STA, 15 August 2020 - The tourism vouchers have made for a good season in Gorenjska, one of Slovenia's prime tourism regions with its Alpine lakes of Bled and Bohinj and the mountain centre of Kranjska Gora. Tourism officials say domestic guests have almost fully offset the drop in foreign tourists, an exception being Bled where some hotels have remained closed.
According to the director of the Kranjska Gora Tourist Board Blaž Veber, capacities in the Upper Sava Valley in the north-west of the country are almost fully booked. Some vacancies remain in camps and in mountain huts since the weather has been a bit capricious this year.
Veber hopes the voucher system will be continued into next year, "since we know that the global situation is still very critical, that new hotspots are emerging and that things will not quickly get back to what they were before 9 March".
As many as 90% of the guests in Kranjska Gora this year have been Slovenians. Many have also been coming only for one-day trips, a development that has been observed for lake Bohinj as well, where this is being stimulated with more frequent and cheaper bus lines.
The director of Tourism Bohinj Klemen Langus said that capacities are 90% or 95% full and that is seems that July and August will see similar figures as last year after only 30% of last year's performance was recorded in June before the state-subsidised vouchers were introduced.
As many Slovenian only come for a one-day hike or a swim, domestic guests have been less dominant in accommodation facilities, but they have nonetheless been accounting for 60% to 65% of overnight stays.
Slovenian guest have meanwhile traditionally been a very small minority at Bled, where they usually account for only 5% of overnight stays.
Some hotels have remained closed this year, while the open ones have seen 70% to 80% of their capacities filled. Private room providers and the camping and glamping sites have on there been happy with the figures.
"Given the situation, we are fairly happy with the visit in August," Romana Purkart of Tourism Bled explained. July, with 60% of capacities filled, was much better than June but it cannot compare to last year, she added
More on Slovenia’s tourism vouchers
This year marks the 250th anniversary of the death of Giuseppe Tartini, the Piran-born violinist and composer whose namesake square is the focus of much activity in the town. The 19th Tartini Festival is thus a special one, with a program that stretches from the man himself to the present day, from Slovenia to beyond. What’s more, Tartini’s original violin will be taken out of the Maritime Museum and played – although note this is not the Stradivarius the Piran composer was the first owner of, which has gone down in history as the Lipinski.
Tartini Square was once part of the sea, as in this photo from sometime in the late 19th century (source: Wikipedia). More old photos of the square.
With the exception of the opening night on August 20 – which is in St. George's Church in Piran – all the concerts will take place outdoors. The historical ambiance of the Slovenian coast, with its Venetian style, thus provides the backdrop to the performances at Piran’s Minorite Monastery (Minoritski samostan sv. Frančiška v Piranu) and Koper’s Praetorian Palace (Atrij Pretorske palace), the beautiful architecture just the most visible aspect of the area’s rich cultural heritage.
Since Tartini’s instrument was the violin the program features outstanding European violinists performing in various ensembles. The opening concert, on August 20, 2020, will feature the Venice Baroque Orchestra and violinist Giuliano Carmignola.
The program then continues with performances from artists such as Isabelle van Keulen, Giorgio Fava, I Solisti Veneti, Paolo Perrone, David Plantier, and László Paulik – with the full schedule and tickets on the Tartini Festival 2020 website.
Moreover, the Tartini Festival’s own ensemble, Il Terzo Suono, will once again be performing baroque music on period instruments and aiming for historically correct interpretations, as seen and heard in the videos accompanying this story.
In addition to established artists, the festival also supports the future of Slovenian music with workshops, masterclasses and the opportunity to gain experience of playing live. The Tartini Junior is supported by the Municipality of Koper.
Check out the website or Facebook page, and find another great reason to visit the small but perfectly formed Slovenian coast.
STA, 12 August - Domestic guests have flooded Slovenian tourist resorts this summer, due to uncertainties about travel abroad as well as government-sponsored tourism vouchers. In many places they have saved the tourism season, but they have also been causing problems, in particular in places where foreign guests used to dominate.
Slovenian media have been abuzz in recent weeks about stories of Slovenian guests misbehaving, in particular in places that would normally be outside their price range but have become affordable due to the tourism vouchers.
