Travel

13 Nov 2018, 14:20 PM

Slovenian Karst in line for world recognition

The compact yet varied topography of Slovenia holds many wonders, a fact the tourism industry has long thrived on. Soon another of its geographic features could be in the spotlight, as the Classical Karst region is being nominated to join UNESCO’s Natural Heritage list. As noted by the STA, a report on the area between the Ljubljana Marshes and the Bay of Trieste has been submitted by the government to UNESCO, with the project being led by Park Škocjanske Jame, the operator of the Škocjan Cave system that is already part of the organisation’s World Heritage list, along with the Slovenia’s ancient and primeval beech forests, prehistoric pile dwellings, and mercury mines.

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The Ponikve Karst Field in Dolenja Brezovica, Municipality of Brezovica, Slovenia. Photo: Wikimedia - DOREMO - CC-by-4.0

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The Ribnica Valley or the Ribnica Field, a karst lowland in southern Slovenia Photo: Wikimedia - Eleassar CC-by-4.0

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Udornica or collapse doline in Slovenian karst on Radensko polje near Grosuplje. Photo: Wikimedia, Tcie CC-by-4.0.jpg

A look at the original submission, made by the Permanent Delegation of Slovenia to UNESCO two years ago, goes into some detail as to why the Classic Karst (Klasicni kras) deserves greater recognition and protection.

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Geographical position of Kras. Map: lter.zrc-sazu.si

For one, karst is the most widespread landscape type in Slovenia, covering around 6,400 km2or 27% of the territory, stretching from the Ljubljana Marsh (Ljubljansko barje) to the Bay of Trieste, and holding roughly 6,000 known and explored caves. These include massive systems like Postojna Cave (Postojnska jama) and the Skocjan Caves (Skocjanske jame), which have been attracting explorers and tourists since the 17th century.

Enough to render Slavoj Žižek speechless

But it’s not just the natural beauty of the rock forms or the wonder of the subterranean vistas that mark the karst region as a treasure worth preserving for future generations. It’s also one of the richest areas in Europe with regard to flora and fauna, and one recognised as a hotpot of biodiversity, with much more to this than such iconic animals as the proteus, aka “human fish”. It’s also an area with a long history of human habitation, with the earliest artefacts found so far being from the Palaeolithic.

The area has thus attracted researchers from various fields, and played an important role in the the history of research into karst and karst phenomena, also known as karstology and speleology, respectively, with such efforts being led in Slovenia by the Karst Research Institute (lnstitut za raziskovanje krasa), based in Postojna.

A more conventional video promoting Karst tourism

The submission to UNESCO goes on note five areas in particular that are of “outstanding universal value”: the Kras (Kras), the Podgrad lowland (Podrgrajsko podolje), the Postojna Karst (Postojnski kras) and the Poljes of the Classical Karst with the Rakov Skocjan valley (Kraska polja z Rakovim Skocjanom), with more details available in the document.

If you’re curious about making a day trip to the karst from Ljubljana, then consider Postojna or Predjama, with the latter having the added attraction of a castle build into the caves. If you’d like to read more about “Castles, caves and the birth of karstology”, then you can do that here.

12 Nov 2018, 18:00 PM

While one peak of tourism in Slovenia occurs in August, another is in December, when instead of green pastures and forests the country offers whiter, brighter scenes of snow and ice. While some spend their time in the great outdoors, skiing, sledding and so on, others prefer to warm their hands around a glass of mulled wine while looking at all the pretty lights. And if you’re in the latter camp then you’re in luck, as preparations are well under way to turn various town centres into magical places at night, not only lit up but made merry by stalls selling food, drink, decorations, hats, gloves, scarves, and so on.

So while you may not have unpacked your winter jacket yet, Festive December is atill fast approaching, those four weeks before Christmas that see appearances from, among others, St Nicholas, Santa Claus, Grandpa Frost and the Krampus, and if you’re planning a trip to Slovenia then these are some light shows to consider taking in on your stay.

December in Ljubljana

The lights that keep the capital festive were designed by Zmago Modic, the artist who’s also responsible for the rain that appears each summer in Prešeren Square. And it’s in this square, soon to be home to a giant Christmas tree, where the lights will be turned on Friday November 30 at 17:15. Thus will begin a month or so of merriment, fuelled, as elsewhere in Slovenia, by stalls selling mulled wine, hot food and other seasonal delights, along with live music at various open air venues around town, with the action very easy to find. The city’s official site for the month is here. Note that this year no ice rink is planned for Zvezda Park, perhaps because of the mild, rainy winter last year, which saw it rather quiet.

