Despite the extraordinary beauty and diversity of this part of Europe, many central European countries are overlooked when it comes to the 'to visit' list of most travellers and holiday-makers. When planning a walking holiday in Europe, Slovenia doesn't necessarily present itself as an obvious choice, yet it makes perfect sense!
The grand architecture and cultural highlights of Vienna along with Austria's skiing slopes have long been a draw for visitors from around the world, but few think to venture to its southern neighbour, an unassuming country with a surprising variety of landscapes, climates and things to do.
Also bordering Italy and Croatia, and with a small coastline along the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia has been dubbed 'Europe in miniature' due to the contrasting geographical features within its borders. These include the alpine region, the national parks and vast natural lakes and waterfalls, sandy beaches and hidden caves. Over half of the country is also covered by forest.
In fact, four major European geographic regions meet here: the Alps, the Dinarides, the Pannonian Plain and the Mediterranean. The climates within these regions range from sub-Mediterranean to temperate continental to mountain climate.
A very brief modern history
After WW2 Slovenia became part of Tito's communist Yugoslavia. When it started to break up in the late 1980s Slovenian opposition parties were formed, and in 1989 the May Declaration, demanding independence and democracy, was published. In 1990 free elections were followed by a referendum on independence, of which the population was overwhelmingly in favour.
A relatively peaceful separation from Yugoslavia came in 1991 and an inevitably difficult transition from communism to capitalism followed.
Shortly after joining NATO in 2004, Slovenia became the first of the former Yugoslav republics to join the EU, and in 2007 it joined the Eurozone. The following year it reached another milestone by becoming the first former communist state to take on the EU presidency. More recently, a deep recession, in 2012, sparked fears of a potential need for an international bailout, but this was averted amidst tough austerity measures.
In spite of the tough economic environment in recent years, the country enjoys high standards of living overall and a real pride amongst its people.
A natural charm
Slovenia is truly charming, its people included. Friendly faces and helpful natures come as standard in this unassuming country with a population of around 2 million people.
The official language is Slovene, a Slavic language that differs from others in its use of the Latin rather than Cyrillic alphabet. Most Slovenes speak at least one other language and English is quite widely spoken.
Slovene cultural highlights include the compact but buzzing city of Ljubljana, the country's smaller cities towns and villages also flooded by culture including by talented local artists and artisans, and, of course, the stunning natural scenery is hard to beat: