1. Nobody knows where the hell it is.
Slovenia? Slovakia? Slavonia? Where is this little country exactly? With the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the collapse of Communist regimes all over Eastern Europe, a raft of new countries became independent. This has provided huge challenges for geographically challenged Westerners, with no idea where some of the countries are, or which federation or country they belonged to before. Slovakia is not Slovenia, it is a country in Central Europe far from the coast which was once half of Czechoslovakia (there is a clue in the name). Slavonia is a region which takes up a large chunk of eastern Croatia. And Slovenia? One of the very cutest countries in all Europe, as well one of the most successful in making the transformation from its socialist past as the westernmost part of the former Yugoslavia, to a very dynamic country today, complete with sensational nature and things to see and do. It is a good job that nobody knows where the hell it is - you can have more of it to yourself.
Now check out the beauty of Slovenia below and never get lost again.
2. Its tourist attractions may cover you in blood.
The image of a bleeding lake may not be the most attractive proposition, and Lake Bled of course has nothing to do with blood (apart from linguistically), and it is one of the most fabulous places to visit in all Europe, as well as an iconic photo of Slovenia. Do make the effort to get to Bled Castle which imperiously overlooks the late, then reward yourself with the famous Bled cream cake, Kremsnita. Bled (settlement) has a Pre-Slavic origin, probably from German Fels (rock) and was mispronounced Bles by the locals - for older ppl of Bohinj region Bled is still Bles and people who live there are called Blesci (with thanks to Zgodovina).
Take a tour with Rick Steves below:
3. The women are gorgeous BUT do the craziest of things.
You will not be in Slovenia for very long before you will fall in love. Local women are renowned for their beauty, and single guys will have their heads turned at every corner, but beware - while they may look beautiful, they can be highly unpredictable and do the craziest things, such as marry orange men with abusive Twitter habits in the United States. You have been warned.
4. Much of the country never sees daylight.
As gorgeous and iconic as Lake Bled is, it is not the most popular attraction in Slovenia. That distinction belongs to one of a staggering 10,000 caves which exist in the country, including Postojna, officially the biggest cave in all Europe. And quite an experience, as The Daily Telegraph writes in its top 10 attractions in Slovenia:
"Postojna Cave is Slovenia’s most visited sight – it's touristy in the extreme but never fails to work its magic, even on repeat visitors like me. Its formations of stalagmites and stalactites are unrivalled anywhere and it is home to the endangered Proteus anguinus, a blind salamander known as 'the human fish' because of its pinkish skin colour. Created by the Pivka River two million years ago, the 'cave’ is in fact a series of caverns, halls and passages 20.6km long. Visitors get to see 5.7km of it on a 1 1/2-hour tour – 4km via an underground train and the rest on foot on a path with some gradients but no steps. The cave has a constant temperature of 8°C to 10°C with a humidity of 95 percent, so a waterproof jacket and decent shoes are essential. Thick felt capes can be hired at the entrance for €2.50. Check the website for package deals, including combination tickets that include Predjama Castle."
Take a tour in the video below:
5. If you suffer from vertigo, Slovenia may finish you off.
Slovenia is an excellent skiing destination, with one of the longest ski jumps in the world. Are you brave enough to jump at Planica?
6. Getting married there could kill you.
Lake Bled is an incredibly romantic place, however, and it is little surprise that it has become a very popular wedding destination. A destination with a little tradition which requires new grooms to be in good shape physically for the first arduous task of a long life of marriage, according to the local tourist board:
"In 1465, a single-nave Gothic church was built on the island. Its special feature was the 52 m high free-standing bell-tower made of porous stone known also as buckwheat grain. The church gained its present Baroque appearance in the middle of the 17th century when the Chapel of Virgin Mary and the monumental staircase with 99 stone steps were constructed. Tradition still has it that the groom should carry his bride up all of the 99 steps in order to get married in the island church."
Here is a new groom who succeeded - talk about preparing for the hardships of married life...
