STA, 1 June 2021 - Slovenia is among the eleven EU member states where all bathing water sites, on the coast and inland, are suitable for bathing, a report on European bathing water quality for 2020 shows. The group also features Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Croatia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Slovakia.
Europe had almost 22,280 bathing sites last year. In 2014-2020, the share of "excellent" bathing sites stood at 85-87% for coastal sites and at 77-81% for inland waters.
Slovenia's Environment Agency (ARSO) said as it presented the data that water quality is always a bit better on the coast due to the sea's greater capacity to self-clean.
ARSO said Slovenia was also one of ten EU member states which provided a sufficient number of water measurements during the bathing season.
Slovenia's bathing waters on the coast had been above EU average for years, because they were all of excellent quality until two years ago.
Following a pollution in 2019, one site, Žusterna, is now rated "satisfactory", lowering the excellence status to 95.2% for 2019 and 2020, ARSO said.
The share of excellent inland bathing sites in Slovenia in 2020 was at 76.9%, on a par with EU levels.
There were meanwhile 296 sites with poor bathing water in Europe in 2020, meaning bathing is not allowed. This is 1.3% of all sites.
The bulk were in Italy (93), followed by France (78), while Italy also led the way in terms of the number of sites where bathing was permanently banned over five years.
ARSO's report for 2020 shows that 85% or 40 of a total of 47 bathing sites in Slovenia were excellent, 8.5% good, 6.4% satisfactory and none poor.
First test results from this year indicate that bathing waters will also be very good this season.
Explore an interactive map of all Slovenia’s bathing water sites, and if you like the look of the bay at the top of the page, learn more about Strunjan here
STA, 1 June 2021 - The 69th Ljubljana Festival, starting on 1 July and running until early September, will feature international stars, including Anna Netrebko, Placido Domingo and Martha Argerich, as well as Slovenian performers, said the organisers on Monday when they unveiled the festival's programme.
The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, based in Saint Petersburg and conducted by Valery Gergiev, will perform on the opening night. The orchestra will play, among others, a piece by Slovenian composer Marjan Kozina (1907-1966) titled Bela Krajina after a region in the south-east of the country.
The closing evening, on 8 September, will also feature music by a Slovenian composer. Visitors will be able to hear for the first time a new piece by Vito Žuraj, born in 1979, which will be performed by the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
69. LF from Festival Ljubljana on Vimeo.
Other acts include, among others, Russian soprano Netrebko, Spanish tenor Domingo, Slovenian soprano Sabina Cvilak, German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, Argentine-Swiss classical concert pianist Martha Argerich, Slovenian flautist Irena Grafenauer, the Vienna Boys' Choir, the Amsterdam-based Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra led by Daniel Harding, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and the Friuli Venezia Giulia Choir.
The Maribor opera and ballet ensembles will stage Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Peer Gynt by Edward Clug, the ballet ensemble's artistic director and star choreographer. Both performances of his Peer Gynt were sold out at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 2019.
Those craving tango will be able to enjoy a performance by Slovenian Andreja Podlogar and Blaž Bertoncelj. Moreover, music lovers who were disappointed last year when Lolita was cancelled could rejoice as the musical is part of this year's programme as well as another audience darling Chicago.
The festival will also provide two delights for theatregoers - And the Century Will Blush. The Kocbek Case, a play about Edvard Kocbek, an acclaimed Slovenian poet, author, intellectual and anti-fascist, based on the book by Andrej Inkret and directed by Matjaž Berger, as well as Birds of a Kind, a co-production directed by Ivica Buljan and written by Wajdi Mouawad, a Lebanese-Canadian author famous for politically engaged works.
The head of the festival Darko Brlek said at Monday's press conference that the festival had been deemed a cultural event and not a gathering, so the cap on visitors will be milder this year compared to 2020 with a 1-metre distance being enforced between seats.
Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković meanwhile announced that the renovation of the Križanke open-air venue had been given a green light. A roof over the venue will be set up already this year in a move that will enable performances also in the event of rain.
The festival will be an opportunity to help revive the cultural and hospitality sectors, the mayor noted.
Summer is more or less here, and with vaccinations moving fast across Europe things are finally starting to open up again, so it looks like we all may get a season to enjoy. And while it’s the inside activities like going to a restaurant or show that’ll be the big novelty, the good weather means most will be spending their time in the fresh air – whether in street cafés or town parks, gardens or the great outdoors. It’s this last option where Slovenia really excels, with varied topography and landscapes offering a wealth of activities and scenes to enjoy all within close proximity, making it the ideal location for an active vacation.
