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When Slovenia gained its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 after a ten-day war, it dodged a bullet. Ensuing years saw bitter warfare in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, but Slovenia remained free of war and terrorism.
For tourists, this means that Slovenia is one of central Europe's safer destinations. Other factors, like its hilly, richly vegetated landscape, fascinating cultural pull between the influences of the Habsburg Empire and the Venetian Republic, and the narrow sliver of Adriatic coast are what give Slovenia a nice edge. Keen skiers have found Slovenia's Julian Alps to be an ideal site for their next adventure, whilst those non-skiers have been drawn by the abundance of fine hiking areas and beautiful scenery. Slovenes have made efficient use of their tiny coastline, which boasts an excellent Mediterranean climate and a line-up of vibrant towns. Animal lovers are awed by the strange 'human fish', which can only be found in Slovenian caves.
The first mentions of a common Slovene ethnic identity, transcending regional boundaries, date from the 16th century. During the 14th century, most of the Slovene Lands passed under the Habsburg rule. In the 15th century, the Habsburg domination was challenged by the Counts of Celje, but by the end of the century the great majority of Slovene-inhabited territories were incorporated into the Habsburg Monarchy. Most Slovenes lived in the region known as Inner Austria. After a short French interim between 1805 and 1813, all Slovene Lands were included in the Austrian Empire. Slowly, a distinct Slovene national consciousness developed, and the quest for a political unification of all Slovenes became widespread. In 1848, a mass political and popular movement for the United Slovenia (Zedinjena Slovenija) emerged as part of the Spring of Nations movement within the Austrian Empire.
With the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, the Slovenes initially joined the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, which just a few months later merged into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
On 6 April 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis Powers. Slovenia was divided between Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Horthy's Hungary and several villages given to the Independent State of Croatia. Soon, a liberation movement under the Communist leadership emerged.
Following the re-establishment of Yugoslavia at the end of World War II, Slovenia became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, declared on 29 November 1945. From the 1950s, the Socialist Republic of Slovenia enjoyed a relatively wide autonomy.
In 1990, Slovenia abandoned its socialist infrastructure, the first free and democratic elections were held, and the DEMOS coalition defeated the former Communist parties. The state reconstituted itself as the Republic of Slovenia. In December 1990, the overwhelming majority of Slovenian citizens voted for independence, which was declared on 25 June 1991. A Ten-Day War followed in which the Slovenians rejected Yugoslav military interference. After 1990, a stable democratic system evolved, with economic liberalization and gradual growth of prosperity. Slovenia joined NATO on 29 March 2004 and the European Union on 1 May 2004. Slovenia was the first post-Communist country to hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, for the first six months of 2008.
Four major European geographic regions meet in Slovenia: the Alps, the Dinarides, the Pannonian Plain, and the Mediterranean. The Alps, including the Julian Alps, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the Karavanke chain, as well as the Pohorje massif, dominate Northern Slovenia along its long border with Austria. Slovenia's highest peak is Triglav at 2,864 metres above sea level.
Slovenia's Adriatic coastline stretches approximately 47 kilometres from Italy to Croatia. The southwest of Slovenia contains the Kras Plateau, a limestone region of underground rivers, gorges, and caves, between Ljubljana and the Mediterranean. On the Pannonian plain to the East and Northeast, toward the Croatian and Hungarian borders, the landscape is mostly flat. However, the majority of Slovenian terrain is hilly or mountainous, with around 90% of the surface 200 metres or more above sea level and the average well over 500 metres.
Over half of the country is covered by forests. This makes Slovenia the third most forested country in Europe, after Finland and Sweden. Remnants of primeval forests are even to be found, the largest in the Kočevje area. Grassland form over 25% of the country, while about 5% consists of fields and gardens and even smaller parts are orchards and or vineyards.
* Coast and Karst (Piran, Postojna) - The southwestern corner of Slovenia with rolling hills, awe-inspiring caves and the country's 47 km of coastline.
Famous throughout Slovenia is Jože Plečnik, a 20th century art nouveau architect who designed much of the buildings currently standing in Ljubljana. Plečnik is revered throughout the country, and could even be considered a sort of national hero.
