Heading down to the beach in Slovenia? Don’t forget to bring your skis!.
A guest post by Rob Melau. Thank you Rob – You have now added yet another country to my must see list!
Last year I attended the World Travel Market in London, one of the biggest tourism trade fairs in the world. I primarily went there to find out more about the latest fads in travel and exotic, faraway destinations. Having already traveled widely in Europe, I still decided to take a peek at what European destinations had to offer when, all of a sudden, Slovenia’s stand caught my eye. A staff member of the country’s tourism board gave me a few more insights into the country’s culture, people and places of interest… not to mention a whole load (probably two kilos worth) of brochures, flyers and all that jazz.
Before long I was led to a smaller, separate stand where I could taste distinguished Slovenian wines that had won all sorts of accolades. So I suddenly found myself in the midst of no less than 15 to 20 people all sipping the odd glass of yummy white wine and getting inappropriately tipsy at 10.30 in the morning! Much to my surprise, I found out that Slovenia was one of the fastest-growing wine destinations in Eastern Europe with nearly one percent of its territory being covered by vineyards… yum.
I have to admit Slovenia had never really been on my traveling list, probably because it’s mostly outshone by its neighbors Austria, Croatia and Italy. But my visit at the World Travel Market made me re-consider my traveling priorities – although maybe the wine also did the trick….
So I decided to hit the road and traveled to Slovenia for a week. It turned out that would be just enough time to explore the whole country given that it’s only about three hours across by car (from Koper on the coast to Maribor in the North East). It’s almost like a miniature, compact version of Europe and a blend of countries like Germany, Austria, Italy and Croatia. I had my base in Ljubljana, the capital city and actually spent almost one week in prison there… and if you’re thinking that surely didn’t make for a great holiday, you’re wildly off the mark! My hostel, the Celica Hostel, used to be a military prison and was then transformed into a pretty cosy guesthouse and creative art gallery after the country’s independence in 1991. The atmosphere in Ljubljana is fairly nonchalant yet lively and the city proved to be the ideal starting point for my travels.
I started off by hitting the mountains which boast thousands of kilometres of marked hiking trails, along which there are numerous mountain huts and bivouacs (you should definitely try that for one night!) Especially in times when most destinations around the world appear to be mapped out, it is very refreshing, even liberating to find a place that’s not entirely inundated with tourists and actually allows you some ‘breathing space’. The Julian Alps, as well as the Kamnik-Savinja Alps in the North, have a range of impressive sharp peaks and offer jaw-dropping and invigorating views. Much of the country is covered by expansive forests and uplands, so opportunities to explore mountainous areas are in abundance. You may even manage to catch a glimpse of one of the country’s 700 brown bears; ‘unfortunately’ I was denied that opportunity!
Wildlife aside, I would say that the unspoiled, diverse and stunning scenery of the country stays etched in my memory. This includes the wonders that can be found underground. There are thousands of picturesque karst caves scattered across the country with Vilenica cave near Lokev being the oldest tourist cave in Europe. It’s been open to visitors since 1633 and is definitely worth a peek, just like the Krizna Jama Cave with its stunning underground lakes. Karst springs, poljes and intermittent lakes only add to the experience and will surely stir any photographer’s blood, causing bursts of excitement.
But enough of my ramblings. Let’s turn to my favourite topic; food and wine! Dining in Slovenian restaurants within the city itself can offer you tasty food at affordable prices. However, if you fancy a more authentic experience I’d suggest you pay a visit to one of the numerous family-run inns in the countryside that are a lot more personal. What’s more, if you want to savour some regional delicacies you shouldn’t miss out on the so-called ‘osmice’ which is a special feature of Slovenian cuisine. These are social events where farmers sell home-made wine and local products like cheese, dried meat and potica cakes at bargain prices – the perfect playground for any foodie or wine connoisseur (which I’m not, but the cuisine still tickled my taste buds!) As I was told by a local, according to a Slovenian proverb ‘love comes through the stomach’ and I can’t think of a more fitting description to reflect the local cuisine and hospitality.
There’s so much more to Slovenia then I can fit into one short article. My initial skepticism towards this tiny country was soon superseded by surprise and even enthusiasm. I will most certainly return to Slovenia to spot a few more hidden gems and eat my way through mountains of tasty dishes. After all, I didn’t get round to sampling the countries true diversity. In Slovenia, you can take a morning dip in the Adriatic Sea then head upland and go skiing at night… time to go back I think!
Author Bio: Rob Melau
Rob decided to study tourism management to combine his professional career with his passion for travel. He lived in England and France for a while and is already on the lookout for the next adventure somewhere in Asia or South America. He enjoys writing, sports and any type of outdoor activity. *All photos in this post provided by Rob.
*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of BeersandBeans.com, NarikosNest.com & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!
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