Ljubljana hosts an annual tourism convention every year in the last days of January and more for fun than anything else, I’ve attended for the last 3 years now. Dušan the World Traveller (who you surely know by now) is usually the main culprit for these visits as he always finds some small bussiness to deal with and I’m more than happy to tag along.
Now, you should know that as befits a small country like Slovenia, the convention is also comparatively small. If you’ve perhaps been to the ITB in Berlin or any similar venue, you’ll know how things are done in a properly big way. Their 20+ halls house representatives from literally all over the world and you can’t even begin hoping to see it all in a day.
We’re peanuts to them – the most you can see here is local hospitality groups presenting their offerings of food, wine, natural and cultural attractions and guided activities. Not far away you’ll find reps of companies who provide services in the travel sector – national tourist agencies of a handful of countries, domestic travel agencies, regional tourist offices, magazine publishers, a number of transportation companies and so on. Some choice discussions or presentations are organized on the side, but we didn’t attend any this year.
Really, a couple of hours should be more than enough for someone with passing interest and while you can’t expect much of a spectacle, you are quickly reminded that Slovenia offers a lot of diversity and natural beauty despite it’s size. We’re counting a lot on tourism as a source of income and with travel options becoming ever broader, attracting guests and visitors is more challenging than ever. The long-term development strategy is to use nature to our advantage and promote Slovenia as a perfect destination for active holiday seekers and nature lovers. “Green, active, healthy” is the main motto and you could see it incorporated ever more strongly – not only in words, but in actions and products as well.
I made a mental note this year that I would try to avoid picking up pamphlets and brochures that were offered at every stall. I brought home bagfuls of them in previous years, only to have them laying around and throwing them away a few days later.
I’m happy to say I’ve succeeded, to a degree. Amongst other things I picked up a brochure with a long list of cycling events planned for this year and – get this – I even went paragliding. You know, the thing where you fling yourself off a hillside with a parachute strapped to your back. Well, except it was done via virtual reality.
It’s the first time I’ve tried VR and even though the technology is still young, I was quite impressed. The setup was a paraglide across lake Bohinj and while you obviously can’t simulate the force of wind and gravity, the sights and sounds were all there. I’ve had a wish of doing a proper jump for a while now, and while this didn’t do much to satisfy my hunger, it provided me with a glimpse of the real thing none the less. If anything, I can say I have even more of a desire to do it now.
In my opinion VR has serious potential to spread across the tourism/travel industry, but I’d hate to see this as a replacement to actually experiencing the world in person. Having tried this, I’d wager that the day is not far away when we’ll be able to walk through downtown New York or ascend the Eiffel Tower from the comfort of our living rooms.
But meeting people and seeing all the different faces of the world is still worth much more than a comfy couch and some high tech glasses. I hope people won’t forget that…
Having made a couple rounds around the stands, we decided to take a walk downtown. Dušan still had some friends he wanted to meet and somehow we found ourselves at the Tivoli park. It features a promenade lined with a photo gallery where different photographers show off their work. Most of the photos had something to do with water – Dikes and land reclamation in the Netherlands, the struggles of people in Central Africa, a series of black & white hydroelectric plant photos, the alpine lakes and so on.
There’s also an Orthodox church right by the park (the only one in the country in fact) and as Dušan is fond of anything from the East, he insisted we take a look inside. I’m not much for any kind of religion, but I must admit the inside was a bit more attractive than your average catholic church. The walls and ceiling are covered with colorful motives of saints and piety and despite the lush chandelier, everything else was a lot more modest.
Later we set off in the direction of the city center itself, which is off limits to cars and a real joy to walk through. Prešeren square with the Three Bridges across the Ljubljanica river is the main meeting spot in town and often a place where street artists show off their skills. This time a man was covering the square with large soap bubbles. 🙂
After all that we felt it was about time for some beer. Luckily Ljubljana has some nice pubs serving a large selection of different brews. In fact we found the one from the last time we were around, and it would be a shame if we let it pass.
So a fruity belgian brew helped round off a great sunny day in our capital. I must admit that the more I explore it, the more I seem to enjoy it. Days like these remind me that despite our pocket size we have a lot to offer and that by dreaming of far away lands we tend to miss what’s right on our doorstep.
It seems that spring is right around the corner and I can only hope that it will be one of many adventures for me and for all of you as well.