Slovenia is one of Europe’s smallest countries, but it has plenty going for it. Lake Bled, with its picture-postcard church and bright blue lake, is a popular stop on most interrailing routes but there’s much more to the pint-size country than lakes. Fairytale castles, world-class ski resorts, serious eco-credentials, winding Alpine roads – you get the gist. You’ll also find some of the least confrontational people in the world and in the Global Peace Index for 2019, Slovenia ranked as one of the world’s safest countries. And, just to add to its charms, the capital – Ljubljana – translates as “the loved one”. Looking to learn a little more about this lovely country? Here are some interesting facts about Slovenia we’ll wager you didn’t know.
Interesting facts about Slovenia
1. More than half of Slovenia is protected
A whopping 56% of Slovenia is protected, making it one of the most protected environments on the planet. There are an impressive 1,891 areas dedicated to the protection of wildlife and nature. It boasts some of the greatest biodiversity too, encompassing 10,000 caves, miles of wetlands and 27,000 kilometres (16,777-miles) of rivers.
Triglav National Park, the largest protected area, accounts for 4% of the whole country. There are also three regional parks, 44 landscape parks and 56 nature reserves. Over half of Slovenia is covered in forest too, making it one of the greenest countries in the world.
2. It’s a nation of beekeepers
Slovenia has a population of roughly two million people – and 90,000 of them keep bees. That means around one in twenty people are beekeepers. The rest of Europe has a lot to learn from the pint-sized nation – between 2000 and 2014 Europe’s bumblebee population fell by 17%. But in Slovenia, it’s flourishing. From 2007 to 2017, Slovenia saw a 57% increase in beehive numbers, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Beekeeping has a long history in Slovenia. It dates back to the 18th-century when Maria Theresa, Empress of the Habsburg Empire, opened the first beekeeping school, appointing Anton Janša as the school’s teacher. Today, World Bee Day is celebrated on 20 May to celebrate his birthday.
Honey plays an important role in Slovenian culture. ‘Apitherapy’ is commonly used to treat illnesses and chronic illnesses, while honey is commonly found in lots of national dishes.
The Carniolan honey bee, Slovenia’s native bee, is the only protective native bee species in the world.
3. There’s plenty of wine to go round
Slovenia isn’t the first country that springs to mind when you’re thinking about good wine – but it should be. There’s a vineyard for every 70 people, some dating back 2,600 years. It grows as many as 48 different varieties of grape, thanks to its diverse soil, climate and cellaring methods. The most prestigious vineyards produce wines similar to those in Burgundy, France. At last year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, five Slovenian winemakers received platinum medals.
Head to Mirabor and you’ll get to see the world’s oldest vine too. The 400-year-old plant even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
4. They invented the wheel
… Or at least, it’s where you’ll find the oldest wheel in the world. In 2002, archaeologists found a wooden wheel buried in the marshlands around 20 kilometres (12 miles) southeast of Ljubljana. The wheel is around 5,300 years old, probably once used for a two-wheel pushcart. Archaeologists found similar wheels in the hilly regions of Switzerland and southwest Germany, but the Ljubljana Marshes wheel is the largest and oldest. It has a diameter of 72 centimetres, made from ash.
You can see the wheel at the City Museum in Ljubljana.
5. Look out for the Linden trees
The Linden tree is Slovenia’s most sacred tree, representing love, friendship and loyalty. The oldest Linden Tree in Slovenia is older than modern Europe. Located in the Koroška region, the impressive 10-meter (30-foot) round tree is over 800 years old.
According to folklore, the Turks planted the tree on top of a massive loot of treasure but they never came to collect it. Today, you can find linden trees in front of village churches, castles and in every village or town square. It marks the place where the village community would meet for social gatherings and make important decisions for the community since the tree would provide shade.
6. You can go to the beach
Great swathes of sand it is not, but most people don’t realise Slovenia has a beach. The 47 kilometres (30-mile coastline) may be small, but Slovenians make the most of it. Fondly referred to as the ‘Slovenian Riviera’, the coast sits on the Gulf of Trieste along the Adriatic Sea.
There are three main seaside towns. Koper is the largest coastal town and is best known for its medieval city centre. Less popular than neighbouring towns, it holds a special kind of charm. Piran is Slovenia’s ritziest resort. Its Old Town is one of the best-preserved historical towns in Europe, brimming with glorious Venetian Gothic architecture. The seafood restaurants are a big draw too. Then there’s Izola, a lesser-loved fishing port with a big, beautiful marina, winding streets and great restaurants.
Don’t go to the coast looking for solitude though, the beaches are packed out between May and September.
7. It’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts
People are just starting to notice Slovenia’s spectacular ski offering, which combines diverse snow conditions with affordable prices. Kranjska Gora, Slovenia’s leading World Cup resort, is actually one of the cheapest resorts in Europe. There are 18 different slopes to choose from and you can even take on the World Cup slalom run if you’re feeling up to it. It’s also home to the second-largest ski-flying hill in the world – Planica.
Slovenia is not a country lacking in water either, so there are plenty of sea, river and lake adventures to be had. There are more than 300 waterfalls in Slovenia too, perfect for kayaking and water rafting. For white-water rafting, you can’t beat Bovec, which straddles the Soča River.
Hikers have hundreds of trails at their fingertips. In a country of just over 20,000 square kilometres (12,420 squared miles), there’s a network of 10,000 km (6,210 miles) challenging mountain trails and over 5,000 kilometres (3,100 miles) of themed walking trails across lowlands, highlands and mountains. Mount Triglav, the country’s highest peak at 2,864 metres (9,396 foot) it a popular trail and scaling it at least one marks you as a true honourary Slovenian.