7. Locals are constantly drunk.
Imagine a country which is so fond of vino that the population is said to average one vineyard per 70 inhabitants. That is one seriously impressive ratio. And if you are thinking Slovenian wine is more about quantity and quality, think again. Slovenian wines are fantastic and still relatively undiscovered. Want to know what you are missing? Have a look below.
8. Perhaps this is why the towns are unpronounceable.
You probably need a glass or two before you attempt to pronounce some of the town names. Take the capital city, Ljubljana, for example? My favourite was a Brit, who asked me the way to El Djoobel Djana. Once you find your way there, however, you will fall in love with its quaint old town along the river - a real hidden gem which is not so hidden these days, as more tourists are discovering it. It might be no coincidence that the Slovenian word ' ljubljena', means ' the beloved'. Ljubljana is affectionately known as the City of Love.
9. Be careful with the wines – they may be too old.
Not only does every man and his dog make wine, but they have been doing so for an awfully long time. Part of Slovenia's fabulous wine tradition includes what is claimed as the oldest surviving vine in the world, which is located in Maribor. Check out the oldest vine festival below:
10. You will be lucky to survive a visit without a bee sting.
In addition to its excellent wines, Slovenia is famed for other high-quality natural products, including honey. Did you know that an estimated 5% of the population are beekeepers? Don't miss some of the fantastic Slovenian honey on your next trip.
11. Looking to socialise? Wrong country.
Slovenia is truly a natural paradise, with some of the best unspoilt nature in Europe. And lots of it. You can go through more than half the country and meet almost nobody, for an astonishing 60% of the country is forest. Check out the lungs of Slovenia below:
12. They may force you to run with them.
You will not be in Slovenia very long until you learn that the locals are very sporty and very competitive. But they really take some of their racing a little too far. Most normal countries have sprint races on a flat, horizontal surface. Not in Slovenia. Meet the steepest 400-metre race in Europe. Now THAT is what I call steep!
13. If you are a chimney sweep looking for a job, the greatest challenge in the world.
What is it about Slovenia and high things? If you are a chimney sweep and looking for the ultimate challenge, Slovenia awaits, offering the tallest chimney in Europe. Now meet some crazy guys who went to the top:
14. Going to the butcher’s is a major social event.
Buying a piece of meat for Sunday lunch back home? Just pop in to the supermarket or local butcher's. In Slovenia, pig slaughtering is a major event in more rural communities, with regular festivals celebrating this tradition. And there are LOTS of parts of the pig to see and try.
15. They accommodate tourists in prisons.
Slovenia prides itself on its hospitality - and it shows. They even opened a prison as a hostel to make their visitors comfortable. Just one of the many innovative and quirky experiences in Slovenia, take a tour with AFP below:
16. They have blind baby dragons running all over the country, and they seem to starve their animals.
Slovenia has some seriously interesting species among the reported 24,000 that inhabit the country, including blind baby dragons - learn more below.
Now meet the Etruscan shrew, the lightest species of all at just 2 grammes.
17. They use dragons for everything, from welcoming you to their unpronounceable cities to checking on a young lady’s virginity.
If you are not a fan of dragons, avoid Slovenia, as they are everywhere. We have already met the blind salamander dragons, but come above ground and they are hard to avoid. Dragons are the symbol of Ljubljana, and even thought to be behind the founding of the city:
"The legend has it that Ljubljana was founded by the Greek mythological hero Jason and his companions, the Argonauts. They stole the golden fleece from King Aetes and fled from him across the Black Sea and up the Danube, Sava and, finally, the Ljubljanica river." Read more...
If you are a modest young lady, you may want to avoid Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana, for Wikipedia tells us that "There is a legend that Jason was the founder of Ljubljana, and he and his Argonauts killed a dragon. This is one of the four dragon statues in the bridge. According to local legends, when a virgin crosses the bridge, the dragons will wag their tails. Some local people have nicknamed this structure "mother-in-law" because of its fiery nature."
