The most northern of the former Yugoslavian states, Slovenia is something of an undiscovered gem. Overcoming the murky legacy of Communist rule, the Slovenes embraced their own culture and sense of ethnicity, making their country an affluent and welcoming republic (which joined the EU in 2004). Home to several astonishing natural wonders and culturally vibrant cities, Slovenia is gradually being unearthed as a great place to visit.
Slovenian, or Slovene, is the official and predominant language spoken throughout the country. However, Italian and Hungarian are also widely used and even enjoy status as official languages. English is spoken in most parts.
Useful Slovenian words and phrases:
Hello - Zdravo Goodbye - NasvidenjePlease - Prosim Thank you - Hvala Yes - Da No - Ne Where isâ¦? - Kje je...? How much isâ¦? - Koliko stane...?
The tolar is Sloveniaâs unit of currency, which is divided into 100 stotini. Coins come in denominations of 50 stontini, 1, 2, and 5 tolars. The notes are 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 tolars. The initials SIT usually follow prices.
Current exchanges rates (August 2006):
1 British Pound (Â£) : 353.995 Slovenian tolar (SIT)1 US Dollar ($) : 187.223 Slovenian tolar (SIT)1 Euro (â¬) : 239.731 Slovenian tolar (SIT)
The coastal region of Slovenia enjoys a similar Mediterranean climate to the rest of the Adriatic countries. Summers tend to be hot and dry, with high temperatures usually around the 30Â°C (86Â°F) mark. Winters are mild, although often susceptible to winds and rainfall.
Further inland, summers are mild, with highs averaging 20Â°C, but these are sometimes ruined by heavy downpours. Winters are often sunny but very cold, with the temperature usually sitting at freezing.
Ljubljana, the capital, is an architectural delight, pulling together Italian baroque and Austrian Art Nouveau styles to make it probably the most compelling city in Slovenia. A rapidly growing urban centre, there are plenty of museums, art galleries and festivals here.
If you are staying in the capital, you should certainly try and get to the Postojna Caves. You can take a guided tour on the cave train, through the miles of galleries and chambers that make up this natural treasure. Nearby, there is also the Skocjan Cave, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Slovene Istria, near to the Italian and Croatian boarders, is one of the most popular regions in the country. Pretty coastal towns such as Piran, with its cobbled piazzas, and the beautiful port of Koper have plenty of charm, as well as the full compliment of hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions.
Sitting at the edge of the Julian Alps, in the northwestern corner of Slovenia, are the mountain lakes of Bled and Bohinj. This is a truly unspoiled natural setting, offering stunning mountain views and villages nicely tucked into wooded shores around the lakes. If you are there in July, you will catch the Rikliâs Days Festival, famous for displaying thousands of floating candles on lake Bled.
In the northeast is Sloveniaâs second city, Maribor. Within this largely industrialised centre is the Old Town with its curious narrow streets and Gothic Cathedral. A short walk leads you to an alluring Renaissance square, Glavni Trg.
Nearby is the oldest town in the country, Ptuj. Museums, galleries, archives, an art studio and a theatre make this an historical and cultural must see.
Ljubljana is the best area for shopping in Slovenia, with a good mix of up-to-date fashion stores and places to buy traditional Slovenian products. The flea market, near Tromostovje, has all kinds of antiques and memorabilia every Sunday morning. For food shopping, the open-air market on Vodnikov trg is a great experience. Around the country there are countless places to buy homemeade products. Ptuj is very good for its wines, while you might want to buy some of Radovljicaâs local honey to take home. Slovenian outdoor sportswear is also readily available and apparently has a very good international reputation.
Slovenia generally has a vibrant nightlife. The larger cities and resorts are more geared towards nightclubs, but the smaller towns tend to be replete with bars and cafÃ©s.
Again, Ljubljana is probably the best place for nightlife, including trendy nightclubs, bars, cafÃ©s, a healthy program of concerts, and an experimental theatre. Also worth going to on a night out is the Jazz Club Gajo, which has hosted live performances from some of the biggest names in the world of jazz. Each July, the city starts to buzz at night with the International Summer Festival.
For keen clubbers, it might be worth taking a trip to the Ambasada Gavioli, situated in the coastal town of Izola. Here you can often see some top international DJs playing an eclectic mix of trance, funk and techno.
Traffic drives on the right. The speed limit is 50-kph/30 mph in urban areas and 90-kph/54 mph on expressways.
The drink and driving laws in Slovenia are very strict. For drivers with two years (or less) experience and professional drivers, there must be a 0.00% trace of alcohol in the bloodstream. The limit is extended to 0.05% for all other drivers. Fines for breaking these laws include fines, suspensions and custody.
Note that motorists are required to have their headlights on during the daytime and the use of handheld mobile telephones while driving is prohibited. Seat belts must be worn if fitted. Finally, from November to March, cars must have winter tyres on all four wheels.
Illegally parked vehicles are towed away or clamped.
Roads are generally of good quality, though they can become hazardous in the winter.
Food and Drink
CafÃ©s and restaurants are becoming internationalised, but Slovenia still manages to hold onto it culinary heritage. Menus often include roast meats and scnitzels (usually pork and veal), as well liver. Vegetarian meals are more difficult to come by, though some restaurants do offer Ocyrti.
Drinks in Slovenia include Pilsner type lagers, which are usually very good. Wines include several local dry whites, which have worldwide renown. You may also like to try some of the favourite aperitifs, such as the plum brandy (slivovka).
Tourist Information Centre LjubljanaStritarjevaSI-1000 LjubljanaTel. +386 (0)13 061 215Fax. +386 (0)13 061 204Official Slovenian Tourist Portal: www.Slovenia.info