Difference between revisions of "Slovenia"
Revision as of 13:26, 29 August 2006
Slovenia (Slovenija) is a country in Central Europe that lies in the eastern Alps at the northeastern end of the Adriatic Sea. Despite its small size, with Austria to the north, Italy to the northwest, Hungary to the northeast and Croatia to the south, Slovenia has a surprising variety of terrain, ranging from the beaches of the Mediterranean to the peaks of the Alps.
Slavic ancestors of Slovenians came from eastern parts of Europe and inhabitated territory a bit northern from present Slovenian territory in 6. century AD. They established a state called Caranthania ("Karantanija" in Slovene), which was an early example of parliamentary democracy in Europe. The ruler ("knez" in Slovene) was elected by popular vote. The Caranthanians were later defeated by Bavarians and Franks who subordinated them. They were christianized, but they preserved many rituals of their pagan religion, and above all they preserved their native language. The Slovene lands were part of the Holy Roman Empire and Austria under Habsburg dinasty until 1918 when the Slovenes joined the Serbs and Croats in forming a new south-Slavic state ruled by Serbian Karadjordjević dynasty called Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians ("Kraljevina Srbov, Hrvatov in Slovencev" in Slovene), renamed Yugoslavia in 1929. In WWII Slovenia was occupied by Germans, Italians and Hungarians. Parallel civil war between pro-communist liberation formation (Partizani) and catholic anticommunist formations (Belogardisti, Domobranci)which collaborated with occupation forces was taking place. The victory of allies and consequentlly the Partizans resulted in massive exodus and massacre of members of anticommunist formations. After World War II, Slovenia became a republic of the renewed Yugoslavia, which though Communist, distanced itself from Moscow's rule. Dissatisfied with the exercise of power of the majority Serbs, the Slovenes succeeded in establishing their independence in 1991 with minimal bloodshed. In 2004, Slovenia joined the European Union and NATO.
Historical ties to Western Europe, a strong economy, and a stable democracy make Slovenia a leading country among the new members of the EU and NATO.
Mediterranean climate on the coast, continental climate with mild to hot summers and cold winters in the plateaus and valleys to the east
A short coastal strip on the Adriatic, an Alpine mountain region adjacent to Italy and Austria, mixed mountain and valleys with numerous rivers to the east. Central Ljubljana valley with Ljubljana marshes in the southern part. In the southwest there is the Karst (Kras in Slovene) (where the name for karst topography actually comes from).
As Slovenia is a member country of the European Union, citizens from other member states can enter Slovenia with a valid passport or a valid identity card.
The Ljubljana Bus Station (Avtobusna Postaja Ljubljana) provides composite information about international and airport bus services. Phone: 090 93 42 30 (Slovenian only) English Website: http://ap-ljubljana.si/eng/
Slovenia's primary international airport is Ljubljana Brnik  which is around 25 km north of Ljubljana, the capital. The airport is connected with Ljubljana by taxis and buses. There are flights connecting Slovenia with most of Europe's major cities. Another convenient gateway especially to western Slovenia is via Italy's Trieste airport which is but an hour drive from Ljubljana via super highway.
Slovenia is well connected to all its neighbors by train. The most popular routes connect from Wien in Austria (in good weather, this journey across the Julian Alps is spectacular), from Venice and Trieste in Italy, from Budapest in Hungary and from Zagreb in Croatia. All lines converge on the capital Ljubljana.
Slovenia has an excellent highway network connected to neighboring countries.
Slovenia is a small country — there are no domestic flights — and getting around is rarely a problem.
Slovenia's internal train network will get you to most destinations in the country.
Trains may be different from what you're used to in Western Europe. (In Bled, Ljubljana, and Jesenice...) The time of arrival for the next train is not displayed next to the tracks, nor is the train's destination. This information must be found out either from a chalkboard (may have incorrect times) or some other sign near the train station building. Otherwise, many speak English in Slovenia, and they will always help you get where you're going.
Getting off the train can also be difficult. There is no loudspeaker announcement of the next station, and there is usually just one sign at the smaller stations, such as Lesce Bled. It may be helpful to ask the ticket checker for assistance in choosing the right station, or rely on the train's rough arrival time, if you have planned ahead.
Buses fill in the gaps, and may be a better options for some towns not directly served from Ljubljana by train (eg. Bled).
Slovenia's roads are for the most part well maintained and well signposted, and you won't have a problem if you drive or hire a car. Having a car certainly does add a level of mobility and self direction that you won't get by train or bus.
Slovenian, the national language, is spoken as mother tongue by 91% of the population, but there are also significant Italian and Hungarian minorities. Most people you come into contact with as a tourist will speak English, and if not they'll almost certainly speak either Italian or German or both.
The local currency is the Slovenian tolar (SIT), which trades at around 240 to the euro. Prices are high compared to eastern neighbors (except Croatia), but cheap compared to Italy or Austria. Slovenia will adopt the Euro on January 1st, 2007.