They even take their dragons into the sporting arena - such a competitive nation. Slovenia is the current basketball European champions, with their talisman captain, Goran Dragic, known by his nickname of - you guessed it - The Dragon.
Meet some of the dragons of Slovenia:
18. There really is something wrong with the animals, their horses change colour.
Blind baby dragons, anorexic shrews, whatever next? Horses which change colour, perhaps. Meet the fabulous Lipazzaner horses:
19. They make musical instruments out of anything.
Such a small country, so many fascinating things. How about the oldest musical instrument in the world, for example? The Dvije Babe Flute sits in the National Museum of Slovenia in Ljubljana. Said to be about 55,000 years old, it is believed to have been created from a bear femur. Fascinating. Watch more here:
20. Married couples are oh, so competitive, and the locals are such competitive overachievers.
Such a competitive and overachieving nation. We have already seen how Slovenian males try and impress their brides by carrying them up 99 steps, but once they settle into married life, things get worse. Did you know that the first couple to ski down from Mount Everest were from Slovenia? Or that the first man before them was also from Slovenia? Slovenia is such a wonderful adventure playground that it is hardly any wonder that locals have that sense of adventure and adrenaline in the blood. So how do you ski down from Everest, avoiding 120 corpses along the way? Here's how:
21. They throw food at visitors.
Fabulous caves, fabulous castles - what happens when the two collide in Slovenia? Meet Predjama.
Few castles look more impregnable, or have a more fun story, including using fresh cherries as weapons. Lonely Planet tells the story of Erazem's Hook - named after Erazem (Erasmus) Lueger - the best:
"Lueger was a 15th-century robber-baron who, like Robin Hood, stole from the rich to give to the poor. During the wars between the Hungarians and the Austrians, Erazem supported the former. He holed up in Predjama Castle and continued his daring deeds with the help of a secret passage that led out from behind the rock wall. In 1484 the Austrian army besieged the castle, but it proved impregnable. Erazem mocked his attackers, even showering them with fresh cherries to prove his comfortable situation. But the Austrians had the last laugh – finally hitting him with a cannonball as he sat on the toilet. An ignoble fate for a dashing character." Read more...
22. They think they can invent EVERYTHING.
For such a small country, Slovenia has an outstanding reputation for innovation and creativity. But surely none is as creative as one Peter Florjancic, a former Olympic skier from Bled, who was born in 1919 and has come up with an astonishing 400 inventions in his life so far.
23. They celebrate the weirdest things and dress very oddly.
As the National Tourist Board of Slovenia notes: "The saying “a festival for every village” is a joke that has a pinch of truth to it. Slovenians love tradition and socialising, so an ideal event for them combines both. Discover special Slovenian features and find various festivals. Festivals focus on wine, beer, or cuisine, shopping, lace, the mischief of Pippi Longstocking, or wearing scary masks – whatever it may be, these festivals always combine socialising and cultural activities."
24. Be careful if you drive, and always check your wheels.
What is it about Slovenia? They have to have the oldest of EVERYTHING... "Working on a site in the Ljubljana marshes, Slovenian archaeologists last year uncovered a wooden wheel some 20 kilometres southeast of Ljubljana. Austrian experts have established that the wheel is between 5,100 and 5,350 years old, which makes it the oldest wooden wheel in the world ever found." Read more...
25. They live in a fantasy world.
The last thing you want when you travel is to meet locals who are a bunch of dreamers, but what else can you expect from a country which is such an idyllic setting that it is also a major filming destination. Ask film buffs in India, for Bollywood is big in Slovenia. As is one of the biggest fantasy stories of all, for here C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia were filmed.
In case you have not realised yet, we don't have 25 reasons why you should never visit Slovenia, but thousands of reasons why you should. We will be telling you more about those reasons in the coming months, but in the meantime, check out the excellent website of the Slovenian National Tourist Board for more.