Which is the perfect introduction to Steve Hartley and his work at Explorer Camps. The Australian native came to Slovenia well over a decade ago and worked in the field of education before moving on to the world of summer camps with offerings for four different age groups – 6-9, 10-12, 13-14, and 15-17 years old – that have attracted children from around 40 different countries. At the camps children enjoy real, 3D adventures outdoors, with the full surround sound and profound sensory stimulation that only nature can provide. A real escape, at least for a few days, from the deadening distractions and look-at-me pings of technology and screens, with a focus on building real-life skills, such as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication, through a fun and engaging outdoor summer programs that are run by native English-speaking staff.
As the world gets ready to go out again, we got in touch with Steve and asked him a few questions…
Can you describe Explorer Camps in three words?
Only three words? Wow. OK – Love. Life. Nature.
Love is at the heart of everything do at camps. We honestly love and believe in what we’re doing on camp and that transfers to our campers which helps them develop into more compassionate young adults.
Life is what we’re trying to prepare our campers for. A real-life away from technology and learning skills not commonly taught at school.
Nature is our classroom. Our international campers have real-life lessons on a raft or SUP or on a hike surrounded by the great outdoors.
How are the skills you teach at summer camp different to what’s taught at school?
Schools teach knowledge, but life requires wisdom. In the rush to grade students, education consistently overlooks skills such as independence, critical thinking, creativity, team work, communication, self-confidence, determination. So, there’s this void between what school teaches and what young adults need to start work.
Our Life Skills Program aims to cover that gap. As a result, our parents feel more comfortable knowing their child will return from camp happier, more independent, organised, and better prepared for life. We supplement what school isn’t able to offer.
With a 5 / 5 from 60 Google Reviews it seems that the Explorer community agrees with you about summer camp being the place to learn real-life skills.
You’ve done your homework!
It’s always nice receiving positive feedback from parents so our Google Reviews certainly leaves all of us with an amazing feeling. Considering over 70% of our families come back every year, it certainly does indicate that our camps are doing something right.
There’s a process to bringing this program to life.
The main part is training and creating a particular type of attitude. Our experienced mentors are motivated to actively find ‘teachable moments’ where they guide campers to reach a better understanding of life, themselves and those around them. The old “Give a person a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a person to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” is exactly how we see it. We prefer to teach our campers how to fish.
You teach campers to fish. Literally and figuratively! The outdoors plays such an important part of your camps. Why is that?
How much has the average child spent in nature in the past year or so?
Well, according to research, children should spend a minimum of 180 mins per day in nature however in the last few years they’d be lucky to get 1/3 of that. It’s not ideal, but at the same time it’s challenging for children and parents alike to get that time with all of the restrictions that have been in place.
Our vision has always been to help our international parents help their children. Being surrounded by nature, and having very little mass tourism to compete with makes it even easier to do. An average day will see our campers spend a minimum of 8 hours in the outdoors participating in activities such as rafting, hiking, SUPing, biking, paintball, a high ropes course etc.
We believe that the benefits of children being away from their screens and in nature is immeasurable. In these times our children are in desperate need of a stimulating outdoor environment minus technology. Which is what we provide at Explorer Camps.
Clearly your Explorer family feels this ‘love’ you talk about. But how do your first-time parents experience it without having ever gone to a camp?
We love having honest heart-felt discussions with our families. More often than not I have a personal video meeting with first time parents just to hear their own concerns and listen to their expectations. And from there it grows.
This love starts with me, and filters down throughout all of our team and can easily be seen in many of our approaches.
Parents can clearly see love in your approaches. Can you give us an example?
Camper mental health. It’s an unheard of topic not only in Slovenia but in Europe. However, it’s something we take very seriously because we honestly care about all of the children that step onto our camp grounds and see it as our responsibility to ensure they step out of the grounds better, happier and healthier young adults.
What does mental health mean for the children at Explorer Camps?
These unprecedented times have brought unprecedented conditions. Many people are calling it a ‘collective trauma’ in that each one of us have lost something. Whether that be a loved one. Or an important life moment such as a wedding, or graduation, or a birthday. Or income. Or belongings. Everyone has lost something. Children especially.
The reality is that our kids are suffering, and even though this may well be done in silence, they’re still suffering.