If you're in the capital now, check out the latest edition of What's on... for an incomplete selection of things to do in things to do in Ljubljana this week.

December in Maribor

The lights in Maribor will start shining a week earlier than those in the capital, with the switch being flipped at 17:00 on Friday November 23rd in General Maister Square. A full programme of events if planned for that day, with details here. As well as all the usual stalls and merriment, Maribor will have an ice rink in Trg Svobode. The city’s official site for the month is here.

December in Bled

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 30 until January 6, and – in addition to the usual lights and stalls – there’ll also be an ice rink with a spectacular view. 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.

December by the Coast

Of course, not everyone likes the cold and snow, even in December, in which case a festive trip to the mild climate the Slovenian coast is recommended. All the towns here will have lights to enjoy, starting on December 1, 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.

12 Nov 2018, 13:00 PM

STA, 9 November 2018 - An exhibition has being launched at Khislstein Castle in Kranj which sheds light on the family that gave the 13th century castle its name and its present appearance 440 years ago.

The Khisls were an important family in Slovenian lands in the 16th century, owning estates across the historic regions of Carniola and Styria. Their last known descendants lived here in the mid-18th century.

They are believed to have come here from Bavaria or German-speaking lands. Their first member in Slovenia was merchant Vid Khisl, who became Ljubljana mayor in 1537.

Although not originally of noble rank, the family rose to prominence fast by acquiring wealth through business enterprise and moving up to a higher class.

Part of the reason for their prosperity was their involvement in the defence against the Turks and their good political and business links with the rulers.

Among other things, they won privileges to manufacture glass and built an iron mill for the manufacture of weapons and a paper mill.

A supporter of Slovenian Protestants and musicians, Janez Khisl issued what is the oldest known official document in the Slovenian language in 1570 as the provincial administrator of the time.

In the mid-16th century Janez Khisl bought a castle in Kranj and redesigned it before being granted the permission in 1578 to rename it Khislstein.

"I wonder why the family picked the Kranj castle to to name it after themselves when they had at least 30 estates and mansions in Carniola and Styria at the time. They obviously held the Kranj castle especially dear," Marjana Žibert, director of the regional Gorenjska Museum, said ahead of the launch.

The castle is the museum's main venue and the exhibition will also mark the museum's 65th anniversary. Running until September 2019, it will be accompanied by a 120-page catalogue.

The castle changed hands several times before it was bought by the state in 1913. It has been housing the regional museum since 2012, following the last renovation.

The castle attracts between 8,000 and 10,000 visitors each year, which makes it the second most popular museum in Kranj after the one dedicated to Slovenia's greatest poet France Prešeren.

06 Nov 2018, 12:45 PM

The regional aviation website Eu-Yu Aviation reports that Adria Airways has quietly ended services connecting Ljubljana and Bucharest, Kiev and Warsaw. While no formal announcement was made, the airline omitted these cities in a recent press release, despite having advertised all three routes just two weeks ago in a seasonal promotion. Ljubljana Airport now has no direct flights to Bucharest or Kiev, although it’s still possible to fly to and from Warsaw using LOT Polish Airlines, which runs a daily service.

05 Nov 2018, 13:34 PM

STA, 5 November2018 - With the United Kingdom being one of the key markets for Slovenian tourism, some 35 Slovenian companies and organisations are being promoted at London's WTM, a leading global event for the travel industry, which runs from Monday to Wednesday.

Slovenia is being promoted under the auspices of the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) as an attractive destination offering "five-star experiences".

A special emphasis is placed on culture, which is the main theme of the STO's promotional campaigns in 2018 and 2019.

The country's exhibition area, spreading on more than 175 square metres, features Ljubljana Castle as the main partner.

Related: 25 things to know about Ljubljana Castle

On Tuesday, the Slovenian pavilion will feature a meeting of Slovenian tourism industry representatives with British and global tour organisers plus global media.

Slovenian food will be served by chef Igor Jagodic and the author of the best article on Slovenia written this year will be declared.

Related: Get to know Slovenia’s cultural heritage through its 17 historic towns

STO director Maja Pak says that "as as one of the most important and globally recognisable fairs, the WTM is a unique opportunity to consolidate the existing and create new business opportunities as well as to connect with the tourism industry in the UK and wider."

Slovenia is recording a rise in arrivals and overnight stays by British tourists, according to Pak, who said that a 27% increase in arrivals was reported for the January-to-August period compared to last year.

