E is for Evropa
Coming from the island isolation of Great Britain, life on the European mainland is an international treat.
Add to this Slovenia’s petite landmass, and ‘popping in’ to Italy for a quick pizza, or Austria for an afternoon hike is quite the norm here.
All of these things give rise to a very ‘European’ feeling in Slovenia. Unlike in the UK, where our island mentality has bred an ‘us and them’ attiude (see: Brexit), here you feel part of Europe.
In the UK, a foreign holiday ultimately means flying (or ferry). In Slovenia, an hour in the car will take you into a neighbouring country. Dropping down to Croatia for some coastline is a regular Slovene habit, and Hungary’s western border is easily within reach for a day trip.
Last weekend was Easter or ‘Velika Noč’ which translates as ‘The Great Night’. Easter is a big family affair here and I spent it visiting my girlfriend’s family in Austria, where it was a great night indeed. A feast of traditional ham, eggs and horseradish, followed by much wine, beer and various shots of hard-to-pronounce spirits.
The following day we hopped the boarder to Italy, hiking into the glorious Julian Alps, followed by a trip to a local pizzeria. A little over an hour’s journey after, and we were back in Ljubljana. Three countries; one day.
Slovenia has tried hard to distance itself from the ‘Eastern European’ label. I think in large part to avoid misconceptions of being ‘a former soviet vassal state’ (as Jeremey Hunt – the British Foreign Secretary recently so wrongly stated.)
Slovenia was never part of the USSR. Indeed, by all accounts, Marshall Tito, Yugoslavia’s leader, was quite the thorn in the side of the Russians, who tried to assassinate him on more than one occasion.
It’s a common mistake that I often hear, but Jeremy – someone in your position really should have done your homework better.
Geographically too, Slovenia occupies a European sweetspot; a Mediterranean country, with high Alps, yet small enough to make day trips to the neighbours.
With Brexit looming, the advantages of a borderless Europe are ever more apparent to me, and the possibility of losing freedom to travel or work in other EU countries all the more painful.
Until then, I will continue to relish Slovenia’s central European location, where you’re never more than an hour’s car ride from adventure in another nation.