Tuesday, February 16, 2010


After our trip to lovely Murska Sobota, we figured that since it was carnival weekend and since we were passing through Lower Styria, we should stop in Ptuj which is the oldest city in the country (established by Celts!) and also Slovenian Carnival Central. This is the place where they have these awesome kurents (pagan characters that are meant to scare off evil spirits) and I finally got to see them in all their crazy pagan costumed glory.

The carnival was a good time like a mini Mardi Gras and it gave me hope that at least some people in this country know and want to have a good time.

Photo and video evidence follows:

Pippi Longstockings (or Pippi Langestrumpfe in German) was a popular costume

commentary on the economy and the country's (low but slightly increased) birthrate

Some commentary on last year's controversy about whether muslims could build a mosque in Ljubljana

alas carnival seems to be the time for people to really crack out the racism and on top of all the "Indians", "Jamaicans", and even "geishas" that I saw, there was this "gypsy caravan" of people with their faces painted brown. Ay yi yi. Ironically enough, just a few miles away some Roma people were actually having an international conference just a few days before. Here's to their continued struggle in the face of this kinda crap.


Anderl said...

I'm a bit bemused by your view of dressing up in foreign costumes during carnival as racism. Would you see this as racism, as well?

I don't want to start a big discussion about racism in Slovenia or other European areas, and obviously it's you who lives in Slovenia and has first-hand experience and not me. I just wonder what about the dressing up struck you as racist.

Apart from that I just want to say I stumbled across your blog a while ago and have liked reading it ever since for your unusual accounts of living in that country and also your beautiful nature photos. Thanks for writing.

alcessa said...

Anderl, funny, I thought of that article as well when reading Camille's account...

Carnival is all about dressing up and I have never heard a chimney sweep (soot-covered face), a cook (fat, with a spoon) and similar groups complain because they have been used in this fashion... And they have been, because carnival costumes are all about cliches, which are supposed to generate instant recognition...

ValeriesWorld said...

Lovely pictures!

Blair K. said...

Wonderful photos! When I first saw pictures of the Kurent a few years ago, I knew I'd found one more reason to be proud of my half-Slovenian roots. Not only did "my people" make potica and play the accordion, they even had their own version of Mardi Gras! I really enjoy your blog.

All the best,

Blair in Berkeley, CA

Carrisa said...

Love the carnival pictures and your website overall.

What about Slovenia do you like? From reading your posts, I gather that you face a fair amount of racism. How long do you feel you can tough it out. I cannot imagine living in a country where Blacks are few and far between.

Keep your head up!!

Camille Acey said...

@Blair - Thanks for reading. I grew up in Berkeley for a good part of my life (born at Alta Bates) and I graduated from Cal. Thanks for reading!

@Carissa - This blog certainly reflects a lot of what I like about Slovenia. If you see my picture posts, there are images of many of the interesting things of have done, seen, and enjoyed.

As for racism, I don't "face" any more racism than I would in America, and most of the racism I encounter here comes from a place of ignorance and curiosity rather than a place of hatred or malice, like I find in the states. Any way, I don't think God gives any of us more than we can handle. I might gripe but I am blessed. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I am glad you have visited Ptuj - it is a very special little town, mainly because the people there are so different - they are sweet, gentle, pleasant and friendly. Much unlike the crowd one has to plough through in Ljubljana, (my hometown, btw). I hope you and the Captain can meet someone from there - it will give you a new, more mellow picture of who can be what in Slovenia.
Love your photos - and your blog.
Mile C.

Blair K. said...

Hmm, lots of Cal connections! Our younger son graduated from UC-Berkeley, has travelled all over the Balkans, and is heading to Kosovo in the fall to go to journalism school.

BTW, Camille, I agree with you about how problematic many Carnival masking/costume customs really are. In theory, "turnabout" is all part of the tradition and the general fun, but people need to think about the implied power dynamics and offensive stereotypes they may be invoking. (Like in Louisiana's Cajun country Mardi Gras runs, apparently you still occasionally see white folks dressed in "blackface"...incredible as it sounds.)

Angeliska said...

Thank you for sharing these, Camille! I esp. love the Kurenti! I totally want one of those costumes. Sheepskin, bells and ribbons! So excellent.

Camille Acey said...

@Blair - FINALLY, someone who gets it. I knew I could count on my Berkeley people ;). BTW, even in the New Orleans Mardi Gras you see people in blackface and racist costumes, it's not just in the backwoods! I understand the turnabout and it would work just fine all things being equal (where the gypsy could also fairly and equally participate) but as we well know all things are not equal. That said, maybe carnival could be a force for that kind of change? I definitely don't wanna get rid of it.

@Angeliska - Glad you got to see these. DOn't these suits seem like the inspiration for Nick Cave's soundsuits? - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwupTQt9zxY

TG said...

I'm not a fan of carnival and I have few friends from Ptuj, who used to encourage me to go and put on a costume and whatnot. But at that time, I was always "busy" for them :P

I don't like ethnic costumes of any sort, just not funny. I'm not saying everyone who does that is a racist, but they're at least insensitive, if not ignorant.

jana said...

thanks for the fun photos of kurentovanje in ptuj ... something i still haven't been to, but hope to experience live one year.