• Jack Evans

7 Reasons Why Slovenia is Europe's Hidden Gem

Updated: May 4, 2020

Slovenia. A nation blessed with both exquisite scenery and rich cultures. Ever since the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early embers of the 1990’s, Slovenia has often been disregarded as a travel destination due to the prominence and allure of its local neighbours Italy and Croatia – however this recently has shown signs of change. With sweeping mountain ranges in the north to the heavily forested rolling hills in the south, Slovenia’s breathtaking scenery will leave you insatiable for more! However, due to the country being the metaphorical battlefield between the influential cultures of Italy to the west, the Germanic undertones of Austria to the north and the once-acknowledged Yugoslavia to the south, Slovenia’s abundance of beauty is not the end of the attraction…

Join me as I divulge the 7 main reasons why Slovenia has to be at the top of your travel hotlist!

1. Slovenia’s stunning lakes

Close to the tripoint where both Italy and Austria meet Slovenia, in the north west of the country, lie a plethora of charming sun kissed lakes screaming to be explored. Granted, some lakes have been discovered and for the last decade have attracted swarms of travel-thirsty backpackers - yet that should not discourage you from visiting them. In my humble opinion, all the magic of the Slovenian lake district is vividly showcased in the surroundings of the majestic Lake Bled. Back in the summer of 2019, I was fortunate enough to visit this small slice of splendor tucked within the dramatic Julian Alps – and it is safe to say I was truly blown away. I had always wanted to visit Lake Bled so when I finally did, and it actually lived up to the hype, I felt on top of the world!

You can add all the superlatives of Bled’s surroundings – The luscious forests contrasting with the dramatic mountains to the north – yet I believe the true appeal of the lake is its subtlety. For my adventurous readers you may relate subtlety with boredom and often I am guilty of that too, but Lake Bled flips the normal algorithm on its head. The prime selling point of Lake Bled is the small yet spectacular island which boasts the beautiful ‘Church of the Assumption’. The world-famous church, also known to locals as ‘the lady of the lake’ has an incredible and elongated history dating back to the middle ages, more specifically 1142. After an earthquake rocked the region in 1509, the damaged infrastructure of the island was redesigned to the pre-baroque façade it holds today. Part of the experience of the stand-out island is the adventure – for roughly 20 euros you can hire one of the lakes beautifully-crafted wooden boats and row to the island. This is a truly special experience which unanimously adds an unambiguous sense of personality and belonging to the lake, despite the fact that my experience consisted of many rowing-related arguments with my mother! From the moment you step off the bus, you feel like you are part of the stunning environment around you. Guarding the mystical lake towers the prominent Bled Castle, standing ever so proudly atop the 100 foot precipice. Yes, the easiest way to get up to the castle may be by navigating the many steps cascading up the hillside but oh my are the sore hamstrings that follow worth it! As you travel higher and higher, getting closer and closer to the oldest and most famous castle in Slovenia, the views of the deep-blue water will become exponentially more magnificent until you reach the pièce de résistance itself - the quaint but prominent medieval masterpiece. I would highly recommend that you visit the beauty spot at dusk when the vast majority of crowds have dispersed, leaving you with the unique opportunity to deeply appreciate the tranquility of the Slovenian countryside. Throughout my 16 year life, I can’t remember a time I have felt more relaxed and at one with the world. As soon as the sunlight hits the mellow waters of Bled, it vibrantly becomes the turquoise jewel in Slovenia’s crown!

Once visiting the world-renowned Lake Bled, it can be rather easy to forget about its scintillatingly gorgeous sister – the imperious Lake Bohinj. Much quieter than other lakes due to its secluded location, Bohinj offers the dramatic cliff faces that Bled lacks to an extent. If I was asked a question of which lake I preferred I would not be able to answer, as both are poles apart in personality. Lake Bled holds a soft aura of sweeping forests whereas the much larger Lake Bohinj offers the theatrical geology often associated with the alpine northern regions of the country. Hidden in the shadows of Mt. Triglav, the tallest of Slovenia’s mountains, the secluded lake boasts bold cliffs either side thus augmenting the allure of the stunning blue waters even further! The local region surrounding Lake Bohinj also differs dramatically from its more popular counterpart, offering a vast selection of tranquil villages dotted along its shorelines. The lake may not boast the abundance of accommodation or restaurants as the hustle and bustle of Bled town centre, but the hair-raising oil-painting that is Lake Bohinj has to be a top priority on your next tour of Slovenia.