Šobec, a high-end campsite not far from Bled, warned earlier this week that they had Slovenian guests unaccustomed to camping and they were not familiar with campsite etiquette.
"We doubled all security services in the camp, we have assistance from police and security guards, but still some groups of guests are causing inadmissible unrest," the camp director said.
Similar complaints have come from campsites and hotels on the coast.
In one instance about 30 guests, reportedly Roma from south Slovenia, engaged in a shouting match at a campsite in Ankaran after they refused to pay their bills.
Police in Portorož, an upscale tourist town popular among wealthy Russian and Italian guests, have had their work cut out as well.
In the last few weeks they have had to deal with a drunk woman who bit a cop after being pulled over, and a drunk man who scattered trash around the road before lying down on the road surface.
Figures released today by the Piran police station, which covers Portorož, show the number of minor offences and crimes rising by almost a third this season. In July alone the number of criminal offences rose by 13% year-on-year.
Learn more about Slovenia’s tourism vouchers
STA, 11 August 2020 - The coronavirus pandemic has caused the number of visitors in mountain huts plummet by 25%, while some huts high in the mountains have seen their visitor numbers drop by as much as 50%, as significantly fewer foreigners are hiking in Slovenia this year. However, the number of Slovenians staying at the huts has increased.
According to the Slovenian Alpine Association, huts accessible by car have actually seen their visitor numbers go up, as many Slovenians have decided to redeem their tourism vouchers there.
"Compared to previous seasons, the structure of guests has changed. While 70% of our gusts last year were foreigners, they make up only a handful this year ... with nearly 95% of our guests being Slovenians," said Jakob Zupanc of the Srednja Vas Alpine Association, which operates four easily accessible huts in the Bohinj area, north-west.
Data from the Financial Administration (FURS) shows that over 1,833 vouchers had been redeemed in mountain huts, or 1.67% of all vouchers, which have been issued to every permanent resident in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Meanwhile, health restrictions mean that capacities are lower than usual. Under the orders of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), a maximum of two people can sleep in the same room, with exceptions being members of the same household and people hiking together.
The tourism voucher scheme designed by the government to help tourism recover from the pandemic has drawn to the huts Slovenians who usually would not have opted for the mountains, said Dušan Prašnikar of the Alpine Association.
As of July, visitors can book their stay at some of the mountain huts on the Alpine Association's website. The system, used across the Alps, also allows easier bookings at mountain huts abroad, said Prašnikar.
Slovenia has a network of more than 10,000 kilometres of mountain paths connecting 179 mountain huts, shelters and bivouacs providing a total of 7,400 beds and the capacity to feed more than 10,000 guests at one time.
STA, 12 August 2020 - Ljubljana, whose tourism has been booming before the corona crisis, saw a 76% drop in nights spent in accommodation facilities in July compared to the same month last year. Hotels were only about 30% booked for last month, and in August this rose to 40%.
The data for 22 hotels and two hostels in the capital, of which four hotels were still closed in July and one of them opened partly in August, depending on demand, shows that in July, 28,150 nights were recorded, a significant drop from 117,000 in the same period last year, when they were all open.
Between 1 and 9 August, tourists spent 12,700 nights at the hotels and hostels, while almost 38,200 nights were generated in the same period last year.
"We mostly have foreign guests but we are happy that the number of Slovenian guests has risen significantly this year," Turizem Ljubljana told the STA, noting that 40% more Slovenian guests were recorded in July than in the same month last year, and that in the first nine days of August their number doubled.
Slovenians generated about 14% of all nights in both July and August.
The 18 or 19 hotels and two hostels that were open in August were 40% booked this month.
Turizem Ljubljana hopes that if the coronavirus situation remains unchanged or improves, the figures will rise further. A major promotion campaign is planned for the capital in Slovenia in September.
"We cannot be happy with the summer season," assistant director of Hotel Slon in the centre of Ljubljana Željko Vrhovac told the STA, noting that the occupancy rate was about 30%, which is 60 percentage points lower than in the same period in the past years.
"We've expected a faster recovery but the situation with the second wave of Covid-19 changed all that."
