Updated: Mar 5, 2021
I'm sure you're wondering right now "what is a Slovenia?" well my curious friend, the correct question you need to ask is: Where is Slovenia and why am I not there already?!
It won't be easy to find in a map but I can assure you that Slovenia is one of the most wonderful countries to come out of Yugoslavia, actually the first country to come out of Yugoslavia. This wonderful place borders with Italy to the West, Austria to the North, Hungary to the East, and Croatia to the South. Once you find it in the map it will find itself a place in your heart and it will never go away.
Slovenia 101 Arrival & Currency
"Enough with the teasing Solano! How do I get myself to this land of wonder?" Calm yourself lass or lad! I'm getting to it, so first things first: You need a passport, obviously, and if you hold a Mexican one such as myself no Visa is required. However, Slovenia is part of the EU and the Schengen Area- thus you are restricted to the greatest stay of 180 days or around 3 months.
There are plenty of ways to arrive into Slovenia, by plane you have the most famous airport in the capital city of Ljubljana by land there are buses going to almost every city and even by sea I've heard of a couple of people arriving from Croatia or Italy.
Slovenia has 3 official languages: Slovenian, Italian and Hungarian. If you forgot to brush up on any of these before your trip don't worry plenty of Slovenians speak good English so you'll be just fine! As much of the EU they use the Euro as their currency and tipping isn't something common. Still, in the last 3 or 4 years tipping has become popular using a round up system. What does this mean? It means that 4.95 EUR becomes 5 EUR and 49 EUR become 50 EUR. Like I said, it isn't common but it has become a bit more popular, and I am sure your waiter or bartender will appreciate it!
Slovenia 102 Transport & Accommodation
"OK I'm inside. Now what?" Now the fun begins. In case you hadn't notice if you look at Slovenia in a map it resembles a chicken. Yes a chicken. I swear I'm not making this up, an extremely intelligent and gorgeous Slovenian woman told me so and I believe her. The "Slovenian Chicken" (bare with me) is about 20,271 km2 which makes it pretty easy to navigate. Transport is not going to be a problem, trust me.
Ljubljana was elected green capital of the year in 2016 so their transport laws are pretty strict and environmentally friendly, this means you can only move with a bike or by walking. You still have the choice to rent a car, if you do you probably won't get to go into third gear (first, second, BORDER!). To visit all other cities and places there are plenty of buses and you can always hitch a ride with one of the friendly locals.
For your accommodation there are affordable options: check out my mates at Vila Veselova. They will be more than happy to point you the right way.
Slovenia 103 Time for an adventure!
"Right! I got my transport, my hostel and everything is in order. Where is my fun you incredibly handsome Mexican man?!" It is all around you mate, let us start! On the East side where the "chicken's head" is you will find a lot of thermal spas like Rogaška Slatina, water quality in Slovenia is considered to be among the highest in Europe. You can find all sorts of mineral and drinking water there, pretty sweet right?
Now go to the North near the border with Austria and you will find the Julian Alps. The tallest mountain in the country, about 2,863.65m, Mount Triglav (meaning "three heads") is located here such as other mountain ranges like the Kamnik–Savinja Alps, the Karawanks, and Pohorje, The last one is very popular with skiers and hikers.
No matter which one of these mountains you choose to climb or hike after you arrive at the peak and start your descent towards Austria you will notice that everything starts to become colder and darker, this is because the sun only shines in Slovenia! All kidding aside Slovenians will tell you that their land is on the sunny side of the Alps.
Time to head South to the Slovenian seaside, located on the "chicken's left leg" it is an astonishing 43 Km long! Slovenia has a total population of about 2 million people, obviously not everyone can vacation here so most locals head to Croatia to not overcrowd and overwork their Coast Guard patrol boats, all 3 of them.
There is a beautiful town called Portorož (Port of Roses) inside The Municipality of Piran. In this same municipality you will find the town of Piran which is famous for its medieval and historic Tartini Square that was named after violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini. Fun fact: all Slovenian monuments and plazas are named after artists, none of them are warriors or generals.
Slovenia 104 The Best for Last
You have gone far and wide inside this magnificent "chicken" now for a proper ending: Maribor and Bled Lake.
Maribor is the second-biggest city in all Slovenia and is most famous for one thing all Slovenians are extremely proud about: wine. You can't go to Slovenia and not try their wine, it is actually customary when invited for dinner to arrive with either chocolates or a bottle of wine. Make sure to not forget that, manners maketh man they say.
I'm most exited to tell you about this one, Lake Bled. It has an amazing turquoise colour and in the middle of it an island named Bled Island (Blejski otok). The traditional way to get to Bled Island is by pletna, a traditional gondola-like wooden boat capable of moving up to 20 people. Pletna oarsman are all direct descendants from 22 local families who have hold exclusive rights to ferry pilgrims across since 1740, the profession is restricted to only them -here's a job we won't be applying to.
Bled Island has several buildings but the main one is the church Cerkev Marijinega vnebovzetja, this church has 99 stone steps leading up to the building, it is often visited and weddings are normally celebrated here. This is because it is considered good luck for the groom to carry his bride up the 99 steps on the day of their wedding (pretty sure divorces start at the 15 step though). Remember that intelligent and gorgeous Slovenian woman I mentioned earlier? Well I promised her that I will carry her up those steps, but without the marriage part.
Here's a great joke I heard there "Why is it forbidden to jump into the lake? Because the Italians kept complaining about the water splashing them".
Slovenia 105 Food & Drink
"I have traveled, I have seen and I have drank. Where's the food?" Right this way sir or ma'am, allow me now to give you some of my recommendations for food to taste in Slovenia:
Prežganka - traditionally made when one is sick, consists of flour, caraway seeds and beaten eggs. In the words of Kaya Kamenaric (the Slovenian woman) the best way to make it is to put the oil and cumin together, heat them up and make it go "pssst".
Žganci - similar to polenta but made out of buckwheat flower.
Kranjska klobasa - also known as Carnolian sausage so named after the town.
Idrijski žlikrofi - dumplings that originate from the town of Idrija. Made from dough with potato filling.
Potica - a rolled pastry made of leavened paper-thin dough filled with walnut.
And to lift those spirits up make sure to try a drink of the Češnjevec also known as cherry brandy, the Cviček and Teran wines and the local Union beer.
Slovenian Graduation & Opinion
Congratulations lass or lad! Now you know everything I know about this breathtaking country! This knowledge should give you a basic understanding of Slovenian culture, emphasis on basic. Remember this is all based on my experience immersed with the locals whom you should always greet with a firm handshake, direct eye contact and a smile. Here are some language basics you would like to remember:
Hello - Zdravo.
Please - Prosim.
Thank you - Hvala.
You're welcome - Prosim.
Yes - Ja.
No - Ne.
Goodbye - Adio.
My experience has been highly positive, I find it easy to be accepted as a Mexican in a Balkan country, we share a lot in common even when we don't see it at first. Regardless Slovenians will always open their hearts to the kind and polite, so no matter where you are from whatever you give to a Slovenian they will return it tenfold! It is now your turn to go and see for yourself.
Is it always sunny in Slovenia? Is it only sunny in Slovenia? I don't know, but when I was there it sure as hell was, and I bet my life that when I go visit Kaya it sure as hell will be! Hvala!