Hear about travel to Slovenia as the Amateur Traveler talks again to Michael Soncina about his visit to the country. The country is independent, beautiful, and deserves to see more tourists than it gets. Slovenia is nestled between Croatia, Italy, and Austria.
Michael visited the country on a press trip with the Slovenia tourism board and on his own. The tourism board says that there are five gems in Slovenia:
Ljubljana: Ljubljana is the capital city. “It is a medieval city. It has castles and the old town and new town. There is a nice river in between and there are nice churches. But really what Ljubljana has become now is a youth city. When you are in Ljubljana you feel like 60% of the population is students so you get this very youthful energy of the place. There is this one strange hang-out in the city called “Metelkova” where rockers and punks and hippies and people who like to listen to disco all come together.”
Michael says that the two best museums in Ljubljana are the modern history museum and the modern art museum. You can get a Ljubljana card to get access to the museums, the bus, and the castle.
Postojna: Postojna is best known for the Postojna show cave but Michael preferred a tour to nearby Krizna Cave even more. The cave includes ice age bear bones and an underground river.
Lipizzaner: Home to the beautiful white Lipizzaner stallions, the tourism board recommends a visit to the Lipica Stud Farm, although Michael was less impressed.
Piran: Michael visited the beautiful town of Piran on Slovenia’s tiny coastline on the Adriatic Sea. The town was founded by the Venetians. It is worth a visit… although hard to get to.
So?a valley: This valley in the mountains near the Austrian border has a lot of adventure sports and World War I history. The old trench line has been turned into a walk of peace and there is an award-winning museum nearby.
Listen to this episode and learn what to do in Slovenia.
The Green Rabbit
National Museum of Contemporary History
Modern Art Museum
Lipica Stud Farm
Walk of Peace
Zaprikraj, Outdoor museum of the First World War
Slovenia Tourism Board
Travel Culture Magazine
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The Dirty Secret to Cutting Walt Disney World Lines
Chris: Amateur Traveler, Episode Three Seventy-three. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about churches and castles and World War I Trenches as we go to Slovenia.
Welcome to the Amateur Traveler; I’m your host, Chris Christensen. This episode of the Amateur Traveler is brought to you by Audible. Audible is the leading provider and spoken audio entertainment.
Since in this episode we’re going to talk a little bit about World War I I’m going to recommend a book that I listened to on Audible called The Guns of August. It’s a classic book talking about why World War I happened. You can get your free book for signing up by going to AmateurTraveler.com/freebook.
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I’d like to welcome back to the show Michael Soncina who is coming to us for the fifth time. Michael, welcome back to the show first of all.
Michael: Hey, Chris.
Chris: And you now have both a blog, Sonchy’s Adventures, which I think you had last time you were on. But you also now have a job in the tourism business; you are the Sustainable Tourism Editor for Travel Culture Magazine. Congratulations.
Michael: Thank you very much, Chris.
Chris: And we mentioned you’ve been on the show five times. We are coming up with a show on Hiroshima, a show on Southern Taiwan, on Kazakhstan, and on Tajikistan. Where are you taking us today?
Michael: Very far away, from Asia to Slovenia.
Chris: Excellent. Now I think a lot of people probably think Slovenia is the other half of Czechoslovakia.
Michael: Yes. No, it is its own kind of tree, and they are very, very proud of being Slovenians. So if you go there don’t make any jokes at all of being old Yugoslavia. Be aware that they are very proud of their small country and they won’t take lots of guff about you making fun of it or saying the wrong information about it.
Chris: And I’m going to ask you to put it on a map. You mentioned that it’s in what used to be Yugoslavia.
Michael: Yes, it borders basically with Italy and Germany and Austria. It’s about two hours from Venice if you were to come in from Italy.
Chris: Excellent. And why should we go to Slovenia?
Michael: Because it is fantastic.
Chris: Now as you know we’ve already done a show a while ago on Slovenia, but you’re going to take us to some of the typical destinations, but then we’re going to talk about the places that all the people in the country wish we knew about.
Michael: Yes. I did a [inaudible 00:03:39] Slovenia in Tourism Board so they took me around to a couple of things. And I went to go see a couple of things on my own, because you don’t always want to be taken around by a tour guide; you want to see things on your own a little bit. And when I was talking to them they always said there were five gems in Slovenia. One of them is [Lublana], one of them is [Pustoina], one of them is [Lepiza], one of them is [Pilan], and the other one is the [Solka] Valley.
Chris: And the first four are cities.
Michael: The first four are cities, and the last one is like a region of the country that’s partly in a nature reserve. And the other one goes into a mountain range that borders with Austria.
Chris: Okay, and then you started there with the first city being the capital of Slovenia.
Michael: Yes, Ljubljana. And your other guest who did this show previously did a really good job of explaining the city. But what he didn’t do really well is talk about how young a city it is. When you’re in Ljubljana you almost feel like 60% of the population is students. And because of this you get this very good youthful energy of the place. And there’s this run, really strange hangout in the city called Metelkova. And it’s basically a place where rockers and punks and hippies and people who like to listen to the disco all come together and it’s supposed to be like a safe place for the city’s youth and the city’s dynamic kind of cultures. Does that make sense?
Chris: Well, except for the part about some people liking to listen to disco. Everything in the rest of that sentence made perfect sense.
Michael: And I think the thing about Ljubljana is that because it’s so small and because it’s so young there are so many different places. I know a lot of your listeners aren’t going to want to go clubbing at night, but I think if you’re going to be in Ljubljana for one night, on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, you should definitely go to Metelkova and kind of just soak in the atmosphere, because it’s a very easy place to go. Kind of tap someone on the shoulder, ask for a beer, and have like that really interesting conversation on that really interesting night. And it kind of shows what the soul of Ljubljana is like.
