The Republic of Slovenia lies at the heart of Europe, where the Alps and the Mediterranean meet the Pannonian plains and the mysterious Karst.
In Slovenia, you can experience amazing contrasts in the same day: a morning swim in the Adriatic, followed two hours later by skiing below Alpine peaks, then an adventurous discovery of Karst subterranean phenomena and an invigorating bath in a thermal spring; an encounter with history in a lively mediaeval city and, not far away, a more solitary stroll through primeval forests or undulating, winegrowing hills. Tourist attractions include the famous caves at Postojna, with their decor of stalactites and stalagmites. Graffiti in the caves shows that the first tourists came here in 1213.
Previously one of Yugoslavia’s six constituent republics, present-day Slovenia became independent in 1991 as Yugoslavia fell apart. It is bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. Four major European geographic regions meet in Slovenia: the Alps, the Dinaric area, the Pannonian plain and the Mediterranean. The country is mountainous, and Slovenes are keen skiers and hikers. The national flag depicts the three-peaked Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain at 2 864 metres.
The country was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The capital, Ljubljana, was founded in Roman times. Its university, with more than 50 000 students, contributes to the city’s busy cultural life. The main industries are car parts, chemicals, electronics, electrical appliances, metal goods, textiles and furniture.
Slovenian cuisine is strongly influenced by that of its neighbours. From Austria comes Strudel and Wiener Schnitzel. Italy has contributed risotto and ravioli and Hungary goulash. The potica is a traditional Slovenian cake made by rolling up a layer of dough covered with walnuts.
Among the most famous Slovenes are the physicist Jozef Stefan, the linguist Franc Miklosic and the architect Joze Plecnik.
History of Slovenia
Independent since 1991, Slovenia does not have a majestic history like many larger European nations, but the past is nevertheless important. For many it is surprising that such a small nation, without kings or famous military leaders of its own, could even form, survive and carve out an independent path. But this is the result of the resilience and determination of the Slovene people, whose culture and common language have survived for centuries in this green piece of Europe.
Slovenia is a young country by global standards, having been independent since 1991. The ancestors of the Slovenes were Slavs who migrated from the Carpathians to the present-day territory in the 6th century, before a hundred years later founding the oldest known Slavic state, Carantania, although this did not last long.
Until the 20th century Slovenia was under foreign rule, mostly by the Habsburg monarchy of Austro-Hungary. During this time the Slovenes emerged as a nation and forged their own identity, despite oppression and sustained pressure to assimilate. Slovenia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia after the First World War, then part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after the Second World War. After more than 70 years of living in Yugoslavia, the Slovenes built a consensus to strike out an independent path, almost 90% of the population voting for independence in the 1990 referendum. Slovenia joined the EU in 2004, and also became a member of Nato.
The area that is present-day Slovenia had a rich and varied history even before being settled by Slavs. Here are the major historical developments, from prehistory to the present.
Weather and Climate in Slovenia
The weather in Slovenia varies from season to season. There are also three climatic influences that meet in the country. A harsh Alpine climate prevails in the mountains, the coast has a sub-Mediterranean climate, and the north-east lowlands have a continental climate. The average temperature is above 20°C in July, and around 0°C in January. It is worth checking the current weather, so that you can dress and equip yourself appropriately.
The exceptionally diverse landscapes of Slovenia have some common features that link a specific area into a whole. To help you decide which part of the country to visit, and to let you know what to see and what to do there, we have divided Slovenian landscapes into four groups: the Alpine world, the north-eastern uplands and lowlands, the Karst and the coast. The capital city is where all four groups meet, and is important enough to have been given its own section.
Nature has combined and interwoven great natural riches in this small piece of Europe and granted Slovenia extraordinary variety and diversity that is still well preserved today. Over a third of the country's territory lies within the Europe-wide network of Natura 2000 protected areas, while other valuable areas have been proclaimed major parks and reserves. Direct contact with nature is possible even on the edges of cities.
Centuries ago, over 90% of Slovenia was covered by forest. Slovenia's trees are still its most important lung, absorbing greenhouse gas emissions. But on their own they are not enough. This is why Slovenia is promoting green tourism, to reduce the environmental impact as much as possible. By behaving appropriately and responsibly, you too are part of this form of tourism. See the Nature – Green Slovenia chapter for advice on what you can do to help preserve green nature.
Culture has a special historical and social significance in Slovenia. It was primarily thanks to their culture and their common language of Slovene that the people of Slovenia were able to forge themselves into a nation and survive. Language and culture have for centuries compensated Slovenes for the lack of their own state and political institutions. Slovenia is one of those rare countries, if not the only country in the world, where a day of culture is a national holiday.
Slovenia has a very well-developed network of cultural institutions, organisations and associations, comparable with the wealthiest and most progressive countries in Europe. The Slovenian Philharmonic is one of the oldest orchestras in Europe, with a history of more than 300 years.
Each year Slovenia hosts a number of other events that are renowned further afield. To mention a few: the Exodos dance festival in Ljubljana, the Ana Desetnica festival of street theatre, the PEN meeting in Bled and the Vilenica literary festival near SeĹľana. In short, the range of cultural events, festivals, concerts and exhibitions in Slovenia is enough to satisfy the most demanding of guests.
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