Land of Diversity
Because Slovenia lies at the crossroads of the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pannonian Plain, and the Dinaric Mountain Range, through the centuries, the individual Slovenian regions have developed various forms of economic activity, ways of life and cultural creativity. Among the greatest treasures of these regions are the diversity of dialects of the Slovenian language, different lifestyles, gastronomic traditions, popular entertainment and other aspects of the everyday life of the local people.
This diversity is best presented through the traditional regions of the country: Gorenjska (Upper Carniola), Dolenjska (Lower Carniola), Notranjska (Inner Carniola), Primorska (Littoral Region), Štajerska (Styria), Koroška (Carinthia) and Prekmurje (Over-Mura Region). Even though these units do not match the current administrative and geographical layout of the country, and the establishment of new regions is still under way, the names of these regions, based on national history, are universally accepted.
Somewhere deep within us there are stories about pure nature, clear streams, endless green forests and birds singing lively songs. Some of us remember these stories from our childhood, while others are preserved in the memories of our grandmothers, and we very rarely have the opportunity to experience them in real life. Natural parks are areas where we can still experience the bounty of primal nature with all of our senses. These parks are the pride of Slovenia.
Protected parks all over the world have been created to protect the diversity of flora and fauna and natural habitats. The first nature reserves in Europe were established in Sweden in 1910, and Slovenia followed as early as 1924 when it established a protected area around the Triglav Lakes, becoming the fifth country in Europe to have a nature reserve.
In Slovenia, the Nature Conservation Act divides protected areas into small and large protected areas, and distinguishes between six different categories. Small protected areas are strict nature reserves, nature reserves, and natural monuments, while large protected areas, also called parks, include natural parks, regional parks and landscape parks.
Currently there are several national projects to establish new parks and protected areas. Foremost among these is the proposal to establish the Kamniško-Savinjske Alpe Natural Park, which has been listed among proposals for parks for several years now. Other planned parks include a landscape park at the Ljubljana Marshes and another at Kolpa, with initiatives for the establishment of a Pohorje regional park and a park located at the border the Karst region.
The parks are therefore active agents in preserving the environment, while at the same time they also help top reserve cultural heritage, carry out development projects, provide unique opportunities for tourism, education and the international promotion of Slovenia.
Where to go for recreation and new adventures?
At the national level, Slovenia has one national park (the Triglav National Park), two regional parks (the Kozjanski Park and Škocjan Caves), three landscape parks (the Sečovlje Salina Nature Park, Strunjan, Goričko), and one nature reserve, Škocjanski zatok. At municipal level, one regional park has been established (the Notranjska Regional Park), and 34 landscape parks which are scattered all around Slovenia.
Arguably, in the past few years, ski resorts have slowly but steadily become one of the most recognisable features of Slovenian tourism. A generous amount of snowfall is Mother Nature’s reward for the managers of Slovenia’s ski resorts for their efforts and investments in the development of airlifts. Most ski resorts offer après ski, which meets the demands of modern clients who find it important, besides well-maintained ski runs and reliable service, to be able to fully enjoy themselves in the chalets on the slopes immediately after skiing.
If we were to ask a random Slovenian passing by in the street to name a national sport, the answer would be, without hesitation, skiing. Skiing and everything related to it boast a venerable tradition in this country, and for many years – or winters, to be precise – Slovenian skiers have delighted their fans with excellent results.
In Slovenia, there are dozens of well-tended ski resorts, with lift systems, the best known being Kranjska gora and Mariborsko Pohorje, which both also host Alpine Skiing World Cup races (Vitranc Cup and Golden Fox). Both competitions traditionally consist of a slalom and a giant slalom event.
The highest ski slopes in Slovenia can be found on Mt Kanin, in the west of Slovenia, overlooking the small town of Bovec in the Soča River valley. The pistes of this high mountain resort reach altitudes exceeding 2000m above sea level, so the skiing season can last until May. On a clear day, the fine views from the slopes take in the Alps and the Adriatic.
The Kranjska Gora winter resort is almost legendary. The slopes lie very near the triple border between Slovenia, Austria and Italy and are surrounded by the high peaks of the Julian Alps. For many Slovenes, Kranjska Gora is the place where they first come in contact with skis and learn their first curves.
A firm favourite for the people of Ljubljana is the Mt Krvavec winter resort, which is only a thirty minute drive away from the capital. The trails lie on pastureland, so there is no need for large amounts of snow in order to enjoy good skiing. In optimal winter conditions, the skiing season can last up to 150 days.
