There’s a firefighter in all of us – Fire Safety Month tribute

October is a month that’s considered a bit special in the firefighting world. Each year we take extra time and effort in bringing the work we do closer to the local community and it’s people. For the occasion, I thought I’d do my own small part in bringing you my thoughts and views on the matter. Most Slovenians will likely be familiar with what we do, but for the international readers things might be different. I invite you to enjoy this article and look out for the photographs as well.

You see, firefighting is somewhat of a cultural phenomenon here in Slovenia. When it comes to fire safety, the job is largely done by volunteer brigades operating on a local level. Pretty much every bigger village has it’s own firehouse and corresponding equipment with a group of hearty people ready to help out on a moment’s notice. In a land of about 2 million people we have around 1400 such brigades, each with perhaps 100 members, some less, some even more. Of course not all of them are active firefighters, but since there is always a lot to do within the local community, each will find a place for him or herself.

And there is a lot of history behind it as well. Volunteer firefighting stretches back to the late 19th or early 20th century, where fires were a lot more common than they are nowadays. Buildings were built a lot simpler then, and mostly out of wood and covered with hay, especially in the rural areas. An overturned oil lamp could mean the risk of losing your life’s work, and it often got to that. Since there was no one to rely on other than your neighbours, villagers got together to form local fire brigades for just those situations. They vowed to help each other as best they could, and it’s this basic promise that still holds true today, a hundred years later.

img_8700
A visit at JVP Varaždin, Croatia, which keeps a collection of historic equipment and documents, including this pump and carriage.

We’ve certainly come a long way from horse-drawn carriages and hand-powered pumps. The ever evolving world brings with it a greater need of security, and it shows in firefighting work as well. There may not be as many house fires any more, but we are seeing traffic accidents and natural disasters on a regular basis and it’s down to the firefighters to respond and deal with the situation, no matter the weather or time of day.

From an outside perspective you might look at the numbers and think that we have a hundred thousand people walking around dressed up as firemen, just waiting for the siren to wail. In truth, only larger cities and industrial companies have a company of professional, full-time firefighters. The rest are people like you and me – men and women young and old, who live their normal lives and take pride in being able to help others in need. They are paid nothing except the internal feeling of satisfaction that comes after a successful emergency call, and a sincere “thank you” often means a lot more than money ever would.

dsc_0710

It’s not all emergency calls and fiery action, of course. Due to the large numbers of people and available equipment firefighters will often be called to help out at other local events, such as directing traffic or offering first aid at large gatherings, delivering water in times of drought, or generally helping where they can. All of this is done in a positive and relaxed way and you get to meet a lot of locals that way. Again, there is no monetary compensation in doing this, but they surely won’t let you leave thirsty – or hungry, for that matter. Thankfully, firefighters have always been regarded in a positive way and everyone always receives you with open arms.

img_2873

It is not  surprising therefore, that you should meet people with 50 or more years of service and who have devoted their lives for this noble cause. It’s easy to lose yourself in such an all-encompassing field of work, if you only set your mind to being able to “work for no pay”. Some people look at firefighters and wonder why anyone would spend countless hours of time and energy helping others for free. “What’s in it for you?” they’d ask. The usual answer would be to come along and see for yourself, because you can’t experience it any other way.

In the end it’s a lot like a hobby, I guess. Like something you try and it draws you in, to the point where you can’t stop thinking about it. Some people play football or video games, some learn to sing or play guitar. Others build model boats or airplanes, go hiking or cycling. When it comes to firefighting, for many it’s a way of life. It’s not unusual for whole families to be connected with the local brigade, so if there’s really no escaping it from an early age. You go to the fire house for the first time as a kid and meet friends there and 50 years later, you’ll find yourself drinking beer in the same spot with the same friends, talking about those times from long ago.

img_4964

 

The emotional pull is strong especially with young kids. The image of a big red truck with blue flashing lights makes your knees weak, and it’s no wonder kids want to be firemen for that reason alone. In those times parents play an important role and if they take the time to bring their son or daughter to the fire house, then everything’s possible. It’s a good way to teach kids the importance of camaraderie, teamwork and social skills. In many towns and villages around Slovenia kids are still given the option of joining, but sad to say many pass it by in favour of other, less healthy alternatives.

