In first lady’s hometown, all is Melania

Melania Trump
Melania Trump
Published July 21 2018
Updated July 22 2018

SEVNICA, Slovenia — Melania cake. Melania cream. Melania wine. Melania tea. Melania slippers. Melania salami. Melania chocolate-coated apple slices.

There are few products that the enterprising burghers of Sevnica, a small, rural Slovenian town where Melania Trump spent her formative years, have not sought to brand in honor of the first lady of the United States.

Copyright restrictions mean that most of the items merely allude to her identity: The wine is called "First Lady," while the slippers (a silvery number garnished with a fluffy white rabbit’s tail) are called "White House."

But legal kerfuffles aside, Trump has been good for Sevnica (pronounced SEH-oo-nee-tsa) — a town of around 5,000 that sits in a forest-lined river valley some 90 minutes by car from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

The town’s only hotel reopened earlier this year. The annual tourist traffic — helped, of course, by Melania-themed tours — has risen by 15 percent, to 20,000 visitors, in the three years since Trump’s husband, then a real estate mogul and a star of reality television, began his run for the presidency.

"After Melania, things really changed," said Srecko Ocvirk, the town’s mayor. "Now we have tourists from all over the world."

At Kopitarna, the shoe company that makes the Melania-themed slippers, staff members saluted Trump for putting Slovenia on the map. "Many other people," said Marija Balinc, an export manager, "thought we were called Slovakia."

But there are signs the novelty is wearing thin, even for people like Lidija Ogorevc, one of the local guides who takes tourists on a tour of Melania-related sites for about $35 a head.

"Yes, that is the Melania wine," Ogorevc sighed on a recent tour, as she breezed past a bottle of First Lady on sale at the town’s 12th-century castle.

"But this," she added, pointing to a nearby bottle of Grajska Kri, a Blaufränkisch red, "this is the top wine."

These days, Ogorevc does not hide her indifference to all the commotion over Melania. "For me, I really don’t really care about these things," Ogorevc said, not seeming to mind how this might sound on a Melania tour. "Sevnica has much more to show than just this story."