But as with all mesmerising lakes worldwide, there has to be the prestigious backdrop to accompany them – something in which Slovenia is spoilt for choice!

2. The Karavanke and Julien Alps

There is something rather mystical about the European Alps - the sights of sheer cliffs and jagged, snow-capped peaks often associated with the immense giants of the Himalayas or the Andes, right on your doorstep. Granted I am talking on behalf of my European readers, yet the Alps still showcase beautifully unique characteristics stunning enough to be on the front cover of any travel brochure. Despite the country being slightly off the beaten track, Slovenia boasts almost every aspect of the beating heart of Europe including the most important of all... mountains!

The Karavanke Alps combined with the Julian Alps scythe through the far-northern reaches of the mostly landlocked nation, acting as the prominent star of Slovenia’s rural skyline. Despite the overriding popularity of the lakes in the Slovenian searing summers, mountains really come into their own during the longer winter months. Between the months of November and February, the overall temperature in the mountains can drop as far as -10°C thus making the mountains one of Europe’s upcoming ski hotspots. Cosy, wooden shacks scattered and submerged within the white snow make up the resorts of Rudno and Krvarec, offering both fine skiing opportunities as well as a special insight into the realms of professional ski jumping. As you head through the mountains by either car or train, you could easily be mistaken that you are straddling through the Nepalese Highlands. However, the true appeal of the mountains can only be properly appreciated when you see the whole surroundings whilst immersed in one of Slovenia’s expansive valleys. Ranging from only half a mile wide to several in some places, these rich green expanses have historically become the sites of medieval civilisations thus causing the economic influence to quickly shift away from the central city of Ljubljana. Hold tight and be patient we will explore Ljubljana later in this blog…

Leading on from this, the northern mountains are prime candidates for many adventurous accolades – from caving to rock climbing, both the Julian and Karavanke Alps exhibit them all in abundance. As you delve deeper and deeper into the caves, more and more of the regions fascinating geology comes to fruition. Tectonically, this is a rather intriguing area due to the formation of fold mountains being unusually distant from plate boundaries - thus making it a geologist’s dream! For the adventure lovers out there, these features are not the end of the excitement. Moving away from the natural features, the mountain range also offers one of the most adrenaline-filled ziplines worldwide. Travelling a whopping 3.2km at speeds of 80 kph, Zipline Slovenia surely is a contender for your hair-raising and adventurous outdoor itinerary. Witnessing the region’s unquestionable and outstanding natural beauty whilst getting the blood rushing, nothing sounds better to me!

In the depths of the north-eastern mountains and lake, lies the pure enchantment of the rich green Triglav National Park.

3. The Triglav National Park

I strongly believe that nothing personifies the true charm of Slovenia as much as the jaw-dropping Triglav National Park. Comprising both the snowy peaks and the azure lakes below, Slovenia’s only national park is a euphoric concoction of exuberant evergreens joined by fast-flowing rapids forging their natural path through the landscape. Nature and drama – those two go hand in hand here. Taking its name from Mt. Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia standing at a colossal 2863 metres, the national park boasts some of finest sights Europe has to offer. The Triglav National Park also advertises one of the most attractive gorges on Planet Earth, let alone within the Alps!