However, if one does decide to join into this brotherhood, no matter his or her age, ability or social background – in he only shows interest, then all doors are open. Beside just meeting friends there are trainings and special skill to learn, competitions to attend, some people have even taken up collecting and restoring old equipment. No matter you interest, you will surely find a place for yourself in the world of volunteer firefighting.

dsc_2606

Personally, I’ve been a member of my local brigade for a good three years now. I don’t come from a family with a long firefighting background, so my beginnings were a bit different; there is a tradition all around the country where each brigade would make their own calendars and hand them out them door to door, at each house in their district. It’s a way for us to say thanks to the people in the community and wish them all the best in the coming year. In return they would usually contribute some money which keeps the company going.

So every december two of the local firefighters would come knocking, we’d invite them in for a chat and they’d ask me if I wanted to join. I never thought much about it, but one year I decided I’d go, and after some time passed I eventually did. Since then I’ve spent hundreds of hours at the fire house, met some of my best friends there and a lot of people around town as well. It’s helped me to feel a lot more at home with where I live and I can’t imagine what else I’d be doing in my spare time. I always have something to look forward to and people to help me if the need arises. I’ve also combined photography with it and been able to produce some really pleasing results which bring joy not only to me, but a lot of other people around me as well.

img_5136

So what does it take to become a fireman? Well, the official terms might differ from one country to another. Not everyone might be suited for a full-time firefighting job. But by default, a fireman should be someone with an open heart and a willingness to help those around him as best he can. No matter your age, gender or physical ability, in your mind you surely have the capacity to do so, even if it is on a small scale. You don’t need much to make someone’s day better, and by doing so, you’ll make yours better as well.

With that in mind, I invite you to look through the rest of this themed gallery below and share your thoughts and comments with others.

To all firemen and women around the world, either by profession or simply by heart, this is a tribute to your good deeds. May the fires that keep you going never run out!

 

Advertisements

What if every day was a beer festival

Ah yes, one of those days again. I’ve written about last year’s beer festival in Maribor in one of my first posts. Now we’re all a year older and I won’t lie to you, I still like a good glass of beer. Problem is, good beer doesn’t come round that easy in our parts. You might think it’s good, but then you haven’t been to a good beer festival. It wasn’t that long ago that you could only get cheap big-brewery pilsners around here, the two big brands being Laško and Union. They’re not much different from every other Becks, Heineken or all those international Pisswassers. They’re good if you don’t have anything else at hand, but otherwise unimpressive.

img_5639
Union would be the muck in the red cans. Despite having dozens of craft beers on offer, some people decided to go the usual supermarket route.

It’s been like that for decades, and nobody really minded much. Then, a few years ago, some people obviously got tired of drinking bad beer and independent small-time craft breweries started popping up all over the place and they made some wacky stuff. Perhaps the most internationally acclaimed establishment in the field would be Bevog, which actually operates just across the border in Austria. Still, they’re run by a Slovenian outfit and their know-how has produced some rather splendid brews. Right around that time things started growing and we got a number of craft breweries to choose from – Human Fish, Pelicon and Tektonik, to name a few.

Beer lovers rejoiced as they finally had something of quality to drink and it was soon realised that a good beer festival would go a long way. Sure enough it did, and similar events can now be enjoyed in many cities across the country.

The Makro Beer Fest was the latest such event, hosted at Maribor’s Main Square, just outside the townhouse. Sad to say Maribor has seen better days in years gone by, so events like these are not only good for beer lovers, but for locals in general. It reminds them that the city has a lot to offer and that it’s streets can still be a good place to enjoy a friday evening.

img_5614
As well as Slovenian breweries, there were a few from Croatia and Serbia present as well. Above: Kabinet Brewery (SRB)

The event was largely organised by Andej Krštinc, the owner of a nearby speciality beer shop called Pivarna. I really enjoy these old town style small shops and the people who run them. They provide a very emotional alternative to big retail chains and it’s a shame that huge malls and supermarket chains have largely displaced these places that were once full of character.

