In the 15th century, the Italians had a fort here to defend against the Ottomans. Romantic pletna boats, unique to this lake, ferry visitors back and forth. Rick: Today, are you happier with or without Tito and Yugoslavia? Uh-oh, little Anže's more interested in bedtime than us. See more ideas about Slovenia, Rick steves, Europe. We also appreciated the discussion of the history of the region. Trenches were carved into ice and rock instead of mud, and many ill-equipped conscripts froze to death. A generation later, architect Joze Plečnik remodeled the city in his distinctive classical-meets-modern style. Completely revised and updated, this guide … Exploring the Slovenian countryside, you get the feeling that things work. Sašo: We will curse. Lake Bled retains an aura of the Romantic Age. This northwestern corner of Slovenia — within yodeling distance of both Austria and Italy — is crowned by the Julian Alps. Among my guides and researchers, Cameron Hewitt (co-author of many Rick Steves guidebooks) is evangelical about Slovenia. Since the Habsburg days, this is where Slovenes take their guests — whether kings or cousins — to show off their natural wonders. Half a kilo — it's just right. The market's picturesque colonnade is designed to link the town and the river. How do you say "half-kilo"? As home of the country's main university, youthful Ljubljana is busy with students. Rick: So, Yugoslavia was good for bad workers. From its prosperous capital of Ljubljana, we enjoy the mountain resort of Lake Bled, venture into the Julian Alps for natural … The city offers a range of several other well-presented, we-try-harder museums celebrating Slovenian history and culture, including the Slovenian History Exhibition at the castle, the City Museum of Ljubljana, and the Contemporary History Museum in Tivoli Park. Some farmers still use wooden carts to bring veggies in from their garden patches, then flip them over to use as a sales stand. But on the other hand, you have here a gilded sculpture on the top of the ceiling. The hotel that was once the summer residence of the Yugoslavian dictator, is now less tolerant of curious tourists than it was when this episode was filmed. The bridge seems almost Venetian. But Slovenia… It's a world where a thousand evil Wizard of Oz monkeys could comfortably fly in formation. Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe.His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. The house can be toured only with a guide, whose enthusiasm brings the place to life. In this unpredictable climate, hay is hung on the rack to stay dry. Rick: This is great! It's worth an amble any time, but is best on Saturday mornings, when the townspeople take their time wandering the stalls. Piran clusters around its showpiece square, Piazza Tartini. These days, Piran's walls are inviting rather than defensive, and the town is simply an enjoyable place in which to relax. Rick: So, Plečnik is very important to the Slovenian people. On top, catch your breath by enjoying views of Piran and nearly the entire Slovenian coastline. This is where we spend rainy afternoons. Rick: This is very comfortable and very spacious, really. For coronavirus (COVID-19) travel information, Slovenia was one of six republics united to make Yugoslavia — a country that existed basically from just after World War I until the 1990s. In this land of stout hill towns and rugged farmers, grapes for the full-bodied local red wine thrive in the iron-rich soil. It's an apt comparison — but only if you inject a healthy dose of breezy Adriatic culture, add a Slavic accent, and replace favorite son Mozart with local architect Jože Plečnik. Rick Steves: Slovakia’s capital is the fastest-changing city in Europe (in a good way) Rick Steves. A colorful mix of work and pleasure boats fill today's harbor. In this tiny country, it seems like everybody knows each other. Natalija: Absolutely. And then you can see here the true representative of a strong woman carrying a child and proudly waving the flag. He left such a strong mark, not only in Vienna and Prague, but definitely in Ljubljana, because all the land accesses and river accesses are designed by Plečnik. Vendor: Our farm, yes. Slovenia is one of many Catholic countries that observe the Day of the Dead (also called All Saints Day, All Souls Day, or Remembrance Day). Strolling the three miles around the lake, visitors enjoy ever-changing views. But the Soča Front was 60 miles wide, and many of the defenses were more crude and remote. The market is a perfect opportunity to connect with the locals. My friend and Slovenian tour guide Tina Hiti is joining us to help sort out the Yugoslav puzzle. Rick: If you're angry what would…? In 1916, an avalanche thundered down the mountainside, killing hundreds of these workers. Rick… Rick: Pol kilo. Sašo: That's the usual thing around here. The "Third Way," we called it, and it was a lot different — like, we could travel, we had free-market economy, and there were jobs for everybody. During most of the 20th century, Yugoslavia was on the other side of what was called the "Iron Curtain." ©2020 Rick Steves' Europe, Inc. | With this guide, you’ll explore charming towns and undiscovered natural … Guides tell the story as, drip by drip, stalactites grow from spaghetti-thin strands to mighty sequoia-like stone pillars. Villages gather