Asher & Lyric, a travel site that focuses on how to stay safe and healthy will abroad, has just released its LGBTQ+ Danger Index, which places Slovenia at #22 on a list of the 150 most-visited countries with regard to how welcome gay travellers may feel in the country.
The results, which see Sweden, Canada, Norway, Portugal and Belgium as the most gay-friendly nations in the world, were derived using eight factors: legalised same-sex marriage, worker protection, protections against discrimination, criminalization of hate crimes, adoption recognition, polling data, the legality of same-sex relationships and morality laws. While some of these issues do not affect travellers directly, they are used as they indicate the overall attitude of a country to equal rights and protections for all.
Turning the rankings upside down, and looking at the nations from the least to most gay-friendly, the five worst places in the world for LGBT+ travellers – those that would perhaps meet the approval of Janez Janša – are Nigeria, Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Tanzania, all of which threaten imprisonment or even death for homosexual acts.
The full report is full of interesting facts, such as 47 of the 70 countries where same-sex relationships are illegal were once part of the British Empire, and in almost all cases such laws were put into place under British rule. You can find more details, along with travel tips for LGBT+ travellers, here, while all our stories on related issues are here.
STA, 22 November 2019 - The national railway operator Slovenske Železnice has announced that wireless internet access will be enabled in a total of 29 of its trains by the end of November, and in another three by the end of the year.
The process of upgrading the company's services with wireless internet will be continued next year, when Slovenske Železnice are expected to introduce new passenger trains manufactured by the Swiss company Stadler Rail.
The company told the Uporabna Stran portal on Friday that wireless internet access would be introduced in its Siemens Desiro and Pendolino trains.
It added that the signals from the telcos Telekom Slovenije and A1 Slovenija would be used to ensure the best possible coverage and connection speed.
Slovenske Železnice is awaiting the delivery of passenger trains from Stadler Rail, with 26 trains commissioned last April and another 26 this May. In total, the price tag has reached EUR 320 million, VAT excluded.
According to the national railway operator, these trains will be equipped with wireless internet access technology. First Stadler trains in Slovenia are expected to hit the rails in the spring of 2020.
The Christmas lights are being turned on in many places around Slovenia next Friday, 29 November (see here), but things are already moving in a festive direction, and one seasonal treat for those who like to glide on blades of glory is the ice skating rink in Bled.
As usual this will be set up on the terrace of the Hotel Park, where from 22 November to 1 March 2020 a trip to this must-visit scenic area can be further enhanced by putting on some skates and either sliding with the elegance of swan or holding onto the side rails with wobbly legs, a bruised behind and wondering how soon you can get off for some mulled wine without losing face in front of the cool kids.
Related - How to spend from 4 to 48 hours in Bled
The rink is open from 09:00 to 20:00, Sunday to Thursday, 09:00 to 21:00 Friday and Saturday (as well as from 21 December to 5 January). Skates and helmets can be hired for €3 and €2, respectively. For children who require a little more stability a seal can be hired for 30 minutes for €3, and note that this a plastic device and not a friendly aquatic mammal. Entry to the ice rink itself is free for children under 12, and €5 for anyone older.
Moreover, in addition to regular skating the rink also offers curling, ice dances, children’s events and more, as outlined on the official website. The Hotel Park can be found at Cesta svobode 15, 4260 Bled.
STA, 18 November 2019 - Slovenia is one of the safest countries in the world for travellers, faring very well in all three key indicators - security, medical risks and road safety, shows a risk world map for 2020 released by the SOS International NGO.
On a 1-5 scale for security, Slovenia places among only a handful of European countries with "insignificant" travel security risks alongside Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Greenland.
The country also places highest in the category of medical risks, which are deemed "low" alongside much of Western Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Its road safety ranking is a bit worse, as it has a mortality rate of 10-19.9 persons killed in car accidents per 100,000 persons, again on a par with the majority of West European countries, Canada and Australia.
The most dangerous countries in the world in all three categories are Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan and Venezuela.
The world risk map is available here
Just a few days after the announcement that Michelin inspectors have been eating their way across the country for the first edition of a guide to Slovenia – further raising the profile of the nation’s culinary offer – the 2020 edition of the Gault&Millau Slovenija guide has been launched. The event turned the spotlight on six Slovenian restaurants that the team behind the guide deem worthy of the full four toques, these are: Hiša Franko (Kobarid), Gostilna pri Lojzetu (Vipava), Hiša Denk (Zgornja Kungota), Restavracija Mak (Maribor), Ošterija Debeluh (Brežice) and Restavracija Strelec (Ljubljana).