A call went out asking for volunteers to help setting up the last odds and ends on the morning before the event, and as I had nothing else to do, I decided to bike my way over and lend a hand. A couple of busy hours later we had the stalls and tables set, the brewers had all arrived and it was time to start pouring. I scored a few tasty beers along the way, then got paid in still more beer tokens. It  turned out it was just enough to last me throughout the evening tasting rounds that were to follow.

As darkness fell upon Maribor, crowds came out to enjoy the early autumn night. The weather was perfect for the time of year and the square was bustling with activity.It was a real joy to see people experiencing beer in a completely new way – most were probably used to drinking it from a tankard or straight out of the bottle, and definitely not from what was essentially a wine glass. Still, the nature of craft beer is such that it’s best enjoyed slowly, sip by sip, taking in the smells, colours and tastes of the brew – much like good wine.

img_5624

There were more than a dozen different breweries offering 3 or even more beers on tap, so you really couldn’t go through them all. Including offerings from local young guns Lobik, Zmajska pivovara from Zagreb, the well-established Tektonik, and some other chance picks. Drinking mostly big-brewery lagers, you soon forget how much can be got from combining water, yeast, hops and barley. There is endless variety and even within one style of beer the differences in character are incredible.

What is incredible is also the culture behind the craft brewing scene. You meet all sorts of interesting characters at such events. For the most part, people who appreciate this kind of beer are also slightly unique and free-thinking. They really care about their product because it’s a labour of love and hard work. On top of that it’s a huge financial undertaking to start a brewery and keep it running. That glass of beer is not only a good tasting drink, but also a story of dedication, commitment and personal pride. When drinking such brews, one can not look past the people who make it happen and it’s precisely this that adds the experience even more value.

img_5637
The face of a man with not a care in the world. Prvo viško pivo from the island of Vis, Croatia

I’m really glad to see craft beers making their way into the mainstream. It’s not quite there yet, but it’s out in force and showing no signs of stopping just yet. If there were only 2 or 3 different beers available a decade ago, we now have shops which provide a selection of products from around the world. There’s still some effort in procuring these brews, specially if you live outside bigger cities, but there is little that can stop a man in search of good beer. It surely looks like the demand is there, and we can hope the supply keeps up with the trend.

Have a look through the rest of the gallery and don’t forget to leave your own thoughts and impressions down below.

Exploring Slovenia’s mountain region – Gorenjska

I must apologize – It’s been a while since I last wrote anything here, over a month in fact. I just couldn’t get myself to post anything of half-decent “quality”, so I let it be for a while.

Now I’m happy to report that I was on a yet another cycling-unrelated trip yesterday and while I really hoped to squeeze more bike-related stuff in here, it just wasn’t meant to be, at least not this time. However, Gorenjska, Slovenia’s mountain region is great for bicycle exploration and there are a lot of bike paths, trails and spots to enjoy. I guess I really should bring a bike the next time I go.

What follows is just a couple of spots I went to see yesterday. I had the help of Amela B., a friend of mine who is also a local of the region and knows where to go to get the most out of your day. A bit like having your own personal guide, quite fancy. I picked her up in Ljubljana in the morning and the original plan was to visit the Triglav lakes, but that would require a full day of hiking, and we sort of drifted in other directions.

#1 – Lake Bled

If you’re a tourist planning to visit Slovenia, this is probably one of the spots you hear the most about. Lake Bled, the castle on the cliff, the church on the island in the middle, the Bled cake –  these are some of the most known tourist attractions in the country. When I was last here a month ago, in the peak of the tourist season, it was absolutely packed with people from around the world.

We took a walk around the place, found that it was not so packed any more and headed on. You’ll find much better pictures online, there are probably 5 photographers for each 100 meters of shoreline here.

img_5204

#2 – the Peričnik Waterfall

Here’s a sweet spot. If you head into the Vrata valley, you’ll soon pass the Slovenian Alpine Museum, a gem in itself. A bit further on, just a short hop from the road is the Peričnik Waterfall. There are actually two of them, with the higher being 52 meters tall. The ledge it falls over is overhanging, so you can even walk behind the curtain of water. Another fun fact; it freezes over in winter, so the whole rock face gets covered in ice, creating a fairytale view.

img_5225
Observe the family on the ledge behind for scale. The ledge can easily be used to walk behind the curtain of the waterfall.

#3 and #4 – Planica nordic center and the Tamar valley

Turning into another glacial valley nestled between high mountain peaks we find the famous ski-jumping center of Planica. If you happen to follow the sport you’ll know that this is the venue of the last leg in the season and tens of thousands of people gather here every year to watch people jump upwards of 220 meters on skis. If you’ve never seen ski jumping before, this is what it looks like:

A nordic center has recently been constructed, allowing for full-time training on several different hill sizes, and there are ski-running and biathlon courses here as well.

Red Bull is hosting a 400-meter sprint competition up the biggest hill. It’s called simply the Red Bull 400, it’s much harder than it looks and it’s happening next weekend.

Further down the road from Planica is the Tamar valley. Like many alpine valleys, it’s enclosed on three sides by high mountains and provides a peaceful retreat from the everyday bustle. A dirt road takes you to a hut at the end of the valley, which is also a starting point for a number of climbing ascents.

img_5277

#5 – Lake Jasna

Just before we left we decided to stop at yet another alpine lake just outside Kranjska gora, the best known resort town in the area. It seems that you’re never far from a stream or a small lake here, and they all paint these beautiful images with mountaintops in the background.

img_5296

Gorenjska is deservedly the best looking part of Slovenia, and it provides nature lovers with plenty of things to see and do. Leave a comment below if you’ve been here before, I’d like to hear about the time you’ve had.

For more info, head on to the official page of the Triglav National Park.

Save

Contemplating a future on the high seas

After pretty much a lifetime of going to school, doing homework and chasing all kinds of assignment deadlines the time has come to take on a life of a fully functioning adult.

It’s funny how simple things tend to be when you’re a kid. Someone asks you what you want to be when you grow up and you instantly know that you want to drive that big truck, become a firefighter or a designer for Lego. Then as you grow older the notions of traveling the world, meeting interesting people and having a great time come into your head. All you want to do is have a meaningful life, find the girl of your dreams, buy a nice house and a good car. Then have a kid or two and live without worry. Such simple things, it seems.

Yet how do you do that in the world we live in? I’ve tried driving big trucks and while it might be a way to happiness for some, for me it wasn’t the case. I’m a firefighter as well, but everyone does it on a voluntary basis here in Slovenia, and that hasn’t paid any bills yet. People might look favourably upon your role of the brave soul who is always ready to sacrifice his time for others, but it won’t fill your pocket.

IMG_9642

I’m not sure how people look on normal life these days. Maybe spending 10 hours every day for work that doesn’t fulfill you has become the norm in the “developed world”. I feel sorry for people who spend their whole lives waiting for the next weekend while life passes by left and right. Then before you know it you’re ready to retire and if you’re lucky enough, you might even have some time left to do all the things you missed during the previous 60+ years.

Perhaps this mindset is why I’ve always had unusual jobs in mind. Jobs that I’d actually enjoy, and not only do for the sake of earning money. Jobs that would allow me to see cool places, enjoy nature, meet people from all over the world and experience stories that I could tell my grandchildren. Doesn’t sound like much if you live in a metropolis like London or New York, but coming from a small town in a small country that everyone tends to overlook, it’s much more of a challenge.

Over the years though, I’ve had the chance to work in some truly international environments at two Kempinski hotels on the Adriatic coast. It was much more what I’m into and a nice change of scenery, though living away from fiends and family starts to take it’s toll regardless. I’ve found that such longer excursions follow a set pattern which consists of the initial excitement of moving, then settling in and quiet optimism, which is eventually replaced by more and more homesickness. In the end what was once an interesting new environment becomes a burden to you, and you are just a stranger in a strange place, looking forward to returning home.

