SLOVENIA

Slovenia

Perhaps un-chartered territory for many Western travellers, Slovenia is a remarkably scenic country in southern central Europe. It is not only home to a dramatic Alpine region, but also boasts a spectacular coastline running along the Adriatic Sea. You can visit this small country to ski, to explore the lakes and the caves, or to roast yourself on the beach, all of which can be done in the most relaxing and civilized way. Then, of course, you have Slovenia's cities, beautiful and historical, with thriving nightlife, top shopping, and great cafés and restaurants. A splendid mix, then, of breathtaking natural splendor and modern lifestyle.

Slovenia is all the more impressive for having so quickly turned its back on those grisly Communist years. The Slovenes have embraced their own cultural and ethnic heritage, and transformed their home into an affluent country. One mark of this progress came in 2004, when Slovenia was accepted into the EU.

Currency - Euro (€)
Time - GMT + 1
Languages - Slovenian, Hungarian, Italian
Telephone services - Country code +386 Emergency numbers - Police 113 Ambulance and Fire 112

Climate

Slovenia's coastal region sits on the Adriatic and enjoys the same wonderful Mediterranean climate as Italy and parts of Croatia. Hot and dry weather is the norm for the summer months and temperatures are often around 30ºC (86ºF). Winters also tend to be mild, though it is quite usual for them to be wet too.

Away from the coast, summers are a little cooler. The average highs are usually near the 20ºC (68ºF) mark. Unfortunately for sunbathers, heavy downpours are also frequent during the summer. As for the winter, there is a lot of sun, but it will also be very cold. The temperature often hits freezing.

Things to do and see

Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana, is an endlessly interesting place to visit. Italian baroque and Austrian Art Nouveau architecture characterize the look of this seductive city. Among the old buildings, a modern, urban lifestyle flourishes, from which art galleries, music festivals and interesting museums have emerged. These cultural feasts can be mixed in with some interesting shopping, with trendy fashion houses, as well as outlets selling more traditional Slovenian goodies. In particular, the flea market (near to Tromostoyje) has all kinds of cheap antiques to buy.

The metropolitan centre is also host to great nightlife. Bars, clubs, cafés, concerts, and theatre are all on offer. One not to miss is the Jazz Club Gajo, over the years it has attracted some of the most famous figures from the world of jazz. A visit in July may be worthwhile as this is when Ljubljana is taken over by the International Summer Festival.

Maribor, acknowledged as Slovenia's second city, is in the northeast. Here you'll find a melange of old and new, with the hallmarks of a heavily industrialized city juxtaposed alongside mysterious old streets and highlighted by the Gothic cathedral. Glavni Trg, a charming Renaissance square, captures the essence of Maribor's past. While visiting, one might like to venture to nearby Ptuj. This is the oldest town in the country and is full of art galleries, museums, and a theatre.

For those perhaps seeking a lazy sun-drenched holiday, the Slovene Istria region is perfect. Bordering Italy and Croatia, this popular area of Slovenia basks in the Mediterranean sun and runs along the warm Adriatic Sea. Towns like Piran are picturesque seaside havens, embellished by cobbled piazzas and charming buildings. The port of Koper is equally attractive, full of nice hostels and restaurants.

The natural beauty of Slovenia is a hugely important part of the country's appeal to visitors from abroad. Just outside Ljubljana are the Postojna Caves. So breath taking are these caves that UNESCO made them a World Heritage Site. Guided tours will take you by train through the many miles of galleries and chambers.

In the northwest are the Julian Alps, made even more remarkable by the mountain lakes, Bled and Bohinj. Entirely untarnished by modernity, visitors can enjoy alpine views and sleepy mountain hamlets set in the wooded shores of the lakes. Once again it's the summer months that offer spectacular entertainment, with the Rikli's Days festival in July, when thousands of candles are floated on Lake Bled.

Finally, wherever you happen to be in Slovenia, part of the fun is to enjoy some of the homemade wines and honeys.

Travel

The three major domestic and international airports in Slovenia are Ljubljana (or Brnik) Airport, Maribor Airport and Portoroz Airport near Piran. All have good bus and taxi services. Another way to get to Slovenia (and one that many Italians use every year) is the catamaran journey from Venice to Izola, which runs between April and October.

Traveling around the diverse regions of Slovenia is straightforward, with good train and bus links. The more remote areas, such as the lakes, are often only accessible by bus, so it is wise to plan out your routes and connections if you are visiting places like lakes Bohinj or Bled. Another way to get absolutely anywhere is to go by car on the good and well-connected road networks.

Accommodation

For backpackers traveling on a limited budget, Slovenia is a good choice because of its many youth hostels. There is cheap accommodation on offer throughout the cities and mountainsides. As always, a bit of homework helps to root out the nicer digs.

Ljubljana has a range of accommodation, from luxury hotels to more modest simple guestrooms. During the university vacation period it is often possible to rent out student halls of residence for extremely competitive prices.

For those adventurous people traveling around the mountains, there is a good scattering of campsites to be found, which are all very cheap, if a little cold in the winter. And, for those who are tackling some of the big peaks, like Mount Triglav, you may well want to stay in a mountain hut on the way up.

The coastal towns in Slovene Istria offer more resort-style hotels that inevitably cost a little more. This is owing to the popularity of the region and, of course, you are paying for all the trappings of nicer accommodation in a charming holiday destination.

Health care issues

Tick-borne Encephalitis can be caught from ticks in the forests, so vaccination is suggested. More generally, vaccinations for hepatitis B, tuberculosis and diptheria are sometimes advised. The sensible thing is to consult your doctor before going.

Fortunately, drinking water from the taps is safe, though people with an unsteady constitution may experience some cramping to begin with. In addition, milk and other dairy products are usually safe to consume, as are meats.

Despite these facts, travel insurance is always advisable, although if you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you will be entitled to state medical care.

Useful Links

Ljubljana Tourist Board
Krekov trg 10 ?SI-1000
Ljubljana
Tel.: +386 (0)1 306 45 83
Fax: +386 (0)1 306 45 94.

E-mail: info@ljubljana-tourism.si Website: ljubljana-tourism.si

Tourist Information Centre Ljubljana
Stritarjeva
SI-1000 Ljubljana
Tel.: +386 (0) 1 306 12 15
Fax: +386 (0) 1 306 12 04
slovenia-tourism.si