Slovenia is a gateway into the East or West of Europe and, depending on your direction of travel, seems to mix the best of both.
Organised, well managed and welcoming of travellers from the West it is a delight to journey into East European and its’ vivid cultural mix of earthly country ways and colourful, mad, joyousness.
We spoke to many locals. Around Ljubljana we met a 24-hour bar owner, whose rurally located and bespoke wooden tables and benches were shaded by a twisting vine and visited at noon by thirsty farmers; and a passionate rose-growing campsite owner – both of around 45 years old, both with two children in their early teens, and both fiercely committed to keeping Slovenia as it is.
“No passing communities, no migrants – we want to keep peace.” It’s an attitude not unfamiliar to us having travelled in the Balkans in 2015. If your life has been disrupted, perhaps destroyed, by tribal and religious warfare why would you think any differently?
The shocking arrival in traditional and rural farming Slovenia of the modern age was also striking.
Time and again we spoke to parents who, with English lessons mandatory since the 1980s, were uncertain about the global digital future and the effects of office work and social media upon Slovenian youngsters. One campsite owner and entrepreneur told us of her fears that she “didn’t know what Slovenia will look like in 20 years”.
At the border town of Lendava we returned to a thermal spa and camping complex we first stopped at in 2011.
Remembering a lonely camping experience in June, barring four other vans which turned out to be stored on the grassy tiles, we approached the complex cautiously.
Unfathomably it was packed… German, Austrian and the odd Slovenian motorhome or caravan had stolen every metre of space.
We found the last corner of shade under a mulberry tree and, annoying our German neighbours, we set up for the night whilst they were bedded in to stay for several weeks, as we later found out.
The pools smelled rank but were thoroughly clean, although the spa pool waters were liquid green and had floating objects the shape and size of wooden splinters that could easily get caught in careless fingers and toes.
These were micro-organisms from the thermal waters, pumped upwards directly from underneath the loose grass lawns and open soil, which we trod over.
It was a leisurely end to an enjoyable and thought-proving week in Slovenia, in which we both enjoyed an active time cycling in the beautiful countryside.
We’re often guilty of seeing Slovenia as a cross-roads for a journey south to Croatia, east to Hungary or north back home through Austria – so it was good to spend some time getting to know the country and its people a little better.