IMAG0071
This, along with other people’s expensive cars was my daily view while working at Kempinski Adriatic in the summer of 2014

So you return home, back to the life you’re used to and for a while you’re feeling fine. You enjoy the home cooking, the company of your fiends and the general simplicity of the daily routine. But once again, after a while the grind of everyday life gets to you and you start dreaming of new adventures, the kind you just can’t get while living a “normal” life and doing a “normal” job.

***

For years now I’ve been thinking about working on cruise ships. It’s the kind of idea you obsess over for some time, then it goes away and suddenly pops back in out of the blue. During that time I’ve been to interviews with different employment agents, I’ve read blogs, watched movies and talked with people who have been on board in different roles. I got the universal impression that this was something I had to do at some point and not going through with it would be something I would regret forever.

By now it’s come as far as almost applying for a photographer position with Carnival. I’ve talked with the recruiter a few times, but ultimately failed to fill out all the initial papers due to getting weak at the knees. The offer is still on the table, should I reconsider.

ship
Carnival Breeze is one of the 20+ luxury cruise ships in the company fleet. Photo credit aa.cruises.com

It’s an offer that’s just as exciting as it is terrifying. I believe I’d be able to do a good job and enjoy the lifestyle even through the tough bits. The stories and experiences gained would probably be unforgettable. The pay can be relatively good, chances for promotion are high and seeing the world is something some people only dream of. And yet…

Every time I think these things, the thought of what I’d miss out on comes right after. From what I gather the workflow can be quite stressful. There are no weekends, no green hills, no chances for hiking and cycling with friends and no firefighting antics. Working on the other side of the world can get to you, and there’s no real place of retreat. Folks at home don’t think much of the whole idea, of course they’d rather see me working some dead end job at home, but even these are hard to find in the current state of the economy around here.

In the end, it comes down to guts I guess. Either I take the leap, decide to go and see what life has in store for me, or end up taking the “normal”, and likely quite boring way through…

Save

Le Mans-style hiking & biking for a good cause

Yesterday I took two of my friends, Sanja and Damijan on a rather special outdoor event in Ruše, just outside Maribor. The local elementary school prepared a 24-hour charity hike & bike which had everyone doing round trips from the starting point to a bar some 3 kilometers up the hill. There was a control point at each end where you checked in, along with some refreshments and music – a pretty simple concept and easy to pull off just about everywhere, but it got people going in a big way.

While the hiking route ran up through forests in a number of ways, cyclists had 6 kms of paved roads to manage, with a rise of around 300 vertical meters. It might not sound a lot, but most of the participants – including us – did multiple repeats, and some went deep into double digits. In fact – in the time of writing this, they’re still at it. The official incentive was that for every lap completed, more would be donated to charity. The event started at 4 pm yesterday (friday) and would run all through the night, finishing 24 hours later. And while the charity aspect was a nice touch, I had the feeling most of the people were there in the spirit of friendly competition. Everyone had that one more notch in their minds, some cyclists even more so, it seemed.

At first we were quite concerned about the weather, which has been acting up in the last couple of days and the forecast wasn’t promising either. Luckily the heavy rain clouds dispersed just hours before the event, the sun came out and so did many of the locals. It was really nice to see such a diverse crowd – schoolkids, young families, pensioners and active runners, all were doing their share to contribute to the experience.

Our own plan was to start late in the afternoon and keep on walking well into the night. Sanja was having some problems with her stomach, but luckily she’s tough as nails and we pressed on regardless. Along the way we met the self-pronounced oldest hiker of the day, looking strong at 87. “You’ll have many hard moments in life,” he said. “But just like hiking, you have to take it one step at a time and eventually you’ll get there.” Talk about spirit.

