Pozdravi from Slovenia!
To kick-off my visit, I decided to take a Free Walking Tour of the capital city of Ljubljana. I always enjoy walking tours in each city I travel to as they’re a really cool way to get more familiar with the area and its history. The tour guide spoke English very well and had a good sense of humour which made the walk through the small city highly enjoyable.
We visited Ljubljana’s famous Triple Bridge and caught the sights and sounds of the cosy and car-less city centre. Along the river, there are plenty of bars and quaint restaurants where locals and tourists alike flock to in the evenings.
Ljubljana is home to around 300,000 inhabitants, making it one of Europe’s smallest capital cities. Slovenia was the first of the former Yugoslavian countries to gain independence in 1991 and 2004 became a member of the United Nations.
But before I get stuck into my adventure, here are a few more facts about where I am:
10 FUN FACTS ABOUT SLOVENIA
- Slovenia is the only country in the world with LOVE in their name. And the capital, Ljubljana, translates to ‘The Loved One’.
- Slovenians love bees. There are around 90,000 beekeepers in a population of just two million – that’s one in 20 people.
- It is tiny. Slovenia covers less than 0.004% of the Earth’s surface and has a population of just a little over 2 million. The capital, Ljubljana, is the country’s largest city but is also small compared to other European cities with less than 300,000 inhabitants.
- It’s one of the world’s most environmentally friendly nations, according to The Environmental Performance Index. The index indicates which countries are meeting internationally established environmental targets. Only four nations are better: Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and you guessed it: Denmark.
- A remarkable 53.6% of Slovenia is protected land, the 2nd highest percentage than any nation on earth behind Venezuela. With more than half of its total area covered in forest, Slovenia really is one of the greenest countries in the world. In fact, Ljubljana was named Europe’s Greenest Capital in 2016. And more than 500 brown bears roam the Slovenian forests.
- The people are tall and old. Slovenia has one of the tallest populations on the planet, with a typical male measuring an average of 1.8 m (5.9 feet) tall. Additionally, the average Slovenian age is 43.5 years old, making it also one of the oldest populations in Europe.
- There’s one winery or vineyard for every 70-75 people and in Maribor they have the world’s oldest vine which is 400 years old. Slovenians love wine: they are the 6th biggest consumer of wine in the world per capita.
- Slovenia has a tiny coastline spanning a meagre 46km (30 miles).
- You can spend a night in a Ljubljanan jail without doing a crime. Hostel Celica is an old prison where the cells have been renovated into rooms, but it still has the same appearance as a prison cell.
- Slovenia has the world’s largest ski jump. Planica is an epic place for ski-lovers, especially if you like heights. The ski jump is legendary and many world records have been set here.
MEET WINE MAN SASO PAPP
The next day, I met up with my good Slovenian friend, Saso Papp. He runs an online business selling wine across Europe. It’s kinda funny that the rest of the Balkans drink Rakia but as I mentioned above, Slovenians really love wine.
“It’s true that Slovenia has many vineyards. Although I have some vines, I personally don’t have a vineyard, but most people I know do. The problem with having so many vineyards is that the wine can turn out to be bad if you are not careful. In the Balkans, most people brew their own Rakia, and in Slovenia most people make their own wine” Saso says.
“With a Slovenian population of 2 million people, about 30,000 are winegrowers – 3,000 of which are professional winemakers and bottlers. Additionally, we have over 200 winemakers that make sparkling wine which is very rare for such a small population”.
Saso explains that the Slovenian climate is perfect for winemaking, as Slovenia sits on a similar line of latitude with southern France’s famed wine regions. Slovenia’s microclimate also plays an important role. “We have a perfect climate in the Western part of the country which borders Italy and the Adriatic Sea, bringing warmth. In the Eastern region of Slovenia, we make fresh, crisp white wines thanks to the cooler temperatures.”
