Slovenia

ljub1 20120322 1786127838Slovenia (Slovenija) is a country in Central Europe that lies in the eastern Alps at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea, with Austria to the north, Italy to the southwest, Hungary to the northeast and Croatia to the south. Despite its small size, Slovenia has a surprising variety of terrain, ranging from the beaches of the Mediterranean to the peaks of the Julian Alps, to the rolling hills of the south. Slovenia was already more economically advanced than other nations behind the iron curtain prior to European integration and the powerhouse of Tito's Yugoslavia. Contrary to the popular misconception, Slovenia was not a part of the Eastern bloc (not after the Yugoslavian notorious split with the Soviet Union in 1948). Added the fact that Slovenia is also home to some of the finest scenery in the "New Europe", the transition from socialism to the European common market economy has gone well and serves as a model for other nations on the same track to follow.


For a small country, Slovenes are fiercely proud of their culture. Two names you will run into over and over again are national poet France Prešeren (1800-1849), who penned (among other things) the Slovenian national anthem, and the architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957), credited with Ljubljana's iconic Tromostovje bridges and, seemingly, half the modern buildings in the country. It was the monks of the Catholic Church that kept Slovene alive over the centuries of relentless Germanization from the north. As a result Slovene survived in its unique form different than Serbo-Croatian to the south. Part of both the countryside and city architecture in Julian Alpsshares a lot in common with neighboring Austria, including countless roadside shrines and pretty baroque steeples, giving the interior of the nation a truly alpine flavor. One could easily mistake parts of mountainous Slovenia for Tyrol, Salzburg or Bavaria. In modern times, industrial band Laibach (see box) has served to put Slovenia on the map. In the decades before them, Slavko Avsenik and his Oberkrainer (as known in German) did the same.


Climate


Mediterranean climate on the coast, mountain climate in Alps with mild summers and freezing winters and continental climate with hot summers and freezing winters in the plateaus and valleys to the east.


slovenia2 20120322 1727554512Terrain


A short coastal strip on the Adriatic, an Alpine mountain region adjacent to Italy and Austria, mixed mountain and valleys with numerous rivers to the east and Pannonian Basin in northeast. Central Ljubljana valley with Ljubljana marshes in the southern part. In the southwest there is the Karst (Kras in Slovene, Carso in Italian) (where the name for karst topography actually comes from, most famously found in Guangxi Province, China). The Karst region is a barren but beautiful limestone region directly north of the Italian city of Trieste.


highest point
Triglav 2,864 m
lowest point
Adriatic sea 0 m


See


Slovenian cities leave no doubt about historic influence played by Austrian and Italian architecture: Ljubljana is not unlike Prague and Piran could be easily mistaken for a small Italian town. While cities are far from boring, the real Slovenian must-see is its diverse and unspoiled nature.


Visit the alpine resort of Bled and its romantic lake with an island, but continue towards Srednja vas to see some traditional villages, or hitch a ride to Pokljuka mountain, a good starting point for hikes into Julian alps.


slovenia4 20120322 1038204766Enjoy the 5.3 km ride through Postojna caves, the longest publicly accessible depth of any cave system in the world, with massive stalactites and stalagmites.


After visiting the lively coastal town of Piran, a trip to the serene salt works of nearby Sečovlje will feel like stepping out of this world.


Soča river is said to be one of the few rivers in the world to retain their emerald green color throughout its length. The Trenta valley, through which it flows before crossing to Italy, is also well worth seeing.


Slovenian pint-size baroque capital Ljubljana is nice in any season but especially popular in December due to its abundant but tasteful decoration.
Visit in Ljubljana 'National Museum of Slovenia' - Presernova (Muzejska ulica 1)


National Museum of Slovenia is the oldest and the largest Slovene museum. It was founded in 1821. Existent museum building on the Museum street, was built in 1888 and was the first building assigned solely to Slovenian culture. Today its stores a rich collections of valuable objects. The oldest spring back to the Stone Age, but there are also newer ones, which are still used in our everyday life. Important columns of museum activity are also rich museum library and unit for preservation and restoring


Permanent exhibitions:

  • Treasures of the NMS
  • Slovene language: Identity and Symbol. A short history of Slovenes.
  • The ancient Egyptian mummy
  • The lapidarium