The share of Slovenian guests at the hotel reached about 10% in July and August, while before Covid-19, their share was less than 1%. "We attribute the rise to tourist vouchers and special packages we have prepared, and also restrictions to travelling abroad," he said.
Foreign guests mostly come from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. But these are individuals spending their holidays here, while other segments of guests such as business guests, conferences, seminars and groups have not picked up yet.
Vrhovac does not expect the situation to improve significantly until a vaccine is found.
Another Ljubljana hotel, which is slightly further away from the centre, the M Hotel, is posting an occupancy rate of 20%, which compares to 96% in the same period last year.
"Perhaps we expected a bit more Italian guests, who are quite regular visitors to Slovenia, and consequently a bit more bookings in August, but very few have come and there are no new reservations," said Gregor Erbežnik, head of sales at M Hotel.
Most of their guests are in transit, stopping on their way to Croatia. They also have some business guests. "We have virtually no Slovenian guests, despite the vouchers, which was expected, as people choose coastal and mountain destinations over Ljubljana."
STA, 11 August 2020 - Slovenians have used EUR 49.71 million worth of tourism vouchers between 19 June and 9 August, which is 14% of the amount made available as part of the government's stimulus scheme, in place until the end of the year. The coast, mountains and spas have been the primary beneficiaries, while cities are continuing to struggle.
The total value of tourism vouchers available to Slovenia's 2.08 million residents is EUR 356.9 million, with each adult having EUR 200 and each minor EUR 50 at their disposal to pay for accommodation and breakfast in hotels, self-catering units, camps, agritourism farms and other similar facilities.
Data from the Financial Administration show that 17.6% of the vouchers have been fully or partially redeemed so far, with 14% of the total amount available spent.
The coastal municipality of Piran stands out with EUR 9.9 million collected so far, while other coastal areas also benefited greatly - EUR 2.8 million worth of vouchers have been spent in Izola, EUR 1.7 million in Koper and EUR 1.6 million in Ankaran.
Major Alpine resorts have also been doing well. The figure for Kranska Gora is EUR 3.4 million, for Bohinj EUR 2.8 million and Bled EUR 1.7 million. Locations along the Soča river have been popular too, with Bovec for instance getting EUR 1.5 million through vouchers.
Spas have been doing well as well, in particular Moravske Toplice, which has secured EUR 2.7 million worth of payments through vouchers.
The figures are less encouraging for Ljubljana, with the capital recording EUR 397,000 worth of such payments, for Maribor (EUR 296,000), and Postojna with its caves (EUR 128,000).
The Slovenian Hospitality Chamber (TGZS) has highlighted this gap, while also pointing to the major decline seen at gaming destinations, some of which have seen only 10% of their capacities filled.
The vouchers have tilted the scales when it comes to the share of domestic and foreign guests in Slovenian tourism in favour of the former, which accounted for between 70% and 75% in July and August. The total figures are about a third below those seen last summer, the TGZS's Fedja Pobegajlo told the STA.
He noted that along with the discrepancies among individual municipalities, certain tourism sectors, such as agencies, transport companies, gaming companies, restaurants etc. have not benefited directly from the vouchers, as these cannot be used for their services.
According to the TGZS the amounts spent by guests on top of the vouchers have been below expectations, "while we are also surprised by the relatively low share of redeemed vouchers". Pobegajlo said the TGZS believes it would make sense to prolong the validity of the vouchers until next spring and adopted additional measures to help the sector.
More on Slovenia’s tourism vouchers
Last week, Ljubljana and its foodies witnessed a culinary novelty—the second episode of a new culinary series, actually. Master chef Igor Jagodic and his team from Strelec Restaurant temporarily moved their kitchen at the Ljubljana Castle to the Castle Vineyard.
Note - this event will take place again on 19 August, 19:00 to 23:00
It was the second in a series of summer dinners by Strelec Restaurant. Strelec’s summer dinners usually unfold on the Ljubljanica River below the castle. However, this year, the river cruise was adequately dropped to hinder the unavoidable huddling of people on a boat due to COVID-19.