The oldest Slovenian food are dishes made from flour and groats. The best known are the breads made for holiday occasions which today appear in the form of braided loaves or wreathes, dumplings known as štruklji which Slovenians prepare in 70 different ways stuffed with sweet fillings, meat or vegetables, and žganci (a type of polenta). A real Slovenian speciality is potica, a dessert for holiday occasions also prepared with the widest variety of fillings. A major event in the countryside still today is the slaughtering of a pig from which many various products are made: groat and white klobasa, blood sausage, roasts, stuffed tripe, smoked sausage, salami, ham, bacon, and, of course, the highest quality and most prized Kraški pršut, similar to Italian prosciutto or air-dried ham. Recipes for the preparation of poultry, especially goose, duck, and capon, have been preserved for many centuries. And it is obvious that in a country beside the sea there is a large choice of the fish and sea fruits which we find most often on Primorska menus.
Hungry travelers may also try inexpensive (if greasy) fast food at one of many small snack bars selling the Bosnian speciality burek, a large, flaky pastry stuffed with meat (mesni burek), cheese (sirni) or apple (jabolčni). Hamburgers and pizza are also widespread.
Slovenian wine can be quite good. Hint: The best stuff is not exported! Laško & Union beers are the most popular! An inside tip would be Adam Ravbar beer, which is usually hard to find anywhere except in their small brewery.
There are many hostels in and around Ljubljana, the average price for a basic bed in a dorm was around 3000 - 4000 toller's but places seemed to accept Hostelling International Cards (YHA cards are accepted). Information on where to find youth hostels is very easily available from the Tourist Information offices. Amongst the best hostels around Slovenia can be found in the Triglav National Park where there are many 'Mountain Huts' which are very warm, welcoming and friendly. Again, information about these huts can be found at tourist information offices who will also help you plan your walks around the area and phone the hostels to book them for you. The only way to get to the huts is by foot, and expect a fair bit of walking up hills, as the lowest huts are around 700m up. There are clear signs/information around stating how long it will take to travel to/between all the huts indicated in hours.
Camping is not permitted in the national parks of Slovenia, but there are various camping grounds around which charge on average around 3000 tollars per night. It's advisable to take a camping mat of some sort as nice comfortable grass is a luxury at camp sites, your much more likely to find pitches consisting of small stones.
Slovenia has three universities (Ljubljana, Maribor, Koper) and several independent colleges (BSA Kranj, IEDC Bled, Politehnika Nova Gorica...). The University of Ljubljana also contains 3 art academies: Theater and Film, Music, Fine Arts.
Is it possible for English-speaking graduates to get work in a Slovene school teaching English for around a year in a scheme similar to Japan's JET programme.
Phone Nr.: Police 113
NOTE: Slovenia is most likely one of the safest countries to visit, but to be aware of your surroundings.
TIVOLI PARK (Ljubljana): The park is generally very safe, and a great place to take an afternoon stroll, but rapes have been reported in Tivoli park after dark, and flashers are know to hang around the Eastern side of the Park across from the student dormitories. Horse mounted police patrol the park. DISCOTEQUES: People may get a bit aggressive in crowded bars, and it's not uncommon to be grabbed or groped.
Phone Nr.: Emergency 112
Slovenians are a bit more reserved than neighboring nations but after first contact they get quite open and helping. Don't hesitate to address people. People younger than 50 at least understand English if not speak and they will be eager to help you. You will impress them when using some basic Slovene words. Slovene is rarely spoken by foreigners, so your effort will be appreciated and rewarded.
Slovenians are proud of the fact that they preserved their national identity (especially the language) in spite of the pressures from neighbouring non-Slavic nations in past centuries.
Due to their economic successs and historical as well as contemporary cultural bonds to the west they don't like their country to be described as part of "Eastern Europe". Another common misconception is that Slovenia was part of the Soviet Bloc (in fact it was part of Yugoslavia that notoriously split with the Soviets back in 1948). People have no problems talking about the communist period and get often nostalgic over it. They are also proud that they were the first of the federal republics to declare independence from Yugoslavia.
There are some open territorial issues with Croatia. Be careful if entering a discussion on this subject. Nationalists take it quite emotionally! Another delicate issue is Slovenian civil war during WWII. This national tragedy is still painful for many Slovenians. Try to stay neutral if discussing it.
- If you are invited to dinner to someone's home bring a bottle of good wine. You will often be asked if you want to change to slippers when you arrive. You should accept it. It's a gesture of hospitality. It's expected to give a compliment to a cook. Do it before you are asked if you liked the meal!
- It's normal that you shake your hand when introduced to someone. Don't try to make a kiss when introduced. It might be considered intrusive.
- Always use formal forms ("vikanje" in Slovene) in any language you use when addressing elderly people. Otherwise some might not want to talk to you.
- Slovenian Alps (especially the highest peak Triglav) are in the heart of every Slovenian. Don't litter unless you want to listen to unpleasant comments. It's common to greet people you meet in the mountains in Slovene ("Dober dan") and when you part you say Good luck ("Srečno"). You can expect people you meet to be very friendly and helpful to you. There is a strong spirit of comeradeship in the mountains.