In addtion to these the new guide, the second produced for Slovenia, also highlights a further 130 restaurants, 50 popular places, 50 Slovenian wineries and 15 craft brewers, with the related website here.
STA, 12 November 2019 - Slovenian tourism is in for another record year in terms of arrivals and nights by foreign tourists, even if growth rates are slowing down in Slovenia and globally. And while some goals from the 2017-2021 national tourism strategy have already been achieved, there is still a lot to be done in terms of revenue and company restructuring.
Arrivals and nights by foreign tourists grew this year until August, by 7.1% and 3.5%, respectively, and revenue from foreign tourists rose by 3% to EUR 1.9 billion until the end of August, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek told the press in Ljubljana on Tuesday.
This means two goals were already achieved in 2018, arrivals and nights, he said at the Days of Slovenian Tourism, the main tourism industry event in the country.
However, "the main goal of the strategy is EUR 3.7-4 billion in revenue from foreign tourists, which means a lot of hard work until the end of this period," he added.
Compared to the baseline year 2016, revenue from foreign tourists rose by 24% to EUR 2.7 billion in 2018, and only by another 3% since last year.
?Na Dnevih slovenskega turizma o projektih in izzivih, ki bodo spreminjali prihodnost slovenskega turizma #DST2019— Slovenia Tourism (@tourism_slo) November 12, 2019
?Podrobnejši program so predstavili gostje na današnji novinarski konferenci v prostorih Grand Hotela Union.
?Več informacij➡️https://t.co/dX4cxtKRkk pic.twitter.com/UFBsog9bfW
Počivalšek also presented some other priorities: efforts to restructure state-owned tourism companies; making hospitality legislation more flexible; and public calls.
He said everything had been done to prepare the ground for the transfer of ownership and management of state-owned tourism companies to a state-owned fund.
Nevertheless, the minister said it was hard to say when this would actually happen, noting a plurality of different interests.
As for legislation, he said the hospitality sector needed simpler and fresher legislation that would enable it to develop gastronomy.
The ministry is also planning new calls for applications to distribute EUR 5.5 million to leading destinations in the coming two years.
Three million euro will be available for new products, EUR 21 million to make tourist accommodation and restaurants energy efficient and another EUR 5 million for the same purpose for mountain cottages.
Počivalšek also said that in 2017-2018, the state spent EUR 17.3 million on 121 projects that should bring 185 new or upgraded tourist products plus 190 new jobs.
Speaking at the same news conference, Slovenian Tourism Association head Pavle Hevka stressed tourism was the most important sector of economy for Slovenia.
He believes it facilitates quality development to the capital city, as well other smaller and bigger towns, villages and even more remote parts of the country.
Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) director Maja Pak said the STO would continue to focus on digital advertising, working with journalists and influencers.
It will moreover present Slovenia at global tourist and other events, including Expo in Dubai and the Olympic Games in Tokyo, while also planning to use Slovenia's EU presidency in 2021 as a promotional opportunity. Gastronomy will also be an area in the focus in the next two years.
This year's Days of Slovenian Tourism are organised by all leading partners in the industry under the wing of the STO.
A reminder that Vintgar Gorge, one of the many attractions clustered around Bled, will soon be closing for the winter season, with the last days you can access the bridges and galleries to view this natural wonder being November 16 and 17 (2019) – this weekend. After that the only view you’ll be able to get is from the railway bridge, with the area closed until spring and the completion of any work that needs to be done before reopening, with that date usually being around the end of April or beginning of May..
Still, there’s plenty more to see in the area, including many other hiking trials, and details of those can be found on the rather slow loading page here.
Ljubljana may be the capital of Slovenia, but when it comes to St Martin’s Day celebrations (Martinovanje) the first city is Maribor. This claims to have “the biggest public one-day celebration” of the hour when the year’s new wine if officially launched. It also comes a short time after the weeks-long Old Vine Festival in Maribor, nominally focused on the oldest vine in the world that still produces grapes, but in reality a celebration of all things food, wine and Slovene.
