A leisurely walk in the woods in many countries, especially in my home country of England, invokes an image not only of peace and tranquillity, but also one of relative ease and safety. One of the advantages of the UK is that nothing really dangerous lurks in our woods; other than the odd crazy person with an axe or a gun. In Slovenia however, while you are less likely to encounter an axe-wielding homicidal maniac, there are other more natural dangers to be aware of: bears!
Brown Bear in the forest in Notranjska, Slovenia.
If you go down to the woods today, the likelihood that you’ll encounter a bear is extremely low. Over the years I have frequently gone driving and walking in areas where I had hoped to see or photograph them. Not a single sighting. Yet there is an estimated 800-900 European Brown Bears in Slovenia, bearing in mind (pun intended) that many of these bears and other wildlife routinely wander between Slovenia and Croatia. The brown bear is an elusive creature and at best it’s safer to go with a hunter, or an organised tour.
A few years back I did manage to find someone who had setup a series of hides specifically designed for photographers, so I was able to finally go on a bear watch and capture some great photos. However, while these are ideal for serious amateur or professional photographers, they are not so good for tourists who simply want to see the bears but don’t have the expensive camera equipment required to photograph them.
A one year old Brown Bear Cub in the forest in Notranjska, Slovenia.
So imagine my delight when I found Bears and Wildlife Tours. Based at the tourist office in the little village of Hrib, in the municipality of Loški Potok, they offer an array of wildlife watching tours as well as bear viewing huts. But the most intriguing of all, was the offer of staying the night in a simulated bear cave. I had to go and see.
The journey took me south from the capital Ljubljana to the border with Croatia, where I met with Tjaša, who organises and coordinates the tours, and Stanko, a local hunter and guide. We were already late into September so they told me that the chances of a sighting were low because the bears usually come out late in the evening, and as the sun is now setting earlier it would more than likely be dark by this time. But they would take me to see what they had to offer anyway.
Over a strong cappuccino, they told me a little about the bears and what they offer. They currently have about 7 hides in total, 3 in the Loški Potok region. This gives them much more scope to ensure a sighting for their guests. “We have never seen the same bear at each of our hides. The bears travel around 60kms per night or day. Many go from Loški Potok to Cerknica, and of course across the border,” said Tjaša.
The bears tend to travel over a specific area. A mother bear can remember from 5 years before where she got a good meal. Amazing, I struggle to remember where I ate yesterday!
Their numbers are increasing. In 1960 there was an estimated 150 bears in Slovenia. In 2018 that number was around 900. These numbers apparently swelled during the Balkan conflict; where many bears I guess fled here for asylum! I asked how it’s possible to know the numbers. “Hunters collect bear poo and send it to Ljubljana to the institute and from the DNA they can estimate their numbers. Every year the number is increasing,” replied Tjaša.
Mother bears in Slovenia are now giving birth to 3 cubs instead of 2. Rarely before have bears had more than 2. This is also an indicator that the quality of their habitat and food source is improving. 2018 was a particularly good year for food, as conditions that year made not only the forest rich with food, but the village orchards were overgrown with fruit. Stanko explained to me how September 2018 has seen an unusual rise in bears coming into the villages, much more than previous years. In autumn the bears are fattening up for the winter hibernation.
The improved quality of the habitat is partly down to conservation work, and rules being enforced that prevent hunters or bear tour organisations from feeding the bears within 2kms of a village. This helps stop them from wandering into villages in search of food and prevents any incidents with locals, and also accidents with cars. One of the biggest threats to bears is being hit by cars.
Every year the government sets an annual cull to try to control the population. For 2019 it was 200, increased from previous years because of the reasons above. However, this decision was suspended by the administrative court after a case was brought by the environmental protection organisation Alpe Adria Green (AAG).
After coffee we headed out for the first part of the tour. Stanko drove us to a location a few kilometres outside of town, where we stopped beside a forest road. He pointed to the forest and said that just up the hill is a winter den for a mother bear.
Bear dens are always close to water, so they can often be close to the road and village. Stanko and Tjaša then pointed to a stream running out of the forest to the roadside and told me how the bears will seek out sources of water, especially when it’s very hot.