around Baroque bell towers amid rich farmland. Rick: Pol kilo… This is your farm? With over a million casualties, it was nicknamed the "Valley of the Cemeteries.". Gorazd: Good for bad workers, yes. In 2006, he became a syndicated newspaper columnist, and in 2010, his company released a mobile phone application called "Rick Steves… This little Russian chapel, built where the final victim was found, offers today's visitors a chance to pay their respects to those who made this scenic drive possible. Rick: With Grandma and Grandpa downstairs. Predjama is a hit with tourists for its striking setting, exciting exterior, and romantic legend. Ljubljana's single best activity is simply strolling the riverfront promenade and sitting in an outdoor café watching the stylish Slovenes strut their stuff. A short drive south takes us into a totally different landscape: Slovenia's Karst region — a high, fertile, and windblown plateau. English descriptions are sparse in its dull interior, but for most, the views of the place alone are worth the drive. Many of those buildings have gotten a facelift recently, as a spunky mayor has been spiffing up the place and creating gleaming traffic-free zones left and right — making what was already an exceptionally livable city into a pedestrian's paradise. Thanks for joining us. As if turning its back on its hard-fought history, the city playfully straddles its sleepy river. As you inspect his drawings, equipment, and personal items (including his glasses and the hat that he was famous for wearing), you'll feel as though Plečnik himself invited you over for dinner. After relaxing at Lake Bled, we loop through the Julian Alps and the historic Soča River Valley. This fascinating and offbeat corner of Europe is one more example of the Continent's many hidden charms. The Kluže Fort keeps vigil over the narrowest part of the valley, which leads from Italy, through Slovenia, toward Austria. Sašo: Alright, and this is the little kid's room… The house of Ljubljana's favorite son is on an unassuming street. Like Gaudí shaped Barcelona and Bernini shaped Rome, Plečnik made Ljubljana what it is today. Steves also has a public radio travel show called Travel with Rick Steves (2005−present) and has authored numerous travel guides, the first of which was the popular Europe Through the Back Door. The Ljubljanica River, lined with cafés, restaurants, and a buzzing outdoor market, bisects the city. Rick: Dober dan. This was unimaginably difficult warfare — waged in the harshest of conditions. Paperback $23.99 $ 23. But if you look all around, you will see there are many, many personal objects…his glasses, or — for example — his hat. The island has been a special gathering point through the ages. The bridge seems almost Venetian: a nod to the city's unique location — midway between Venice and Vienna, linking the Italian and Germanic worlds. Before posting, please read our Community Guidelines. Post questions and answers about travel in Slovenia. Tina: I will say I was happy that I could live a part of Yugoslavia, but I am happy to be living in European Union as well now. Vastly outgunned, they fought back valiantly, eventually defeating the German invaders. And the time it spent in the 20th century as part of Yugoslavia failed to dampen its upbeat vibe. Over the centuries, different castles were built here, and they gradually moved out to the mouth of the cave. From its prosperous capital of Ljubljana, we enjoy the mountain resort of Lake Bled, venture into the Julian Alps for natural thrills mixed with WWI history, go spelunking in a gigantic cave, and swim with Slavs in a charming Adriatic port. Terms of Service | Privacy, Ljubljana: An Underrated Gem in the Heart of Europe. With all it has going for it, it's hard to believe that Ljubljana continues to glide beneath most tourists' radar. While the valley is a favorite for nature-lovers today, it has its dark side. Explore Slovenia! Today the city is filled with university students — making it feel very youthful — and ensuring that most of the locals speak excellent English. Slovenia’s Karst plateau sets upon a limestone foundation honeycombed with caves. Just as New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras, much of Europe celebrates Carnival — and each country has its own way to party. The poignant reality: costly battles eventually fade into the history books…like the Soča Front. Slovenes are particularly fond of their famous local pastries. Five hundred years later, during World War I, Austrians used it to keep Italians out of their territory. The Cobblers' Bridge encapsulates Plečnik's style perhaps better than any other structure: simple, clean lines adorned with classical columns. In fact, the town's officially bilingual: Slovene and Italian. Like the more famous Alps of Austria and Switzerland, the Julian Alps are busy with nature-lovers, both winter and summer. Tina's mom: Dober dan. And how does that affect your culture? But we can also be really laid back, relaxed, mellow about certain things. While neighboring Croatia is famous for its coastline, Slovenia enjoys its own 29-mile stretch of Adriatic seafront — that's about one inch per resident. One of Ljubljana's most insteresting sights is the house of the architecht who redesigned much of his city. This land has seen lots of change. In Slovenia, a land