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Lake Bled is one of the most favorite places of travellers who visit Slovenia and possible of the Slovenians themselves as well. The lake and the town (which is called Bled as well) are beautifully located in the Julian Alps. In the lake itself is small island where a little church can be found, almost making up the whole island. There are numerous boats that can bring you there and the views are fantastic. The views are equally fantastic when you go up the hills to the Bled Castle, from where you can see the lake and little church from a distance. A very romantic place, but in the peak months a very crowded places as well. Therefore, it is best to visit somewhere in May/June or in September.
The Škocjan Caves are one of the highlights of the country. The Škocjan caves are a fantastic system of limestone caves and forms some 6 kilometres of underground passages with a total depth of more than 200 metres. To add, there are many waterfalls and one of the world's largest underground chambers. The site is located in the Kras region (which basically means karst) and is probably one of the best in the world for the study of karstic phenomena. For this reason, it is the only place in Slovenia which is placed on the Unesco World Heritage List.
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Triglav National Park is the place to go if you like alpine landscapes and great multiple day hiking trips. The park is located in the extreme west of the country and covers nearly all of the Slovenian section of the Julian Alps. It is also Slovenia's only national park. Its masterpiece is the highest mountain in Slovenia after which the park has been named, Mount Triglav (2864 meters above sea level). You can get here first by road heading west from Bled towards Bohinj and further on to the historical village of Dovje-Mojstrana. Lake Bohinj is one of the other highlights in the park and is more quiet than Lake Bled. A small part of the park (Radovna valley) can also be cycled through from Bled. There are several cablecars (one near the town of Bohinj for example) which can take you up, from where you can walk further.
Slovenia is a small country but has significant differences regarding the weather throughout the country. Most of the country has a moderate continental climate with warm summers and relatively cold winters. Temperatures in summer range from 22 °C to 27 °C during the day and around 15 °C at night. Precipitation is quite high throughout the year, with some less wet conditions in winter. During winter, temperatures are between 3 °C during the day and around -5 °C at night. The main differences are that the northwestern part lying in the Alps has cooler and even wetter conditions than inland. Also, the coastline has conditions that are more of a Mediterranean type with warmers summers and milder winters, though also here precipitation is very heavy, especially in summer when heavy thunderstorms can happen. Still, many fine days with sunshine are the norm as well.
Adria Airways is the national airline of Slovenia, based at Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport (LJU). International destinations served by this airline are Amsterdam, Barcelona, Birmingham, Brussels, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Kiev, London, Manchester, Moscow, Munich, Ohrid, Paris, Podgorica, Priština, Sarajevo, Skopje, Stockholm, Tirana, Vienna, Warsaw and Zürich. It also has charter flights to about 20 destinations mainly in the south of Europe. About 20 other airlines (both scheduled and charter flights) have direct flights to Ljubljana as well. Low-cost airline easyJet regularly flies to/from London-Stansted (STN).
The airport is served by a highway exit off the A2 motorway and by bus service connecting it with Ljubljana and Kranj. A rail line to both cities is planned as well. The airport is located 20 kilometres north from the city centre. There are many minibuses outside the airport and is the easiest way to get to Ljubljana. The journey to the main train/bus station costs €5-8 and lasts 35-45 minutes. From there it is about a 10-minute walk to the old town centre. Minibuses will typically leave when full, pay onboard. Taxi's from the airport to the centre of town will cost around €40. Minibuses also wait outside to take you to other popular destinations such as Bled (33 kilometres).
The Slovenian Railways have numerous connections to cities in Europe. Many of them go to other former Yugoslavian republics, including connections to Zagreb, Skopje and Belgrade. Vienna, Villach, Thessaloniki and Budapest have connections with Ljubljana as well.
Slovenia is easily reached by car from neighbouring countries, like Austria, Serbia, Croatia and Italy. Crossings are very fast and straightforward. Be sure to have the proper documentation and insurance for the car and you will be fine.
Buses connect Ljubljana and other cities in Slovenia with neighbouring countries and beyond. Check Eurolines for more information about long distance services. There are very regular connections with Austria, Croatia and Serbia.
There are no domestic flights in Slovenia, as distances are small and there are excellent other ways of getting around.
The Slovenske železnice (Slovenian Railways) has an efficient train network of both intercity and local trains with regular departures to and from Ljubljana and smaller towns. Ljubljana to Maribor is relatively fast, the others are slower but still prefered as the routes to the coast and mountains are impressive.
