Three treasure chests of Slovenia
Imagine the vastness of nature where you can freely gaze through spacious forests and fields, past picturesque towns, across hills and valleys, and all the way up to soaring mountains. This is Slovenia, a green country at the heart of Central Europe, at the junction of the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pannonian Plain, and the Karst. In one day, you can visit snow-capped mountains over two thousand metres high and a seacoast oozing Venetian charm, or experience the diversity of nature in all its beauty. Slovenia is a diverse destination with endless hiking and cycling trails, a mysterious underground world, incredible biodiversity, and healing thermal springs found over 1000 metres below the surface. Layers of history shelter stories of many peoples who found their routes through Slovenian territory from the Alps to the sea and enriched the heritage of our historical towns. The lively capital of Ljubljana, the European Green Capital 2016, boasts charming culture and its old town centre is one of the greatest comprehensive architectural masterpieces of the 20th century in Europe. Slovenia combines all the best features in a boutique package. By preserving nature and cultural heritage, and by leaving traditions for future generations, Slovenia is considered one of the greenest countries on the planet according to the international organisation Green Destinations, and the most sustainable destination in Europe in 2020.
Treasure chest: nature
Slovenians share their love of nature. Their awareness of a common identity is enhanced by the beauty of nature, which has come to be regarded as a symbol of Slovenian-ness. The most prominent of these is the country’s highest mountain, Triglav, measuring 2,864 metres. The commitment to environmental sustainability is at the core of Slovenian life and tourism, and Slovenia is the first country in the world to comprehensively assess and improve sustainability in accordance with its Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism in a group of over 100 Slovenia Green destinations and providers. As one of the oldest national parks in Europe, Triglav National Park, one of four Slovenia Green parks, started reducing the negative impact on the environment in a recent campaign by banning the use of single-use plastics in the park’s territory.
Supported by the Slovenian Tourist Board, the entire country will follow this example so that Slovenia can become the first country in the world where single-use plastics are banned in tourism. From the highest ridges of the Julian Alps, where two-thousand-metre peaks and the fragile environment surrounding Mt Triglav are protected by the legendary Goldenhorn, it is possible to see all the way to the sea when the weather is clear. Coastal towns impress visitors with their preserved Venetian architecture and salt-making tradition. The salt-pan workers have been harvesting their treasure by hand for more than seven centuries. A mild Mediterranean climate is also typical of the Karst, where you should not miss the mysterious underground world of the Škocjan Caves, which are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the famous Lipica Stud Farm. All routes in Central Slovenia lead to the capital, Ljubljana, which was pronounced the European Green Capital in 2016. Health and well-being are improved with the help of thermal springs in Pannonian Slovenia, which come to the surface from more than 1,000 metres below and carry clean water rich in minerals. Slovenia’s natural health resorts are ideal places for pampering the body and mind. Healthy and clean drinking water is such a great asset in Slovenia that the right to it was entered into the Constitution. The oldest grapevine in the world can be found in Maribor, which still produces grapes, and the door-to-door rounds of Kurenti, heralding the return of green spring after each winter and entered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, can be seen in Ptuj, Slovenia’s oldest town. In spring, the trees of the forests that cover almost 60% of Slovenia’s territory and make it one of the most forested countries in the world light up in intense shades of green that are a hypnotic sensory treat. It is almost impossible to look away from the canopied leaves of mighty oaks and beeches or the green needles of tall spruces.
Treasure chest: gastronomy
In 2021, Slovenia will be the European Region of Gastronomy. The green heart of Europe is found at the junction of cultures and flavours, which is why the influence of Austro-Hungarian imperial cuisine, the Alpine tradition, Mediterranean freshness, Hungarian aromas and Balkan succulence can be tasted in contemporary Slovenian cuisine. Slovenian chefs find their inspiration in their environment and swear by the philosophy "from garden to table". Galerija okusov and Gostilna pri Lojzetu, run by Tomaž Kavčič, a recipient of the European JRE Award for Innovation 2017/2018, were the first Slovenian restaurants in 2019 to receive the Green Key sustainability certificates. The green commitment to "fresh – seasonal – local" is strongly anchored in Slovenian gastronomy, whether in top cuisine restaurants, traditional inns or tourist farms. The eating culture has always linked the countryside with urban areas since the nearest field or a garden is only a few steps away from the centre of every town. What we produce, how we prepare it and how we enjoy food are parts of the Slovenian cultural identity, tradition and way of life. Most chefs have their own fields or local suppliers from nearby farms, dairy farms and wine cellars, including fishing and hunting associations. Due to genuine flavours and top chefs such as Ana Roš, whose restaurant Hiša Franko was ranked among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and who received the title of the World's Best Female Chef of 2017, Slovenia is becoming increasingly recognised as a gastronomic destination.
