The Slovenia Times




While President's George W. Bush's famous faux pas when he confused Slovakia and Slovenia is a source of much amusement, it nonetheless perfectly illustrates Slovenia's problem. An EU-wide survey in 2001 found that Slovenia had the least support from EU citizens for membership of the Union. This startling finding is less a comment on any anti-Slovene bias among the EU's 250 million plus population, and more a comment on the fact that few Europeans know much about this former Yugoslav republic. And the problem is a much wider one. Slovenes are simply not good at selling themselves, and nowhere is this more clearly represented than in the country's tourism industry. One of the first things that ex-pats comment on when they arrive in Slovenia is how beautiful the country is. I've been here nine months and I am still pleasantly surprised by the delights that Slovenia has to offer. Last weekend for example I visited Logarska Dolina in Stajerska. It was my first visit to this little corner of Slovenia and once again the beauty of the countryside stunned me. Different again to the countryside of Gorenjska or Primorska, the Logar valley, and the neighboring valleys of Robanov Kot and Matkov Kot, are a great place to escape to from Ljubljana. My visit to the Logar valley, however, was not prompted by any glossy tourist brochures, nor the fact that the valley does merit a brief mention in the Lonely Planet. No this little visit was prompted by the fact that my partner's best friend is originally from Mozirje, and her previous visits to Stajerska had left her with some wonderful memories. So what is the point of this little diatribe? Well I think its time that Slovenes both individually and collectively did more to 'sell' their beautiful country and thereby raise its international profile. Some people, including some ex-pats, are quite happy that Slovenia has not been discovered by hordes of tourists. Many point to Prague as a negative example of what can happen when a you make it onto the international tourist map - crowds of tourists all year round, accompanied by the familiar global fast food, entertainment and bar chains. For these people Slovenia is 'their little secret' and they hope to keep it this way, with only family and friends allowed to share. But raising Slovenia's international profile doesn't have to turn Ljubljana into another Prague, or turn the countryside into holiday homes for Austrian, German and Italian pensioners. Slovenia's wealth of natural beauty provides it with a unique opportunity to opt for niche tourist markets, specialist tourism that usually comes at a premium in terms of financial returns. Where can I start? The wealth of caves provides wonderful opportunities for those who like to pot-hole (personally I cannot see the attraction of being half submerged in ice cold water in the dark, barely able to move!) and the mountain ranges an almost endless range of activities from climbing and hiking to ice-climbing, off-piste skiing, paragliding, hang-gliding, mountain biking and so on. Then there is white water rafting in the Soca river, archery, horse-riding and fishing (in some spectacularly clear waters). There are an abundance of fairy-tale castles (Bogensperk, Otocec, Mokrice, Predjama), fine churches and chapels, well-preserved old towns and villages, and the list goes on! Yes Bled is spectacular, but every region of this small country holds a wealth of surprises, geographical, cultural, historical, and lets not forget culinary! So why isn't Slovenia being 'sold' as well as it could? Well I don't know anything about the 'politics' of tourism here, and I don't want to. Speaking personally, I think the biggest reason is the conservative and reserved nature of most Slovenes. OK I'm stereotyping somewhat, but generally Slovenes don't like to make a big song and dance about many things. They're discreet and don't really like to show a lot of emotion. So I'm going to end this piece by calling on Slovenes to stop being so conservative! You have a beautiful country, boast about it! Brag about it! Start selling yourself -- and you might find that more people will know where you are!


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