Slovenia shaped like a chicken
It is strange to think that Slovenia was part of the former Yugoslavia block of countries. But Slovenes are more industrious and organized than the fellow former Slavs. During Tito’s era, Slovenia enjoyed a remarkable expansion of industrial infrastructure with 60% of all industry concentrated in this small state. Slovenia was the first country to secede from Yogoslavia after Tito’s fall. The breakaway was rather smooth with only a few dozen deaths compared to the mess we saw in Bosnia and Croatia. Within a decade after their independence from Yugoslavia, Slovenia joined the EU club. It was also the first central European country to adopt the euro currency in 2007.
Facts about Slovenia
Geographic Location: Bounded by Croatia to the south, Austria to north, Italy to west and Hungary to east.
GDP: ~50B USD (2014)
Population: 2.1 Million (2014)
Unemployment Rate: 9% (better than former Yugoslavian countries but worse than Austria and Czech Republic)
Tourist arrivals: 3.4 Million (2014) – higher than the country population??
If you are into nature and outdoor activities you will thoroughly enjoy spending your time in Slovenia. Most people underestimate the time they need to explore Slovenia. The landscape is diverse with alpine trails, ski resorts, and some of the world’s best caves. Hiking is an absolute must in the nearby Triglav National Park in the Julian Alps if you happen to travel in the summer season. I would skip the much touristy Lake Bled and head straight to Lake Bohinj which is only a 30 minutes drive from Lake Bled. There is a local bus you can take from Lake Bled to Lake Bohinj. Once you in Lake Bohinj, you can take a 30 minute boat ride across the lake and worth doing the trip. You can see the Triglau mountain on one side and Dinaric mountain on the other side.
Get lost in the solace of Lake Bohinj!
Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
If you do go to Lake Bled, make sure to hike up to the top of the castle. Once you get to the top you can see the sweeping views of Lake Bled and its surroundings.
Food to try in Slovenia
Pumpskin seed oil
Prsut – air dried ham – Try the different Prsut at the local open air market in Ljubljana
Bled Cream cake (Try the Bled cake in Lake Bled if you do go there)
Coffee – Even a side road highway gas station makes a good cup of Cappuchino in Slovenia
Ljubljana, located on Ljubljanica River is one of the smallest capital cities in Europe. It gets its cultural influences from fellow baltic and central european states – Czech, Italy and Austria.
You can’t swing a cat without hitting a building that is not designed by this architect Joze Plecnik. His architectural landmarks dominate Ljubljana’s squares, streets and water ways. He studied in Vienna under Otto Wagner and designed many buildings such as libraries, office buildings, cemetries, stadiums and bridges.
Metelkova – Wall covered with graffiti art
If you are in Ljbljana this is a must place to go. Metelkova, located near the main Ljubljana train station is well known for its alternative culture and is quite different from the European atmosphere you experience in rest of the city. When you are here you can see artistic expressions through graffiti art displays on walls. The area also includes some clubs, live music space and art galleries. If you want to know more about it I recommend reading local-life.com.
Named after the national poet France Prešeren, the square is the center of activities and meeting points for both locals and tourists where festivals, fairs, cultural events take place. My favorite part of the center is the south end where the Triple bridge crosses the Ljubljanica river. Originally built as a wooden bridge, Jože Plečnik built two additional foot bridges at a slight angle on each side of the middle bridge.
A side thought….
After traveling in Croatia I can say Slovenians are very a nice bunch of happy people who are kind to tourists. Most people who I met spoke decent English (albeit with an European accent).
What do Slovenians think of EU? From my interactions with a few locals I gather people are a bit apprehensive of being a part of EU. They perceive policy decisions are mostly influenced by larger countries. The biggest advantage of the being a member country in the EU block is access to free trade and movement of resources and labor. But it is a double edged sword. It could also mean the possibility of bigger and larger companies gobbling up smaller companies in smaller economies.
Best time to visit: May – June, Sep – Oct
Life expectancy: 80/100
Happiness index: 87/151 according to Happy Planet index