In the vicinity of Slovenia’s second largest city, Maribor, lie the skiing slopes of Mariborsko Pohorje, which is also a venue for Alpine Skiing World Cup events. Another popular skiing destination in the Štajerska region is Rogla, a natural climate health resort and a well-equipped recreational sports centre. An added bonus is the proximity of the Terme Zreče Thermal Spa, which offers the best of health resort services. The key advantage of the Mt Vogel resort overlooking Lake Bohinj is the fact that its slopes are covered exclusively with natural snow. The modern lift systems at the Cerkno skiing resort make it one of the best-equipped winter sports centres in Slovenia.
It is a misconception that visiting a spa is only for treating different ailments, because you can go to one at any time, in any season of the year, at any stage of your life. It allows you to rest, and recover strength, to recuperate after injury and ailments, or simply to have fun.
|More about thermal spas in Slovenia|
Many spas in Slovenia offer a wide and diverse choice of services, including a range of more or less exotic massage treatments. The numerous health spas that have developed across Slovenia are the core of spa tourism in Slovenia, and at the same time they are actively involved in the Slovenian health-care system. They enjoy special status in this respect, complementing hospital treatment and the health-care industry with the healing properties of natural elements.
Even far back in history, people in Slovenia had been taking advantage of the beneficial effects provided by thermal springs. Most of these springs can be found in the central and north-eastern part of Slovenia, in the regions of Zasavje, Štajerska and Prekmurje, with a few of them located in the south-eastern region of Dolenjska. Evidence of the long tradition of thermal spas in Slovenia can be seen in archaeological finds from the time of the Roman Empire. The first written records documenting thermal springs date back to 1147. Word about the healing powers of Slovenian thermal springs spread across the whole of Europe.
Favourable natural conditions
The favourable conditions for the development of thermal spas and spa tourism are mostly due to the geographical position of Slovenia. The key ingredient is thermal water of varying properties and temperature, depending on the region and the individual spa, and, of course, mineral water. These include the world-famous water from Radenska and Donat Mg magnesium-rich mineral water. Other equally important factors are seawater and saltwater, organic and inorganic peloids (therapeutic muds) and the Adriatic, Pannonian and sub-alpine central mountain microclimates. Thermal spas are usually located around hills and vineyards where you can increase your strength by hiking over miles of countryside, enjoying the rich selection of culinary delights and tasting local wines.
The culinary image of modern-day Slovenia incorporates the influences of cultures and civilisations from the Alpine, Mediterranean and Pannonian regions. Centuries of social and historical development at this junction have created specific types of culture and lifestyle, not in the sense of assimilation, but in the sense of creating a unique and original variety, including the culinary.
|More about the Slovenian Cuisine|
Slovenian cuisine is based on cereal, dairy products, meat (especially pork), sea and freshwater fish, vegetables, legumes and tubers, olives and grapes. Slovenia's cuisine combines the influences of the rural population, medieval lords, the bourgeoisie and monastic orders.
|Recipes and Wines from Slovenia|
Numerous culinary innovations were introduced during the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and during the French occupation in the late 18th century the first cookbook in Slovene was written by Valentin Vodnik. The development of popular tourist resorts in the second half of the 19th century, including Bled, Rogaška Slatina, Dobrna, Portorož, and some existing even before these, also greatly contributed to the development of food culture. Slovenian cookery, with its own range of unique and original features, has therefore been part of Central European cuisine for centuries.
During the first half of the 20th century, Slovenian cuisine was enriched by new dishes from the Balkan region. In the 1960s, Italian pizza began to spread, while the 1980s saw something of a re-birth of Slovenian cookery, which was reflected in the increasing number of cookbooks being published and new ideas being adopted by individuals and restaurants alike (an example of this is the ‘Slow Food’ movement). This has also led to the protection of geographical heritage and the traditional value of some local specialties, such as prekmurska gibanica, savinjski želodec, idrijski žlikrofi, kranjska medica, potica, kranjska klobasa, belokranjska pogača and povitica, kočevski med, prleška tünka etc., to the establishment of food enthusiast societies (e.g. the Society for the Recognition of Sautèed Potato and Onions as an Independent Dish), and to various food competitions (such as the Kranjska klobasa contest, salami competitions, etc.).
Modern Culinary Trends
Slovenia has been re-discovering its cuisine, while absorbing trends and innovations from Europe and around the world. This is especially evident from the diverse regional menus offered by various characteristic restaurants, the gostilne, which are Slovenia’s most identifiable culinary landmark and are typically based on family traditions.