Related: 25 reasons why you should never visit Slovenia

In 2017, British tourists accounted for 370,000 nights in Slovenia, whose tourist industry has posted strong growth over the past few years. They are mostly interested in the country's mountains, cuisine, ski resorts and culture.

See all of our TRAVEL stories here, and follow us on Facebook for the latest news and views from Slovenia

05 Nov 2018, 08:44 AM

Ljubljana Castle is the most visited attraction in the city, and – so it’s claimed – in Slovenia. While an earlier post looked at 25 things to know about the building that has watched over the capital for centuries, below we present a list of ten different ways to enjoy your visit there.

Imagine the history

The Romans had a wooden fort on Castle Hill when Ljubljana was known as Emona, and built a well that still exists, just outside the entrance. What’s more, some of the stones that were used to build the Castle were repurposed from the ruins of the Ancient City, and can still be seen with their Latin engravings or decorations. Ljubljana Castle has almost 2,000 years of history, and the time you spend their can be used to link that with your own – a sobering thought to encourage you make the most of however much time you have left.

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Roman stones in Ljubljana Castle. Photo: JL Flanner

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Ljubljana is a green city. Photo: JL Flanner

See the city

The best views of the city are from the highest point in Ljubljana, which is the watchtower that a ticket to the Castle (or any of the tours) gets you into. However, note that the old architecture means there’s no disabled access or elevator here, so you’ll have to climb the steps. Still, if you can’t make it up, or don’t want to buy a ticket, don’t despair, as there are many other fine spots on Castle Hill from which to look at Ljubljana, from where it’ll be clear that this city really is set in the middle of a forest.

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Most of Castle Hill is forested. Photo: Google Maps

Get some fresh air

While the Castle is large it still covers only a small part of the hill, which has many trails through the forest to explore, as well as grassy clearings, benches, small meadows and even a vineyard, making it an easily accessible escape from the city. Depending on the time of day and weather, expect to see joggers, dog walkers and others getting some fresh air, nearby by but far away from the tourists.

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Tradtional Slovenian food at Castle restaurant. Photo: nagradu.si

Dine in style or al fresco

While the fine-dining options of Strelec and Castle Restaurant (Restaurant Na Gradu) get the headlines when talking of food at the Castle, there’s also a café for more casual fare, and beyond that the old place makes a great location for a picnic, if not within the walls then in a quiet spot along many of the trails that run along the top of the hill, where you can enjoy a sandwich along with, as noted above, the view. 

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The Puppet Museum is full of colourful and interactive exhibits. Photo: JL Flanner

Learn about Slovenia’s cultural heritage

As part of Ljubljana Castle’s mission to preserve, present and promote Slovenia’s cultural heritage it hosts a number of exhibitions, both permanent and temporary, all year round. While some of these are free, such as the one on the renovations to the Castle that have taken place since the 1960s, to be found under the courtyard, others require a ticket, though luckily this ticket will also get you access to the watchtower and other features of the complex. One thing of special interest to families – a permanent exhibition showing some of the history of puppetry in Slovenia, a trip to which perfectly complements a visit to the Puppet Theatre in Krekov trg, just by the funicular station. Learn more about the Castle’s current exhibitions here.

Book the place for yourself

The Castle and its halls can be hired for private occasions, and thus it plays host to conferences and presentations throughout the year, providing a memorable setting for many business events. More personally, it can also be used to weddings, with a dedicated office set-up to make the big day into a magical one. Learn more about hiring a venue here, and having a wedding or engagment partY in Ljubljana Castle here.

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Lights make the place magical after dark. Photo: Branko Čeak for Visit Ljubljana

Go at night

Medieval buildings come after dark, when the shadows playing on the walls light up the imagination and romance of the past. Ljubljana Castle is no exception, and is a great place to visit after dark at any time of year. In addition to all the usual charms in the evening the Castle often hosts concerts, such as the regular Friday night performances, while in the summer months there are also films shown in the courtyard and under the stars, as well dances and other special events. You can learn more about the various events held at the Castle here, and you can visit it until 20:00 in January, February, March and November, until 21:00 in April, May and October, until 23:00 in June, July, August and September, and until 22:00 in December 10:00 to 22:00.

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An event at night in the courtyard. Photo: D Wedam for Visit Ljubljana

The Castle in December

December is one of the most popular times of year for people to visit Ljubljana, drawn by the festive decorations in the city and the market stalls selling mulled wine and hot food, and the Castle is an essential stop on such trips. Not only can people get a great view of the Christmas lights in the streets below – with the evening these are switched on being an especially busy time – but they can also the decorations in the Castlem as well as other events, including Holy Mass in the chapel, at 22:00 on December 24.

Explore Ljubljana Castle with an app in 14 languages

The Castle may be old, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t keep up with the times. You can download an app that introduces the place based on your location in the complex, and all you need is a smartphone and pair of headphones. The app is available in Slovenian, English, Hungarian, Croatian, Italian, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, and for both iOS and Android devices. The activation code for the app comes with a ticket to Castle, and can be collected at the Info Centre. More details here.

Enjoy it for free

Perhaps best of all for regular visitors, much of what the Castle has to offer can be seen for free, with only the watchtower and certain exhibitions requiring a ticket, while the other areas remain open to all. Combine a walk up one of the various paths that take you to the top from the Old Town with a stroll around the Castle walls and courtyard, perhaps settling down for a rest on a bench or snack, and you’ve got an adventure that’ll fill a few hours in fine style without breaking the bank. What’s more, there’s always something new to see, whether related to the changing seasons, an event on the day, a detail you’d never noticed before, or a group of visitors from a land you long to visit, delighted at the a place you know well – there’s always a good reason to go back to Ljubljana Castle.

The Castle is open all year, although with some changes with the seasons. January, February, March and November its open 10:00 to 20:00. April, May and October from 09:00 to 21:00. June, July, August and September from 09:00 to 23:00. December 10:00 to 22:00. However, now that these times are for the main Castle complex, and not necessarily for all the attractions, with more details here.

Related: 25 Things to Know about Slovenia's Green City of Dragons

Entrance to Castle courtyard is free, but if you want to see more you'll need to buy a ticket at the entrance, funicular station or Info Centre, with a basic ticket currently 7.50 euros for adults and 5.50 for children, students and pensioners, and there's also a family ticket for 19 euros. Note that tickets to tours also include entrance to all parts of the Castle, with more details here.

03 Nov 2018, 12:01 PM

With 59 major rivers and 321 lakes within its small and varied topography, it’s no wonder that fishing in Slovenia is a popular activity, one that provides a way to explore the great outdoors, commune with nature, and hopefully bring something home for dinner. Still, it’s part of the nation’s tourist offering that we’re relatively unfamiliar with, and so when we came across Water Man Adventures, a company that organizes vacations with a focus on fly-fishing in Slovenia, we jumped at the chance to ask Robert Redding a few questions about the business.

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Robert Redding

Where are you based, and how did you discover Slovenia?

Water Man Adventures has a presence in Colorado, USA, where I’m based, as well as in Slovenia where my business partners are.

I fell in love with Slovenia and its fly-fishing when I was posted to the US Embassy in Ljubljana from 2006 to 2009. I began the business last year in anticipation of my retirement from the military in 2019. I expect to be based in Slovenia once that happens.

What makes Slovenia especially attractive for people who enjoy fly-fishing?

The country’s geography and weather make it a very special place, and there’s good reasons why fishing in Slovenia is increasingly popular. Primarily, there is tremendous diversity in terrain and rivers in Slovenia – with a high concentration in the western part of this small country. In the northern/alpine region, the streams and rivers are cold all year long, and this makes them a highly oxygenated and suitable habitat for cold-water fish like trout (and fishermen too) even in the hottest time of the year. Additionally, fly-fishing in Slovenia is normally a bit easier because of the low-nutrient (oligotrophic) nature of those streams - fish just have to eat all the time in order to get ready for the cold winter. Therefore, summer usually means dry fly action practically all day, not just during mornings and evenings, as is typical elsewhere.

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Trout fishing in Slovenia

The best part of Slovenia for fishing expeditions is that the distance between alpine and limestone waters is only a one hour drive. In fact, there are only two hours needed to drive through the whole country from north to south. Given both types of rivers, along with the lakes that are available, fly fishermen have a great opportunity for good fly-fishing conditions practically every day of the season. To make things even better, we can (and do) change regions and rivers during the fishing day in order to give clients the best opportunities to fish.

Where in Slovenia do you operate?

We take our clients primarily to places where there are trout in the rivers – and thus the water is clear and cold. Our current favorite rivers are on the Sava Bohinjka, the Krka, the Unica, and of course the Soča. Because we offer excursions other than fishing, you’ll find us at other hot spots like Bled.

What services do you offer?