Denise Rejec of Wine Dine Slovenia at the Strelec Restaurant Ljubljana Castle Vineyard dinner. Photo: Wine Dine Slovenia
The vineyard setup was equally—if not more—remarkable. Guests were able to dine between the vines of the Ljubljana Castle Vineyard. And apart from indulging in extravagant culinary creations by Igor Jagodic and his team, they could take in the peaceful surroundings of the vineyard, admire the views, and enjoy a beautiful sunset from a high-hill vantagepoint.
This carefully tended part of the castle hill, which interlocks with Golovec Hill (a popular hiking and running spot), the Ljubljanica, and Gruber Canal, boasts views as far as Ljubljana Marshes (Ljubljansko barje).
Photo: Strelec Facebook
Vineyards have this special aura about them. They’re peaceful. Romantic. A calming green (in summer, that is). As I sat down to dinner in the Ljubljana Castle Vineyard last week, I couldn’t help but recall a special event I’d attended back home in Malta quite a few years ago when I dined among thick vines dotted with fairy lights. The atmosphere was unforgettable. The air was as balmy as that at the Ljubljana Castle Vineyard dinner some days ago.
Vineyards are also a fitting place to drink wine! During our dinner at the castle vineyard, we drank wines from a variety of wine sub-regions in Slovenia: Štajerska, Istria, Goriška Brda, and Vipava Valley.
Denise Rejec drinks Brut by Puklavec Family Wines at the Strelec Restaurant Ljubljana Castle Vineyard dinner. Photo: Wine Dine Slovenia
Photo: Strelec Facebook
Photo: Strelec Facebook
Strelec’s sublime dishes were tasty. They also offered some food for thought with a touch of Ljubljana history: “Beef has been the most popular meat among the people of Ljubljana for centuries” is the description that accompanied the juicy dry-aged tenderloin dish in one of the seven courses.
Master chef Jagodic threw in a few Asian touches here and there throughout the menu. One element was the watermelon dashi in the marinated sea bass dish, a tasty unami brothy sauce (Japanese style) that gave a salty kick to the fish. Dashi is ‘stock’ in Japanese cuisine, and forms the base for miso soup and other simmering liquids to emphasise the unami (savoury flavour) character in food.
Marinated sea bass with watermelon, pickled grape, and watermelon dashi by Strelec Restaurant chef Igor Jagodic. Photo: Wine Dine Slovenia
I now invite you to read a more in-depth and personal recollection of my dinner in the Ljubljana Castle Vineyard. Get ready for some delightfully foamy smoked butter, venison tartare, Adriatic prawn dumplings, and a pimped up all-time favourite dessert!
3 Junior Chefs is the name of the next event that Restaurant Strelec is hosting on August 27, this time in the restaurant itself. Click here for more information.
Note - the evening meal will take place again on 19 August, 19:00 to 23:00
About the author:
Denise Rejec is a freelance writer from Malta. Her passion for writing—not to mention her love for Slovenian food and wine—prompted her to create the website Wine Dine Slovenia, which is dedicated to all the yummy things you can find in Slovenia.
STA, 10 August 2020 - The town of Šmarjeta in the east of the country will soon become heaven for Cviček lovers, as a Cviček fountain is to open there. The light wine known for its characteristic acidity is home to the region, which will thus boost its tourism offerings that have so far relied mainly on spas.
The latest in a series of Slovenian wine fountains but the first one celebrating Cviček is to open on 21 August.
According to the head of the project dubbed Šmarjeta's Source of Civček, Alja Razbelj, the costs of the fountain have been estimated at under EUR 140,000.
Four-fifths will be covered by grants from the European Fund for Regional Development, while the Šmarješke Toplice municipality and local associations of vineyard owners, which will supply the wine, will chip in the rest.
Razbelj told the STA the fountain would have the same system as Europe's first beer fountain, which opened in Žalec in east-central Slovenia four years ago.
It will have four automated wine pipes, and apart from Cviček visitors will also be able to taste three different sorts of wine produced from the three main grape varieties used to make Cviček.
The location of the town, not the fountain
The fountain will be open every day from 10am to 8pm. Local souvenirs and wine will also be sold at the site.
The Cviček fountain will be located at the town's square, which is to be further renovated soon as part of a EUR 90,000 project.
According to Razbelj, the unveiling of the fountain is to be attended by President Borut Pahor.
