My name is Alejandro Artiach, I am a twenty-two years old Spanish student of Economics and Politics at the University of Exeter in the UK, and circumstances have brought me today to live and write about Ljubljana, the unpronounceable capital of Slovenia (it is Loo-blee-ah-na!)
Surrounded by Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary, there is no better place to start traveling all around Europe from (been there, done that… twice!).
For nature enthusiasts, Slovenia is a land of earthquakes, which, apart from experiencing a slightly shaky evening from time to time, makes it a wonderful concentration of mountains, hills and rivers. This is ideal for experienced explorers that can chase the thrills of braving the almighty Alps, and beginner hikers who intend to sweat it out after a diabolic night out in the big city (and by big I mean the smallest capital in Europe, with roughly 270.000 inhabitants).
While being primarily a mountainous country, Slovenia has also got its tiny share of seaside where good seafood can be tasted in Portoroz and a brand new profile “pic” taken in beautiful Piran.
In this sense, Slovenes - particularly easy going and humorous - say one can spend the morning skiing down the peaks to end up spending the afternoon by the sea. Jokes you might not laugh at, but that are not less true! Check it out:
- This is Lake Bled. Type “Slovenia” on Google Images and this is the first thing that will pop up as it is one of the country’s main attractions. Bled is also home to a delicious cream cake that one can taste by the water while enjoying the view on good ol’ General Tito’s vacation villa. A personal favorite.
- The famous horses of Lipica region; white, as the queen of the Austrian Empire liked them back in the days.
- The Vintgar gorge is one of the main natural destinations in Slovenia. Walking on these wooden platforms, one genuinely feels like Indiana Jones venturing deep inside the forest that covers the hills of Hom and Borst.
- Velika Planina above the clouds. A four hour hike across the Kamnik Alps awaits the bravest of us. Otherwise there will always be the cable car.
It is no wonder Slovenia is considered a hidden gem in Europe; tourism is increasing at high speed on a yearly basis but still most people do not know much about the country.
In fact, and despite my apparent cultural pretentiousness today towards those who cannot make the difference, I was myself one of the many that confused Slovenia and Slovakia. And if I am honest, going to Ljubljana was for me a last minute change of mind as my initial idea was finding love and fortune in a Scandinavian country. I guess little Spanish me had have enough of cold and rainy British winters, so there was no way to go where sun is scarce and snow is abundant. I wanted an exchange of party on the beach! Well I guess I had no clue of where I was going.
And indeed, apart from knowing it was formerly part of Yugoslavia, I had barely any idea of anything about Slovenia, to the point I would have been unable to locate the country accurately on the map prior to my interest in it.
But here I am still today, nearly a year later, and I can assure it has been one the greatest adventures I have experienced to this day.