These pools of water or streams are mostly deep in the forest well away from people and villages. However, they are also found on roadsides like this close to villages, because the water that runs off the forested hillsides collects in pools by the road. Stanko regularly comes here deer hunting and told me how, early one morning around 5am, he spotted a bear immersed in a pool of water up to its neck, with just its head poking out the surface.
“I call it the Bear Jacuzzi”, he laughed.
The bears often come to these roadside pools to cool off in the heat of the summer days, and Stanko, and likely many locals, see them as they drive these forest roads.
Wild Parasol mushrooms, known as Marela in Slovenia.. Macrolepiota procera or Lepiota procera
I then followed them up the hill to the winter den. On the way Tjaša picked some mushrooms and described how to prepare them. Mushroom picking, along with other forest fruits, is a national sport here in Slovenia. Every season the forests are packed with locals out mushroom picking, and they are usually racing each other to get the best and most. She also explained how to tell the difference between a poisonous and non-poisonous one.
Wild Parasol mushrooms, known as Marela in Slovenia. As you can see, on the stem this circular piece is an indication that the mushroom is non-poisonous.
“I’ll take these to my mother in law’s tomorrow for cooking,” I said.
I feel I should add here that I fully intended to give my mother in law the non-poisonous mushrooms.
Slovenian folklore says that if you see a mushroom in the forest you must pick it immediately, no matter how big or small it is. Once someone has seen it, the mushroom will stop growing. Tjaša also explained that when you pick a mushroom you must clean it there and then in the forest before you take it away.
Bears hibernate during the winter in a den, essentially a small cave deep in a hillside. The entrance is narrow, but inside it is very wide and deep. The bear can get inside because its head and neck are very small and it doesn’t have a collar bone, so can squeeze its body through.
The bears enter the den when the first snow comes, or before if it’s a pregnant female. She will give birth in January and emerge from the den in April with her cubs. The cubs remain with the mother for two years. Therefore the bear has cubs every three years.
The male bear typically weighs 300kgs, while the female weighs 150kgs, so they can tell by the small size of the den that this is for a female only.
Bears and Wildlife Tours believe in keeping tourism to a minimum. Therefore they don’t have tours every day in the same location, so the wildlife isn’t disturbed too much. Bears can smell fresh blood from up to 4 kilometres away, and have excellent hearing too. If too many people are around the bears will hear and keep well away. Unless you are hunting!
On the way to our next destination, the viewing cave, Stanko told me a story about a time he shot a roe deer. Afterwards he placed his rifle against a tree and proceeded to cut open the deer and gut it. When he had finished pulling everything out, he took the gutted deer to his vehicle about 400 metres away.
Upon his return, Stanko got to within 100 metres to discover that between him and his rifle was a big male bear feasting on the leftover deer. It was not the most ideal of circumstances, so Stanko had no choice but to patiently wait before he could retrieve his firearm.
So to not only ensure the safety of visitors, but also ensure they don’t scare away the bears and other wildlife, they practice responsible tourism and ensure the numbers are kept low, and wildlife tours are conducted in different places each time.
There are very strict rules governing hunters and tourist organisations offering wildlife tours or trips to see bears in Slovenia. Along with the 2km rule, it is forbidden to feed the bears with farmed meat. But when gutting a deer it’s permitted to leave the leftovers in the forest for the bears to find, as long as they don’t find you first! But while an attack is undoubtedly terrible for the victim, it also means a death sentence for the bear. Once a bear has attacked a human being, it will be hunted down and killed. So these rules are not only there to protect people, but to protect the bears too.
Despite its love for meat, bears are actually 90% vegetarian. A sobering thought when you are just about to trudge through bear country.
Wolf footprints in a forest in Loski Potok, Slovenia
We then headed off to the starting point of our walk deep into the forest to one of their viewing huts and, in this case, the bear viewing cave which you can sleep in. Along the way we spotted some wolf tracks, apparently attracted here because it’s deer mating season. As we got deeper into the woods I was told that from here on we must be very quiet and talk in whispers, or else the bears will sense us. In our case, we were here to spot them, so didn’t want to scare them off.
