Toast and coffee in hand(and mouth), I stare out the window of the cafe pondering if Slovenia is the most beautiful country I have been to. Not this exact location per se, as this area of Maribor, the second largest city of a whopping 90,000 population, is drab communist concrete and grey. The overcast skys and rain don’t help raise the atmosphere. My current view aside, the country on a whole is in league with New Zealand and other top players.
This tiny country of two million sits comfortably between Italy, Austria, Croatia, and Hungary. The Eastern portion is made up of rolling hills that flatten out as you enter Hungary. The West is full of majestic mountains, there is a beautiful lake near the center, and for beachlovers there is a tiny coastline in the Southwest. The Soca river is a beautiful glacier color. As far as nature goes the country is perfect. Tunnels and bridges are commonplace and offer fantastic views of the countryside. The roads are perfect, like pretty much everything else. Slovenia is using EU money extremely well, unlike some other recipients(I’m looking at you Hungary and all your missing EU cash).
The people are fantastic as well. Most speak English as well as a few other languages. Croatian, Serbian, Italian, German being quite popular. They are nice and service was top notch. The service industry doesn’t ignore you as Eastern European countries do and they aren’t begging for tips or sales as Americans do. My number one compliment to the people is to acknowldge their cleanliness. There was no rubbish to be seen. Not in city centers, roadsides, or on mountain trails. I take that back, I did see rubbish in dumpsters and trash cans. I was amazed. I have never seen such a well taken care of country.
Slovenia is not just for nature lovers, though it is a paradise for hiking, biking, camping, skiing, motorbiking, paragliding, kayaking, climbing, and all other outdoor pursuits. It is also rich in World War I history. The mountains were the setting for massive battles between the Austo-Hungarians and Italians. You can still walk through the trenches and see the defensive lines. Russian prisioners of war built the most impressive road I have ever been on. It climbs straight up a mountain with dozens of switchbacks. Many were killed building it and so the survivors built a pretty memorial church at the top of the pass to honor them. My apologies to owls and partiers, I have no idea about Slovenian nightlife.
Food is a mix of neighboring countries. Slovenia does not have its won food culture. Sorry foodies. The pizza is delicious and the local beer, Lasko, tastes like an IPA to me. I wasn’t a fan.
Even the small things are awesome. One example is that speed cameras are everywhere but there are multiple warning signs well before all of them. It appears to be impossible to get a speeding ticket even if you drive with blinders on.
It does rain a lot, but that is to be expected in any green country. I love the rain and having coffee on foggy mornings so this isn’t a negative to me. Bring a jacket and remember that water dries and doesn’t hurt.
Visit Slovenia as soon as possible. See Lake Bled, camp in the mountains, kayak the Soca, and take a city break in Ljubljana(just hope you never need to spell it). Hell, if you pay my way I’ll join you and be your personal guide. You will get a small amount of information wrapped in layers of sarcasm and wit.