City or country? Mountains or seaside? In Slovenia you don’t have to choose. But that’s not the only reason you’ll fall in love with its walkable cities, welcoming people and stunning scenery.
1. Everything in One Small Package:
Start in Ljubljana, with its outdoor Living Room, the river walk along the Ljubljanica. Great architecture? Check out the Triple Bridge, the National Library, the Market Colonnade and other masterpieces by Jože Plečnik. Sandwiched between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia has everything from castles and caves to villages and vineyards. Thanks to a mostly modern infrastructure, most major attractions are a short ride away by car, bus or train — two hours or less. Here’s a few:
2. It’s Romantic:
Slovenia’s tourist board, with the slogan “IfeelsLOVEnia”, points out that it’s the only country with love in its name. Slovenian is also one of the few languages with a special verb conjugation for just “we two.” Not only is “the dual” romantic, it may also help explain the surprising number of young families and moms-to-be strolling the streets. (Along with the country’s generous parental leave benefits.)
3. English is Widely Spoken:
Slovenes are proud of their complicated language, but after emerging from the drab days of the former Yugoslavia they are eager to engage with the world by speaking a considerable amount of English, French and German. It never hurts to learn the basics like “Dober Dan”(Good Day), “prosim” (please) and “hvala” (thank you). But you’ll often get a reply in excellent English. In the coastal south, Italian is also an official language. And if you really want to learn Slovene, there’s a class for that!
4. There’s Something in the Water:
You can drink the tap water everywhere in Slovenia, but one taste of Radenska will have you hooked on this tasty mineral water that comes from exactly ONE spring in the countryside. Forget Perrier, Evian and Pellegrino. This stuff is addicting while being good for you, with its refreshing taste and natural carbonation. The bottling company made a video about the discovery of the spring and its development. I’m told that some Russian tourists insist on having it in their hotel rooms. To your health! Or as Slovenians say, “Na zdravje!”
5. And… the Wine!
Slovenia’s thriving wine region is full of mom and pop vineyards waiting to be discovered. And if you’d like to stock up on reliable table wine, pull up to the wine pump at Vina Koper. They also produce some higher-end vintages. It’s hard to go wrong with a crisp Slovenian white, but definitely try the hearty Rex Fuscus, a red wine that tastes great when slightly chilled. You can try a wide variety of wines in a secret wine cellar in Ljubljana, tour the vast wine tunnels in Maribor or sip orange wine from a shop that is based on a popular TV show.
6. A Foodie’s Delight:
Summer weather brings out the foodies at Ljubljana’s Odprta Kuhna, or Open Kitchen. Every Friday, the city’s most notable restaurants offer street versions of their popular dishes in a scenic square. As you’ll see in my post, it’s popular with local residents and visitors alike. On the high end, Slovenia’s Ana Roš was voted the world’s best female chef, starring in an episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix. That says something about the standards in a tiny country bordered by two culinary trendsetters: Italy and Austria. And culinary schools like Cook Eat Slovenia will help you master the traditional dishes like grandma used to make.
7. It’s Healthy, Safe and Green:
The capital city can seem a bit deserted on the weekends because Slovenes of all ages head for the mountains, sea, rivers or lakes to enjoy outdoor sports of all kinds. A relatively small population has produced a number of world-class athletes like LA Kings hockey star Anže Kopitar and champion alpine skier Tina Maze. In addition to a passion for fitness, Slovenes take pride in their designation as the Green Capital of Europe. I actually had fun separating my trash. And Conde Nast Traveler named Slovenia among it’s top 10 safe countries for travelers.
8. It’s Kid Friendly:
Slovenia “gets it” that kids are travelers too. You’ll find opportunities to joust with wooden swords at Celje’s ancient castle. A family friendly train winds through the underground wonders of the Postojna Caves. And it’s likely no one will look twice if your little one decides to take a dip in a city fountain.
9. And… Dog Friendly:
Okay, so you probably won’t take your dog on a transatlantic flight. But you’ll see a surprising number of other people’s pets in public places. It’s almost like there’s a rule for every outdoor “kavarna” to to have at least one “pes.” As far as I could tell, they’re all cute and very well behaved.
10. Location, Location, Location
With its central location, Slovenia blends the best of Western and Eastern Europe: Italian-influenced food and art, Germanic efficiency and Slavic pride. It’s a fine starting point for ventures into the neighboring countries of Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary. But with all Slovenia has to offer, you might just fall in love and decide to stay awhile.
Terry’s Travel Tips
Getting there: From the US, you’ll need to connect to Ljubljana from somewhere in Europe; I’ve taken Austrian Airlines through Vienna or Lufthansa through Munich or Frankfurt. I’ve also flown Turkish Airlines, which allows for a quick stop in Istanbul en route to Ljubljana.