Roads in Slovenia are in excellent condition and since the 1990's many new roads have been built or old ones have been renewed or tarred. This applies to motorways as well as secondary roads into the mountains. On airports, bigger cities and popular tourist areas like Bled and the coast you can rent cars from several international and national companies. You need a national driver's licence or international one if not from the EU. Be sure to have sufficient insurance which is mandatory. Traffic drives on the right.
There are no scheduled passenger services in Slovenia, although you can get by boat to a small island in Lake Bled and a few other lakes and rivers and the small coastline can be visited by rented boat or tour.
If you are a European Union (EU) citizen, you may enter without any restriction as per your EU citizenship rights. If you are not an EU citizen, you will need to obtain a Schengen Visa. This visa is valid for any country in the Schengen zone.
Also see the governmental website for more (official) information on Slovenian visa and immigration policy
See also: Money Matters
Slovenia has adopted the Euro (ISO code: EUR, symbol: €) as its official currency. One Euro is divided into 100 cents, which is sometimes referred to as eurocents, especially when distinguishing them with the US cents.
Euro banknotes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500. The highest three denominations are rarely used in everyday transactions. All Euro banknotes have a common design for each denomination on both sides throughout the Eurozone.
The Euro coins are 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1 and €2. Some countries in the Eurozone have law which requires cash transactions to be rounded to the nearest 5 cents. All Euro coins have a common design on the denomination (value) side, while the opposite side may have a different image from one country to another. Although the image side may be different, all Euro coins remain legal tender throughout the Eurozone.
Citizens of the EU, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland can work without the need to apply for any visa in Slovenia.
Citizens of some non-EU countries (see the 'Get in' section above) are permitted to work in Slovenia without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90 day visa-free stay.
It's possible for English-speaking graduates to get work in a Slovene school teaching English for around a year in a scheme similar to Japan's JET programme.
Ljubljana is a university town, populated by a huge number of eager young students pursuing many different areas of study. This lends the city an immense vibrancy and energy, and makes for excellent night life and wonderful coffee.
Slovenian, the national language, is spoken as the 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. Slovenian and Croatian/Bosnian/Serbian people often understand each other quite well even if each speaks only their own language. Communication in other Slavic languages, while possible, will require some more effort and hand waving.
The Slovenian language is a South-Slavic language, with 3 person forms, 6 cases (to indicate case the ending of the word is changed), Singular, Dual and Plural.
The Slovenian alphabet has some signs that are common for Slavic languages but not other European languages:
Other special pronounciations include:
Generally speaking, Slovenian food is heavy, meaty and plain. A typical three-course meal starts with a soup (juha), often just beef (goveja) or chicken (piščančja) broth with egg noodles (rezanci), and then a meat dish served with potatoes (krompir) and a vinegary fresh salad (solata). Fresh bread (kruh) is often served on the side and is uniformly delicious.
Common mains include cutlets (zrezek), sausage (klobasa) and goulash (golaž), all usually prepared from pork (svinjina), lamb (jagnjetina) and game (divjačina), but there is a large choice of fish (ribe) and seafood even further away from the coast. Popular Italian imports include all sorts of pasta (testenine), pizza (pica), ravioli (ravioli) and risotto (rižota). A major event in the countryside still today is the slaughtering of a pig from which many various products are made: blood sausage (krvavica), roasts (pečenka), stuffed tripe (polnjeni vampi), smoked sausage (prekajena salama), salami (salama), ham (šunka) and bacon (slanina). Recipes for the preparation of poultry (perutnina), especially turkey (puran), goose (gos), duck (raca) and capon (kopun), have been preserved for many centuries. Chicken (piščanec) is also common. Squid is fairly common and reasonably priced.
Slovenia has a wide variety of accommodation, ranging from five star hotels to secluded cottages in the mountains.
There are hostels in all of the tourist destinations in Slovenia. The average price for a basic bed in a dorm is €10-20. Quite a few student dormitories (dijaški dom) are converted into hostels in the summer, but these tend to be poorly located and somewhat dingy.
Mountain Huts can be found in Triglav National Park, and they are very warm, welcoming and friendly. Information about these huts can be found at tourist information offices who will also help you plan your walks around the area and phone the hostels to book them for you. The only way to get to the huts is by foot, and expect a fair bit of walking up hills, as the lowest huts are around 700m up. There are clear signs/information around stating how long it will take to travel to/between all the huts indicated in hours.
