(from Grand Circle Travel)
Blessed with stunning scenery and more history than its small size would suggest, Slovenia is such a lovely country that in 2007 more people came to visit than live in this nation of 2 million. Its landscape features fantastic, rugged mountains, lovely green rivers and silver lakes, subterranean caves, and the kinds of medieval castles that seem to suggest fairy tales to even the most jaded eye. Both town and country escaped the 10-day war of independence in 1991 with little damage, and the nation has since worked conscientiously to solidify the calm and serenity—and to promote its idyllic beauty.
That calm belies a thousand year history of rule by outsiders. Throughout the ages Slovenia has been visited and subjected by the Romans, Attila the Hun, Slavic tribes (ancestors of the today’s Slovenes), Franks, Habsburgs, Turks, the Venetian empire … up to more modern invaders like Italy, in World War II, Germany. After the war Slovenia became one of the six states in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with Marshal Josip Bros Tito as party leader. Yugoslavia had an open relationship with the rest of the world, and suffered less than other under the dominations of the Eastern bloc. As you’d expect with so much history, the Slovenes have a cosmopolitan air after assimilating so many influences. The cities of Slovenians are modern and thriving but you can still find communities with traditional agricultural lifestyles. Slovenia is frequently compared to Switzerland – but as a still developing nation the atmosphere is a bit more exuberant and youthful than you’ll find in Switzerland, as if it is still basking in the freedoms won after years of outside rule. You’ll find both history and a cosmopolitan feel in the cities, and even on the darkest days there’s little to remind you of the Yugoslavian/Communist regime that ruled here from 1945 until independence. It’s as the people and land simply walked away from that history and have been savoring their charming country ever since.
Ljubljana, the capital and largest city in Slovenia, has taken advantage of it geographic position at the crossroads of Germanic, Latin and Slavic cultures throughout history. It is the economic and cultural center – home to one of Europe’s oldest Philharmonic societies – of the country, and industry, scientific and research establishments are all major elements of its position. In the historic city center you’ll find a mix of Baroque and Art Nouveau styles, and it is strongly reminiscent of Austria’s Graz and Salzburg. Ljubljana Castle, a 12th century edifice, is sited on a hill overlooking the river Ljubljanica. These days Ljubljana is a university town, vibrant with charm and a swinging alternative culture enjoyed by the students and youth, with enough buzz to attract international artists to its galleries and performing centers.