In the new building of the National museum of Slovenia on the Metelkova Street, are exhibited collections of the applied art heritage of Slovenia. The permanent exhibition brings together objects of applied arts from the 14th century to the present day. national museum of slovenia


slovenia41 20120322 1951604005Cities

  • Ljubljana - the picturesque pint-sized capital
  • Bled - impossibly romantic mountain lake complete with castle and island
  • Celje - one of Slovenia's oldest cities
  • Koper/Capodistria - lovely Venetian city, largest on Slovenian coastline
  • Maribor - Slovenia's second largest city
  • Nova Gorica - the city literary on the border with Italy
  • Piran/Pirano - gorgeous Venetian port
  • Postojna - Site of the gigantic Postojna caves
  • Ptuj - one of Slovenia's oldest cities - pronounced "P-too-ee"

Other destinations

  • Škocjan Caves — Less commercial than Postojna but no less impressive, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Triglav National Park — Home to national symbol Mt. Triglav and mythical golden chamois Zlatorog.
  • Soča Valley — Soča river is with its emerald colour one of the most beautiful European Alpine rivers.

Do


slovenia36 20120322 1509073570There are many great opportunities for activity holidays in Slovenia: The mountains and rivers of the Julian Alps provide the perfect location for hiking, mountain biking, rafting and kayaking. The southern part of Slovenia is an area of numerous caves. You can enjoy different spa resorts in the eastern part, take a dive in the Adriatic Sea, experience the Slovene cities, go skiing, or enjoy in the countryside tasting Slovene cuisine and local wine.


Adrenaline adventures in the Posočje area, you can stay in Ljubljana and, in a short distance away, discover the amazing North-Western area of Slovenia called Posočje and Triglav National Park -- canyoning, rafting, para-gliding and much more! Slovenia is a small country so you can discover it in a few days. Therefore you can visit the capital (Ljubljana), the Alps, the Karst region, the alpine lakes and much more.


There are more than 8,000 known caves in Slovenia, including the tourist area of Postojna and the UNESCO listed Škocjan Caves.


Take advantage of beautiful nature in the Alps and go hiking, cross-country skiing or nordic walking.


Visit of one many spa resorts in Slovenia.


Visit Slovene seaside and swim in the Adriatic Sea. Try local sea food and visit the towns of Piran and Portorož.


Visit one of the golf courses in Slovenia.


Skiing in the Julian Alps is popular in the winter. More popular ski resorts are: Krvavec, Vogel, Rogla, Cerkno, Kanin, and Mariborsko Pohorje.


Language


slovenia48 20120322 1646294851Slovenian, the national language, is spoken as mother tongue by 91% of the population, but there are also small Italian (concentrated on the Primorska coast) and somewhat bigger Hungarian (in Prekmurje to the northeast) minorities. Historically, and prior to the end of WWII there was also a significant German speaking minority. Conversely, Slovenian is spoken in border regions of neighboring countries.


The level of spoken English is very high when compared to most European countries. Most people you come into contact with as a tourist, especially younger ones, will speak English. Many Slovenians have some functional knowledge of German, in particular in Eastern Slovenia, and of Italian in the coastal region where Italian is a co-official language. Serbo-Croatian is very closely related to Slovenian and widely spoken by those above 30 and at least understood by younger people. Communication in other Slavic languages, while possible, will require some more effort and hand waving.


The Slovenian school system heavily promotes the teaching of foreign languages from primary school onwards. Children study two foreign languages (most commonly English and German) by the time they get to grammar school. A typical grammar school often teaches an optional third foreign language, Spanish, Italian or French. While the youngsters speak English quite fluently, older people are more skilled in Serbo-Croatian, German and Russian, and can read Cyrillic.


However, learning a few words of the local language will earn you a great deal of respect and some friendly smiles.


Remember, when speaking in English, use simple language, as anywhere where English is not a native language. It will get you further and help to avoid any misunderstandings.

Currency 


slovenia52 20120322 1226875837Slovenia has the euro (EUR, €) as its currency. Therewith, Slovenia belongs to the 23 European countries that use the common European money. These 23 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (official euro members which are all European Union member states) as well as Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. These countries together have a population of 327 million.


One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member (as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican) issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse as well as all bills look the same throughout the eurozone. Nonetheless, every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.
The euro replaced the Slovenian tolar (SIT).