Tourist farms can be found around Slovene countryside and usually they offer wide selection of traditional food, local wine, different sport activities etc. They also offer opportunities to experience real traditional countryside life.
Camping is not permitted in the national parks of Slovenia, but there are various designated camping grounds. It's advisable to take a camping mat of some sort, as nice, comfortable grass is a luxury at camp sites and you're much more likely to find pitches consisting of small stones.
In Slovenia, coffee (kava) usually means an espresso, and cafes (kavarna) are a common sight with a basic cup costing €1.00-€1.50. One can also order coffee with milk (kava z mlekom) or whipped cream (kava s smetano). Coffee culture is widespread in Slovenia, and one can see Slovenes with friends sitting in the same café for hours. When invited to a cup of coffee at someone's home, expect turkish coffee. Tea (čaj) is nowhere near as popular, and if they do drink it (mostly in the winter), Slovenes prefer all sorts of fruit-flavored and herbal teas over a basic black cup. Tea is served with honey and lemon by request.
Beer (pivo) is the most popular tipple and the main brands are Laško and Union. Adam Ravbar beer is good quality and is usually hard to find anywhere except in their small brewery (located in Domžale, a town about 10 km north of Ljubljana). A bottle or jug will cost you €2.50 in a pub (pivnica). Ask for veliko (large) for 0.5L and malo (small) for 0.3L. Also try "Union Radler Grapefruit", a refreshing mixture of beer and grapefruit juice.
Despite what you might think if you've ever sampled an exported sickly sweet Riesling, Slovenian wine (vino) can be quite good — they keep the best stuff for themselves. Generally, the Goriška brda region produces the best reds and the drier whites (in a more Italian/French style), while the Štajerska region produces the best semi-dry to sweet whites, which cater more to the German/Austrian-type of palate. Other local specialities worth sampling are Teran, a very dry red from the Kras region, and Cviček, a red so dry and light it's almost a rosé. Wine is usually priced and ordered by the decilitre (deci, pronounced "de-tsee"), with a deci around €1 and a normal glass containing about two deci.
A Slovene brandy known as žganje or (colloquially) šnops, not unlike the Hungarian palinka, can be distilled from almost any fruit. Medeno žganje also known as medica has been sweetened with honey. Vodka is, as in most of Slavic nations, also very popular, especially among the youger generation.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Slovenia. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Slovenia. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended.
Vaccination against hepatitis B is sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. It is also recommended to have a vaccination against tick borne encephalitis when you go hiking and/or camping for 4 weeks or more in the period of March to November.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also: Travel 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 discothèques, 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.
Slovenia is generally well covered by inexpensive broadband internet due to fierce competition between multiple companies. Internet cafes are thus common in cities and internet access is offered by most hotels and hostels.
A free wireless internet network is also being set up in some cities by volunteers (Ljubljana, Maribor, Nova Gorica). You can use it if you have a computer or a WiFi enabled phone.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The international calling code for Slovenia is 386, and the prefix for international calls is 00; the area code prefix is 0. Some number blocks are reserved for special use: 080 are toll-free numbers and 090 are commercial services, which are usually expensive.
Mobile networks use the common European frequencies (900 and 1800 MHz for GSM/LTE and 2100 MHz for 3G; 800 MHz is planned for LTE). Two major Slovenian mobile companies, Mobitel and Simobil, provide an excellent coverage in GSM and 3G, but 3G can be unavailable in mountainous regions. Roaming between European phone companies is becoming cheaper due to the EU regulation setting a maximum of 0.29€ per minute for calls made and 0.09€ for calls received, while calls to or from non-EU providers remain expensive. Slovenian pre-paid SIM cards are also available in supermarkets and gas stations.
Telekom Slovenije operates around 3500 phone booths. They unfortunately do not accept coins but require the use of cards costing 3-15€.
Posta Slovenije is the national postal service of Slovenia. It has relatively fast and reliable services. Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Monday to Friday and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Only the larger central post offices keep longer hours and/or are open on Sundays. You can also use them for money transfers and some other simple banking services. Stamps are available here or at newspaper stands/kiosks. Domestic rates for sending postcards/standard letters start at €0.29. International rates start at €0.39 for postcards and €0.44 for standard letters. Parcels start at around €16 for delivery to other Europena Union Members. You can also use companies like UPS, TNT or DHL to send parcels, as they offer comparable prices and fast services.
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