Small Country, Huge Heart

IMG_0713.JPGAs I am writing my final blog in an airport cafe, I do not feel sad or depressed that I am leaving this country. Why is that? This has been the greatest trip of my life and has been a time of new experiences with great people. How can I not feel sad about leaving? Simply put, it’s because I know I am coming back.

Last night at dinner, we all went around the table and toasted someone or something about this trip. What was similar in every toast was that this trip would not have been the same with different people. Being a part of a diverse group of individuals allowed us to get out of our comfort zones and open our hearts and minds to new things. There were many people who came here not liking seafood, but left wanting to eat it every night. There were some who dreaded getting up at 7:00 a.m. but are now leaving wishing they could if it only meant staying in Slovenia.

For me, this trip was a chance to get a glimpse into a culture I probably would have never experienced had it not been for this trip. This country may be small, but it offers more than any other country in the world. Its people are proud, its culture is rich, its landscape is diverse and beautiful, and their food is really really good. I am not worried that I will never come back here.

As a new ambassador to Slovenia, it is my responsibility to understand the opportunity  I had, and to get others to experience it. I am thankful to the country of Slovenia and its people for hosting us, and introducing us to a culture of love, pride and humility.

Cheers,

WR

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One Last Hurrah!

IMG_0689.JPGThe day had finally come. It was our last day in Slovenia, and we were heading to Lake Bled. The excitement in the bus was unreal. We had been hearing of this magical place for about half a year now and we were finally going to experience it for ourselves. When we first arrived in Bled we never got a full view of the lake or the island. We went straight up to the castle where the view was apparently the best in all the world. When we finally claimed up to the top of the castle and looked over the edge we were all in shock.

No picture can do this place justice. We stood there for 45 minutes taking pictures and soaking in the view. After our visit to the castle, we went to the most unique hotel I have ever been to. It was a glamping site with a natural swimming pool, tree houses, and lots of gardens. The lunch was phenomenal and we soon headed to the island of Bled.

To end the trip, we had the best meal yet. Spirits were high and everyone was recalling the fun and funny times we had on the trip. As out toasts were made, it brought laughter, tears, and cheer. It was the perfect dinner to wrap up this wonderful trip.

A Handmade Product

 

IMG_0674.JPGYesterday we visited a Slovenian ski manufacture called Elan, in the heart of the alps. As a very passionate skier, I was very excited to see the processes necessary to create the typical $600-$800 skis. It is easy to think that most manufacturing of goods these days are fully automatic. This was my expectation going in to the company tour.

When we arrived we listened to a brief presentation in which they outlined all the products they make and the technology behind all of these products. As the public relations officer was speaking, he stated that the production of their skis are mostly handmade. I heard this and figured he just meant the assembly of the final product.

The moment we entered into the production tour, I finally understood what he meant by “handmade”. It was a shocking site because literally every process was overseen or done by a worker. The only automated processes I saw where the sharpening of the blades. It was amazing to see the craftsman work required to make these skis. The ski probably touches 20 hands before it is finished.

This was the most interesting tour in my opinion, and I finally understand why I am paying a lot of money for skis.

Guaranteed Fun!

13244147_900270279568_8813749603638261956_oMy “Almost Certain” Expectations

The first thought that came to mind when I heard that the Business Leadership Program was taking a trip to Slovenia was “hmm…where is Slovenia?” That thought is what inspired me to go on the trip. Slovenia was not a country I had any knowledge of, and I think that is what drove me to decide to go. After researching the country more and hearing Dr. Hedeman talk about the culture, I knew it would be a place I would love.

I have traveled all around Europe to places like Ireland, England, Italy, Austria and Germany. Each one of these places in unique in its own way, but all share some similar characteristics. These are all popular destinations for vacationers. Slovenia, it seems, has been overlooked. Why is that? It is a beautiful country where one can experience the majestic Appalachian Mountains while also being on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Drawing influence from Italy and Austria, and Croatia, Slovenia is a very diverse place, yet its own culture is that makes it stand out from the rest.

I have no worries that I won’t be able to find something to do. The days will be filled with causal conversation with locals, and many stops to get Gelato. This is going to be a great opportunity to experience a different culture, and see how businesses and engineering firms operate in different cultures. I know this trip will be one for the record books.

zbogom (GOODBYE)

A Sunset to Remember

IMG_0609.JPGOn our free day in Piran we decided to golf and rent a boat for the day. As we brought the boat in we saw the sun beginning to set over the Adriatic Sea. Dr. Hedeman said he was going to be watching the sunset from the shore in Piran so we decided to see them there. As we hurried to the restaurant he is sitting at, the sun is began to set quicker and quicker. When we arrived there we were blown away by the sight.

On the pier is a couple dressed in wedding gowns taking photographs and fishers trying to cast into the sun. It was an incredible sight. We just sat there and soaked in the last of the sun’s rays. Everyone was taking photographs of the sunset while I was getting pictures with the woman dressed as if she came from a wedding. The next day, we found out that the woman was modeling and Miss Austria! Who knows, maybe that picture together was the start to something beautiful.

The night ended with the dinner at a local restaurant where John and Amanda claim has the best squid. The two recommended we get the grilled squid, but with three options, fired, grilled, and stuffed, it was hard to choose just one. So, we got ALL THREE. It’s safe to say none of us will forget that sunset, and I think it was the main thing that will draw us back to Slovenia. (That, and my getaway bride:))

A Day on the Links

IMG_0520.JPGWhat does one do if they have a free day on the coast of Slovenia? Easy answer: they go play golf in another country. We made sure to plan the best free day possible. It all started with the idea of going to Croatia which is known for its magnificent beaches and countryside. So we asked ourselves, “how can we experience the country of Croatia in a fun way?”  We started researching things to do and we came across and golf club located near the coast in Croatia, just a short 30 mins away.

We called the taxi and on Sunday morning six of us traveled to go play 12 holes. When we pulled up to the golf club everyones jaw dropped as we saw valleys and vineyards all around us. It did not matter that we were all terrible golfers, all that mattered was that we were playing on the most incredible course we will probably ever play on in our lives.

As we strolled up to the first hole, it was difficult to see where the green was because it was being blocked by some tress or bushes of some sort. As we got closer, we noticed that we were literally teeing off over a small vineyard. It was so unique that we all looked at each other and we all got the impression that none of us want to go home on Thursday. Although many golf balls were lost, and some other golfers were almost hit by our balls, we had a stellar time experiencing a new culture.

Venice-Finding Beauty in Silence

IMG_0485.JPGOur day trip to Venice, Italy started miserably. When we stepped off of the boat, we were immediately hit by a huge rain shower which lasted about 45 minutes. We were wet, cold and miserable as we crowded into St. Mark’s Square. Once we were let go to do our own thing, the clouds started to clear up and it became beautiful out. As we ventured around the areas surrounding St. Mark’s Square, we quickly found ourselves in places where no one was. We decided to take advantage of this opportunity and see what Venice was like outside of the main tourist attractions.

Simply put…we were lost. Trying to navigate the rivers, bridges and roads were a nightmare. Our gameplay was to simply walk and explore interesting sights that we came across. This allowed us to get an insight into real Venice, and I like to believe that we saw some things no tourists have ever seen before.

We ventured into local churches decorated with beautiful art, and castles with ornate sculptures. We walked down roads where we saw no sign of life besides the local pigeons feasting on crumbs. Once we made it back to the loud crowded square of Venice did we realize how fortunate we were to experience something different.