IMG_0359
Looking down on Maribor

It’s amazing what an active lifestyle can do for a person. Right then I thought of my grandma, who’s been watching TV and doing crossword puzzles for the past 30 years. She’s 86 now, a year younger than the man we met. She has a very hard time managing the three steps at her house.

Pretty soon we came upon Martnica, the finishing point for the first of what would later be three repeats. The hiking route met up with the cyclists and the cafe terrace was packed. It also meant I could gaze my eyes on some rather nice road bikes. Click through the gallery if you’re interested.

 

I’d like to direct your attention to the bright blue Rog Super. In the age when high-performance carbon bikes are commonplace, these retro beauties really stand out. Even more so because Rog is a nostalgic Slovenian bike brand, now sadly a remnant of times gone by. Attempts are being made to restore the name, but I fear the products they will make (if any) won’t have much in common with the factory from decades ago.

You can read a story about Rog and it’s Pony bikes in a fun post called “Only half a turn.”

After looking around and resting a bit, we turned back down and pretty soon the sun went down with us. The clouds were nowhere to be seen and above us opened a canopy of stars worthy of the greatest Hollywood romance. We were far away from the city lights, so the stars were even brighter. Such a wonderful sight, but one many people never even think about any more.  You really should take time to look up at the night sky more often. The view is quite humbling.

So we kept on walking by the light of headlamps into the early morning. The number of people thinned understandably, but there were still small groups or individuals out walking even at 1 am. Altogether we did 3 laps in about 7 hours, stopping at around 2pm. By that time some of the cyclists had done more than 10 repeats and were seriously thinking about breaking last year’s record, said to be at 32 climbs. Not bad for a day’s work. 🙂

IMG_0382

Fun cycling ahead!

Finally something that’s cycling-related. When I first started out this site I had this grand vision of how I would ride my bike as far as the eye can see and bring you a million and one amazing stories. Since then my blog has been overrun by posts about hiking, random trips and other miscellaneous adventures. In the midst of all that, cycling has taken a back seat. It’s not that I’ve quit riding my bike, it’s just that I mostly do it on the same old routes and there’s really nothing much to write about.

Until now!

I’m pleased to report that in less than two weeks from now I’ll be taking part in a couple of rather promising cycling events with hopefully a big turnout, great company and nice weather. They’re both recreational events, meant purely for enjoyment on your bike and don’t fall into the category of racing in any real way. Here’s a brief overview of both of them.

AJM Team Time Ride 2016 – May 29th

The AJM Time Ride has over the years gained a reputation as a solid, well organised and much visited cycling event. The route starts in Kamnica, a suburb just north-west of Maribor and then winds it’s way for 25 kilometers and considerable height gains through the surrounding hills, forests and vineyards. Much of the route follows dirt roads, so the Specialized Diverge will probably be left at home, to be replaced by my Felt QX70, left on the picture below. Ever since the Diverge appeared at the house, the Felt has been somewhat pushed to the back and this will be a great opportunity to spend some time with the iron horse again.

IMG_9766
Preparations are under way! My friend Nejc brought his bike around and we gave it a good once-over, so it’ll be ready for the big day.

There’s a fun trick to the Time Ride. It’s not about getting to the finish first, rather it’s about being the most average team on the track. Teams of 2-4 riders set out together in short intervals and complete the preset route. Their time is logged and when all the teams finish, an average time is calculated as the benchmark. The team that gets closest to that average time is then considered the winner and takes home a holiday package in Malta, Turkey or Greece. Special prizes will be given out to the team with the best selfie from the top of the course, so we should definitely do something about that. I’ll be taking my GoPro with me, and we’ll see what we can come up with.

This is the first time I’ll be taking part in the event. I wanted to go for the last 2 years, but never managed due to other setbacks Here’s a video from 2014:

Apparently more than 150 teams have signed up already, which means upwards of 500 riders tackling the course. Let’s just hope the weather holds up. 🙂

8th Europark Bike Marathon – May 28th

Europark is the biggest shopping mall in Maribor and they’ve done a good job of organising an annual cycling event for the last couple of years. This is actually just a day before the Team Time Ride and even more laid back. The setup here is that there are 6 or so starting points all around the Styria region and then everyone meets up at the mall. Again there’ll be a prize giveaway from the sponsors, some music, food and beer.

