Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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L J U B L J A N A , S L O V E N I A After nine hours pressed against the window on a stuttering train from Budapest, I shouldered my backpack and stepped out into my fi rst Slovenian evening. Expecting the stifl ing heat and dusty air of the neighboring Hungarian capital, instead I took in a lungful as clean as the still cornfl ower blue sky. Beyond Ljubljana's red roofs stand a hug of mountains (the Julian Alps, snow-tipped even in summer), and my breath hitched at the sight. Ljubljana was my dozenth tick on a list of European capitals, churned through in a haze of post–graduate school desperation: As an American, I wanted to get that archetypical Euro- trip experience before my visa expired and the powers-that-be kicked me out. Instead, I found myself exhausted, just as I was during my degree, sustained only by a thrice-daily ritual involving soluble Nescafés … which produced a caffeinated brown sludge more useful for keeping me awake than for any esoteric or gastronomical aims. Ljubljana might be the capital of Slovenia, but its center can be strolled through in one afternoon. Even so, it only took that fi rst breath in Ljubljana to know this place deserved longer, and so I stayed. Despite its small size, Ljubljana is a city to sit and drink from a ceramic mug in, not to be rushed through grasping a paper cup. Ljubljana (pronounced "Lyoo-BLYAH-nah" as I was informed with a hand fl ick by the fi rst Slovenian who witnessed my stumbling "La-Joob-La-Ja-Nah") has one of the largest pedestrian areas of any European capital. In 2016 it was voted Europe's greenest capital. This distinction made sense as I strolled through the cobbled streets lined with trees, noting drink- ing-water taps and vending machines home to local unpasteurized milk and yogurt. It was across from one of these locavore's dream vending machines that I happened into my fi rst Slovenian café. Here, I experi- enced my fi rst cupping, a personal coffee coming of age, in a city on the brink of a specialty-coffee revolution. Ljubljana's tumultuous geopolitical history is interwoven in the cups of coffee its residents drink. Just as it is squashed among Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Italy, and the Adriatic Sea, it is a tangle of these infl uences. In 1991, Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia, which was fol- lowed by the Ten-Day War. Slovenia was able to defend its independence and has been an accepted member country of the European Union since 2004. Even so, Slovenia's Yugoslavian years, and even its history dating back to the Ottoman Empire, are still evident in its coffee culture. Nearly every coffee-consuming Slovenian household (meaning nearly every household: this country drinks coffee heavily, and at all hours of the day) has a cezve. A cezve is a copper pot used to make Turkish coffee, but what those in the Balkans might refer to as "Balkan coffee." During the Yugoslavian years, Slovenians could only access green coffee from Italian importers, who would bring it back in small batches to roast themselves, before grinding the beans for Balkan coffee. If you're lucky, a Slovenian grandmother might tell your fortune from the wet sediment at the bottom of your cup. Slovenia is located at the edge of the Balkans, and many people argue it has more in common with its Western European siblings like Italy and Austria. This is evident in Slovenian coffee culture, where locals drink espressos and macchiatos like the Italians, and enjoy lingering Opposite page, at top: The view overlooking Ljubljana from the Ljubljana Castle Hill. Originally a medieval fortress, the castle was probably constructed in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 12th century. It's a key landmark in the town. Below: The Ljubljanica River is lined in outdoor cafés, and winds its way through the city dividing the old town from Ljubljana's commercial hub. This page: Metelkova—or AKC—is an autonomous social and cultural epicenter in the heart of Ljubljana consisting of seven former military barracks that have been squats since September 1993. Now known as an art commune, most of the buildings are covered in graffi ti, folk art, found tile mosaics, sculptures, and punk rock "statements of purpose." Metelkova also houses a bar, a nightclub, a hotel, the museum, Galerija Alkatraz, and the free-living squa er population. 47 www.baristamagazine.com

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