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  • Writer's pictureJuliet Weller

Spotlight on... Slovenia!

Slovenia is a small but vibrant country with a rich cultural heritage and stunning natural scenery. It has a strong economy and a commitment to progressive policies, making it an attractive destination for both visitors and investors. If you're wondering where it is: in central Europe, bordered by Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the northeast, and Croatia to the south and southeast. It has a population of around 2 million people and its capital and largest city is Ljubljana. If you're wondering why you didn't grow up hearing about it: it has a centuries long history of tumultuous alliances, and in June 1991, Slovenia became the first republic to split from Yugoslavia and become an independent state.

Here's why you'll be smitten with Slovenia - it's stunning beauty. Slovenia is the most naturally diverse and culturally rich country in Europe. This undiscovered wine-producing country is crowned by a soaring alpine playground. The cobblestoned squares of the capital Ljubljana are within a day-trip of seaside villages and three major wine regions. Because of their limited U.S. exports, the wines here still fly under the radar. Knock on tasting-room doors to meet vintners face-to-face – it’s like hopping a time machine to explore Tuscany before the rest of the world was in on the secret. An hour away from the capital, find day hikes along sections of the new 168-mile Juliana Trail, which hugs the edge of Triglav National Park, with its hanging valleys and high peaks (I'm a geography geek!). As a hiking destination, it’s hard to beat.

Private tours of castles, formal gardens, a week of food-and-wine sampling from the Adriatic Sea to the Julian Alps will steep your senses in all things Slovenian. Having had your fill, hop on a bike for dramatic mountains and coastlines, and an unforgettable ride.

There’s a T-intersection in Slovenia where you can feel the climate shift. It’s a few hours’ ride from the Lipica Stud Farm’s oak-lined pastures, home of the famed Lipizzan horses, along a less trafficked two-lane through one-gas-station towns, where truck drivers transferring beehives fuel up with diesel and espresso. The change happens gradually, of course – the trees growing more scrubby and squat and the breeze blows a bit warmer, carrying a tinge of salt. Sunlight reflects back a touch more brightly, you head downhill all the way to your first glimpse of the blue Gulf of Trieste, the Adriatic Sea. You'd probably miss it in a car, but on a bike it’s exactly the type of moment you notice.

Before I depart, I have two more words...Lake Bled. Take a trip across the lake in the traditional Pletna boat to the island of Bled: just you, the oarsman and tranquility all around. What is a “Pletna” boat? It is a traditional boat made by the locals which is only known on Lake Bled. The origins of the Pletna boat go back to 1590. It is a wooden flat-bottom boat with a pointed bow and the stern widened with a step to enable passengers to enter. The Pletna boat is operated by the Pletna oarsman. This profession is highly respected as it cannot be performed just by anyone. The title of the Pletna oarsman was handed down from generation to generation. This is a must-try.

The most recognizable symbol of the lake is the island and the Church of the Assumption with its long and diverse history. What is more, the lush greenery also hides other interesting island buildings, like the bell-tower, the church, the chaplain's house, the provost's house and some mysterious legends. If you're lucky, you might witness a wedding on this island.

The mighty Bled Castle offers the finest views of Bled island, the town of Bled and the wider countryside of Upper Carniola region. If you want to get a glimpse Bled's history, culture and people, visit the Bled Castle Museum. Get familiar with the traditional manual technological procedures of printing in the castle’s printing shop. Why not order a small bottle of wine in the castle’s cellar? Restore your health with natural products from the herbal gallery and recover your strength in the castle’s restaurant and then visit the multi-vision museum. In the summer months, the castle’s atmosphere is enlivened by the count’s visit and an archery tournament.

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'til next week.


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