This awe-inspiring landmark goes by the alias of Vintgar Gorge, with the name strangely deriving from the German term ‘windegg’ meaning ‘place exposed to the wind’. I describe the origins of the name as strange as you are completely sheltered from all gales when immersed between the phenomenal 50ft high cliff faces. It’s actually debatable whether the Vintgar Gorge is part of the national park, due to the south end being separate to the protected area whereas the waterfall at the end is classified as protected. For the benefit of this blog, I’m going to classify it as one of the many wonders the Triglav National Park has to offer! Arriving at the car park situated at the beginning of the gorge, first

impressions can be rather sceptical. In addition to the vast quantity of cars and tourist buses in the height of summer, two wooden structures are the only two buildings to be seen – hence prompting me to recommend you visit the gorge in the quieter months of June or July. However, as you open the wooden gate to start the 1.6 km meander, all common doubts will be dispersed. Probably 100 metres forward from the starting gate, the beginning of the cascading wooden footpath juts out from the cliffs offering a unique route through the cliffs. Magically, the wander through the gorge will fool you to believe that you had been dropped within the deep reaches of the Malaysian rainforests.

However, the Vintgar Gorge has one main party piece – the technicolour waters of the ravaging Radovna River. There is an unequivocal aspect of awe when you look down the gorge to witness the awesome concoction of turquoise and green, regardless of how well-travelled you are. And that’s the thing - The Triglav National Park is so beautiful it can be compared to further-adrift and adventurous locations. As you reach the stunning

waterfall at the end of the gorge, you will feel nothing but compelled to do it all again! Blend all this together and I think that’s adequate proof that the Vintgar Gorge isan unmissable serving of Slovenia’s splendour.

It seems as if there is a surprise below every peak within the national park, notably including the secluded (yet famed) Savica waterfall. Standing at a respectable 78 metres high, the waterfall is the most famous in the entirety of Slovenia however it is rather inaccessible. However, a steep walk will get you there in roughly 25 minutes – a small price to pay in order to witness a highly unique feature in person! However, if walking is not approved nor possible, there is still plenty the mostly untouched region has to give. One feature often forgotten about by tourist centres in areas like Triglav are the small and stupendous villages dotted throughout the forests. It is often within these hamlets, such as Žaga and Bovec, you’ll stumble upon traditional museums exhibiting the unknown truth of the local region’s interesting history. But that is the sad truth. More often than not, tourists will only scratch the surface of Triglav’s heart thus meaning they miss out on undiscovered sights and beauty. This is especially achievable if Slovenia is part of a road trip or camping trip, as campers are almost spoilt for choice thanks to the national park’s many stunning campsites. Despite the overwhelming density of natural beauty, the area of the national park is a fairly modest 324 square miles – meaning it won’t take you endless weeks to explore all its assets. Being a rather inpatient traveller myself, I see this as an ideal size; constantly gifting you the time to visit the other 3 brilliant corners of the incredibly diverse country of Slovenia!

Once you have had your fix of the mountains, lakes and waterfalls that create the Triglav National Park, it would be wise to avert your eyes onto Slovenia’s short but sweet Adriatic coastline…

4. Slovenia’s short (but superb) coastline.

Separating the Balkans from neighbouring Italy, the Adriatic Sea is one of the most attractive bodies of water on Earth. Turquoise water. Sensational Islands. Natural Abundance. The Adriatic has it all. Fortunately for Slovenia, they hold the rights to a timid 27 miles of Adriatic coastline – thus allowing them to share a slight slither of the beauty. Joined to Italy at the north and Croatia to the south, the country’s coastline can offer much more than originally believed when looking at a map. From medieval towns to nature reserves, this 27 mile stretch of coastline is like a pressure cooker of cultural activity, screaming for the adventure-hungry traveler!

Perched upon the protruded cliffs, the winding streets and medieval architecture of Piran is notably showcased as Slovenia’s greatest coastal asset. Picturesque and narrow streets fill the town, straddled with a vast quantity of highly-rated restaurants as well as quirky shops. If you exclude the canals, Piran holds a personality strangely similar to that of Venice. Accompanied by the red-tiled roofs often associated with Croatian towns to the south, such as Split and Dubrovnik, Piran’s dated architecture does display some exquisite talents. From the wealthy palaces of Tartini Square to drop-dead gorgeous churches, the harbour town gloats its spellbinding and extroverted side whilst also holding pride in its subtle yet refined underbelly. The Tartini Square is Piran’s centrepiece. The stark contrast between the square’s imperious, white town halls and their timid residential counterparts opposite really accentuates the delightful persona of the town. It’s when you perch upon one of the square’s benches and observe the surroundings, you are led to believe you are sitting where the grand eastern influence clashes fluidly with the Mediterranean façade. And that is the beauty of the Adriatic – two stark cultures being blended together to form a truly unique region. This is also represented with the dominant language of the town shifting from Italian to Slovene in the early 20th century as a result of shifting demographics in the region. Lined along one east side of the cyclical square lie a selection of quiet eateries and cafes, offering a range of cuisines from Italian to the different tastes of the Balkans. As you appreciate the sensational architecture, the glinting sunlight will reflect off rich waters of Piran Harbour. With a wide gap in the buildings providing an exit from the square revealing the sun-blessed turquoise, Piran boasts an incredible way of luring you down to its serene riviera.

