Be beguiled by beautiful Slovenia
Independent since 1991, and a member of both the EU and the Euro, you’d have thought that beautiful Slovenia – nestled in the Alps next to Italy and Austria – would be higher on British travellers’ radars. It remains, however, something of a hidden gem.
Of course, those of us who adore this unsung country the size of Wales are a bit torn. On the one hand, we want to tell everyone how wonderful it is; on the other, we quite like keeping it all to ourselves.
So, where do you start? Well, just as I did when I visited Slovenia for the first time in 1998, many British travellers make a beeline for the delightful capital, Ljubljana. Compact and pedestrian friendly, the city is dominated by the restored Ljubljana Castle, where the magnificent view from the ‘stolp’, or tower, is well worth the climb or funicular fare.
Dominating the city panorama, you can’t miss the distinctive stone and brick façades of the National and University Library of Slovenia, designed by Slovenia’s most famous architect Joze Plecnik, who died in 1957.
Wandering around Ljubljana, you see Plecnik’s creative legacy everywhere, from the handsome buildings of the open market to the iconic Triple Bridge over the Ljubljanica River.
Despite Slovenia’s small size, it’s easy to see why it’s referred to as ‘Europe in miniature’. Drive just an hour and a half to the south west of Ljubljana and you reach the country’s small but attractive 27-mile coastline.
Centred around the bustling Tartini Square, medieval Piran is a must-see, with narrow, shady streets housing interesting shops and restaurants. If you’re not already ‘climbed out’ after Ljubljana, Piran’s town wall affords an astonishing view over the town’s higgledy-piggledy rooftops and the blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.
One of Slovenia’s joys is that you can literally sunbathe on a beach and enjoy a hike in the mountains on the same day. Head north of the capital into the Gorenjska region and you soon reach the dramatic scenery of the Julian Alps, capped with the 2,864m-high Triglav, the country’s highest peak.
You’ll find many of Slovenia’s most popular resorts here, including lively Kranjska Gora – popular with skiers in winter and walkers in summer – and Bled, my personal favourite.
A tourist honeypot, Bled nevertheless remains stunningly beautiful, with its tranquil lake, island church and castle on a crag – a truly magical combination. Happily, you never have to wander far to escape the crowds, with walks galore taking you into the surrounding hills and woodland.
It’s hard to express quite why I love Slovenia so much, but there’s just something about the place – its scenery, its culture, its sense of pride as a nation – that keeps pulling me back (eight times and counting). So, don’t say I didn’t warn you – visit Slovenia once, and you too risk being permanently beguiled by its charms.
This article originally appeared in Issue 1 of Engage Magazine, Newcastle and Gateshead’s premier lifestyle magazine. For more ideas of what to do during your Slovenia stay, check out Trip & Travel Blog’s article on the ‘Top 10 Reasons You Should Be Making Your Way to Slovenia Right Now’.