Though it’s called a Marathon, in reality the route we’re taking is only about 40 kilometers long, so combined with getting to the start site and then back home it should make about 60-70, an mostly flat. I’ve done the event last year and won a wristwatch in the giveaway, but it turned out to be a shabby chic women’s watch with a rubber band and fake diamonds around the encasing. Gave it to my mom who was really pleased for the first five minutes, then never wore it again.

I’ll try to bring back at least some pictures if not videos from both of the events, so follow the blog and come back for more. I’ll try my best to get The Small Country Cyclist back into cycling waters, (though hiking is still cool, don’t forget that).

Hope to see you soon and have a great time! 🙂

 

Consult the Map!

Maps are fun. They come in all shapes and sizes – from those scribbled on a piece of paper to the ones important people use when they plot their important plots.

For us, the map on the picture will do just fine, I hope. Funny mapWhat the hell is that? I hear you say. I’ll grant you, it’s not readily apparent and if someone is looking over your shoulder saying everyone knows that, let me assure you: they don’t.

To get to the point, which you’re surely wishing to get to – it’s Slovenia, the small country from the title and the place I love to call my home. With about 2 million inhabitants and a size which no one boasts about, you won’t easily find it on a large scale map. In the olden days, they used to say that Slovenia sits between Venice and Vienna, and they weren’t wrong. You’ll find Venice just to the west, over the Italian border. To the south, there’s Croatia. Everyone goes there over the summer for a couple of days to relax at the beach, because our measly 40-something kilometers of coastline isn’t enough, it seems. When the summer ends, there’s not much left for us there other than political bickerings, but we’ll rather move on. Hungary’s next if we move to “the head of the chicken,” and then Austria to the north. We like to compare our little country to Austria, especially when it comes to salaries, general living standards and how everything is much better there. As a consequence, there’s a lot of people who go there looking for work – if they’re better off I couldn’t say.

Culturally, Slovenia has been closely tied to it’s different neighbours. From the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to the Italians and then after WWII as a part of Yugoslavia. Influences from all of these can still be found in many aspects, be it food, architecture or simply people’s way of thinking.

Now chances are, you’re reading this from half way around the world, the internet is a big place after all. You might never have heard of Slovenia, and that’s a good thing. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll hopefully learn something new and amazing and be looking for even more info and before you know it, you’ll be sitting on a plane, jetting your way over to see all the wonderful sites Slovenia has to offer. To give you an appetizer, here’s what we’ve got, just looking at that sketched out map above:

bledLake Bled, an alpine lake up in the mountain region. One of the major tourist areas in Slovenia, it’s a great place to cool off on hot summer days. It’s also a great starting point for active holiday-goers and nature enthusiasts.

Postojnska jamaPostojna caves, one of the most visited sights attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. There’s also a small train that you can ride through them.

piran_jaka_jerasa_pomanjsanaThe town of Piran, quite the jewel of the Adriatic coast with its unique architecture and narrow streets. Great for romantic evening strolls.

Nationalpark_Triglav_(Triglavski_narodni_park)Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia, and its surrounding national park. Nature lovers just adore this place. I do, too.

DSCN8935A number of grapevine-laden hills and wine roads. Wine is held in high regard here and the grape harvest season is a special time in Slovenia. This being in big part a cycling blog, I must say that warm autumn days make for great riding along these roads, even if they are a bit hilly.

But that’s not nearly all there is. If at this point you’re still reading and want to continue to do so, feel free to look around the site, leave a comment or get in touch. I’d love to hear your stories or help out with any questions you might have. And if you’re planning to cycle through these parts, maybe we’ll even pass by on the road. Who knows. 🙂

Also, click here to see what Lonely Planet has to say about it all. You can also surf over to the Useful links page where you’ll find connections to other great sites, ready for your curious indulgence.