Palo Alto Weekly

- January 15, 2010

Palo Altan uncovers Slovenia

Jacqueline Stewart's guidebook sheds light on a little-known Central European nation

by Karla Kane

For Palo Alto resident and attorney Jacqueline Widmar Stewart, publishing a book about her grandparents' homeland of Slovenia is a highlight in a longtime love affair with the small Central European country, one that started with her first family visit in 1967.

"It was such a magical time, despite the poverty and conditions then," she said of her initial trip, taken with her parents while she was on a college study-abroad program. "And the people are so amazing."

Her years of experience and interest in Slovenia (including study of the language) led to the recent publication of "Finding Slovenia: A Guide to Old Europe's New Country," which is part travel guide, part historical homage. Her personal ties to the country and its culture are evident, as she includes personal anecdotes such as her grandmother's procedures for making potica, an Easter dessert.

Stewart hopes the book will introduce readers to the "lovely, diverse landscape" of Slovenia, as well as the people and their lifestyle, she said.

The book narrates the natural and cultural history of the New Jersey-sized land (formerly part of Yugoslavia) which is bordered by Austria, Italy and the Adriatic Sea and gained its independence in 1991.

Visitors to Slovenia will find a land in which "everyone loves the outdoors," full of gardens, castles, Alpine bike and hiking trails, large national parks and a Venice-like shoreline.

"And the people pride themselves on their hospitality," she said.

Stewart, who will present "Finding Slovenia" at Books Inc in Palo Alto this Saturday, said the book is geared toward both potential visitors to Slovenia as well as people with Slovenian heritage (or Slovenian residents themselves) who want to learn more about its rich history and natural resources.

"It's versatile. You can flip through for some quick information or really read it in depth," she said.

The book explores favorite places, such as the capital of Ljubljana and Old World castles, as well as lesser-known parks, trails and footpaths. The 200-page hardback features family recipes and cuisine notes, a language guide, full-color photographs, maps, charts and illustrations.

"Finding Slovenia" was published by Slovenia's largest publisher: Mladinska knjiga. Stewart said she is proud to be the publishing house's first non-Slovenian author.

"It's been wonderful" working with the publisher on the project, she said.

In September a reception for the book was held at Bled Castle (pictured on the book's cover), and Stewart embarked on a book tour of other Slovenian locations.

Though Germans and other Europeans have been flocking to Slovenia for years, in America the country is less well-known.

"A lot of people confuse it with Slovakia," Stewart said.

However, pockets of Slovenian-descended populations exist all over the United States, including areas in Kansas City. They have taken interest in the book and invited Stewart to present it to their communities, she said.

The book is also a runner-up for an award from the London Book Festival. Stewart is flying to London next week for the award ceremony.

Locally, Stanford-grad Stewart has served as an attorney for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and co-founded the East Palo Alto Kids Foundation, a volunteer group that raises funds for teacher grants. She self-published a previous guidebook, "The Glaciers' Treasure Trove: A Field Guide to the Lake Michigan Riviera."

Stewart next plans to spend time in Paris, France, to work on her next project, a guide to Paris parks.

She will be speaking Saturday, Jan. 16, at 3 p.m. at Books Inc., 74 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto.

Editorial Assistant Karla Kane can be e-mailed at kkane@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Susan Sachen, a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2010 at 10:24 am

Jacqueline Widmar Stewart's Book, "Finding Slovenia" is a beautiful book!!!! I was so inspired by her descriptions of the country and wonderful photography - a glimpse into the life of a country that's been so overlooked. This book is a definite keeper and so worth buying. Please enjoy it as we have. It's been a great gift for family and friends.


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