TOP Slovenia Interview: Ksenija Benedetti

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Former Chief of Protocol of the Republic of Slovenia, Head of Academy for business protocol Ljubljana

Ksenija Benedetti has been Head of Protocol of the Republic of Slovenia for over 18 years. Throughout that time she was involved in more than 260 state visits in Slovenia and abroad, as well as a further 80 other important state celebrations. Since her appointment to the role in July 2000 Slovenia has seen several historical events, including the visit of the Queen of Denmark, Bush-Putin Summit, 9th Meeting of the 16 Presidents of Central Europe. Meetings of prime ministers from Croatia, Italy, Hungary and Slovenia, the first hand-over for the president of the republic, official visits of Spanish, Swedish and British royal couples, and festivities accompanying the fall of the Schengen borders. In September 2008 Ksenija Benedetti wrote and published her first book – Protocol Symphony of Form. She is also co-author of Code in the Protocol of the Republic of Slovenia and of the Protocol of the Republic of Slovenia Ceremony Handbook. After announcing her decision to step down, she confirmed that as of October 1st 2018 she will continue her career in the field of academia and will begin lecturing at the Koper Faculty of Education, where she will also establish an academy for the business protocol.

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE HIDDEN OR OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH DESTINATIONS IN SLOVENIA?

Brkini (Pregarje, Hrušica, Prem), Kobarid (Camp Lazar), Cerknica Lake (Lipsenj). They all fill me with boundless, bright energy.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SLOVENIAN SOUVENIRS TO GIVE TO FOREIGNERS?

Prešeren‘s figs ( chocolate coated dry figs), unique products by Slovenian designers (jewellery, products made of wood and stone), salt from the Sečovlje saltpans in its great variety of uses (salt flower, soap, chocolate with salt …), Rogaška crystal products (chalices, carafes, bowls).

IF A VISITOR ONLY HAD ONE MEAL IN SLOVENIA, WHAT AND WHERE SHOULD IT BE?

I am afraid it is just not possible to indicate just one dish and one location. For the romantic type I would suggest ham, homemade bread and teran wine in the little houses of the Nebesa resort (near Kobarid), for fish, octopus salad, shellfish and sea bass lovers I would recommend the restaurant ‚Pri Mari‘ in Piran, for those who like delicious pizzas there‘s restaurant Tonca in Kozina, for mediterranean dishes restaurant Capra in Koper, and you can find all of this and everything else in restaurant As in the center of Ljubljana, in restaurant Strelec at Ljubljana castle and in restaurant Druga violina as a tribute to excellent waiters and chefs.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVOURITE SLOVENIAN WINES? Apart from Slovenian wines, I do not have any other particular favourites. For me, the winners are Movia Kristančič (Puro), Jakončič (red and white Carolina), Batić (Rose) and Vinakoper (Refošk and Malvasia).

WHAT ANNUAL EVENT IN SLOVENIA SHOULD EVERYONE TRY TO VISIT AT LEAST ONCE?

During the summer one should attend concerts organised by Festival Ljubljana, Liffe Festival and Kino Otok Izola for moviegoers, Primorska Summer Festival for theater enthusiasts, the Jazz Festival in Ljubljana, Festival Druga godba, the celebration of ‚kurentovanje‘ in Ptuj, ski jumping competitions in Planica and Zlata lisica (Golden Fox) in Pohorje, concerts held in the Caves of Postojna and I could go on and on.


WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SEASON IN SLOVENIA AND WHY?

I have two: winter and spring, because I like cold weather and snow but also spring awakenings.

WHAT MAKES SLOVENIA A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE AND WORK?

I have been offered work abroad several times but I have never accepted to leave Slovenia for more than four months. I am very fond of Slovenia and have never been tempted by any other country, even though I have travelled all over the world. Slovenia has everything and all within a matter of hours you can visit it all. It has breathtaking nature spots which always amaze me with their beauty. There are cities, towns and villages that are very friendly and mostly well looked after. And there is the capital city which has a fresh pulse. Although small in size Slovenia has in fact a brilliant greatness.

HOW DO YOU LIKE TO SPEND YOUR FREE TIME?

I prefer to spend it with my loved ones, enjoying good cuisine, in the peaceful embrace of nature or reading books or attending theatrical performances, film and concerts.

HOW HAS SLOVENIA CHANGED IN THE PAST FIVE/TEN YEARS?

Slovenia has made great progress in many respects, and is becoming more and more advanced and lively, but there is, of course, still a lot of room for improvement.

WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE SLOVENIA?

Diversity, safety, creativity, diligence, playfulness.

YOU’VE BEEN HEAD OF PROTOCOL FOR OVER 18 YEARS, HOW HAS PROTOCOL CHANGED IN THAT TIME?

Protocol over the years has become more relaxed, less rigid, but there is always a thin line that is not safe to cross. The bottom line though is respect. Respect for other people and also the country we live in, regardless of what we think of it.

DO YOU EVER GET NERVOUS PRIOR TO THE ARRIVAL OF FOREIGN HEADS OF STATE? IF SO, HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR COMPOSURE?

I stopped being nervous 15 years ago. You know, world leaders are also only human. I strive to do my job professionally and each event is given the utmost attention by me and my colleagues. We have Plan B, C, and sometimes even a Plan Z, as Murphy’s Law never rests.

YOU’RE CONSIDERED TO BE A VERY HAPPY AND POSITIVE PERSON, WHAT SIMPLE PLEASURES BRING YOU THE MOST JOY?

I find joy in the little big everyday things: what gives me happiness can be my husband‘s embrace, or a walk with my father, my mother’s soup, a smile from a friend, a funny unexpected text message, a good book or the playfulness of my cats. But above all I follow one simple rule: I do not worry over things I cannot change, I change the things that I can change and I try to recognise one from the other.