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Slovenia and Hemingway?
The American writer Ernest Hemingway is not someone you normally associate with Slovenia. His terrain usually runs more to bullfights and elephant hunts and the intellectual circles of Paris in the 1920s. Yet Hemingway spent some of the most impressionable months of his life in the town of Kobarid during World War I. At the time, he was a volunteer ambulance driver for the Italian army. Kobarid—or Caporetto in Italian—was an eastern garrison town for the Italians, who were trying to push their way north and east into Austria-Hungary. The battles—pitting the Italians on one side against the combined forces of the Austrian and German armies—were some of the bloodiest of the war. The great offensive of October 1917, when the Austrians and Germans finally knocked Italy out of the region and out of the war, cost both sides hundreds of thousands of lives. Hemingway later drew on his experiences here for the novel A Farewell to Arms, and the book is worth re-reading for its moving depictions of the region and the war. The excellent Kobarid museum includes an emotional tape-recording of some of Hemingway's observations—alongside diary notations from ordinary soldiers—of the unimaginable horrors of those days. The title of Hemingway's book could serve as the region's motto today. The Soča River valley draws thousands of Italian, German, and Austrian tourists each year, showing that within just two generations the hatreds that unleashed such horrific fighting have been buried.
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