As the video above shows, the city it thus ready, willing and able to get into the festive spirit, with some 20,000 people expected to take part in a day that brings the producers and consumers of wine together, and much more to do than just drink a glass or two. There will be a “celebration of autumn” procession, with wine queens and others, wending its way around the city centre. There will be a ceremony when must – the immature wine – is blessed and becomes the focal drink. There will be food to sample along with the wine, from local farms and restaurants. And there will, of course, be music and dancing.
The whole thing kicks off at 11:11 (not a typo, for once) on Monday 11 November, with the organised events set to run until 21:00. All the events are centred at Trg Leona Štuklja, while the Old Vine House (Stara trta) should also see some action, and that can be found not far away, at Vojašniška ulica 8. If going to a wine event on a Monday is not possible, then consider a visit to the smaller – but still very grand – Ljubljana Wine Route, which takes place this Saturday, 9 November (2019), as detailed here.
Christmas in Slovenia may seem far away, with the trees outside still a beautiful mix of green, gold and brown, the weather wet, windy but otherwise rather mild. But time moves fast and in three weeks the lights will be turned on around the country, thus begin just over a month of festive fun, with music, lights, markets, parades and more to get you through the darkest days of winter.
The month is known as Festive December in Ljubljana, and runs from 29 November to 5 January 2020. Perhaps the most distinctive feature is the lights that turn up in different places each year, as designed by Zmago Modic, the artist who’s also responsible for the rain that usually appears each summer in Prešeren Square (although this year, due to renovations, there was no rain). It’s in this square, soon to be home to a giant Christmas tree, where the lights will be turned on Friday November 29 at 17:15.
The same evening will see the opening of the Christmas market, which is held in the Central Market and also along Breg embankment. Here you’ll find hats, gloves, scarves, festive foods, treats, gifts, souvenirs and so on, along with many stalls selling mulled wine and hot food. Since the city is small everything is easy to find, and the best thing to do is just wander through the Old Town, being sure to visit Prešeren and Congress Square / Zvezda Park, where there will be a (free) magical forest to explore.
The city’s official site for the month is here, and some dates to look out for are 5 December, when at 17:00 St Nicholas himself will lead a procession, while Grandpa Frost will keep the cheer going with his own parade on 26 December, at 17:00. Both provide good excuses to make the trip the Ljubljana and enjoy the atmosphere. Note that the Castle also has a full programme of events.
The lights in Maribor will start shining the same day as those in Ljubljana, Friday 29 November, but 15 minutes earlier, at 17:00, in General Maister Square. The city’s official site for the month – which is currently rather short on information – is here.
The picturesque lake, island, chapel and castle are especially magical in winter, with the scene made even more full of wonder when the lights come on at night. This year the festive season will run from November 29 until January 5, and – in addition to the usual lights and stalls – there’ll also be an ice rink with a spectacular view, one that opens 22 November and closes 1 March. The official website is here with more details, and note that if you’re in the area on Christmas Day then you have the chance to join other brave souls and go for a swim in the lake.
Of course, not everyone likes the cold and snow, even in December, in which case a festive trip to the mild climate of the Slovenian coast is recommended. All the towns here will have lights to enjoy, starting on 29 November, but if in Portorož then head to Christmas market in the park of Hotel Kempinski Palace Portorož, while in Koper the Old Town will come alive to a series of events call Magical December, usually including an ice rink. Finally, in Piran the centre of festivities will be Tartini Square.
Ljubljana Free Tour has an eye-catching name, but what’s the business behind it, and does it really work? We sent some questions to the group, who were kind enough to answer.
Look for the yellow umbrellas
How long has Ljubljana Free Tour been running?
Since 2009. It was a difficult start as hotels would not work with us due to their belief that if something is free, it can’t be very good. We have over the years gained an impeccable reputation for quality, and today most hotels recommend us to their guests and call us as soon as they run out of fliers. Today free tours run 365 days a year, no booking is required. The service is always available regardless of weather.
Where did you get the idea from?
The Free Tour concept began in Berlin, in 2007. We were there that year and took a free tour not knowing what to expect. We were absolutely shocked .. not by the free concept, but by the quality of tour. The tour was engaging, informative, funny, fluid and simply changed our whole perception of “tours”. The guide had to work hard to earn their tips and did a great job.
Who are your guides?
