Friday, 7 February 2014

Three things that will strike you about Slovenia

I've only been to the north-western tip of this small country, riding the train from Nova Gorica to Bled and enjoying this lake town and its surroundings, including  the less famous but equally stunning Lake Bohinj and little jewels like the Vintgar Gorge. I can't therefore be considered an expert in everything Slovenian, but I'd like to write about three things that struck me in this beautiful country.

Lake Bled
Lake Bled
1) The mix of influences

Slovenia is an original mixture of the culture of the Balkans with that of Central Europe, with a zest of Italy, which is just around the corner. I felt incredibly at home in Slovenia, in spite of the different language and the difficult relationship that my country, Italy, had with Slovenia in the past because of language minorities and wars.

Just to give you an example of the influences that this country has to deal with, the waiter at the restaurant where I stopped on my way to Savica Waterfall knew how to say "skewer" in Italian, which is not exactly a word you use everyday. On the other hand, in the bar near my hostel, they had excellent cappuccino but no croissant, which every coffee place in Italy has in the morning. When I asked the waitress what people have for breakfast in Slovenia she humorously answered "kebab! And smoking cigarettes...", probably because she was selling kebab. I still don't know what Slovenians eat for breakfast, but I know that a cappuccino in Lake Bled is not unlike an Italian one!

For a visual example, just look at the  wrought-iron dragon in this picture taken inside the castle in Bled. The design makes me think of Eastern Europe for some reason.

Museum in  Bled (Slovenia)
Museum inside Bled Castle
I can easily imagine this castle with conical roofs dotting the landscape of Hungary.
Conical roof Bled
Conical roof at Bled Castle
And some of the chalets I encountered while hiking could have been Austrian houses.

Chalet, Slovenia
Chalet in Slovenia

2) The architecture

What makes the architecture of Slovenia so pleasant to see is the harmony with the surrounding landscape, rather than the artistic achievement of the single buildings. It looks like somebody put the buildings and built the houses taking in consideration the fact that one day tourists will come and snap pictures.

Bled (Slovenia)
The castle in Bled perched on a rock

Church, Bled
Gracious church on the island in Lake Bled

They say that Communism produced some monsters in terms of architecture, big ugly buildings that will look out of place everywhere, but I didn't see many of these.

3) The respect for natural beauty

The most obvious things about Slovenia, is its almost rustic charm and its natural beauty, still uncontaminated. Even where human settlement has arrived, it looked as if respect for the place was always taken into consideration. To me it seemed that Slovenians were always walking on tiptoe, as not to intrude on their nature. Wherever you look there are mountain trails, and possibility to do outdoor sports. Hiking is particularly pleasant in this country, and I've seen plenty of people.

Lake Bohinj
Canoeing at Lake Bohinj
The azure of the water of lakes and rivers will make you think that somebody has added soap in them, but it's clearly not the case. As a matter of fact, Slovenians are renowned in Europe for being particularly eco-friendly.
Relaxing in Lake Bohinj
Relaxing in Lake Bohinj

Did I convince you to visit Slovenia?

1 comment:

  1. You've convinced me - the picture of Lake Bohinj's clear waters is beautiful!


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