If ever a place could be described as “small but perfectly formed” Slovenia would have to be it. This country’s charm, natural beauty and location cement its place in the centrefold of Europe. A tiny country inhabited by a big hearted population of impossibly long limbed, full lipped, high cheeked, well educated, passionate folk.
My bus from Rovinj arrived in time for me to be able to join the Ljubljana Free Walking Tour. Our guide, Tina, introduced us to the points of interest in the city. The two hour tour was long enough as Ljubljana is (like it’s country) incredibly compact, and made all the more enjoyable by the exclusion of traffic in the city centre. Cafe’s, bars and restaurants line the banks of the Ljubljanica River as it languidly winds it’s way around the base of Castle Hill (Grajski grič).
I had the pleasure of spending the evening being shown the city through the eyes of a local Slovenian student. I was struck by the passion and love that he has for his country. Whilst acknowledging its flaws (that in his mind are mostly rooted in the era of the Tito Dictatorship), he spoke with such passion and love for a country that sits perfectly at the heart of Europe.
Our evening wander ended with pizza and beers at one of those bars on the banks of the river sitting under under the watchful gaze of the Castle above. As we sat talking about the Slovenia’s potential and all that is to love about it, one couldn’t help but get caught in those feelings of affection. How could you not fall head-over-heels for a country that celebrates poets, novelists, linguists and architects as national heroes; where love forms the basis for the etymology it’s capital; where abandoned army bases are colonised by artists and musicians, where everything you could want to see or do is within an hours drive of Ljubljana.
My 24 hour visit left me wanting to experience so much more of what Slovenia has to offer. I can’t wait to return!
And return I did… a few months later, spending a couple of weeks hiking around Lake Bohinj and the Soca Valley. The Hostel Pod Voglom was a great base for exploring the natural beauty around Bohinj. I also got to mingle with a couple of school groups visiting from Germany and eastern Slovenia. Always fun to talk shop and compare notes with fellow educators.
P.S. Vegemite is served at Tivoli Hostel as a breakfast condiment! Surely a fact that should earn it passionate reviews from their Aussie guests. As I lavished praise for the lengths that this fantastic establishment goes to make its Australian guests feel welcome, the staff member awkwardly explained that the jar had been left behind by a previous guest and, as they weren’t too sure what to do with it, they had been putting it out each morning hoping that it would get used up.