with deep pagan roots, villagers scare off winter by dressing … We end at the Adriatic resort of Piran. The statue of France Prešeren, Slovenia's greatest poet, reminds locals that their language and culture are both distinct and worthy of pride. Now, I still can't get over that, because — I've got to say — in America, there is a stigma about people in their 30s still with their mom and dad, raising their kids upstairs. Tina: These are my mom and dad. The mouth of the cave provided a strategic place for some feudal lord to stick his fortified manor house. But the big name in local architecture and urban planning is Jože Plečnik. The road switchbacks down into the valley of the Soča River. They converted the attic of Tina's childhood home — creating plenty of space for their growing family. It looks just like a loft. Natalija: No, he was married to the architecture. The castle is striking, as are the views from the castle. Walking through its cobbled Old Town in summer, you'll share the pedestrianized streets and riverside promenades with plenty of fellow stollers — but relatively few tourists. Natalija: Yes, absolutely. Sašo: It's a secret compartment of our house. By the 16th century, Predjama had become a castle for hunting more than for defense — explaining its current ­picturesque-but-impractical design. Rick: Anže will have a roommate. Its best stop: the town of Piran. We will be on schedule when we need to be on schedule. But it's by far the country's largest city, cultural capital, and a charming place to kick off any Slovenian trip. Before independence, before Yugoslavia, Slovenia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Rick: Half kilo. The defenses included a web of tunnels that went all the way to the tops of the mountains. Guides, passionate about his work, give meaning to his home. Rick: Dober dan! Plan your own trip or take one of Rick's value-packed European tours and vacations. After the Nazis bombed Belgrade and took over their country, the ragtag gang of Yugoslav patriots, inspired by charismatic commanders, formed a resistance army. As if to make believers out of those who don’t fully appreciate what he … Karel: Don't stick your bloody pinky in the air! Hike up to the cathedral and scale the Venetian-style bell tower. And much like the country as a whole, its capital city of Ljubljana is a delight to explore, yet remains relatively undiscovered. Rick: You wouldn't know, looking up here. All the full length Rick Steves Europe PBS Episodes that I could find. That's because the architect recognized that Ljubljana is located midway between Venice and Vienna, and the city itself was — and still is — a bridge between the Italian and Germanic worlds. After being leveled by an earthquake in 1895, the city was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles that were so popular in Vienna, the empire's capital at the time. The cave finally widens, sunlight pours in, and visitors emerge — like lost creatures seeking daylight — into a lush canyon. Natalija: That is the most important. For a more personal look at the architect, visitors can tour his home, decorated exactly as it was the day Plečnik died in 1957. There are very few barriers, so you are in direct contact with the world of the architect. Rick: And a single bed — was he never married? And the hearty local food provides a good foundation for a lively conversation. Just above town, a somber memorial to the Italian attackers was built in the stern Fascist style under Mussolini. The Austro-Hungarians knew if their enemies could break through this front, it was a straight shot to their capital, Vienna. Tina's having us over for dinner to meet her family. That's why, unlike his Eastern European neighbors, Tito could and did chart his own course — independent from the USSR. A museum in the town of Kobarid tells the story of the Soča Front, and humanizes the suffering of this horrific but almost forgotten corner of World War I. Sašo: Yes. This lively market area in the Old Town — with produce, clothing, and souvenirs — is best in the morning, especially on Saturdays. Vendor: Yes. The decadent kremšnita artfully sandwiches layers of cream and vanilla custard between sheets of delicate crust. I hope you've enjoyed Slovenia. (photo: Cameron Hewitt) Ljubljana's riverfront promenade is lined … Rick … 99. The experience builds and builds as you go into ever-more-impressive grottoes, until you reach the truly colossal final cavern and its thundering river. Nearby, wedged into another Karst-region cave, is Predjama — one of Europe's most photogenic castles. Škocjan offers fantastical cave formations and a spectacularly vast canyon with a raging underground river. Tiny bits of limestone — the geological equivalent of sawdust around here — reflecting under the brilliant blue skies gives the river its rich turquoise color. Rick: Gorazd, you grew up with Tito. Croatia Dubrovnik and nearby (including Cavtat, Mljet National Park, PeljeÅ¡ac Peninsula, and Trsteno Arboretum) Split and … As Yugoslavia broke up into separate countries in the 1990s, Slovenia became independent after a 11-day war. You can count on Rick Steves to tell you what you really need to know when traveling to Croatia and Slovenia. Rick: Tito had some magic ability to bring it together. Located where the Germanic, Mediterranean, and Slavic worlds come