All guides are local guides with a valid Slovene guiding license, a must in Slovenia. They are all academics and for many guiding is their second job. Our team includes university and college lecturers, academic researchers, school teachers, special education specialists, a sociologist, a historian, an archaeologist and even a street performer. They are all highly knowledgeable yet entertaining, true professionals who are able to deliver quality tours in an entertaining and fun manner. With over 3,000 reviews on TripAdviser alone, it is easy to see the great job they do.
How do they get paid?
On free tours guides earn only the tips they receive from guests. This ensures they will always do their best to deliver a great tour. The better they do the more they can earn. The sound of happy tourists applauding our guides can be heard across town on a daily basis. Contrary to belief, even though they make money by tips, all their earnings are properly declared.
You also organize paid tours – how are these different?
The idea is simple. Guests come on morning free tours, are impressed by the quality of tour they receive, and opt for a paid tour in the afternoon. At present, the only regularly running paid tour we have is the Communist Tour, which runs several times a week in season. In this case tourists arrive at the meeting point and pay €12 to participate in the tour. We know that without our reputation, no one would come. Like our free tours, no prior booking is required. We have enough guides on site to split large numbers into smaller groups. And of course, like any agency, we also offer various private tours in 10 different languages – including Russian, Chinese and Japanese. Private tours are mostly paid in advance.
Aside from the usual sights of Ljubljana, what else do you cover?
Our Classic City free tours visit the main tour sights in the centre and Old Town. However, it’s the structure, content and stories we deliver that differentiates us from other tours in town. There is so much to tell and we believe tours must give added value compared to guidebooks. Tours should be informative and fun.
In addition to the Classic City, we also offer an “Old Town & Castle” Free Tour which run several times a week in season. This tour visits further sights in the Old Town (beyond those on the classic city tour) and continues with a walk up to Ljubljana Castle, where we tour the inner courtyard and some towers.
In addition to classic city tours, we also offer niche tours such as the Communist Tour, Jewish Heritage Tour, boat tours and custom made tours for guests with specific interests.
Do you have any special plans for the winter season?
We are always checking options for adding new tours and have several tours ready in the drawer. Many consider us the best in town and we prefer to concentrate on what we do best … Ljubljana walking tours.
Where can people learn more?
For more information our website would be a good place to start. Elsewhere, on TripAdvisor we’ve been ranked as #1 out of 155 tours in Ljubljana for about eight years in a row. We've even gained Hall of fame status for exceptional quality. I guess we can let over 3,000 reviews speak for themselves.
Anything else you’d like to say?
We believe what we do contributes greatly to the promotion of Ljubljana and Slovenia. Think of it, many of our participants are backpackers who would otherwise never go on a paid tour. Now, instead of simply wondering around town clueless or drinking away their afternoon, we take them on a historical trip of town, inject them with some local culture and infect them with a love for Ljubljana and the country as a whole. We make their visit better and they take that back home with them. It is wonderful promotion for Slovenia and assists in shaping the perception of the country abroad.
It seems a lot of journalists and photographers, bloggers and Instagrammers visited Slovenia over the summer, with their content now coming online. Much of this is just people posing at Bled and Dragon Bridge, but the latest high-end offering is from National Geographic, presenting a 10-day road trip that takes in much of the country. While missing out on the delights of the south east, the tour takes in the following locations, and thus with any luck will help expand tourism outside the usual hotspots and inspire visitors to spend more than the usual one or two days in the country:
Day 1: Ljubljana – Paddleboarding, the Old Town, fresh water and the Castle
Day 2: Alpine Slovenia – Bovec and Hiša Franko
Day 3: Maribor – Lent and the Old Vine House
Day 4: Logar Valley and Rinka Falls
Day 5: Pannonian Slovenia – Podčetrtek and thermal spas
Source: Google Maps screenshot
Day 6: Lendava and the Vinarium Tower
Day 7: The black waters of Moravske Toplice
Day 8: Portorož and Piran
Day 9: Škocjan Caves
Day 10: The saltpans of Sečovlje Salina Nature Park and some time at the Thalasso Spa Lepa Vida
The story was produced as part of National Geographic’s series of partner content with the aid of the Slovenian Tourist Board, and you can find more of those stories here, along with some of the great pictures the publication is famous for, here. If they work as intended then they should help expand tourism outside the usual hotspots and inspire visitors to spend more than the usual one or two days in the country.