Saso tells me more about Slovenia’s 400-year-old vine which is named the oldest vine in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The vine was discovered not long-ago during renovations in a forgotten part of the city of Maribor. The vine was carbon dated and is currently the world’s oldest vine still producing grapes.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN SASO AND ME
I know Saso from the radio industry. We’ve met many times over the years at various radio conferences around the world and have become good friends through our love for radio. I realised that we have a lot in common:
- Saso was a Group Program Director where he programmed 17 local radio stations. I’m a co-founder and co-owner of a group of radio stations that run 17 local radio stations.
- He quit a good job because you got tired of working for an idiot. I did the exact same thing.
- He was part of a successful morning show, and so was I (even though the station he was on was a national commercial radio station fighting with a station he helped create).
- Both of us have left life behind a radio station life. However, we both continue to do voiceovers and consult to radio stations, plus we’re both podcasters now. All because the passion never dies…
- We are both old farts.
Saso was in morning radio for almost 15 years before leaving the radio scene in 2013 to start his own mobile radio app business. He then turned his love for wine into a new business aimed at helping local winemakers market their products to a global audience.
Saso created Vinoo, a wine selling platform that matches Slovenian winemakers with customers who can browse and order local wines from anywhere in the world. Find your Radio Vagabond discount for Vinoo.co at the end of this post.
I’M FAMOUS IN SLOVENIA
On Tuesday morning, I made my way to a local radio station where I was scheduled to have 2 interviews to talk about my life as a digital nomad.
And it was funny to see myself on national TV that same night. When I stepped on the plane the next morning, the guy in the seat next to me looked at me a few times and then said, “Aren’t you the homeless guy I saw on TV last night?”How weird is that to be recognised by a random stranger. I guess I’m famous in Slovenia now…
SASO ABOUT THE EARLY YEARS
When Slovenia broke out of Yugoslavia, Saso was in his early 20’s. He tells me more about what it was like to grow up during that time. “We were lucky that Slovenia didn’t experience much of the harsh realities of the conflict apart from minor skirmishes over a period of 10 days. At that time, I was conscripted to the army but thankfully I was not involved in any warfare”.
After gaining independence, Slovenia struggled to gain strong financial footing. However, Slovenia is currently boasting the highest GDP of all countries previously part of Yugoslavia. From this, a popular Slovenian saying emerged, saying “We are the best in the village” referring to the other ex-Yugoslavian territories. The saying has evolved to form a second part, “But we are the worst in the city” referring to Slovenia being the first of the territories to be included in the European Union.
Saso jokes that Slovenians like to think of themselves as the best of the ex-Yugoslavian countries, largely because they drink lots of wine and are considered the northern part of the Balkans, but the southern part of Europe.
It was great catching up with my old friend. I hope our paths cross again soon.
METELKOVA ART CENTRE
If you’re into street art, you should definitely visit Metelkova Art Centre, also known as Metelkova mesto. It is an alternative culture centre in Ljubljana, developed from a squat in a former army barracks and is one of the best-known attractions of Ljubljana.
It’s home to a large number of clubs hosting concerts, club nights, and one-off club events featuring underground artists and DJs from around the world.
The centre also hosts art performances, exhibitions, and a festival from time-to-time.
The history of Metelkova mesto as a cultural centre goes back to 1993, when the northern part of the barracks complex was squatted by a group of about 200 volunteers.
The initiative came from an independent association of mainly underground artists and intellectuals known as Metelkova Network to stop the abandoned army complex from being pulled down.
Being a thriving place for a free creative spirit, the complex is undergoing constant change.
I visited on a quiet afternoon but was still a very interesting place to visit. I took a lot of pictures of the street art that you can find below – but not the people. There was a sign saying “No photos of people. This is not a zoo.” So, remember to respect that when you go.
As I was packing my bags for my next journey, I saw Melania Trump on the TV addressing Americans from the White House. Melania is Slovenian, and when I asked the funny tour guide if this fact has boosted tourism in Slovenia, his answer said it all “Hmmm…no, not really.”
Until next time – my name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving.
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