell the truth, not much space is dedicated. There’s a small corner at the end offering traditional specialties (see the list in the photo above). Our recommendation is to stock up on sausages from Carnia and potica cakes, mini-strudels.

Tutto Expo

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Gabriele Zanatta

born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes. 
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