There are few other nations on the continent that passes more unnoticed on the tourist radar than Slovenia. Like a drop in the ocean, this little nation lies nestled in central Europe, generally overlooked and in the shadow of its more famous neighbours, Italy, Croatia and Austria. However, few realise that it is exactly Slovenia’s position on the border to Italian architecture, Austrian alps and the Croatian coast, that makes this a unique destination, blending the best of these countries into its own spectacular fusion of people, culture and landscape.
Not much time passed before my newfound interest in this country was overpowered by my curiosity, which inevitably enticed me to give a larger chunk of my Balkan travels to Slovenia. I was very excited as I stepped off the train in Ljubljana, although without actually knowing much about the country at all. In fact, the surprised, yet sceptic look on the receptionist’s face as I asked what currency they used and if they were in the EU, definitely confirmed my hunch that I really should’ve done the research preventing me from coming across as an arrogant arse of a backpacker at first impression. Yeah, we use euros and yeah, we are in the EU (since 2004, I might add), she responded whilst I reminded myself never to turn up completely blank in a country ever again.
Whilst in Mostar I mentioned to our tour guide that I was heading to Slovenia after Sarajevo. Why? he asked. ‘There’s no history in Slovenia, it’s boring’. Coming from a Bosnian who still had war fresh in his memory, I understood how he considered dull from interesting. However, I told him that I was not going to Slovenia to dive into the history, but to see for myself the nature that had been at the core of my curiosity. And indeed, the grandiose Slovenian nature contributed hugely to my time here as a true fairytale from beginning to end. This place has left me spellbound with jaw dropping landscapes, a lively capital, charming villages and welcoming, friendly people. There is definitely love in the air, and I have fallen for this nation that some 2 million Slovenes call home. So, let me show you what made me fall head over heels for Slovenia and why you will never regret a second spent in this spectacular country.
It’s a shame that Ljubljana is so poorly connected with flights to other cities around Europe, because this is the ideal place for a city break as it has everything that other major European capitals offer, just on a smaller scale. Only 280.000 people live in Ljubljana, but that does not stop it from being a bustling city where you can enjoy life day and night in a variety of ways.
If you only ever saw one picture of Slovenia, I’ll bet you it was of Lake Bled. Bled is a small town north in the country close to the Austrian border. On the shores of the lake it shares it name with, Bled is the most famous holiday destination in Slovenia for locals and foreigners alike and with good reason. This is really is picture perfect fairytale landscape complete with a hilltop castle and mountainous surroundings.
Although Piran lies closer to the Croatian border, its architectural character has Italy all over it. The old town is one of the best preserved examples of Venetian Gothic style on the Adriatic coast, with beautiful coloured houses and narrow alleys that’ll charm you instantly. The famous violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini was born in Piran, but honestly, I had never heard of the guy. Instead I loved my afternoon in this little town for the gelato, pastels, rooftops and splendid views, all whilst breathing in the familiar smells of seafood and the ocean.
Stretching from Nova Gorica to Triglav National Park, the Soča Valley is truly stunning. Carved through the valley is the Soča river, distinct with its beautiful turquoise water that stands out in the green landscape surrounding it. Both adrenaline junkies and those who enjoy the outdoors in a slower pace, will love the nature and activities that are on offer in this region. Hiking, rafting, kayaking, biking, you name it, they’ll have it.
It’s pretty impressive the Predjama castle. It is the largest cave castle in the world and has for more than 700 years been located here some 60 kilometers south west of Ljubljana. It was once a hideout for the knight and robber baron Erazem of Predjama, who legend says was besieged in the castle for 1 year and 1 day, betrayed by one of his servants and eventually killed by his enemies with a cannonball.
Triglav National Park
Triglav is Slovenia’s only national park and named after the highest mountain of the Julian Alps, Mount Triglav standing at 2,864 meters. Although it only covers 838 square kilometers, Triglav has so many incredibly beautiful places to visit that makes up for its size. Some of the highlights is the Russian Road, Bohinj Lake and the Soča river that runs through parts of the park.