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Brief History - Getting There and In - Food and Drink -
Various Useful Facts

Brief History

What is now Slovenia has, at various points in the past, been part of the Roman Empire (Illyrian Province), part of the Venetian Republic, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, part of Napoleon's Illyrian Provinces, and most recently one of the Republics of Yugoslavia. Slovenia broke away from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia at the same time as Croatia, and because there were no ethnic Serbs in Slovenia, Serbia/Yugoslavia all owed it to go without too much of a fight and concentrated its efforts on the war with Croatia instead. Slovenia has enjoyed a prosperous independence ever since, and was among the first countries from Eastern Europe to join the enlarged European Union.

Getting There and In

From the UK there are direct flights from Heathrow to Ljubljana on Adria Air, and indirect flights via most major cities in East and Central Europe. Returns on Adria start from around 220 to 250. A cheaper option is low-cost carrier EasyJet, who fly to Ljubljana from "London" Luton airport.

Slovenia is probably too far away to try getting there by rail or road, but it's theoretically possible, if time-consuming. There are good transport links by road and rail to surrounding countries; further information is given in the "Getting There"sections of the Koper and Ljubljana pages.

As of 1st May 2004 Slovenia is a member of the European Union (EU) which means that there are no restrictions on passport holders of other EU countries staying, living, and working in the Slovenia. At the airport or border they'll just examine your passport and wave you through without stamping it, and probably without speaking to you.

Passport holders of other countries will still get their passports stamped, and may be asked to provide evidence of a return ticket or that they have sufficient funds for their stay. This is unlikely though. It's always a good idea to contact the Slovenian Embassy in your home country to check that you don't need to obtain a visa prior to your arrival.

The only problem we had in entering Slovenia by road is that it meant we'd had to pass through Italy first, which was not a pleasant experience. The "Getting There" section of the Koper page holds further details. I don't think that it was a coincidence that more people were queuing to enter Slovenia than there were trying to get into Italy.

Food and Drink

Slovenian food is excellent, mainly because of historical influences on Slovenian cuisine. Parts of Slovenia used to be parts of Italy, so pizzas and pastas are common. And Slovenia used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so sausages and meat in general are popular. And due to its proximity to the Balkans there are influences from that direction too, in the form of kebabs and other grilled meats. And because the Slovenians are a healthy bunch they're into their salads, and fish and seafood are more widespread than elsewhere in Eastern Europe, so it's really the best of all worlds. Some restaurants will also offer "traditional" Slovenian food, which tends to involve venison in one form or another. Slovenes are also big ice-cream lovers.

Most Slovenian restaurants (traditional Slovenian places are known as Gostlinas) will have a combination of most of the above on their menus, although there are some restaurants that will only do pizza and pasta. A meal in a good, non-touristy place should set you back no more than 5. The big cities in Slovenia are fairly cosmopolitan, so you should be able to find Chinese, Indian or Thai food, among others. I' m not sure how authentic they would be though.

Happily, the situation with food is mirrored with booze. Formerly being part of Austria-Hungary means that beer (pivo) is widely drunk, mainly Czech-style lagers but some dark beers are available. The two main brands are Union, brewed in Ljubljana and Lasko. They're both of similar strength and taste excellent but Lasko's emblem is a goat that appears on all its cans, bottles, and glasses and so for this reason is preferable. Nearly all restaurants and bars will offer one or both on draught and a pint will set you back anywhere from 40 to 70p. "Trendier" or more tourist-orientated bars and restaurants will also offer imported beer (Guinness being popular) but Slovenian beer is cheaper and just as good, so stick with that.

Slovenia is also good wine-growing country. You may occasionally see a bottle of Slovenian wine in a British supermarket or off licence but before buying bear in mind that the Slovenians keep all the good stuff for domestic consumption and only export the rat's piss. I can recommend the Vinakoper Refosk, a red wine from the coast around Koper, available in most supermarkets for around 3 a bottle. As this was the most expensive bottle of Slovenian wine in the shop, you can certainly afford to experiment!

Slovenia also offers the usual Eastern European array of local spirits and liqueurs, usually fruit brandies. They have their variation on slivovice, a suicidally strong plumb spirit, and another one that I didn't see but which sounds fascinating, a pear brandy made by monks; they put the bottles on the tree as the pear is growing so the pear actually grows into the bottle.

Various Useful Facts

Slovenians, surprisingly enough, speak Slovene. Fortunately this language is closely related to other Slavic languages, so once you know how to ask for 2 beers in Slovene (dve pivi prosim), it's almost exactly the same to do it in, say, Czech (dva piva prosim). Learning to manage even one or two words of Slovene (please is prosim, thank you is hvala) will bring big smiles to faces of most bar staff. Common second languages include Serbo-Croat, Italian (especially in the West), German, and there's a sizeable minority of ethnic Hungarians in the northeast. Most hotels will have someone who speaks some English, and many have fluent English speakers. Most waiters and barmen will have at least a basic grasp of English too. A book that I can heartily recommend for those few occasions when you may have communication difficulties is Lonely Planet's Eastern European Phrase Book, which has sections on various Eastern European languages, including Slovene.

In January 2007 Slovenia dumped its old currency, the Tolar, and joined the Euro. There are plenty of bureaux de change throughout Slovenia that offer surprisingly reasonable rates of exchange, and if you change your money at a bank you' ll pay even lower commission. There are also plenty of cash points throughout Slovenia; all will give cash advances on Visa or Mastercard, and most will also take Cirrus cards (which most UK banks now offer as a standard service on their cash/Switch cards). Nearly all hotels, and most restaurants and shops will also take credit cards, and Maestro is fairly widespread too. In short, as long as you've got money on your credit cards or in your bank accounts you'll have no problems accessing it in Slovenia.

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