A small country at the crossroads between the Balkans, the Mediterranean and central Europe, bordering Croatia
to the south and east, Hungary
to the far north east, Italy
to the west and Austria
to the north.
It is also a fairly “young” country, having gained its independence as a nation state in its own right only in 1992. For most of its history, the area that is now Slovenia was ruled by bigger powers around it, especially the Austro-Hungarian Empire that it was part of until World War One
During that conflict the front line with the enemy Italy ran right down the country's western border, which became intensely fortified. The relics of bloody and ultimately pointless twelve battles on this so-called Isonzo Front between 1915 and 1917 are the main reason Slovenia features on these pages. Two specific places represent this here in separate chapters:
After WWI, parts of Slovenia ended up under Italian rule, others as a part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, until the next big war came along. During WWII
, Slovenia was occupied by Germany
. The crimes of the Nazis left their mark here too – and there is one relic of this which deserves a mention, and a separate entry, here:
Following WWII, Slovenia became part of the new socialist state of Yugoslavia
. In 1991, Slovenia was also the first of its constituent parts to break away from the federation. It did so with considerably less chaos and bloodshed compared to that in neighbouring Croatia
or Bosnia & Herzegovina
that followed over the next few years. The military effort put up by the Yugoslav, i.e. essentially Serbia
's army, in Slovenia in 1991 lasted only 10 days and cost as few as 66 lives. Then Slovenia was on its course to independence and economic flourishing. The European Union recognized the new state's independence in January 1992, and a few months later it was admitted to the United Nations
. It was also the first of the Balkan countries to join the EU, in 2004.
All that history is covered in two museums in the capital city Ljubljana:
Slovenia's geography is mostly mountainous, especially at its northern and western ends, lying at the south-eastern end of the main Alps chain of mountains – in the east the land flattens out a bit towards the Pannonian Plain. It also has a tiny stretch of coast on the Adriatic, but is other than that practically landlocked. Large parts of the country are still covered by forests.
The capital city Ljubljana
is the country's only large conurbation and its cultural, economic and transport hub, so getting there is easy, both by plane and overland.
Getting around the rest of the country is a little trickier, even though there is an ageing rail network and buses for regional public transport. But a (hire) car is the best choice for tourists.
In terms of general tourism, most visitors are drawn either to the capital city or the mountains in the north and west. A particular gem, and possibly the best-known single tourist attraction in the country is Lake Bled with its uber-picturesque little island crowned by a white church spire and the cliff-top castle on the northern shores.
While Slovenian is the official national language, the country is de facto multilingual, with practically all the neighbouring languages widely spoken, especially German and Italian, but also English is widely understood and spoken well, which is obviously of great help to many international visitors.
The multicultural influences
also find their expression in Slovenia's food & drink
. Heavy, stodgy food is widespread, reflecting the Germanic (Austrian) and Hungarian, but also northern-Italian culinary
influences, especially in the form of various types of dumplings, pasta and meat-heavy dishes. But the proximity to the Mediterranean provides many fish and seafood alternatives. Truffles are a particular speciality, as in Croatia (and Italy, but unlike in France or Italy, the price tag is often considerably lower in Slovenia). Cheeses can be very good too. For those with a sweet tooth, chocolate is also widely marketed and often comes formed into intricate shapes and sculptures – and especially popular are dried fruits covered in chocolate (the figs are the best!).
What is largely unknown in the rest of the world is the fact that Slovenia produces some excellent wine too, including some rare indigenous grape varieties as well as international standards. In recent years, the craft beer revolution has also reached particularly noteworthy heights in Slovenia too.
- Slovenia 1 - spiky mountains
- Slovenia 2 - mountaineer Julius Kugy monument in the mountains
- Slovenia 3 - war cemetery
- Slovenia 4 - Soca River
- Slovenia 5 - rural
- Slovenia 6 - Alpine
- Slovenia 7 - mountain pass
- Slovenia 8a - Bled
- Slovenia 8b - Lake Bled
- Slovenia 9 - truffles