Top Slovenia Interview: Uršula Cetinski

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Uršula Cetinski is Director General of Cankarjev dom, Slovenia’s main cultural and congress centre located in Ljubljana. She graduated in comparative literature and German from the University of Ljubljana, and completed a postgraduate course in cultural management at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, obtaining the degree of Master in Advanced Studies.

As a student, Uršula Cetinski gained experience as the cultural editor of Radio Študent, and then served as Director of the independent theatre company
Koreodrama Ljubljana, co-founder and Artistic Director of the City of Women International Festival of Contemporary Arts, Cankarjev dom’s longstanding
Theatre and Dance Programme Director, and Managing and Artistic Director of Mladinsko Theatre. She is President of the National Council for Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and a member of the Management Board of the Section of Female Managers
within the Managers’ Association of Slovenia.

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

The Gothic Church of St Primus situated on a hillock above the town of Kamnik, containing frescoes that date back to 1504; a walk to the Church of St Paul above the settlement of Vrtovin that enjoys unforgettable views over the Vipava Valley, and a nearby Roman water tower; a visit to the Chapel of St Nicholas in Selo, a village in the Prekmurje region, which is a unique Romanesque brick-built rotunda from the mid-13th century, the only one of its kind in Slovenia.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE SLOVENIAN WINE?

A glass of Teran, preferably in the hilltop settlement of Štanjel, an archetypal Karst village that also bears the personal stamp of Maks Fabiani, an illustrious Slovenian architect.

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

Various pork delights served on the tourist farm Arkade in Črniče, the Vipava Valley. The savoury dishes prepared with Mangalica, a special breed of hairy pig developed in the 19th century by crossbreeding Hungarian and Serbian breeds with European wild boar, whose meat contains unsaturated fat.

WHICH SLOVENIAN SOUVENIRS WOULD YOU RECOMMEND AS GIFTS TO FOREIGNERS?

The sophisticated, astoundingly delicate crystalware crafted manually at the Steklarna Rogaška glass factory since 1665. A visit to the glassworks is highly recommended, it’s only by understanding the entire process of glassblowing that you can appreciate the artistry of Rogaška glassmakers and value the beauty of their glasses and decorative vessels.

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

The Jazz Festival Ljubljana, taking place in late June and early July, is a must for all jazz lovers. Ours is the oldest jazz festival in Europe and provides a selection of first-rate music. The festival attracts people from all over the world, all coming together for one shared fascination: the love of jazz.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SEASON IN SLOVENIA? WHY?

My favourite season is summer because this is when I finally have some time to myself. I can discover the parts of Slovenia I haven’t explored yet, and nature is resplendent in its verdant magnificence. In the morning everything glitters bright under the sunlight’s caress, and the evenings are punctuated with the twinkle of fireflies. A paradise on earth.

WHAT MAKES SLOVENIA A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE AND WORK?

Slovenia’s greatest advantage is its safety, which means you can go almost anywhere whilst staying safe. Slovenia also boasts a highly advantageous Central European geographic location. It only takes a short car ride to see an exhibition in Venice or Vienna, even Prague is not that far.

HOW DO YOU LIKE TO SPEND YOUR FREE TIME?

As I am away from home a lot, having spare time and being free from obligation is a red-letter day to me. I prefer to sit peacefully on my balcony, watch the crow that likes to perch on the neighbouring building, water the herbs I have planted, and play basketball with my son in our local playground.

WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE SLOVENIA?

Safe, variegated, friendly, homely, culturally rich.

CANKARJEV DOM HOSTS A WIDE VARIETY OF ENTERTAINMENT, BUT DO YOU MISS TAKING SHOWS ON THE ROAD AS YOU DID IN YOUR EARLIER CAREER?

I don’t miss touring with our shows across the world, although I will treasure the memory of these tours for the rest of my life. We toured extensively throughout the eight years of my service as the director of Mladinsko Theatre and met with great acclaim. I was invariably astounded by the sincere admiration that spectators all over the world felt for the exquisite Slovenian theatre.

GROWING UP IN THE 1980’S THE PUNK ERA INFLUENCED YOUR PERSONAL STYLE. DO YOU STILL HAVE AN INTEREST IN FASHION TRENDS OF THE YOUNGER GENERATION?

The punk culture that influenced me in my youth was not a passing fad or the vogue, but primarily a worldview, a deeply held conviction that our generation could make the world a better place. We believed that we could handle this task differently from our grandparents or our parents, whose views we regarded with a degree of scepticism.

WITH TECHNOLOGY MOVING AS FAST AS IT HAS WITH GAMING AND GADGETS DO YOU FEEL THERE IS ENOUGH ENCOURAGEMENT FOR CHILDREN TO GET INVOLVED IN MUSIC AND THEATRE?

Slovenia provides an excellent arts and cultural education. This longstanding practice follows in the tradition we have inherited from the socialist era. Cankarjev dom annually organises the Cultural Bazaar, an event aimed at promoting cultural education, which is attended by over 1000 educators.