Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Slovenia or Bust!!
So the other week I started reading guidebooks about European countries in order to prepare myself mentally for all of the awesomeness I am going to see when I move to England in 10 months. I went through the biggies, the British Iles, France, Germany/Austria/Switzerland, Scandenavia, etc. (Italy is PARADISE and I already know by heart, so no need to consult a guide book there...), and I finally found myself confronted with Eastern Europe. I've heard Prague is the next big fad, and I have a roommate who served a mission in Poland and LOVES it, and I probably need to go to Romania to perfect my budding Romanian language skills, however I just wasn't getting excited over Eastern Europe. There were interesting things to do mentioned in the guidebook, of course, but were they really worth choosing over another trip to Paradiso? (Seriously, in my 2 years living in England, I plan to spend a SIGNIFICANT amount of time in my soul's birthplace--Italia). So there I was, having thoughts only slightly more than apathetic in nature about Eastern Europe, when my guidebook turns to Slovenia. Literally after about 3 sentences, I was hooked. Apparently it is the perfect mixture of Austria, where so many of my ancestors come from and therefore I feel a particular connection to that country, and Italy (I think we've established my feelings on that subject). For like 3 days I was envisioning great things that would come from a lovely little trip to this newly discovered delight. And then a Most. Amazing. Thing. happened.
My mom was visiting over Thanksgiving break, and while she was here we delved into some family history research. I've made the goal to find out which cities in Europe my ancestors have come from, so that I can visit these places while I'm living in Europe. I had identified each of the countries (presumably) that my family came from, but I needed to dig deeper and find out which cities they were from. There was one particular individual I was looking at, my great-great-grandmother Antonia Benegalia (married name Sperl), who was born in a "Borbek, Austria" which doesn't really exist. This may reference a neighborhood in Oberhausen, Essen, Germany, however that part of Germany was never part of the Austria Empire so I don't even begin to know what Borbek, Austria might reference. In order to try and solve this mystery, I looked at her Ellis Island immigration records. On said records, I found another Benegalia family, also born in Borbek and traveling to Wyoming. A quick search of the Ellis Island database led me to find 2 other Benegalia families born in Austria and traveling to Wyoming. I learned that there were 3 brothers and 1 sister (Antonia). The most astounding piece of information I learned though, was that despite the fact that these families put Austria as their birth country, many of them claimed their ethnicity as....SLOVENIAN!! What are the odds?????? Technically at this point in history, Slovenia was a part of the Austrian Empire, so it totally makes sense!
I feel like I've inherited quite a bit of Slovenian in my gene pool. For example, my guidebook talks about how Slovenians are excellent at learning multiple languages, even compared to the rest of Europe who all seem to be born speaking like 3 languages fluently. That's definitely a talent I've inherited. Also one of the brightest moments of Slovenian history was when Napoleon took them over and was setting up the capital city to be a big deal, so they look kindly on the world dominator that most people seem to regard as evil. I also have had a long present secret fascination with Napoleon. Slovenia has beautiful geography, and having grown up in Oregon there is nothing I appreciate more than decent nature (no California, you do not meet my standards, thank you for asking). They have the Alps, and the famous Lake Bled, and some amazing caves, and they are part of the Adriatic Coast as well. Did I mention that Slovenia was also once controlled by Venice, and that 15% of the population still speak Italian as their first language? Yep, definitely my sort of country. I have discovered my Motherland for sure. Slovenia or Bust!!!