Slovenia lies in the heart of Europe, where the Alps meet the Mediterranean and the Pannonian Plain meets the Karst. This small green country measures 20,273 km2 in area, and is home to sincere, hospitable people of great diligence. It has an exceptional number of top athletes, and a wealth of cultural creativity. Here are 40 facts about Slovenia and its inhabitants that might surprise you.
… that Slovenia is among the most biologically diverse countries in the world? Slovenia accounts for less than 0.004% of the Earth’s surface but is home to more than 1% of all living creatures and 2% of terrestrial creatures. A total of 24,000 animal species.
… that Slovenia is the third most forested country in Europe? Almost 60% of its territory is covered by forest. In recent decades, the proportion of forest has been increasing, since every year we plant over 1,200,000 trees.
… that over one third of Slovenia’s territory is protected and included in the Europe-wide Natura 2000 network, which protects biodiversity?
… that 4,000 years ago the Ljubljansko Barje Nature Park was a lake and that pile-dwellers lived on it? Thanks to its conserved natural environment, it is today famous as an internationally important bird sanctuary. Over a hundred species of birds nest here, and over a hundred species visit the area during migration or in order to overwinter.
… that the Sečovlje Salina Nature Park is the only Slovenian wetland area on the UNESCO list of wetlands of international importance? Today only a small section of the saltworks, which are more than 700 years old, is still used to make salt, but in the abandoned areas we find a treasury of plant and animal life, including the Etruscan shrew, the smallest mammal in the world!
… that Slovenia has one of the largest brown bear populations in Europe? Between 500 and 700 bears, it is believed.
… that Slovenia is one of the richest countries in Europe in terms of water? It has almost 27,000 kilometres of rivers, streams and other watercourses. It also has numerous thermal and mineral springs and many subterranean waters.
… that Maribor, Slovenia’s second-largest city, is home to the oldest vine in the world? Although it is over four hundred years old, its Žametna Črnina grapes still produce 25 litres of wine every year.
… that the linden or linden leaf is an important symbol of Slovenians? The Najevnik Linden in Koroška is said to be over 780 years old. Each August, for the last 20 years, the country’s leading political figures have gathered at the tree.
Special features of Slovenia
… that Slovenia is one of the countries with the largest number of religious buildings per capita in Europe? There are almost 3,000 churches, chapels and religious monuments around Slovenia.
… that the double hay rack or toplar is unique to Slovenia? Hay racks, structures used for drying and storing hay and other agricultural produce, are more widespread in Slovenia than anywhere else in the world.
… that Slovenia’s world-famous Lipica stud farm, celebrated for its aristocratic Lipizzaners, has been operating uninterruptedly since its foundation in 1580? The adult Lipizzaner is notable for its white colour and its remarkable learning ability.
… that the geographical and climatic variety and diversity of Slovenia mean that in a single day you can pick autumn fruits in the morning, bathe in the Adriatic in the afternoon, and go night skiing in the evening?
… that Slovenia’s Karst Plateau has given its name to karst landscapes and karst phenomena all over the world? It was in the Karst that experts first explained numerous karst features such as underground caves, dolines and ponors.
… that Slovenia has the tallest cliff on the Adriatic coast? In the Strunjan Peninsula, an almost vertical flysch wall rises up from the sea to a height of 80 metres.
… that Lake Cerknica is an intermittent lake? In spring and autumn, when the lake fills with water, its surface area can reach as much as 38 km2, making it the largest lake in Slovenia, while in summer it is significantly smaller, because its water is drained away by numerous swallowholes.
… that at carnival time in Cerknica the Simpletons take over the local government? The literary creations of the writer Fran Milčinski are famous for having taken leave of their senses long ago. At carnival time they come to life and lead this famous carnival with their legendary ‘wisdom’.
.. that the most famous Slovene carnival figure is the Kurent? The presence of this traditional figure drives away winter and brings good fortune. Kurents can be seen driving away the winter at the main carnival procession in Ptuj.
… that a traditional Slovene dish for special occasions is a type of cake called potica? This has recently become one of the more recognisable symbols of Slovenia at a wide variety of international political, cultural and sporting events.
… that in Slovenia you can see the traces of real dinosaurs? Traces from the early Triassic, probably around 200 million years old, can be seen on Zalarjev Vrh near Idrija.
