“I am sorry, where exactly is Slovenia?”
Ever since I began traveling and meeting people from different parts of the world there has been this one question that comes up again and again whenever I introduce myself. Usually I can see a few seconds of confusion and a slight blush as my new friends try to figure out where to put Slovenia on the world map.
“I’m sorry, is it in Russia? Is it where Dracula comes from, or is that Transylvania?”
If we look back into Slovenia’s past, we find that it has been a part of many different states and empires: the Roman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the lesser known Illyrian Provinces—an autonomous part of the Napoleonic French Empire whose capital was Ljubljana. After WWI the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was created, and persisted until the closing years of WWII when Marshall Josip Broz Tito reunified 6 Balkan republics to form the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1991, not long before the dissolution of the SFRY in 1992, Slovenia declared full sovereignty. Today, Slovenia is a member of the European Union (since 2004), the Euro zone, the Schengen area, NATO and OECD.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Slovenia is a small place—the population is just slightly more than 2 million—but it is an amazing and highly diverse one. Distances are small, thus traveling is easy. Daily flights from major European cities land at Ljubljana airport, only 20 minutes by car from Ljubljana, the capital city. And Slovenia’s location in the crux between Austria, Croatia, and Italy means that you can easily combine your Slovenian Alps hike with a romantic trip to Italy’s Venice or Trieste, Vienna, Austria, or Croatia’s capital, Zagreb.
So Good It Must Be True
This tiny Central European country is simply bursting with attractions, from old town Ljubljana’s enchanting alleyways to the dreamy perfection of Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj; from the majesty of the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park to the subterranean mystery of the Skocjan Caves (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the hippest town on the Adriatic coast, Piran. Slovenia’s unparalleled natural variety creates plenty of opportunities for adventure sports and wonderful mountain hiking. A perfect balance of active days hiking on well-maintained trails with comfortable nights spent in boutique hotels will get you in touch with the country’s abundant natural and cultural treasures.
Guiding for MTS
Since 2006 I have been guiding most of Mountain Travel Sobek’s trips in Slovenia (as well as Croatia). I have met some amazing people on these trips and I have plenty of stories of unforgettable experiences. We still keep in touch and I was so glad to see some of you at September’s MTS Leader Summit in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am continually amazed at the level of curiosity that MTS guests express about Tito, Yugoslavia, and modern day Slovenia. We frequently discuss the history, geography and ongoing changes in Slovenia while on the trail, enjoying a picnic lunch, or at dinnertime.
What I really like is to impress the many virtues of Slovenia and its people upon my guests, so as to make them to real fans and ambassadors for Slovenia. Honestly speaking, I find that the majority of travelers are still primarily concerned about safety. Luckily, Slovenia is not only a prosperous and beautiful country, but a completely safe one as well, which comes as a pleasant surprise for many. It is a culturally rich land as well, and the influence of the Habsburg Monarchy and Austro-Hungarian Empire is reflected in the splendid architecture of its cities, and the works of Italian artists adorn many of its churches as well as the coastal town of Piran, which was once part of Venetian republic. And as for the hiking, my guests have been consistently surprised by the well-maintained mountain trails and the “clean and green” surroundings—Slovenian women even compete with one another to see who can create the most beautiful gardens and floral decorations!
Slovenia Appeals to the Stomach
In Slovenia you will definitely eat well! We love dining, and pride ourselves on fresh, organic, super-healthy foods, often coming from our grandma’s gardens. Seriously! Since childhood I have I always gotten a box of fresh ingredients like milk, yoghurt, veggies, eggs, honey, and so on from my grandparents. And if you are raised like this, you believe that everybody lives like this and thus it is what you provide for your welcomed guests.
While on the trip we choose local restaurants where our friends prepare your meals with ingredients just brought in from the fields and forest to their kitchen. Fresh porcini and chanterelle mushrooms, delicious wild strawberries, tender venison, and crispy salads accompanied by authentic Rebula wine will introduce you to the tastes of Slovenia and leave you satisfied yet wanting more at the same time.
I invite you to join me in an exploration of my Slovenia. I assure you, you will FEEL sLOVEnia too!