Prices are high compared to most of Eastern Europe (except Croatia), but lower compared to Italy or Austria. Although prices do vary quite a bit, it really depends on the location. For example, a beer (0,5 litre) in a pub in "Stara Ljubljana" (literally "Old (Town) Ljubljana") would cost you around €3.00, while a beer outside Ljubljana would cost around €1.80. A budget minded traveller can hold his own, if they are smart. For example buying your groceries in a large store (supermarket), such are Mercator, Tuš, Spar, Lidl, Hofer, E.Leclerc etc., will be likely cheaper than buying on the market, or in a small store, etc.


A value-added tax (VAT) of 20% (with a reduced rate of 8.5% usually applied to food, including some soft drinks) is charged on most purchases—this is always included in the price displayed. Note that if you are not an EU citizen, you are entitled to VAT tax return for purchases over a certain value. Ask the cashier to write down your name on your bill (račun, pronounced rah-CHOON) and show this bill when you leave Slovenia through Jože Pučnik (formerly Brnik) airport, or any of the main border crossings with Croatia.


slovenia19 20120322 1407806045Tipping


The flip side to the near-disappearance of Communist-style "service with a snarl" is that tips for service are now generally expected at sit-down restaurants, with 10% considered standard.

Safety


Slovenia is most likely one of the safest countries to visit, but be aware of your surroundings.


The nationwide emergency number is 112. To call police, dial 113. There are emergency telephones interspersed along the main motorways. You can find the closest SOS-phone by the arrows on the reflection posts.


People may get a bit aggressive in crowded bars and discotheques, and it is not uncommon to be grabbed or groped.


Petty theft is routine in vicinity of Roma settlements in southern parts, especially around Krka river. Don't worry about it, just don't leave your watch on the car seat while you go kayaking.


Health


There are no unusual health concerns in Slovenia. Hygiene standards are high and tap water is potable.


While in nature, always use tick repellents, due to the Borreliosis and Meningitis danger. Borreliosis is very widespread in the country.


There are two species of venomous adders in the Julian Alps. You are unlikely to be bitten, but if you are, you should seek medical help as antiserums are available (although actually seldom administered). In the forests in the south, you may encounter a bear, although attacks are very rare.


slovenia47 20120322 1431509065Respect


Slovenians are generally open and friendly, so don't hesitate to address people as those younger than 50 understand English and will be eager to help you. You will impress them if you try using some basic Slovenian words. Slovenian is rarely spoken by foreigners, so your effort will be appreciated and rewarded.


Slovenians will insist when offering something, as "no" doesn't always mean "no," they just think it's polite for you to refuse, and polite for them to insist. Don't worry unnecessarily, but still you should take some normal precautions to study your host first.


Slovenians are proud for having preserved their national identity (especially the language) in spite of the pressures from neighboring nations in past centuries. Due to their economic success as well as historical and contemporary cultural bonds to the Central Europe, they usually don't like their country to be described as part of "Eastern Europe". While Slovenian language is closely related to Serbian and Croatian, it is not the same language. Another common misconception is that Slovenia was part of the Soviet Bloc, while it was in fact, the northernmost country of Yugoslavia. You can, however, freely discuss these topics; just be aware that you can hear contrasting sides of the story, depending upon whom you're talking to and of his/her political affinity. There is still a strong division among leftists and rightists. Be careful if entering a discussion on open territorial issues with Croatia or on the Slovenian civil war during WWII and its aftermath. Consider these controversial topics a taboo.


There is an active lesbian and gay scene in Slovenia. As elsewhere in this part of Europe, homosexuals are generally safe, although there have been a few reported attacks in the past. Be cautious in the evening and during the night, especially in cities. Women/girls holding hands are considered normal and a sign of friendship.


Practical advices


slovenia8 20120322 1395766516If you are invited to dinner to someone's home, bring a bottle of good wine. It's expected to give a compliment to a cook. Do it before you are asked if you liked the meal!


Slovenians generally wear slippers at home, so take your shoes off when you enter. They will offer you slippers or insist you keep the shoes on. Just do whatever they say.


It's normal to shake hands when introduced to someone. Don't try to make a kiss when introduced, though in the younger generation, kissing and hugging is not uncommon between friends.


The Slovenian Alps (especially the highest peak Triglav, named after a Slavic god) are a national symbol. Don't litter! It's common to greet people with Dober dan (Good day) when you meet in the mountains, and to say Srečno (Good luck) when you depart. There is a strong spirit of camaraderie in the mountains.

It is also polite to say Dober dan to people passing by in small towns and villages.

Based on Wikitravel's article on Slovenia.