… that the battle that was the direct cause of the break-up of the Roman Empire into its eastern and western parts was fought on Slovene soil? This battle between the armies of the Emperor Theodosius and the usurper Eugenius, each numbering a hundred thousand men, took place on 5 and 6 September AD 394 in the Vipava Valley.
… that the Freising Manuscripts are the oldest surviving document in Slovene and also the oldest surviving document written in any Slavonic language? The manuscripts consist of liturgical texts written in around the year 1000. They are kept in the Bavarian State Museum in Munich.
… that the first Slovene book was a Catechism written in 1550? It was written during the Reformation by the Protestant priest Primož Trubar.
… that France Prešeren is considered the greatest Slovene poet? He is celebrated above all for his sonnets, while his poem The Toast is Slovenia’s national anthem.
… that the Old Pharmacy in Olimje is the oldest pharmacy in Slovenia and one of the oldest surviving monastic pharmacies in Europe? It contains frescoes painted by Lerchinger in 1780. These show scenes from the Bible, with an emphasis on fruits and healing plants.
… that during the First World War the important front line known as the Isonzo (Soča) Frontran across Slovene territory? Many Slovenes fought on the Austro-Hungarian side against Italy and lost their lives here.
… that the architectural appearance of Slovenia’s capital city was decisively influenced by the famous Slovene architect Jože Plečnik? His influence on the appearance of the city was so great that some people even call it Plečnik’s Ljubljana.
.. that Slovenia’s War of Independence in 1991, also known as the Ten-Day War, was the first war in Europe since the Second World War? Despite its short duration, the war unfortunately claimed 76 lives.
… that in 1998 Slovenia founded the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance? The activity of the Fund was initially limited to south-eastern Europe but it has since grown into a worldwide organisation.
… that Vilenica cave near Lokev is the oldest show cave in Europe? Tourists have been visiting it since 1633. Every year the Vilenica international literary prize is awarded in the cave’s ‘Ballroom’.
… that the canteen of the coal mine in Velenje, 160 metres below the surface, is the lowest-lying dining room in Europe? It is approximately 15 metres long, and can seat 48 people at 12 tables.
… that the greatest number of Bled’s famous cream slices or Cremeschnitte have been made in the pastry workshop of the Hotel Park in Bled – over 10 million of them? The original recipe of master pastry chef Ištvan Lukačevič has remained unchanged since 1953.
… that the world’s longest stone-arch railway bridge is the Solkan Bridge on the Bohinj line? The main arch has a span of 85 metres and the total length of the bridge is 219.7 metres.
… that the tallest industrial chimney in Europe is in Slovenia? This accolade goes to the chimney of the power station in Trbovlje, which is 362 metres high. It was built to this great height in an attempt to prevent pollution of the lower atmosphere.
… that over 60 world records in ski jumping and ski flying have been set in Planica? Ski jumpers in Planica were the first to break the magic 100-metre and 200-metre barriers.
… that by far the most successful Slovene musical group of any genre or era is the AvsenikBrothers Ensemble, a popular folk group which has sold over 31 million albums? The Avsenik brothers are also the most-performed European composers.
… that the Slovene Davo Karničar was the first man to ski down Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world? He was also the first man in the world to ski the highest peaks of all seven continents.
… that the Slovene ultra-marathon swimmer Martin Strel was the first man to successfully swim the Amazon, the Mississippi and the Yangtze?
… that for several years in a row Slovene school-leavers have won a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for dancing the largest synchronised quadrille in the world? This traditional school-leavers’ dance has been danced by over 26.700 school-leavers simultaneously on the streets of various towns around Slovenia.
… Slovenia has over 7,000 kilometres of mountain hiking trails, along which there are 165 mountain huts and bivouacs?
…that 216 km² of Slovenia is covered by vineyards?
… that Slovenia has many interesting gastronomic festivals? These include the Saltworkers’ Festival, the Cabbage Festival, Chestnut Sunday and Bean Day.
…that in Slovenia you can pay to spend the night in a prison cell? The Celica Hostel in Ljubljana is a former military prison with comfortable and imaginatively designed cells for guests.
… that the official symbol of Ljubljana is the dragon which, according to legend, was killed by the Ancient Greek hero Jason and his intrepid Argonauts on their way through the Ljubljana marshes?
… that some scenes from the film Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian were filmed in the Soča Valley?
… that couples still get married on Bled Island? According to tradition, in order to ensure a long and happy marriage, the groom must carry the bride up the 99 steps leading to the island.