STA, 7 August 2020 - The 38th Radovljica Festival, known for its focus on music on period instruments, is starting on Friday with a concert by Slovakian ensemble Solamente Naturali connecting Georg Philipp Telemann music with the folk music from the manuscripts of that period. The festival will bring eight concerts by 33 artists from 12 countries until 23 August.
The concerts will offer a review of the music from the 11th century to Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt. Among the highlights will be Solamente Naturali and vocal quintet Cinquecento.
Musicians that will bring magic to Radovljica come from Australia, Austria, Armenia, Belgium, Czechia, Israel, Hungary, Germany, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and Slovenia.
Half of the programme was created especially for the festival. Five concerts are dedicated to Slovenia, and three to the Slovenian musical heritage from the 16th to 19th centuries, the organisers say.
The opening concert will be held in the square before St Peter's Church in Radovljica, and two days later the church will host a concert entitled Valvasor's Sound, presenting the Slovenian music heritage of the 17th century played on the instruments left behind by the natural historian and polyhistor Janez Vajkard Valvasor.
The third concert will be held on 11 August at the Church of Annunciation in Velesovo, where Cinquecento will perform an Antonius Gosswin mass.
On Friday, 14 August, music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Eduard de Lannoy will fill Radovljica Mansion, and two days later young Austrian tenor Jacob Lawrence will sing Italian spiritual music from the 17th century at the St Peter's Church in Radovljica.
Pieces by Chopin and Liszt will be played by Spanish pianist Rosalia Gomez Lasheras at Radovljica Mansion two days later.
The five-member ensemble PER-SONAT, also featuring Slovenian specialist in Medieval music Jasmina Črnič, will present the earliest written polyphony and other Medieval music related to the mythic Orpheus at a concert at the Radovljica church.
The closing event will be a concert held at the mansion, linking chamber music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn with ancient instruments and dances.
Free bus rides from Ljubljana and Kranj will be organised during the festival.
The festival’s official website
STA, 7 August 2020 - Slovenia has added Belgium and several other countries to its red list of countries, which signals high risk in terms of coronavirus contagion. The Czech Republic, Malta, Switzerland and three Spanish administrative units have been meanwhile removed from the green list of safe countries and demoted to yellow.
The changes were made by the government last night, effective immediately.
Apart from Belgium, Saint Martin, Equatorial Guinea, the Faroe Islands and Namibia are now on the red list as well, meaning arrival from these countries entails a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Currently, the red list features 58 countries.
A number of countries have been upgraded from the red list to the yellow list - Belorussia, Algeria, Ecuador and Spanish administrative unit Valencia.
Meanwhile, the Spanish administrative units that have been demoted to the yellow list are the Balearic Islands, Cantabria, and Castile and Leon.
Persons with permanent or temporary residence in countries on the green list or persons arriving from those countries can enter Slovenia without restrictions or a mandatory quarantine.
From yellow-listed countries entry without the need to self-isolate is granted to Slovenian citizens and foreigners with permanent or temporary residence in Slovenia if they submit a proof (such as an invoice for the accommodation or property ownership certificate) that they have not come from a red-listed country. If they cannot produce such a proof they are ordered to self-isolate for 14 days.
Arrivals from red-listed countries regardless of citizenship and those who have temporary or permanent residence in those countries are also subject to a mandatory two-week quarantine or isolation, except for several exceptions, including transit and international transport.
Moreover, the government decided at yesterday's correspondence session that restrictions on public gatherings remain in force due to coronavirus concerns.
This story was published on 7 August, 2020 – you can see the latest details on entering Slovenia during the coronavirus crisis here
Cycling has become a common activity among many people in Slovenia. For many, cycling presents for casual recreational activity and for many, a more serious sports activity. A number of cycling events, which annually take place, invite many to Slovenia. Cycling events which also present cyclists with the picturesque diversity one can find in Slovenia. In the past, Robert Posl, an active cyclist in Slovenia, shared what it is like taking part in the most challenging cycling event in Slovenia, the Marathon of the Alps.
Yet some cyclists come to Slovenia for a more casual ride through Slovenia, at their own pace. Thus, not taking part in cycling events. To get to know more about the diversity one can experience through Slovenia, Robert agreed to share more about the diversity one can experience through Slovenia.
