Slovenia has it all, from beautiful scenery, lovely people and fascinating history, and yet it’s often overlooked as a great destination in favour of it’s neighbours (looking at you, Croatia and Italy).
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from Slovenia before I arrived- or whether or not I’d even enjoy my time there. Would it be like Croatia? What were the people like? Is it mainly just fields and sheep? Would Ljubljana feel too small? In a way I wished I knew more about it before I went, but, on the other hand, I’m glad I didn’t know what to expect so I could form my own, unbiased opinion.
When I arrived in Ljubljana I got the answers to my questions and much, much more. Although the language is pretty similar, Slovenian people, I found, weren’t all that similar to Croatians. The people were so lovely and friendly and made me feel instantly welcome in their country. And no, it isn’t all fields and sheep- well, at least not after you reach a city anyway.
What I found in Ljubljana was a beautiful, modern European city, full of people riding around on bikes with wicker baskets on the front, and cafes, which filled the pavements along the riverside, bustling with happy, chatty people. The city was full of colour, from the green dragons on the famous bridge, to the pink palace (which is actually a church). It’s full of interesting reminders of it’s complex history, from the statue of Prešeren, to the ‘Adam & Eve’ statue on the Butcher’s bridge, to the castle perched high on the hill. It was also clean, compact and oh so lovely- much like the rest of the country.
Aside from Ljubljana, the other main place I visited in Slovenia was Lake Bled, which is every bit as stunning as people say it is- even the drive there, and the village of Bled itself, is absolutely gorgeous.
Even though I only saw a shamefully small part of this lovely country, it was enough to leave me with the desire to see more. I really do believe that everyone should see some part of it at least once in their lives, and here’s why:
The people: When I arrived at my hostel- a lovely old Victorian-esque house at the end of a little street, and next to the German embassy- there were people who had been waiting a while to be checked in so I had to join the queue. The receptionist, working alone, was run off her feet but, when it came to checking me in, she spent twenty minutes telling me all the best things to see and do, and she made everyone feel welcome and not like a burden.
Others I met, whether that be in shops or at ice-cream stands or taxi drivers, were just as friendly, they didn’t get annoyed when I had to speak to them in English like some people I’d encountered in Croatia, and they were patient when I attempted some Slovenian. I think the people make Slovenia; they make it feel welcoming and relaxed.
The History: Slovenia has spent most of its history under foreign rule. The longest rulers of the country were the Austro-Hungarians, who ruled until the twentieth century. Before that, they have been under Roman rule, ruled by Celtic tribes, and have been invaded by the Turks.
After they became an emerging independent state they fell under the rule of Yugoslavia until voting overwhelmingly to become independent in a referendum in 1990. Independence was declared in 1991. The following Balkan war, although affected all countries immensely, did not affect Slovenia as much as Croatia or Bosnia, and so they were able to become the first of the former Yugoslavian countries to join the EU in 2004.
The scenery is something else in Slovenia. Yes there is a lot of green countryside, but that’s broken up by gorgeous, orange churches, or beautiful rivers running right alongside the road. The capital city is unlike any other capital city I’ve ever visited, both in terms of it’s outstanding beauty and it’s cleanliness. I didn’t visit any but Slovenia also has lovely little vineyards which must feel like heaven on earth to take a tour around. And Lake Bled didn’t get it’s reputation as one of the most stunning places on earth for nothing, you know?
The food: As it’s surrounded by many countries, Slovenian food has been influenced by many dishes from it’s neighbours, mainly the Italians. They have many types of pasta dishes, Gnnoci (potato type dumplings), pizza, and risotto. They have Hungarian type Goulash and, for those of you with a sweet tooth, Palacink- pancakes filled with chocolate or jam.
Every Friday in Ljubljana, from March to October, there is the Open Kitchen food market, where local businesses cook on their stall at the local market and you can go around and sample all the amazing delights for free. It’s a great way to try different delicacies, cooked fresh by top Slovenian chefs. It’s an experience I highly recommend if you ever find yourself in Ljubljana in the summer months.
The skiing: I’ve never been skiing but I do know that the Julian Alps are a popular and cheap skiing destination for pro skiers and amateurs alike.I met a guy in the hostel who was on a skiing holiday with his dad, and they seemed like pretty serious skiers, so therefore, it must be good!
The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana (nicknamed The City of Dragons), is a place which seems like it’s taken straight from the pages of a fairytale storybook.
The city is guarded by dragons on the corners of Emperor Franz Josef Jubilee Bridge. Legend has it that, when the river Ljubljanica river was surrounded by marshes and not a city, a fire-breathing lizard type creature lived there and preyed on humans. Until he was killed by Jason, leader of the Argonauts, that is. Jason and the Argonauts apparently strayed into the Dragon’s den on their way back to Greece and, once the dragon had been defeated, many of the Argonauts stayed behind to build the marsh land into a city.
More realistically, the dragon became the city’s symbol because both it and St George represent defeating ancient beliefs of Christianity. George is the patron saint of Castle Hill and the dragon he slew represents the ancient religious beliefs that the city wanted to overcome. Although this is probably why it’s called the city of dragons, I’m going to go with the Argonauts thing!
The closeness to other countries: I mean, I’m not sure why you’d want to leave but being a small, landlocked country, means it’s very easy to get to other countries from Slovenia. Croatia is to the south, and is great for going to the beach (it’s where many Slovenians go on their beach holidays). Austria is to the north, Italy to the west, and Hungary is to the east. You could never be bored in Slovenia.
I love Slovenia and can’t wait to go back and explore some more!
Has anyone ever been to Slovenia? What did you think?
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