Water Man Adventures provides an outstanding fly-fishing experience for the discriminating fly fisherman on the world-class waters of the Republic of Slovenia. We are a hands-on, destination fishing outfitter operated by an experienced team of completely focused on arranging a custom fishing and travel experience in Slovenia. So, we put together total packages for our clients. Beyond the fishing, we set up lodging and culinary experiences based on the desires of the client.

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What kind of fish can people catch in Slovenia?

Brown Trout, Marble Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Grayling are what we fly fish for. You can also catch pike and the famous huchen (Danubian Salomon) on traditional fishing gear.

In addition to the fishing, what do people experience on your tours?

Our clients typically fish only part of the day – the rest is filled with the best that there is to experience in Slovenia. Of course, Ljubljana’s old town and Bled are on everyone’s itinerary. But we customize based on what the client is looking for. For example, some recent clients were very excited to have the opportunity to take one afternoon and have lunch at Hiša Franko.

When are the seasons?

The season for fishing in Slovenia kicks off in April and May, with it best when the first hatches of the year come in the various streams – it’s a different time depending on where you are fishing. The season continues through the summer, though it can get crowded in August during holidays. When fall comes, the best fish to look for are grayling. Of course, Huchen (Danubian Salmon) offer the greatest prize in late fall and early winter.

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What’s your favorite spot to fish in Slovenia?

Really? I'm not telling… However, the smaller streams that are away from the Soča provide some of the best experiences for fly fishers – to include the Unica, Krka and Idrijca Rivers. We look to take our clients away from the crowds to places like these.

How far in advance do people usually book?

We take care of clients whether they want to fish tomorrow or next summer. Optimally, those who want to fish in Slovenia in the summer of 2019 with us will be booked by January.

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What’s are the general profiles of most of your customers?

Most of my clients are Americans. When they are in Slovenia, Americans typically want to see and do what a lot of general tourists want to do. So, we provide turn-key vacation packages for them that include lodging, meals, and excursions – even completely separate itineraries for spouses (Rogaška regularly comes up!). Water Man Adventures also has European clientele, and they are typically more comfortable taking care of their own extra activities. Regardless, we custom design each tour based on what the client wants – no is rarely an answer for us.

Tours that respect Slovenia's culture and environment

Any changes innovations planned for 2019?

We are looking to continue to define this sector of the tourism industry, while conforming to what Slovenes want in the future. Our goal is to provide clients with fantastic experiences fishing in Slovenia, while minimizing impact on the environment and culture of Slovenia. While seeking that balance, we want to ensure that Slovenes are able to benefit, so we’ll use local resources every time that it’s possible to do so.

When you’re not leading tours, or fishing, what do you like to do in Slovenia?

I really enjoy exploring the variety of Slovenia’s regions; whether it’s on a wine road in Primorska or looking for bears in Dolenska – you’ll find me at the end of a dirt road somewhere.

If you’d like to learn a lot more about the trips Richard and his partners offer, then visit the Water Man Adventures website or Facebook page. And if you’d like to see some other ways to spend your holiday in Slovenia, then check out our Ten Ways to Enjoy the River Soča.

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30 Oct 2018, 16:23 PM

Get to Know the 17 Historical Towns of Slovenia

There are many ways to plan a trip around Slovenia and lenses through which to view it, and one way to explore the country is through its historic towns. But how to choose these in a land that’s got so many? One way is by turning to the work of the Association of Historical Towns (and Cities) of Slovenia (Združenje zgodovinskih mest Slovenije), a group that includes 17 mostly medieval towns sited around the country, each of which has its own story to tell, with the full list being Idrija, Jesenice, Kamnik, Koper, Kostanjevica na Krki, Kranj, Metlika, Novo mesto, Piran, Ptuj, Radovljica, Slovenske Konjice, Škofja Loka, Tržič, and Žužemberk.

29 Oct 2018, 13:00 PM

STA, 29 October - Some 300-kilometre-long hiking trail around the Julian Alps was officially launched last week with organised tours on sections of the route in the Gorenjska and Primorska regions. Mountain and cycling trails are also planned in the region. 

27 Oct 2018, 18:59 PM

A selection of some of the festivals and events taking place around the country in November, with links to the official sites, with the main thing being St Martin’s Day (Martinovanje), which marks the arrival of this year’s new wine on the scene. 

27 Oct 2018, 10:24 AM

STA, 26 October 2018 - After an absence of 15 years, Russian flag carrier Aeroflot will return to Ljubljana airport as it launches daily scheduled flights from Moscow on Sunday. 

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