together, Slovenia enjoys a happy hodgepodge of cultures while also presenting plenty of its own unique character. Not nostalgic, because now we live better than in former Yugoslavia. Since the limestone upon which everything around here sits is easily dissolved by water, the Karst is honeycombed with a vast network of caves and underground rivers. On summer Saturdays, a steady procession of brides and grooms, cheered on by their entourages, heads for the island. Today, the square is enjoyed by visitors and locals of all generations — savoring the good life where the Slavic world, the Alps, and the Mediterranean all come together. An earthquake leveled the city in 1895. Sašo: …or "300 hairy bears." The unique roofed hayrack is recognized as part of the national heritage. In this high-end suite, you can actually sleep in the dictator's bed. Swimmers frolic, while sunbathers claim more than their share of the national coastline. Rick Steves Classroom Europe® is a free online video library for teachers, students, and parents. It was built during World War I by 10,000 Russian prisoners of war. Prolific Plečnik essentially remodeled his hometown with his distinctive classical-meets-modern style. Because he loved his town, walked to work each day, and had to live with what he designed, Plečnik was particularly thoughtful about incorporating aesthetics, nature, and people's needs into his work. It was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles so popular in Vienna, the empire's capital at the time. It was all over Eastern Europe, and if you look at the picture, you can see the proud workers, you know, carrying their tools. Start a New Topic. The room is soon going to be shared by another baby, which is due in four and a half months. Gorazd: It's good, yeah. The main square was once a protected harbor…until it began to stink so bad, they had to fill it in. But one thing that's constant is the warmth and hospitality of its people. This is quite a surprise. Sašo: We are almost halfway through. Rick: I find this propaganda so stirring. Some kind of a muse, you know. Then they flip over the cart to turn it into a sales stand. Terms of Service | Privacy, Lake Bled, Slovenia: Exploring a Dictator's Villa, Slovenia: Julian Alps and Soča River Valley. Rick: That's your worst? In its relaxed pedestrian center, it seems all roads lead to the main square. As usual, Steves provides detailed information that allows you to get away from the basic tourist places once you have been to them. Sašo: Sašo, yeah. Sašo: It doesn't show from the outside, does it? Vendor: Dober dan. And much of the fighting was actually done way up high, on the frigid mountain cliffs. Rick: In four months? In Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia you'll find in-depth Rick-tested information on:. The social system was good… Little Slovenia is the least visited and most underrated of Europe's alpine countries. Also enjoying dramatic lake views are handsome villas, mostly from the 19th century. This modest but world-class museum offers a haunting look at the tragedy of the Soča Front. This is our living room. An eighth-century Slavic pagan temple dedicated to the goddess of love and fertility once stood here; the current Baroque version (with Venetian flair — the bell tower separate from the main church) is the fifth to occupy this spot. Natalija: So, this is Plečnik's room, where he worked, and he slept here. Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia. Rick: And today, capitalism has changed — good for good workers. Thanks for joining us. Elaine: 13: ... ©2020 Rick Steves… Rick: Thank you. Ljubljana is on the cutting edge when it comes to architecture, public art, fashion, and trendy pubs. They quickly took this valley, driving Austro-Hungarian troops high into these mountains — from where the Austro-Hungarians fended off 10 bloody and uphill Italian offensives. Natalija: Absolutely. Chiseled into the wall, the scant remains of century-old trails evoke the early days of tourism here. Tina: Yeah, this is a very typical socialist realism propaganda. Rick: In Slovene? While I disagreed with his overall evaluation of some … There's really no better way to get to know a place than a meal with a local family. You can count on Rick Steves to tell you what you really need to know when traveling to Croatia and Slovenia. Architecture really lives, even nowadays. There's been a castle here for nearly a thousand years. Rick: And…? Tiny Slovenia — with just two million people — is one of Europe's most unexpectedly delightful destinations. Rick: So, Plečnik is very important to the Slovenian people. In ancient times, Ljubljana was on the trade route connecting the Mediterranean (just 60 miles away) to the Black Sea. We'll enjoy the playful architecture and lively café culture of its capital city, row to a church-capped island, explore the Julian Alps, descend into a grand, underground canyon, and sunbathe with Slavs on the tiny but inviting Slovenian coast. Or join them on a stroll to appreciate how this city is the kind of place where graffiti and crumbling buildings seem elegantly atmospheric instead of shoddy. But, we're right in the middle…Italy, Germany. Rick: So, how was communism in Yugoslavia different from all the communism we think about with the USSR? 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