I just hoped the big bucket of apples that Tjaša was carrying wouldn’t encourage them to overcome their fear of humans!
Contrary to popular belief, bears are not the man-eating beasts they can often be portrayed as. In fact, they are very nervous creatures and will likely hear you first and keep well away. Attacks are usually the result of a bear being startled by a walker, or often a bird watcher who is not making any noise; or a photographer sneaking around to take photos. The bear will only attack if it sees no means of escape. Or if you inadvertently come between a mother and her cubs, you’re in for trouble.
Ordinarily when walking in the woods the advice is to never walk alone, and walk and talk (but don’t shout), make as much noise as possible in order to stay safe and avoid startling a bear, or other wild animal. This way the bear will hear you first.
There are many stories about what to do if you happen to surprise a bear. Although the instinct is to run, this is apparently the worst thing to do. A bear can run much faster than you, and if you run it will see you as a threat. Some say you should grab a stick and make yourself look big and loud. If the bear charges at you, remain still. Chances are it is a bluff and will veer away at the last minute.
Another crazy theory I heard is that you should run downhill, because the bear’s front legs are shorter and it cannot run fast downhill. But Tjaša laughed and said that the bear will still outrun you.
Tjaša’s advice is simple: back away slowly, always keeping your eye on the bear and it will very likely run away from you.
When we arrived at the viewing spot, a wide open meadow at the edge of the forest, Stanko went off alone first to check it was safe. Then they both prepared the food they would put out to try and attract the bears; Tjaša didn’t touch the food to ensure any human scent was kept to a minimum. For obvious reasons, the area was a short distance away from the viewing area. Tjaša explained that, for the reasons above, Stanko alone must go; no one else, not even her.
This particular viewing area is actually right beside the Croatian border. There are two places from which to observe the bears. The first is a viewing hut setup for both photographers and casual observers. The second is the specially designed bear cave. Here they have built a small wooden room into the rocks that is designed to simulate a bear’s den. Inside I was surprised to discover a cosy double bed and a row of seats next to small windows that look right out across the field to where the bears will hopefully come.
Stanko returned with a special night vision camera that they clamp to a tree where the bears are. It is triggered by movement so they can see when they are active at night. The previous night they came at 9pm, after dark. This was not looking promising for me. But as they had explained I was well into September now so the chances of a sighting during daylight were much lower.
The camera also showed a bear was here at 8.30 in the morning. So this goes to show that a night in this bear cave will undoubtedly increase your chances of a sighting. Sadly, commitments elsewhere meant I couldn’t stay the night.
The best time to take this tour is in high summer, from late May through June and July. August is also a possibility. The tours start at 16:00 and end at 22:00. There are several observation points like this, all on hills in areas of wide open space with lots of light.
But there is only one bear cave, and in this case you get to spend the night here. Naturally this increases your chances of a sighting, because you can also wake early and likely see them in the early morning.
Soon after, Tjaša and Stanko left. Just before he bolted the door, Stanko looked at me and said: “Do not go outside.”
I had no intention of doing that.
I was alone. All was quiet. I settled down for the evening, camera ready. When I had been on the photography tour a few years before we were extremely lucky that, not more than 30 minutes after settling into the observation hut, a couple of one-year old cubs came, followed by the mother and soon after a big male.
As the time ticked away I continued to live in hope. A bird of prey was swooping by occasionally, but sadly no bears.
Stanko returned to collect me after dark, and we trudged on through the forest without torches back to the car. Along the way he told me how he had been privileged to see a lynx in the forest. The Eurasian Lynx was reintroduced to Slovenia in 1973 by a hunter’s initiative. The current population is estimated at about 15-20. Thus not only are their numbers low, but they are very shy animals so a sighting is extremely rare. He showed me a photo he had. “It was a big privilege for me,” he said, proudly.
The love and respect that both Stanko and Tjaša have for the bears and other wildlife is clearly evident.
All this just goes to show how difficult it can be to spot the wildlife, and how important it is to go with an organisation like Bears and Wildlife Tours. Not only will they ensure your safety, as long as you follow their rules and instructions to the letter, but it will increase the chance that you too will be privileged enough to see one of these magnificent animals in their own habitat.
I had seen them before, but sadly not this time. However, I plan to return in May or June for another tour, and maybe even an overnight stay in a bear cave!
If you would like see bears, then visit the Bears and Wildlife Tours website. They also offer other wildlife tours, including as well as the bear cave, the opportunity to sleep on a rocky shelf in the forest and experience the sights and sounds of nature, with your guide there to keep you safe.
More info and bookings here: www.bearsandwildlife.si
Check out a video of the trip below:
STA, 5 March 2019 - Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city, was visited by almost 202,300 tourists last year, up 13% from 2017, and the number of nights they spent there reached a record 451,610, a rise of as much as 36%.
The majority of nights was spent in Maribor by tourists from Germany, Croatia, Poland, Italy, Serbia and Austria, whereas only 13% of domestic tourists decided to stay more than one day.
The average period a tourist spent in the city thus increased from 1.86 days to 2.23 days.
"We've surpassed all set goals," Doris Urbančič Windisch, the director of the Maribor-Pohorje Tourist Board, told the press on Tuesday.
She attributed the upbeat figures to intensified promotional campaigns and a number of events taking place in Maribor.
Last year, the board promoted Maribor and the broader destination around the Pohorje hills at 22 fairs, ten workshops and four exchanges.
It moreover worked hand in hand with organisers of 65 local events.
Maribor and Pohorje play host to a number of interesting events, not least World Cup skiing races, the Lent summer festival and the Maribor Theatre Festival.
An event attracting a number of visitors is also the pruning of the Old Vine, which is more than 450 years old and is believed to be the oldest in the world.
"The Old Vine is one of our strongest trade marks which can take the good name of the city to the world and tell people that we appreciate our past and can build new stories on its basis," Mayor Saša Arsenovič, the new Old Vine master, said.
The pruning is an opportunity for the city to give Old Vine grafts to towns around the world to strengthen cooperation with partners from Slovenia and abroad.
The Žametovka or Modra Kavčina vine has won a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest cultivated vine in the world still bearing grapes.
The vine was planted towards the end of the Middle Ages, when Maribor was facing Ottoman invasion, and grows in the old city centre in front of the Old Vine House.
While there seem to be few explicit appeals to the LGBT community in the official promotional efforts of the Slovenian Tourist Board, the country ranks fairly high on this year’s Spartacus Gay Travel Index, at #28. In terms of ex-Yugoslavia this compares to Bosnia-Herzegovina at 47, Croatia at 48, Serbia and Montenegro both at 68, and Macedonia at 83.
In contrast, when it comes to Slovenia’s other neighbours Austria ranks much higher, in 4th place, while Italy is at 41 and Hungary 57.
The ranking, which the German-based organisation carries out each year, is based on 14 criteria in three categories, from civil rights to discrimination and threats, based on information from Human Rights Watch, the UN Free & Equal campaign, and reports of human rights abuses against members of the LGBT community collected over the previous 12 months.
As the related webpage states:
The first category consists of civil rights. Among other things, it assesses whether gays and lesbians are allowed to marry, whether anti-discrimination laws exist or whether the age of consent is the same for heterosexual and homosexual couples. Discrimination is included in the second category. These include, for example, travel restrictions for HIV-positive persons and the prohibition of Pride parades and other demonstrations. The third category includes threats to the person through persecution, imprisonment or death penalty.
Slovenia’s 28th position is shared with Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Guadeloupe, Martinique and South Africa. The top countries on this list, sharing first place, are Canada, Portugal and Sweden, while the bottom four are Iran and Saudi Arabia (194), Somalia (196) and Chechnya (197). The United Kingdom is 4th, Germany 23rd, and the United States 47th
Nations gain points if they have anti-discrimination legislation, same-sex marriage or civil partnerships, adoption and transgender rights and an equal age of consent. In contrast, they lose points if religion influence legislation, if there are HIV travel restrictions or anti-gay laws, if homosexuality is illegal, if Gay Pride is banned, if the locals are hostile to the gay population, or if there are prosecutions, murders, or death sentences for members of the LGBT community.
On this basis Slovenia got a total of 6 points, with the breakdown as follows
Anti-discrimination legislation: 3
Marriage/civil partnership: 2
Adoption allowed: 1
Transgender rights: 0
Equal age of consent: 1
Religious influence: -1
HIV travel restrictions: 0
Anti-gay Laws: 0
Homosexuality illegal: 0
Pride banned: 0
Locals hostile: 0
Death sentences: 0
STA, 28 February 2019 - Slovenia had another record year in tourism in 2018, with the number of tourists up by 8% to 5.9 million and the number of nights they generated up by 10% to 15.7 million, the Statistics Office said Thursday. While the number of foreign guests went up, the number of Slovenian guests was about the same as in 2017.
Tourists from abroad generated 4.4 million arrivals (up 11% from 2017) and 11.2 million nights (up 15% from 2017).
"This means that every day in 2018, 4,084 more nights than in 2017 were generated by foreign tourists on average," the Statistics Office said.
Note that the previous year = 100 for the index
The number of Slovenian guests was level at 1.5 million and they generated some 4.5 million nights, which is almost the same as in 2017.
The share of foreign tourist-generated nights has been on the rise since 2010. While tourists from abroad generated 56% of all tourist nights nine years ago, the share rose to 64% in 2015, 68% in 2017 and 71% in 2018.
They mostly came from Germany and Italy (both 12%), Austria (9%) and the Netherlands and Croatia (5% each).
The number of nights generated by guests from the Netherlands was up the most (by 22%), followed by Germany and Croatia (+17% and +16%, respectively).
Outside Europe, the most visitors came from the US, generating 3% of all nights (a 24% increase from 2017), followed by Asia and Israel.
Hospitality services in the Alps generated EUR 1.77m in revenue, which is 11.4% more than the year before, recording 4.49 million nights, up 14% year-on-year. Nearly a third of the guests came from abroad.
Hotels, B&Bs and other hospitality establishments in and around spa resorts generated EUR 1.01m in revenue (up 1%), recording 3.49 million nights, which is level with 2017. Nearly 40% of the guests were Slovenian.
At the seaside, tourism generated slightly over EUR 929,000 in revenue (6% up year-on-year) with 3.01 million overnight stays (6.9% more than in 2017).
Hotels and other facilities in Ljubljana generated EUR 1.02m in revenue (9.1% more than the year before) and recorded 2.18 million of overnights (22.3% more than in 2017).
The highest number of tourist nights were recorded in the municipalities of Ljubljana, Piran, Bled, Kranjska Gora, Brežice, Bohinj and Moravske Toplice.
Hotels accounted for 53% of overnights, with guests staying for an average of 2.6 nights, which was also average duration of all stays last year. Guests in spa resorts tended to stay the longest, 3.5 nights on average.
The Slovenian Tourism Board (STO) welcomed the latest statistics, saying 2018 had been the fifth consecutive record-breaking year for Slovenian tourism.
"The guests are staying longer on average and we're particularly happy that the value of travel exports is rising and that it reached EUR 2.7bn last year," the STO said.
STA, 15 February 2019 - Revenue from foreign tourists visiting Slovenia reached EUR 2.71bn in 2018, up almost 12% from 2017, data from the central bank show.
The figure is around a billion euro short of the target set for 2021, the Slovenian Tourist Board said on Friday as it commented on Banka Slovenije's figure.
Data also shows that in December alone, revenue from tourism increased by a good 10%.
With more than 5.6 million tourist arrivals and almost 15.3 million nights, 2018 was the fifth consecutive record year for Slovenian tourism, early Statistics Office data shows.
The key goal of the country's 2017-2021 strategy on sustainable development of tourism is raising revenue from foreign tourists to EUR 3.7-4bn.
The goal for tourist arrivals is five to 5.5 million, with nights projected to rise to 16-18 million.
As the STA reported yesterday, so far this year there has been a sharp rise in road deaths compared to 2018, with 15 lives lost in the first month and a half of 2019, in contrast to just five the year before. However, these fatalities are just the tip of the iceberg with regard to poor driving, representing the worst outcome, with police reporting a total of 1,165 traffic accidents for the year to date. The same story also notes that the most common traffic violations are speeding, using a phone while driving, not wearing a seat belt, violations committed by pedestrians, and drink driving, with the latter accounting over 10% of accidents.
Related: What's on in Ljubljana this week
So while this article will show you where to find the speed traps in Ljubljana, it should in no way be taken as an endorsement of speeding, but more an informative text that gives you something to look out for as you motor safely around the town and country, sober and with your phone out of your hands.
Ljubljana has seven roadside cabinets that are able to contain a radar to catch speeding drivers, although the city only owns two such radars, which are thus moved around town. The newspaper Dnevnik reports that in 2018 these were in operation for around 10,000 hours and caught 17,900 drivers moving in excess of the speed limit, while the city’s two mobile radars were able to catch a further 12,502, producing a total of 30,402 speeding tickets for the year.
The road with the most offenders was Roška cesta, with a total of 5,723 who were caught in just 66 days of radar use. In contrast, Dolenjska cesta, in the #2 spot with 5,196 tickets issued, required 121 days to reach this figure. The full report, in Slovene, can be read at Dnevnik.
STA, 5 February 2019 - The flooding caused by heavy rains over the past weekend in the south-west of Slovenia damaged infrastructure at the Škocjan Caves, Slovenia's oldest UNESCO world heritage site, prompting their temporary closure.
According to a post on the Škocjan Caves Facebook profile, the water level at one part of the caves, the Šumeča Cave, rose by over 60 metres. "The last comparable flooding was recoded in 1975," it said.
While the infrastructure of the caves was badly damaged by the swollen river Reka, the caves as such remain undamaged.
The Škocjan Caves Park director, Stojan Ščuka, put the early cost estimate at roughly EUR 50,000. He told the STA that the caves would be reopened to visitors on Friday.
He said the extent of the flood was comparable to the one in 1965. The biggest problem was the material deposited by the river such as branches, logs and mud.
The biggest damage was done to the lighting and electrical wiring, as well as to the fencing and in parts of the walls.
But before repairs can begin, the debris deposited by the river will have to be cleaned up first. There is up to a foot or more mud on some of the paths.
Roughly 50 people, including firefighters, environmentalists, seasonal labour and students, are being involved in the clean-up effort today.
Ščuka does not expect a major loss of revenue due to the closure because the number of visitors is at its lowest at this time of year.
The caves attracted more than 184,000 visitors last year.
The website Ex-Yu Aviation reports that Adria Airways is planning a reduced schedule for summer 2019, with at least nine fewer routes than 2018. In addition to the recently suspended Moscow and Dusseldorf services, the carrier currently has no plans to reintroduce connections to Warsaw, Kiev, Brač, Bucharest, Dubrovnik, Geneva or Hamburg, cutting at least 32 flights per week. Adria also announced that this summer will see just one weekly flight to Paris and Copenhagen, while as yet there’s no news as to whether the two weekly flights to Tel Aviv that were on the books for 2018 will return
However, in a move that some see as making Ljubljana a feeder airport for German hubs the carrier is set to increase the number of summer flights to Munich and Frankfurt. There will also be more seasonal flights to Pristina and Zurich.
The news comes a week after the Civil Aviation Agency stated that Adria Airways current plans mean that it will be able to meet it’s financial liabilities and remain solvent, and thus keep its operating licence.
All our stories about air travel and Slovenia can be found here
The City of Ljubljana’s efforts to make the capital a friendlier, more welcoming and liveable place are not restricted to its award-winning environmental initiatives or support for a packed programme of cultural activities to keep the streets alive. As noted last year with the launch of the Ljubljana by Wheelchair app, and emphasised in our interview with the man behind it, the municipality is also working to make sure the city is more accessible to those with limited mobility. To the ramps, Eurokey bathrooms, disabled access buses and Kavalir electric vehicles we can now add another service – free rental of electric attachments for wheelchairs that convert an ordinary, manually powered wheelchair into a vehicle capable of moving faster and further.
V STIC Ljubljana si gibalno ovirane osebe lahko izposodijo SPEED3X priklop za invalidski voziček. Danes ga je preizkusil prvi uporabnik in bil s storitvijo zadovoljen. ? #dostopnost pic.twitter.com/QMygoDWuhn— Turizem Ljubljana (@TurizemLJ) January 24, 2019
As Ljubljana Tourism stated in a press release:
The SPEED3X attachment enables people on wheelchairs easier and faster movement and overcoming longer distances. It simply attaches to the wheelchair and the linking element can be adjusted in height and width, making it compatible for practically any wheelchair without any specific adaptation. A full battery has a reach of 40 km, which means a person on a wheelchair can join their friends and family on bicycles or on foot while exploring the city. The user must present their personal document and a deposit, which is returned to them after they bring back the attachment in one piece and without any damage.
At present only two attachments are available for use, and they can be picked up at the Slovenian Tourist Information Centre (STIC) located at Krekov Trg 10 – the first tourist centre in Europe to offer such devices. If you’d like to email or call to ensure one is available, the details are T: +386 (0)1 306 45 83 E: info(at)visitljubljana.si
STA, 31 January 2019 - A major tourism, camping and caravanning fair for the Alpine-Adriatic region and further afield is getting under way at the Ljubljana fairgrounds on Wednesday, featuring 330 exhibitors until Saturday.
The 30th annual Alpe-Adria fair (website) will showcase tourism offerings from Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Italy, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Nepal.
The fair will see a versatile accompanying programme. Today, Economy Ministry State Secretary Eva Štravs Podlogar will discuss challenges of Slovenian tourism, and panel debates will focus on development of caravanning tourism in Slovenia and on the country's appeal as a gastronomic destination.
The fair will be accompanied by GASTexpo, a leading gastronomic fair in the region which caters mainly for business visitors looking out for drinks, coffee, confectionery, baking, ice cream, wine and hotel and restaurant equipment providers.
STASTA, 31 January 2019 - Slovenian tourism growth appears to have continued apace in 2018 after several consecutive record-breaking years, with preliminary figures showing that 5.6 million tourists visited Slovenia in 2018 spending a total of 15.3 million nights in the country.
This follows from Statistics Office figures released on Thursday that significantly exceed those recorded in 2017 - 4.95 million visitors and 12.6 million nights - but are not comparable year-on-year because in early 2018, a new system for registering guests was phased in.
The new system was expected to result in a significant jump since it requires that all providers report data on an ongoing basis; in the old system, only providers with more than 10 beds were required to do that, all others reported just once a year and the reporting rules were looser.
In December alone Slovenia recorded 314,000 tourists and 842,000 nights, with domestic guests representing less than a third of the arrivals and nights.
Last week we came across a photo, as seen here, and ended up learning more about the person behind it, Jerneja Fidler Pompe, or Neja, who runs Exploring Slovenia. This is a site that shares Neja’s love of the mountains in words and photographs, with support from her Instagram page. And in addition to introducing various walks, hikes and climbs in the region, Neja also runs tours enabling you to travel safely and see the best views, as found by experience locals and guides. Always curious and eager to learn more, we got in touch with Neja and asked her some questions, as follows.
How long have you been running Exploring Slovenia?
It’s been three years now. Three years ago, I had this idea to start blogging / vlogging about Slovenian mountains, climbed Mt. Storžič, created a video about the climb (as seen below), opened a channel on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and after a month also my blog and Instagram. That’s how it basically all began.
Why? Before following my heart into the mountains, I had been managing a blog and other social media channels for a well-established international IT business for years. I loved my job, I loved blogging, yet somewhat lost the passion for IT, so I decided to finally give something a go I’d always enjoyed.
If readers aren’t familiar with Exploring Slovenia, what does the website try and do, and what are three to five posts that you recommend?
In case you haven’t stumbled upon my blog Exploring Slovenia yet, let me give you a brief idea of what to expect.
Expect various outdoor ideas on what to do in Slovenia, particularly in the Alps, that range from beautiful family hikes, easy, moderate to demanding climbs in the mountains, tips on the best hikes with regard to the season, and, most of all, interesting adventures in the outstanding Slovenian backcountry.
To name a few, my favorite blog posts are the following:
Encircled by high mountains, this picturesque village offers a plethora of hiking trails: Bohinjska Bistrica as it lists quite a number of spectacular hiking ideas in Bohinj Valley, a beautiful glacial valley favored by tourists and locals alike.
Exploring a most beautiful Alpine valley of Slovenia - hiking, climbing and fly-fishing in Logar Valley for holiday ideas in Logar Valley, where I personally note one of the most genuine and memorable experiences in the Slovenian mountains.
When Velika Planina dresses in purple to help you explore an extraordinary wonder at a high-Alpine plateau close to Ljubljana, where every spring endless fields of purple crocuses flood the whole plateau, coloring it purple.
Beautiful Alpine Slovenia in a time-lapse video, where you can watch my 3-minute time-lapse video of the Slovenian mountains - a project that sums over a year-and-a-half worth of videos collected from over a hundred of trails.
Up to Triglav over its North Face and down to the Krma Valley where I take readers on a two-day adventure from one valley to another across Triglav. And of course, there are many more.
What has the experience of running the site taught you?
Probably the most important lesson I learned was to always produce excellent content. Not only in regard to providing the audience great stories, but also taking them through the places I talk about through breathtaking photos and videos. Plus, always to think of new, intriguing adventures not only for proven mountaineers, but also for average hikers that want to simply enjoy the spectacular landscapes Slovenia has to offer.
How important is Instagram to your work?
It’s nice to have it, since I do far more adventures than I have time to blog about. Therefore, most of my hikes are shown only on Instagram, with the very best and most interesting ones also on my blog. It’s a platform that can connect you with your audience in a more personal way, while it also allows you to grow your audience if you approach it the right way.
How long have you been offering tours?
I’ve been always happy to help my readers connect with a mountain guide if they needed one for a certain ascent in certain conditions, but I started offering tours myself last summer. The most popular is Triglav in all seasons and on all routes. It’s the highest mountain in Slovenia, and as such the most obvious choice either when you’re visiting the country for a week or you live there and haven’t found the courage to climb it yet on your own. Nevertheless, Triglav is indeed one of the most fascinating climbs in Slovenia and, must I say, never disappoints, not even those who’ve climbed it several times.
When is the best time of year to climb Triglav, if you’re not a regular climber, and when do you like to climb it?
The easiest time to climb Triglav is when there’s no snow on the way, meaning usually July – September. Even a little bit of snow brings extra hassle and the need to bring extra gear for snow conditions, especially when it’s combined with ice. I prefer climbing it in June, the end of September and October to avoid the crowds. I haven’t climbed it in serious winter conditions yet, when the steel cable is hidden underneath the snow, but I’d love to do that with the help of a mountain guide.
How do you feel about the way tourism is developing in Slovenia?
I love the fact that Slovenia is becoming more recognized in the world and more people are coming to see our wonderful country. In regard to service providers, particularly those working in mountaineering tourism, I like the fact that most of them are well-trained and internationally licensed mountain guides, thus assuring top-level safety and service.
How would you like tourism to develop in the future?
More boutique small groups with respect for our land who visit Slovenia to enjoy incredible landscape, good food, and rich culture, while on the other hand also receive a great service. While I love the fact that the Slovenian mountains are accessible to anyone with the desire to climb them, it would be nice to add more service to the mountain huts for the more demanding guests. I would also love to see more mountain huts open all year round, more options in the food menu, nicer bathrooms with a possibility to shower, heated rooms, etc., which could as well be offered as an extra service as long as it’s available.
Finally, away from hiking and “work”, can you recommend a few things to our readers.
Places: Anything hidden from the main tourist attractions. I really love the Logar Valley for its beautiful landscapes, rivers, waterfalls, and, most of all, welcoming people. While the most memorable experience for me was to fly over the Julian Alps in a hot-air balloon.
Food & drink: Organic herbal tea made of flowers picked in the mountains, roasted lamb and potatoes, beef and mushroom soup, apple strudel, chocolate štruklji (served in the mountain hut Kofce in the Karawanks).
Sports events: Marathon Franja, Goni Pony, and Juriš na Vršič
Books: Čefurji Raus (Vojnović), Alamut (Bartol)
Movies: Gremo mi po svoje and Houston, imamo problem.
Music: Siddharta – Ledena, Napalm 3, Sfinga, Narava; Lamai – Spet te slišim.