On camp we do our best to understand mental health. We’re aware of it, acknowledge it and train for it. We do our best to support all of our campers, their families and each other. We do so by building a warm, caring and positive environment where our campers feel a sense of belonging and trust. All away from electronic devices.
Being a technology-free camp, this helps in dealing with mental health issues?
Well, there have been studies showing screen time amongst teenagers is over 185% more when compared to pre COVID times. And it’s only going to get worse. We want to get away from this dependence on electronic devices, even if it’s just for a week.
Explorer Camps has always been 100% technology-free and this will never change. Face-to-face communication is paramount when it comes to our camp community as we see it as a vital tool to battling mental health issues. And, believe it or not but … the campers actually enjoy it.
Technology addiction is just the tip of the iceberg though, but it plays its part. The key is developing a truly positive atmosphere on camp where our children not only feel a sense of belonging but also can simply just be themselves.
What part do your counsellors play in creating this healthy environment?
“A company is only as good as its employees” definitely rings true at Explorer Camps.
We honestly believe our counsellors are second to none in this region and the part they play in building and maintaining a health camp environment is massive. They’re truly exceptional, and are the key reason why over 70% of our campers come back every year which always comes back to the key point of camp. We love what we do and our attitude shows this.
That being said, continual improvement drives the success of Explorer Camps every year. Our training is paramount, so we take it very seriously. This year our staff have access to an online library with video lessons, quizzes, and readings all created to help them improve as professionals and thus provide a better environment for our Explorer families.
The most important question to ask these days – are you going ahead with camps this summer?
Putting it into simple terms. YES! Most programs in July are full, and August is quickly filling up. We can’t wait.
Where does this confidence about running in 2021 come from?
I guess we look back at closing in 2020 and the reasons why we made that choice then.
At that point no camps around the world had truly experienced a Covid summer. And even though there was a lot of very well researched protocols for successfully running summer camps during the pandemic we didn’t believe Explorer Camps, the hotel nor society were prepared enough for dealing with Covid. So, we made that heart breaking choice to cancel camps with our Explorer families’ health and safety in mind.
However, we learnt a lot from that experience and ensured coming into the 2021 season that our camps are ready under nearly all circumstances. The hotel is better prepared. We’ve already trained our staff in our protocols for camps. Society is in a better place with all of the vaccinations etc.
All of this together gives us this confidence to push forward knowing that we’re in a much better position to ensure our Explorer families stay covid free.
How are you ensuring your children remain safe and healthy this summer?
The key, based on research and practical experience, is to have a multilayered approach to dealing with the virus. We can’t rely on only one method, but put into place a number of overlapping strategies to ensure maximum protection. Some of the main points are:
Will the amazing camp experience be affected by this at all?
The reality is actually quite exciting. The magic and power that Explorer Camps is renowned for building will be stronger than ever and go beyond anything we’ve ever created!
In fact, these protocols really don’t impact the structure of the camps other than simply adding a little more focus to hygiene. All of the activities are running as usual whether that be rafting or stand-up paddling or paintball or ziplining. Everything is the same but done only within the smaller groups.
We’ve spent the last two years dreaming, planning, researching and looking for ways to elevate the camp experience even more. We’re honestly so excited about what’s waiting for all of our families in July and August and reconnecting them all with nature!
Lastly. Are you looking forward to the summer?
You can’t tell? YES! Can’t wait to have our campers back on camp having fun, learning, growing, and back to living life! We all love summer camps here in Europe. Can’t wait!
For those interested, make sure you check out our website but remember … July is pretty much full and August only has a few spots left.
STA, 28 May 2021 - Visitors to the Alpine Lake Bohinj will no longer be able to use large inflatable devices on the lake, play loud music on the shore, wear swimsuits around the Church of St. John the Baptist or cycle along the north shore under new restrictions put in place by the Bohinj municipal council.
While bigger inflatable devices such as floating mats, castles, flamingos, palms and similar things will be banned, devices that ensure safety of the swimmers are excluded from the restrictions.
A large number of swimming devices increases the risk of transmitting invasive alien species and ruins the visual aesthetics of the lake. This is also the motive behind the interdiction of wearing a swimsuit around the Church of St. John the Baptist.
Loud music on the shore increases the noise level in the summer, it is unpleasant to visitors, disturbs the peace and the natural experience of the lake. The restriction excludes events and bars, the municipality added.
Cycling along the north shore will be restricted because it is the most sensitive part of the lake. The path is also too narrow for hikers and cyclists to meet.