Despite being the square being one of Piran’s main attractions, you can’t ignore the aspect that makes the town so special – its idyllic location. I genuinely believe that if it wasn’t for the Adriatic waters the town calls home, Piran would not have the same effect on a tourist. This is incredibly exhibited when you take a stroll around its millpond of a harbour. Offering a handy ferry service to the far-more established Venice, the Port of Piran is far more expansive than originally expected. As you admire the pristine boats bathing within the sheltered harbour, the vast abundance of small bars and restaurants will lure you into their care. If you take up their offering, expect some of the finest culinary delights the Adriatic has to showcase. The pure allure of the glistening blue will recline you into an indescribable state of relaxation as you continue to walk down the promenade towards the ‘tip’ of Piran. As an ocean lover myself, I can’t stress enough how Piran accentuates the magical nature of the Adriatic – in the same way that the much more advertised cities of Venice, Dubrovnik and Zadar do so brilliantly. Ironically, the town was actually under Venetian sovereignty in the 514 years between 1283 and 1793. Back in June 2017, Financial Times described Piran as ‘the antidote to Venice’ – and to be frank, I could not agree with them more. After visiting the ‘City of Canals’ in the summer of 2019, I described the city as the only place I have ever adored and despised simultaneously. Stunning architecture. Stressful tourists. And that is the unforgettable charm of Piran – you can witness the stupendous buildings as well as the breathtaking scenery that accompanies them whilst being relaxed with your personal bubble still intact!

At the tip of Piran, the rest of Slovenia’s understated coastline is visible when you turn both to your left and your right. To the left, the Croatian mainland is a prominent feature on the horizon whereas to the right is the vast majority of Slovenia’s 27 mile coastline. The region is also famed for its artificial saltpans in addition to yet more natural beauty within the small Strunjan nature reserve. Taking exception to the similar towns of Koper, Izola and Portorož, Slovenian Istria (the coastal south-western region of Slovenia) takes great pride in its rural tranquility. That’s Slovenia in a nutshell really – pure brilliance which can be observed in a mellow state. It may seem like the country has already showcased all its assets, but Slovenia has one last offering for the more adrenaline-fueled explorer. A place where street acts will dazzle you and the party won’t stop till the sun rises. Now I must remember how to spell this… Ljubljana!

5. The bright lights of Ljubljana

There is an incredibly famous saying commonly flung around in modern conversation – ‘all roads lead to Rome’. Replace Rome with Ljubljana in this instance and you basically find yourself describing a road map of Slovenia. Ever since the city’s incarnation in the 12th century, Ljubljana has grown to be the central hub of all economic activity as well as boasting a respectable population of 280,000 – which accounts for approximately 15% of Slovenia’s 2 million strong population. In addition to the city being the prominent economic hub, Ljubljana is also highly important in regards to transport links across the nation, thus meaning that there is a high likelihood that the so-called ‘city of dragons’ will be somewhere you stop on your Slovenian adventure. Often being stranded in a foreign city, endlessly waiting for a connection, can be a burden – However, the small-scale persona of Ljubljana allows you to use this time to experience all of its scintillatingly magnificent personality for yourself!

Dragons have historically been highly related to the city, with the narrative reportedly beginning when it became the emblem of Slovenia’s capital during the Baroque era. Wherever you turn, expect to see at least one of the mythical beasts stare you down! As you delve into the beating heart of the city, it is highly likely you will stumble upon the ‘Dragon Bridge’ – the greatly acknowledged symbol of Ljubljana. Guarded by 2 dragon statues either side, the bridge was originally meant to have lions patrolling the traffic across the bridge. However, due to the mythical events believed to have occurred millennia beforehand, the dragon became a staple in Ljubljana’s unique culture. Despite most historical records showcasing Ljubljana being founded in the midst of the 12th century, legend has it that the city was born from different flames. It is said that the famed Greek hero Jason travelled up the Danube and Sava rivers until he reached the much smaller Ljubljanica, along with his fellow sailors aboard the ‘Argo’. Once he reached what is now the river that curls through Slovenia’s capital, the dragon of which the city holds such pride upon entered the fray. As Jason’s men traversed the short yet mountainous miles to the Adriatic coast, accompanied by their dismantled vessel on their shoulders, they stumbled upon at a lake adjacent to the winding Ljubljanica. Waiting, poised for battle, stood the dragon notoriously known for being later slayed by St. George. After a lengthy and hard-fought battle, Jason prevailed and could continue on his voyage back to Greece. Fast-forward several thousand years and the remnants of this relatively unknown tale still remain.

Like many European cities, Ljubljana plays host to an extremely hard and industrial shell – thus immediately making first impressions questionable. However, once you indulge yourself in the city’s cultural core all your past concerns will vanish. Whilst being stalked by the illuminated Ljubljana castle above, Slovenia’s capital comes into its own once the skies dim and the lights brighten. Walking along the culinary-lined banks of the river, a seemingly buzzing aurora engulfs the city. Situated in the centre of the city, Ljubljana’s main attraction goes by the local name of ‘Tromostovje’. Referred to in English as the ‘Triple Bridge’, the kink in the river is the stage for some of the finest and craziest creative assets Slovenia has to offer. Throughout the longer summer days, the evening’s elongated dusk often results in more dance groups or magicians showcasing their talents subsequently leading to many sights you may never forget! The city plays as a melting pot for both the city-lover and the history seeker, whilst also adding a dash of the party to the concoction. Granted, it may not have the Prague or Amsterdam levels of Stag-do’s and I reiterate once more, it is the subtlety that adds to the magic. When walking beside the lit Ljubljanica, you only then realise the culinary appeal of the city centre. Aligned in perfect sequence, you are spoilt for choice of which cuisine will grace your taste buds that evening. American. Italian. German. Slovene. Chinese. Ljubljana seems to have it all! I believe that cuisine is one of the three fundamentals for a city, alongside the history and the people – I’d go so far to claim that these three make up the well-known term ‘culture’. And thanks to the lovely mellow feel of the streets, the restaurant experience is beautifully amplified thus making Ljubljana so memorable.

Despite the vibe of the city being slightly more electric in the warmer summers, Ljubljana still shines as a local beacon of brilliance as the winter months set in. There are some examples of cities that only work in the summer – Barcelona is one which resonates that trait with me. However, due to Ljubljana hosting some fantastic winter events including the dragon carnival, Europe’s 10th smallest capital transports you into a spectacular winter wonderland. Christmas often acts as a steroid to a city. Intricate lights and bustling markets line the streets, all whilst the city is covered in its pristine white coat. Similar to the rest of the country, temperatures can drop as low as -5 within the city at its coldest giving you the perfect opportunity to seek refuge in one of Ljubljana’s fascinating museums. From the legends of its Greek founding fathers to its more recent history, Ljubljana has many secrets to keep you intrigued. One of the museums I would highly recommend in both seasons is the spectacular Ljubljana castle. Standing imperiously above the city, the castle is believed to have been first constructed in the 12th century and has its own place on the city’s coat of arms. Throughout history, the castle has had many important tenants – ranging from the rulers of the Carniola region (also in Slovenia) in the 14th century to the French army in 1797. Multiple towers around the castle perimeter tower over the open courtyard within the fortress whilst also offering stunning views of the mountains around the capital. As you immerse yourself deeper into the castle, the history will only become richer and richer; with some sites such as the castle prison and Hribar hall will offer the history-hungry visitor a unique insight into the surrounding region. And the brilliant thing is that, thanks to the recently built funicular offering a route to the top, the famed landmark is accessible for everyone. Along with its central location, Ljubljana castle is clearly the centre of the area’s historical appeal.

