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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

The Slovene town little known outside its immediate surrounds that seems happy to stay that way

KesterTester60a - Certainly this “New” town in Western Slovenia seems less than willing to publicise its past. On the other hand, visitors to its casinos are definitely welcome.

Photo: The profile of Nova Gorica that I wrote for the FT in late 2007. Why do piccies of casinos always seem to feature smiling, pretty young ladies? Anyone might think there was some not-so subtle advertising ploy at work behind choosing such images.

I'm very sorry to take so long posting up the results of KesterTester60, but that was, in part, because of my incredibly generous and astonishingly modest nature. As I'm sure readers will appreciate, I'm not the kind of fellow who wants to win my own competition, nor keen to encounter the global spotlight with its incessant demands for selfies from adoring fans every time I step out on the streets :) These four Socialist-Realist heroes certainly had even our best sleuths flummoxed for a long time – and they even outfoxed citizens of the country where they are located. But hats off to a number of hard-core photo detectives for at least trying. Tom Chilton was first to make an attempt: “It's a town where most of the population don't think it should exist (in the sense that it should all be Komárom). but the building looks too grand for Komárno, the station is nowt special (AFAIR), and Wiki says shipbuilding is it's main industry (not v. interesting),” he said. As far as I know Tom, shipbuilding is very interesting, certainly to seafaring nations, but is not a morally dubious business – certainly no more than any technical operation. As for the status of Komárno- Komárom, I hope the Slovak ambassador to Budapest does not read this, or if he does, doesn't know your address. But the indefatigable Mr Chilton, replete with more pertinent information after an update posted on this blog, tried again.

“České Velenice! I think this is the right answer, although I can't find a pic online of the four statues. CV has a huge station that isn't used much any more. I can't find any reference to its main industry although towns bordering Austria and Germany often seem to have a lot of brothels,” he wrote, semi-triumphantly.

I can't speak for České Velenice Tom, but the main trade of the town in question is not so morally dubious as that which you possibly suggest. Well, I don't think so at least. Another ardent, resident sleuth chimed in next. John Cantwell wrote: “For KT60 I am guessing Sátoraljaújhely [in north-east Hungary]. It is right on the [Hungary-Slovak] border, and it has a tobacco plant, not so ethical indeed, many would say. I don’t know what the building in the photo is though. Have a good weekend.” Hannah SG also went to work on some sort of google software and …... it didn't pull up the answer.

So that makes it AI 0 - 1 Humanity - Hooray for humanity! (Even google don't know about these statues.)

A diplomatic friend did start to get warm though: “I think it's something like Slovenia and Bosnia,” Steve commented over an Indian samosa just after Christmas - only to change his bid when reminded that Slovenia didn't border Bosnia. “Oh well, Slovenia and Croatia then!” he retorted.

I remained po-faced, merely reminding him that EU competition regulations severely punish insider trading.

Then, just when I thought I was going to have to buy my own two beers, Hubert “Poirot” Warsmann responded, and with devastating effect.

“Ah from the background you gave, it has to be Nova Gorica, Slovenia, where Le Corbusier meets the Balkans. Having checked the town hall, it is indeed the right place. Statues don't seem better described on most sources than partisans and revolutionary figures. I am puzzled by the three languages spoken by the mayor. Two have to be Slovenian and Italian, but is the third Serbo-Croat or German?”

Indeed, it seems few people, not even the well educated readers of Perspectives- Budapest, realise that there were border disputes between former Yugoslavia and Italy both before and after WW2.

(For the literary minded, this was the area which gained fame from Ernest Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms (and not, as I originally wrote - thank you Hubert - For Whom the Bell Tolls). In passing, perhaps it was the immaturity of my presumptuous youth, but after that, The Old Man and the Sea plus Fiesta/The Sun also Rises, I decided Hemingway was 80% hype, and 20% literature. Given the even the 20% was not to my taste, I have never read another of his works.)

Surprisingly to me, even Slovenian readers missed the fact that this tester was Nova Gorica – a town with the bizarre situation whereby an international border is about five metres from the main entrance to the railway station.

Photo: The border between Italy and Slovenia, in the square outside the entrance to Nova Gorica railway station. Citizens then could wander freely for a few yards into Italy - but it wasn't a true 'green' border: notices (see in the background) warned against further encroachment on Roman territory. Piccie taken in late 2007.

And on top of all this, the municipality of Nova Gorica itself failed to answer an emailed question asking who the four heroes represented, and a perusal of the local, publicly owned tourism website revealed no reference to these artefacts. Is modern Nova Gorica ashamed of them or something?

At least the tourism office responded to my enquiry: “The stone municipal palace dates from 1950. The building was designed by Vinko Glanz, the four statues above the entrance are the work of Boris Kalin. The statues illustrate rebellion, struggle, victory, and peace,” Maja Marcovich of the TIC told me via email, adding she would be happy to answer further questions.

Well, thank you, Ms Marcovich! You can visit the website here But though it highlights the Perla Hotel and Casino, claiming it to be “the largest gaming centre in Europe” where “you can have fun and entertainment” (naturally, it doesn't warn you can also lose a lot of money), on the official tourism website front page nothing else within Nova Gorica gets a mention – certainly not the statues on the town hall. (There is a link near the bottom of the home page entitled Discover Nova Gorica, but my Firefox browser warned me not to go there as the next page was insecure.)

Maybe it was something I wrote way back - but I suspect the profile (which I reproduce blown up here for you to read it more easily) has long been forgotten. In any case, it's hardly savage in how it deals with the gambling industry.

So there you go. The area to the north-west, Goriška Brda, borders the Friuli region of Italy (the frontier winds between dwellings, sometimes separating houses from their gardens) boasts some beautiful landscapes and is home to numerous friendly wineries and hostelries.

And on the Soča/Isonzo River (which, like the photographs for once, really does look a dazzling emerald green) you can go white water rafting and other exciting stuff, so there really are things to do and places to see – only our four heroes of Socialist-Realist art are seemingly not one of them.

Congratulations to Hubert “Poirot” Warsmann and all who had a crack at this. Oh, and the languages the mayor spoke back in 2007 were English, Hungarian and Slovene, together with, in all probability, Serbo-Croat and possibly some Italian.

* Note on geographical designations: I think Nova Gorica refers to itself as a "city" within Slovenia - it's certainly the leading municipality in the west of the country. But as it has a population of c 35,000, I have referred to it as a town to avoid giving readers the impression it is some kind of Las Vegas-like metropolis of one million or more.

I'll catch up on the results for KT61 and KT62 as soon as I can – so you can continue to sleuth on until I do.

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