To make for a smooth transition to the new restrictions, the local authorities will focus on raising awareness before they start issuing fines next year.
Some municipal council members warned that such restrictions might put tourists off, but others think that communication will be the key, as the restrictions are necessary to maintain the desired quality of tourism.
Although the lake is a part of the Triglav National Park, swimming will still be allowed, since the main goal is to make visitors respect the environment and nature.
STA, 27 May 2021 - Slovenian tourism providers are cautiously optimistic ahead of the summer tourism season in light of a major decline in the epidemic. Roughly half the accommodation facilities are open, whereas the bulk of the other half will welcome guests again in early June.
"We're optimistic, but we're talking about cautious optimism," the head of the Slovenian Tourism Board (STO) Maja Pak told today's press conference presenting the state of play in Slovenia's tourism.
The STO expects a somewhat smaller number of Slovenian tourists this year compared to 2020, but still 15% above the 2019 figure. The expected total of foreign tourists is naturally still below the pre-Covid levels, but above the 2020 number.
Pak warned that these figures were just an estimation, noting that the relaunch of tourism depended on many factors, primarily the epidemiological situation, but also access to air transport and the providers' capacity to adapt to the circumstances.
According to the Tourism and Hospitality Chamber (TGZS), almost half the accommodation facilities are open with many of those still closed planning to reopen at the start of June.
The providers are heeding or stepping up safety measures recommended by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), said the TGZS head Fedja Pobegajlo, noting the importance of the Green&Safe certificate, launched by the STO last year.
He called for a prompt introduction of Covid certificates EU-wide, highlighting that the summer season would rely largely on foreign guests.
Easing of border restrictions is necessary even prior to the launch of Covid passports, he said, urging a swift passage of an emergency law to help the tourism sector and the prolonging of stimulus measures. What he deems key is to reopen the entire sector immediately.
Some 3,000 business entities out of 10,000-12,000 in tourism have not survived the crisis, he said, noting that small businesses had been hit the worst.
Both Pobegajlo and Iztok Altbauer, who heads the Association of Slovenians Spas, lauded cooperation with the STO and the Economy Ministry during the crisis. Spas are expected to reopen completely by mid-June, Altbauer said, noting that they were not transmission hotspots.
He hopes that as Slovenia enters tier green, restrictions will be significantly relaxed, "but mainly that we'll not be forced into going through decrees [...] in the Official Gazette every week to check what is actually permitted and under which conditions".
The convention industry has been practically closed for more than 400 days, pointed out Slovenian Convention Bureau director Miha Kovačič. Currently, the sector is at some 10% of its usual capacity, he said, hopeful that autumn with an increase in business events will bring a return to normal.
STA, 27 May 2021 - Slovenia will introduce new tourism vouchers as it is finalising an emergency bill to help the tourism industry. Unlike the vouchers issued last year, it will also be possible to use these for services such as cultural and sport events or recreational activity, Economy Ministry State Secretary Simon Zajc said on Thursday.
"I hope we're in the last week of coordination," Zajc said at a news conference of the Slovenian Tourism Board in Ljubljana on Thursday.
The new vouchers are planned to be valid until the end of the year, but Zajc said their implementation would be more demanding because they would be used more broadly than the existing ones, which can be used only for accommodation with or without breakfast.
He declined to discuss the sum but said that a somewhat lower sum than the existing vouchers had been discussed. Last year, adult residents received EUR 200 and underage residents EUR 50.
Introduced with the third emergency coronavirus package amid the epidemic in 2020 in the total amount of EUR 357 million, tourism vouches were initially to be used by the end of last year, but were later extended until the end of 2021.
Until the middle of this week, over 924,000 vouchers have been redeemed or services booked to be paid with them, which translates to almost EUR 132 million, said Zajc.
The government has so far provided over EUR 450 million to the hospitality and tourism sector, which includes the events industry and passenger transport, said Zajc.
Some 40% of the funds were allocated directly to preserve jobs, while liquidity loans have also been available, alongside another EUR 46 million for the coverage of operating costs through two tenders.
The state secretary said the bill would be discussed by the expert council for tourism next week, and then sent to the Economic and Social Council for debate.
STA, 26 May 2021 - A Slovenian citizen attempted to enter Austria at the Lavamünd border crossing near Klagenfurt on Wednesday morning using a fake coronavirus test result, the Austrian police have reported as quoted by the Austrian Press Agency (APA).