Learn about the diversity of the Slovenian landscape through an array of diverse flavours in as many as 24 gastronomic regions on the web portal Taste Slovenia. This is the land where honey and wine are poured in an environmentally friendly way. More and more daring wine producers produce natural wines and nurture their vines sustainably with no chemicals. Slovenian wines come from three large wine regions: the Posavje and Podravje regions in the east, and Primorska in the west. Particularly notable are the indigenous Slovenian varieties and wines, including the Vipava Zelen, which has a green richness and character that is encapsulated in its name. The Movia and Kabaj wineries of the Goriška Brda Hills, the most renowned Slovenian wine district, regularly claim places on the list of 100 best wine cellars according to the selections of the most influential magazines specialising in wine (Wine & Spirits and others). Orange wines, natural wines with extended maceration, hold a special status and were made by Slovenian wine producers long before they became the global hipster hit about which Simon J. Woolf wrote in his book, the Amber Revolution, which pays homage to the greatest Slovenian pioneers of orange wines.
Treasure chest: culture
Slovenia’s geographical location places it in the centre of cultural routes. Many historical and cultural periods, including Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, Baroque and more recent periods, have given life and contributed to the beauty of Slovenian towns. Care for the conservation of cultural heritage is an important part of sustainable efforts. Ljubljana, the European Green Capital 2016, is a living picture book of architectural styles which was modernised in the 20th century by Jože Plečnik, one of the greatest architects of European modernism.
Slovenia’s historical towns nurture and preserve charming old town centres that take visitors back in time. Start your journey on the old Roman road from the ancient Poetovio (present-day Ptuj) to Celeia (Celje) in the east and onwards to the romantic medieval Škofja Loka and UNESCO-protected Idrija, where the second largest mercury mine in the world was operational for over 500 years, until the scent of salt brings you to coastal Piran, whose Venetian picturesqueness made it a popular film location for great names in cinematography such as, Marcello Mastroianni and Orson Welles. Above the three peaks of Mt Triglav, the Slovenian coat-of-arms features three stars, the symbol of Celje, the town of counts, and one of the most influential dynasties in medieval Europe. The most scenic Slovenian castles are theatres of history where the legends of knights and family plots come to life. The oldest found artefacts in the world date far back into the remote past. Archaeologists discovered an almost 60,000-year-old Neanderthal flute, made from the bone of a cave bear, which is considered the oldest instrument in the world and can be seen at the National Museum of Slovenia. The oldest wooden wheel with an axle in the world was also found in Slovenia and is part of the prehistoric culture of pile dwellers from the Ljubljana Marshes, a UNESCO heritage site.
Culture is considered the fifth season in Slovenia as the living traditions, music, theatre and other events bring sunshine throughout the year. Two of the oldest festivals in Europe dedicated to design, the International Biennial of Graphic Arts and the Biennial of Industrial Design, also take place in Slovenia. Special venues, such as town centre streets and castles, are brought to life with numerous outdoor events in the summer. Cultural events are organised in streets and squares, and
Slovenia pulses to the rhythm of festivals. Autumn is the time of grape harvests and St Martin's Day celebrations. In winter, the action moves to Advent fairs and other December celebrations, and the arrival of spring is later announced by Kurenti’s cowbells and Shrovetide celebrations. To understand and feel Slovenia, you have to open its three large treasure chests, which are the most magnificent assets of the Slovenian treasury of tradition and hide many surprises under their wooden lids.