By now, it is clear to see that Slovenia has both history and the scenery in abundance – however, the cuisine and the people who enjoy it are the cement that hold a country’s (very scenic) bricks together.

6. Slovenia’s charismatic cuisine

As mentioned earlier, Slovenia’s central European location has resulted in the region becoming a melting pot for the many more established cultures that surround the nation. The meat of Austria. The fruits of Italy. The seafood and spices of the Balkans. All three come together in the area around Ljubljana. Regardless of how long your Slovenian experience lasts, the culinary delights presented to you will blow you aback from all common expectations. Flicking through a Slovenian menu can be a confusing occasion, mainly due to the perplexed first impressions of “how does that work with that?”. Exploring the cuisine of a nation often leads to more education than visiting the so-called tourist hotspots. Ask any chef what makes a great dish and the answer will be the fusion of ingredients and the cultures which connotate with them so strongly. Here are my top recommendations for any Slovene 3 course meal…

While waiting for your starter, there is no better way to kick off your culinary experience than the sensationally simple Bela Krajina flat bread. Historically endemic to the far south-eastern corner of the country, in the rural surroundings of the White Carniola region, the salted and caraway-topped flat bread is Slovenia’s alternative to Italian focaccia. This is a delicacy steeped in myth and legend, with the origins of the dish being typically disputed throughout the centuries. Going also by the Balkan alias of pogača, it is believed the traditions surrounding the bread have been passed through generations – most notably the belief that the bread soaks up alcohol incredibly well, subsequently reducing the drunken effects of its consumption. Despite its prominence within the Slovenian culture, some further afield regions may not cater the flat bread however it is highly likely that you can taste the delicious bread within the capital. When it comes to a starter, look no further to the nation’s fantastic display of cold meats – rather reminiscent of the meaty flavours of the Austro-Germanic lands to the north. Now, I must offer a quick word of warning: the following dish does not sound that appealing to us western folk. Stuffed pig’s stomach has only ever been manufactured in the picturesque valleys of the River Savinja – a region notoriously known for the clash of cultures in the Slovenia’s north-eastern clutches. Despite its seemingly grotesque name, the unique flavours will excite the taste buds brilliantly. The complex local name of zgornjesavinjski želodec massively contradicts the overall simplicity of the dish. Often served with a carbohydrate side, this prized delicacy consists of sliced pork thighs, shoulder and bacon which consequently spends 6 months stuffed inside a pig’s bladder. This seems strange, however there is a logical reason. Ever since the dish’s incarnation many centuries ago, meat has been dried using this method – with many claiming it accentuates the pork’s richness. Due to the rich attitudes of the meats, this sensational dish has had some rather impressive admirers throughout history. It is said King George VI was a huge admirer of this relatively unknown delicacy, often asking for the dish to be sent to his court on a regular basis. Now that is what you really call a meal fit for a king!

Even with its timid 27 mile Adriatic coastline, fish still plays an influential role in Slovenia’s cuisine. This leads me on to my favourite main course offering on the Slovene menu. To find the fish used in this dish, you have to travel roughly 100 miles inland to the Sumptuous Soča Valley. The Adriatic offers some of the finest tasting fish worldwide, but the river trout that creates this famed delicacy is found in the winding River Soča. Originating in the already-acknowledged and scintillating Triglav National Park, these turquoise waters straddle the Slovene-Italian border. The river’s prized inhabitants are often presented with beautiful simplicity. The marble trout is often accompanied with a scattering of sweet cherries and delicious new potatoes, with the fish also being cooked in many different forms. Personally, I believe the trout is best fried – often cooked with either corn flour or buckwheat thus infusing sensational flavours deep into the dish. Thanks to Slovenia’s small size, this rather regional delicacy is transported round the country and can be found in most traditional eateries. With all this discussion about the stunning food Slovenia boasts, you must be getting thirsty…

