|Welcome to my first experience with Eastern Europe. I'd been looking forward to making it easy because to a very large degree, Western Europe is pretty similar to America (hence the name I suppose). Slovenia is the most western country in Eastern Europe, so while it is not as representative as other countries, it did give me my first taste. Slovenia is a part of former Yugoslavia, which was composed of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia/Montenegro and Bosnia, that was broken apart in the Balkan War of 1991-1995. I'm reading a book about the Balkan War right now so hopefully I'll be able to give you some more information on what happened. I'm sure many of you recall our involvement, specifically in Sarajevo, during Bill Clinton's presidency.
Slovenia borders Italy so they've had good relations with many of the powerful European nations for hundreds of years. Ljubljana is only a 3 hour train ride from Venice, which was for a long time one of Italy's most powerful nation states, particulary known for it's shipping industry. The train ride from Venice is quite nice. The countryside of Slovenia reminds me a lot of Colorado, while it might even be greener and more densley populated with forests. Slovenia is by far the most prosperous of the former Yugoslavian states. It has already one a seat at the UN and has joined the European Union within the last few years.
Ljubljana (280,000)itself is a very beautiful city. It has the Eastern European charm that I was waiting to see without some of the depravity of the other countries. The city itself is quite charming. It's small and there isn't an incredible amount to do, but the city center is along the Grubevjev River. One of the cooler sites is known as the Dragon Bridge, which isn't really much more than a bridge adorned with dragons, but I still find it interesting.
The other interesting thing about the city is the Ljubljana Castle. It is perched above the city and after a fairly steep walk I made it there. This is one of the better conserved castles that I'd seen, probably because Slovenia was far enough north that it didn't have to fight off many of the Turkish invasions. The castle now is a concert hall among other things and offers a fantastic view of the city.
I only stayed one day in Ljubljana and it was a very relaxing time for me. The only "traditional" food I ate was something called a burek, which is actually traditional Bosnian food. It amounts to a large pastry made of something like filo dough filled with either meat or cheese. I'm sure it wasn't the healthiest thing to eat but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Another thing I enjoyed about Slovenia was the beer, one specifically called Union. I'm guessing that Slovenia isn't known for their beer internationally, but this was one of the better beers I've had since being over here. If anyone knows about importing/exporting beer shoot me an email, as I've identified a few that might work well in America... after careful taste-testing of course. :)
My next stop is Croatia, stay tuned!