Photos & Text by, CRISTINA NEHRING
Photo Essay Curated by, NELIDA MORTENSEN
This is what Hansel and Gretel felt like, I mused as I erred through an opaque wood. Except that I had forgotten the breadcrumb trail; I had forgotten the bread. Just an hour ago, after all, my daughter and I had been at a café on the sea. A hundred-odd hairpin turns later in a tiny car and the world had changed, darkness was upon us, the trees were impassive.
Slovenia is a country of extremes. Extreme sports, extreme combat, extreme resilience, extreme beauty. Tucked away tightly between Italy, Austria and Croatia, Slovenia shares an opening onto the Mediterranean and a big chunk of the Alps. Only half the size of Switzerland--and with a population of just 2 million--it packs an abundance of micro-climates into a tiny space. When Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia (until 1991), it accounted for a mere 8% of the land and population of its mother country, but 60% of its industry. Once independence was declared (Slovenia was the first of Yugoslavia’s six republics to split off, and to do so essentially without bloodshed), its economy and industry only took off.
Today, it is The Little Country that Could. In the Soca River Valley where many hundreds of thousands lost their lives during World War I (as recounted, in part, by Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms), locals now receive tourists for river-rafting, canyoning and paragliding. And yet the ghosts have not gone. Gingerbread-houses feel like they are just around the corner, haunted-seeming castles emerge every few miles, and every rock and rabbit appears to have a story to tell.
My girl and I gripped each others hands tightly, and kept forging ahead until the light reappeared. Like the Slovenian people have done so many times. And there’s very little more radiant than Slovenia under the sun.
Cristina is an American author, journalist and photographer. Her work has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Slate, The Nation and elsewhere.Her books are A Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-First Century (HarperCollins) and Journey to the Edge of the Light: A Tale Of Love, Leukemia and Transformation (Amazon Kindle Singles).Her photo exhibits include “The Sky is Falling” and “Found Love” (Chico, California).She lives in Paris with her now 5-year-old daughter, Eurydice, who has Down Syndrome, and often serves as her model. For photo purchases and other inquiries visit her website at: www.cristinanehring.com