Travelers in the know have started flocking to Slovenia, a small country tucked in the northwest corner of former Yugoslavia, over the last ten years. Why should you jump on the bandwagon now?
The capital city Ljubljana has been honored as the European Green Capital for 2016. The entire city center has been recently renovated to become a pedestrian-only area. On practically every street, you’ll see rows of carefully separated waste bins. Recycling is free, but to use the organic or miscellaneous waste bins you need a key card, so the more you waste, the more you pay the city. The program has the recycling rate in Ljubljana up to 61% – a whopping 20% higher than the European average. Public transportation is also readily available and waste free, as all rides – costing 1.20 euro each – are paid for with a reloadable card.
Slovenia has a centuries-old history, having completed stints under the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire – that’s Charlemagne’s legacy of the Middle Ages for those of you who nodded off during history class – and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, of Habsburg fame. And that’s all before the years as part of Yugoslavia before gaining independence in 1990 and joining the EU in 2004. The medieval fortress Ljubljanski Grad – simply Ljubljana Castle in English – dominates the capital’s skyline. Give the kids some hands-on time with the interactive multimedia exhibits at the castle’s onsite Slovenian History Museum. Then take a swing through the Penitentiary, a prison that stayed in use well into the 20th century.
It’s full of natural beauty
Ljubljana itself has many a green space, but when you want to make a getaway from the city, Slovenia has much more natural beauty to offer. The lakes are especially popular with tourists. The Alpine haven of Lake Bled graces many a postcard, with its jewel toned waters wrapping around an island church. The town’s medieval castle is a popular attraction with day trippers, but more adventurous sorts will also find ample hiking and canyoning among the lake’s mountainous backdrop. The larger Lake Bohinj is more suited to honeymooners, with a less crowded and more leisurely energy. The farming and herding villages along the northeast grant a glimpse to Slovenia’s past, while hiking, riding, and kayaking can fill an active weekend escape.
Visit in the summer and you’ll see right away that Ljubljana is a city that loves its food. Every Friday, provided the weather cooperates, the Taste Ljubljana Open Kitchen sets up shop on the banks of the Ljubljanica River in the city center. Dozens of restaurants from all over the country take a stall and start dishing out their best grub. Some regional tastes you don’t want to miss: ćevapčići, a type of grilled sausage; forest honey; and pumpkinseed oil, which in many parts of the country is preferred to olive oil. There are also a few craft breweries cropping up around Slovenia. Settle into a comfy patio seat at Lockal, the Tomcat, or Maklonca for a pint. Prefer wine? You’re in good company. Ask for any glass of locally made red or white – you can’t go wrong.
In addition to its eco-friendly honors, Ljubljana has won awards for its improved accessibility. Anyone reluctant to hoof it across the cobblestone center can hitch a ride from one of the free electric trams serving the area. The city’s commitment to improving quality of life for the disabled doesn’t end there. The centrally located Druga Violina restaurant serves up traditional Slovenian plates and employs many people with special needs