Living in Slovenia, now already over 25 years, I am still fascinated by the diversity one can meet with, in Slovenia. Coming from South Africa, a much larger country, and a country with a much more uniform landscape, it only fascinates me more.
I enjoy taking part in cycling events, which annually take place in Slovenia. One year, I decided to take part in one event, the “Marathon of three borders”; Though this cycling marathon took place more than 200km away, in the province of Prekmurje, which is in the extreme east of Slovenia; I decided that after I completed with the marathon that I would take on the challenge of cycling through Slovenia. A tour, which would take me much further than just getting home, but a tour crossing the borders of every country neighbouring Slovenia.
On the road from Murska Sobota. I thought I would never experience riding down roads like this in Slovenia; straight and absolutely no hills. And also, in the dry climate as it often is here, and relatively unvegetated
My tour started by going to Murska Sobota by train, the only larger city in the Prekmurje province. This was the first time I had ever been to this area of Slovenia. My first stretch of cycling was to get to Lendava, a town in the absolute corner of Slovenia, in almost walking distance from both Croatia and Hungary.
Cycling in this area, I experienced something I only ever experienced in South Africa. Cycling on absolutely flat terrain, with straight roads, which disappear off into the distance, as far as one can see. The next day was the marathon, which took us first into Croatia, then into Hungary, and finally back into Slovenia.
But that was not the end of cycling for the day for me, because I planned to cycle to Rogatec. This meant cycling out of Prekmurje, off the hot and dry Prekmurje plateau, as many call it, and into the Styria province where my parents live. This brought on a considerable drop in altitude above sea level and into terrain, which brought on a gradual change in the climate.
After a day’s break, I took on the next stage of the challenge, which took me, at first South, to the Lower Carniola province and to the Sava river, and then West towards Ljubljana. The Lower Carniola province is known for its unique quinze and whines. This was one stage where I faced the greatest transition in the countryside and in the climate. Even before getting close to the Sava river, I gradually came into more vegetated landscape, which I am more used to in Slovenia. Heading West, towards Ljubljana, I gradually met up with more forested countryside. After almost reaching Ljubljana, I headed North for Kamnik, and back towards the Alps region of Slovenia.
The next day, I went on a short round trip out of Kamnik. For many, Kamnik is that picturesque town at the foot of the Alps. For those visiting, they soon find out what that means. From Kamnik, there are many directions a cyclist can choose from. I decided to head west and up to a cabin known by most cyclists in the region, “The 902”. It’s a pub, which is located on a mountain pass, at 902 meters above sea-level. This is very much different cycling than that I had faced in the 400km so far, across from the East of Slovenia to here. The presence of the mountain ranges is so persistent; with roads winding through the mountains, crossing and following mountain streams from one woodland and into the next.
Kamnik, almost wedged in between the Kamnik, Savinj Alps. Makes for excellent mountain riding, which attracts many, to this alive and vibrant town
After another day’s break, I took on the most daunting stage of my tour. It was into the Upper Carniola province. Going into the Upper Carniola region, you get that feeling, that you are now really in Europe. The first section of the day was to get up to the border with Austria. This involved following through another river valley, to get up and over another Alpine pass, and across the border into Austria. In Austria, I followed yet more mountain roads and into the river basin of the great Drava river. I then turned South to Italy and in Italy, back to Slovenia. I was in Italy for a short time, as I followed the road back into Slovenia. I crossed back into Slovenia, near the renowned Planica ski-jumping centre. One of the highest, if not the highest or largest known ski-flying hill.
One of the many mountain passes, along one of those mountain roads
Even though I had come into the mountainous region of Slovenia, cycling back to Kamnik did not involve any more cycling along mountain roads. All thankyou to the Sava River, which has carved its way out through the land already in Austria, through the Carniola province, passed Ljubljana and further through Slovenia.
Taking on this cycling challenge across and through Slovenia, I experienced first-hand the diversity you can find in Slovenia. Various provinces of Slovenia, which are all unique and known for their individual countrysides.
More by Robert Posl: See Slovenia by bike, with the marathon of the Alps