As with most fish and meats, wine compliments these dishes fantastically. In regard to the cold meat starter, one of Slovenia’s rich red wines would be a wise bet, whereas for the trout I would recommend one of the country’s fabulous Sauvignon whites. Slovenia’s vineyards are located directly in the centre of Europe’s illustrious wine region. This string of vineyards travels through the far more established nations of France and Italy, yet Slovenian wines are often ignored. Slovenia manufacture some stunning fruitful reds, however the nation (in particular the renowned regions of the Brda Hills and Istria) specialises in some of Europe’s most attractive white wines – including such household names as Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Despite the well-established status of these wine types, Slovenia’s indigenous wines are the true delight to your palette. The Refošk dessert wine is one of Slovenia’s most loved exports, with a vintage bottle once selling for an extortionate €500,000. That is just one bottle – I’ll stick with the sauvignon! All jokes aside, this dessert wine is simply sensational. Rich infusions of white truffle, vanilla and honey create a roster of unforgettable tastes and aromas. Moving away from the food and drink of the nation quickly, a tour of one of Slovenia’s many exquisite vineyards is a must do! The processes are fascinating, regardless of the subsection of wines you are easily intrigued by. Approximately €499,997 cheaper than the most expensive Slovenian bottle of wine in history, blejska kremšnita is the final course of our sensual voyage through Slovenia’s cuisine.

The famous Bled Cream Cake has been the 2nd staple of the brilliant region we discussed at the start of the piece, losing only to the glinting waters of the lake it sits upon. Ever since the cake was first put onto plate in 1953, this delicious cream cake has been the desert of choice throughout the northernmost regions. With a thick base of vanilla infused custard, a substantial whipped cream filling and a sugar-coated crust perched atop; nothing screams simplicity more than this light treat. Simply presented. Simply mouth-watering. Everything about this dish is refreshing – especially due to the light texture resembling a moose. The dairy is perfectly understated, with the icing sugar that bathes above the flaky crisp offering a simply unforgettable aftertaste. And despite the cake’s subtle persona, my first bite remains an evocative memory to this day.

A strong cuisine in addition to a stunning array of scenery is imperative in creating a memorable nation, however there is only one thing which holds a country together…

7. The Slovenian People

People are the glue that hold all countries and cultures in cohesion, and Slovenians certainly hold great pride in their inspiring personalities. It would be expected that the Slovenian people would be rather blunt and oppressing due to the nation’s tight location, however this culmination of cultures creates the opposite. In all the countries I have ever visited, I have never come across a more beautiful population than the one the central European nation exhibits. When I visited in the sunkissed town of Bled in the summer of 2019, we stayed with the eccentric Alenka who kindly offered her own house as accommodation. We quickly got talking and she was quick to inform us how all women should be treated with paramount respect – something which was reiterated through all my conversations with the locals. Ironically, the wife of possibly the most hated and controversial man on Earth is also from Slovenia. Melania Trump grew up in the small, southern village of Novo Mesto – a stunning riverside town located in the depths of the Lower Carniola region. Everyone who we met presented us with upmost friendliness as well as respect – and that alone leaves an incredibly special place for Slovenians and their magnificent country in my heart.

Despite all these traits, one stands out vividly. Pride. Every Slovenian we met, whether in the tranquil hills of the north or the bustling cities, held great gratification in their surroundings. The population of the north take enormous joy in pointing out their exquisite surroundings, the south holds many proud people due to its immense folklore, and cities such as Ljubljana and Maribor showcase multiple diverse cultures. Although other nations hold such pride, not many boast the levels of self-regard as the Slovenes. I wish to leave you with this – we should all aim to be as proud as the Slovenian people. We live on a fabulous planet however our own disrespect to our surroundings is leaving the Earth in jeopardy. I strongly believe that if everyone loved their patch of land or region like Slovenia’s citizens, our world would see a rapid improvement in health.

So why is Slovenia so friendly, happy and proud? The simple answer to that question is a symphony of the above. Lakes and their local mountains. Marvelous cities both inland and on the gleaming Adriatic. The sense-stimulating cuisine and the remarkable people who consume its flavours. All this and more make Slovenia one thing…

Europe’s hidden gem!

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