The 44-year-old handed to border officials a folder containing a number of test results, including one that was legit and dated 1 March and 13 others that were forged. The man entered the test dates on the fake ones himself, the APA said.
To enter Austria one must show either proof of recovery from Covid-19 or vaccination or a valid negative test result issued either in English or German. Moreover, a pre-travel clearance has to be obtained by registering at https://entry.ptc.gv.at. Those who cross the Austrian border daily have to do this every 28 days.
STA, 21 May 2021 - A digital green certificate proving a person has been vaccination against Covid, received a negative test result or recovered from Covid will be available to Slovenian residents no later than at the end of June, the Government Communication Office (UKOM) said on Friday after the government discussed ongoing activity to issue it.
To receive the digital document, which should facilitate safe travel within the EU, a person will have to have SMSPass mobile identity or a digital certificate.
The document will be created as part of the eHealth system on the basis of data from the central register of data about patients, and available on the zVEM portal.
Healthcare providers which have access to the central register will be able to access it alongside authorised staff at the National Institute of Public Health, who could issue the digital document upon request.
The government tasked the Public Administration Ministry to speed up efforts to enable as many residents as possible to obtain a safe mobile identity.
The ministry must thus enable residents to submit the application form for SMSPass at several points across the country.
Learn more about the SMSPass, in English
Apart from the green certificate, a vaccination booklet proving one has been vaccinated or a doctor's note will also suffice to enable one to freely pass the border.
But since the digital green certificate will be easy to check, resulting in a faster and simpler procedure at the border, the government expects many residents will want to have as soon as possible, UKOM said after the government's correspondence session.
STA, 21 May 2021 - An upgrade of the eastern tube of the Golovec tunnel on the north-eastern section of the Ljubljana ring road has been completed. The tube will partly reopen to traffic on Saturday, lane restrictions will have been completely gone by Sunday evening.
The construction works began in mid-March and have been completed on schedule, the national motorway company DARS said. The upgrade comes after the western tube was modernised last summer.
The EUR 8.56 million renovation will allow for improved safety and comfort and lower maintenance costs, the company said.
The 600m-long Golovec tunnel, one of the main traffic hotspots in the country's motorway system, is now the first tunnel in Slovenia boasting a modern, energy-efficient LED lighting system. There is also a new thermal detection system for traffic incidents.
STA, 19 May - Slovenia remains in the yellow tier of coronavirus restrictions, but a new exemption has been added for crossing of the border and police checks on the border with Hungary will be lifted, the government decided on Wednesday.
Checkpoints on the border with Hungary will be lifted on 22 May after they were already cancelled on the border with Italy and Austria a few weeks ago.
A new exemption for quarantine-free arrival has been added effective on 22 May as those who have recovered from Covid-19 and have had a single shot of a coronavirus vaccine within eight months after infection will be able to enter the country without restrictions right after they have received the jab.
On arrival, such persons will have to show proof of having had Covid-19 and proof of vaccination.
There are also some changes on the red list of countries which are subject to mandatory quarantine.
Albania has been removed from the list and Sri Lanka added, all of Denmark and Slovakia are now red-listed, and there are changes for individual regions of Austria, Czech Republic, Italy and Norway.
Here at TSN we’re not considering Ljubljana open for business this summer until Open Kitchen returns. So it’s with a heavy heart we report that Alma Kochavy, co-founder of the seasonal open-air dining experience that does so much to lift spirits downtown each Friday, has announced the planned launch of the 9th season on 21 May will be postponed.
The reason why more 40 stalls offering food and drink with the tastes of Slovenia and beyond, from some of the top chefs, restaurants and cafés in town, will not be delighting crowds of locals and visitors is (of course) covid, with a twist. Even with the current restrictions it’s perfectly fine to purchase food and drink and consume it outside, so what’s the problem with Open Kitchen?
As Kochavy explains: “We can shop in shopping malls, we can go to a restaurant, we can walk around the markets, we can even go to a gallery, cinema and theatre, or cheer at a sporting event, but we mustn’t take food to the table ourselves or eat it in public area near the pick-up point. In other words: you can buy ice cream by Tromostovje [Triple Bridge] and eat it sitting on the Prešeren monument, but you can't buy šmorna [shredded pancake] from Open Kitchen and eat it on Pogačarjev trg sitting at a table that is carefully disinfected and placed at the prescribed and safe distance.”
As yet there’s no indication as to when Open Kitchen, and thus summer in Ljubljana, will begin, but we’ll let you know as soon as we do.