Mulan is a medieval city, as your other guest said. And it’s got castles and it’s got the old towns, the new town, and there’s a nice river in between, and there are old churches. But really, I think what Ljubljana has become now a youth’s city. So if you want to go out to a bar, there’s a really interesting bar called The Green [Ravid] and that’s become like a Twitter bar. So people who are interested in social media, and all sorts of interesting media hang out there. And there’s another place called Under the Rock, which is if you end up at 5:00 a.m. and you’re still drinking, people go there. And Ljubljana’s most famous fast-food restaurant is called Hot Horse. Have you ever heard of this?
Chris: I have not.
Michael: What do you think Hot Horse serves?
Chris: Well, I’m going to guess horse.
Michael: Yes. So they are very famous in Ljubljana because they won the best restaurant in the city award multiple times, and they make horse hamburgers essentially. But it’s really interesting, and if you really want to try Slovenia in food, and I asked locals and I asked the Tourism Board, I asked a lot of different people, where am I going to try authentic Slovenian food. And they all told me Hot Horse. Because Hot Horse is a Ljubljana-based restaurant. So this is really interesting in the city. And I don’t have anything against eating horse, because my family is Italian and we’ve done it before, and because I was in Central Asia and I had to eat horse before. So it wasn’t so strange.
But in Europe horse is a common meat, and if you’re going to try it I highly advise trying it out at this restaurant.
Chris: What else should we see first in Ljubljana?
Michael: Well, like I said, Ljubljana is basically–I kind of look at it as a party city, but I know that you’re very fond of museums.
Michael: And in my opinion the two best museums in Ljubljana are the Modern History Museum, which is located in Tivoli Park. And it’s really cool, because it’s a two-floor museum. Usually on the first floor they’ll have a special exhibit. When I was there they were doing the History of Computers. I couldn’t understand everything because it was in Slovene and they didn’t have an English guide. But once you go upstairs to the main exhibits there is a lot of English to get around, and the exhibits are quite elaborately put together. I think it starts in World War I and it goes all the way up to the end of Tito, so Tito was the leader in Slovenia who was their kind of communist representative, because former Yugoslavia was communist. And so it goes up the end of the Tito. But you walk through the thing and it’s meant to represent a trench. And you go to another area and you see all the old ads from the 1960s and 1970s, but it’s done in like these giant balloons, kind of around a room. So it’s your normal history museum, but the way that they set it up in quite elaborate and quite interactive, and I think that makes it very interesting.
And the other interesting museum is the Modern Art Museum. And I’ve seen a lot of modern art museums all over Europe and Asia and such, and this one was quite unique in the way that they set it up. And because a lot of the artists were local, so it gave a really unique Slovenian kind of aspect to the art that was installed there.
But there are a lot of museums in Ljubljana and if you decide to buy a Ljubljana card it’s called, you can buy a Ljubljana card for one day or three days and this gives you access to the museums and the bus, and the castle, and all this kind of stuff.
But you don’t really need three days in Ljubljana to see the museums. I think two or three museums, go see them. Like I said, the Modern History Museum and the Modern Art Museum, and maybe the castle are the three best in the city. And then I don’t think it’s necessary to see the other ones, because they aren’t quite as interesting unless you’re an avid museum goer and you want to see everything in the city.
Chris: Okay, and so where else would you have us go then?
Michael: In Ljubljana you need about two days I would say. You would go have some food, and have a drink, go see a couple of the museums like I suggested, and spend a little bit of time in the castle, because the castle is fantastic because of the view that you see when you’re on top of the mountain. Because the castle overlooks the city, so you get a real full panorama there. And a lot of the galleries inside are interactive.
Chris: Okay, and then after we have seen Ljubljana, where are we heading to next?
Michael: Well, your other guest talked about Postojna, and that seems to be the other big site to go see in the country. But I didn’t really enjoy Postojna Cave. It’s basically a guided tour through a very elaborately created showcase.
But there’s another cave near Postojna Cave called Krizna Jama, so Krizna Cave. And it’s a very small cave, and inside there are ice age bear bones, and you can see graffiti from the 1500s. And if you get a guide and you go down they give you the whole outfit, and you get a lamp, and you go into the darkness of the cave and you can see kind of a world that you’ve never seen before, because between the bones and the graffiti and just kind of navigating through the cave on a raft is normally how you have to do it. You get a really good feel of what it’s like to kind of be subterranean in Slovenia.
Michael: Like I said there are five gems in Slovenia. One of them is Ljubljana, which we just talked about. Postojna, and then the other one is the Lipica. A lot of people in the country will tell you to go see Lipica, and Lipica is basically a stud farm where they bred these beautiful white Slovenian stallions. In the 80s it was a place of mass tourism and there was a lot of money there and it was really interesting. I highly advise that you don’t go there while you’re on this trip, because it’s kind of gone out of fashion and there’s not much to do. The hotel there is expensive and it’s very hard to get to. So a lot of people will advise going to Lipica, but I don’t advise it.
Michael: And then the next place you should get to is Piran. Piran is a wonderful seaside city, and one of Slovenia’s only oceanside city.
Chris: It has a very small sea front as I recall.
Michael: Yes, and it borders with Croatia. It’s on the other side of Croatia essentially, over the ocean. And it was built by the Venetians, so it’s a Venice-style city. So you go there and there are cobblestone roads and there are really beautiful old churches. And what’s interesting about the city that’s about ten or fifteen minutes out are the salt flats, where you can go and you can watch salt being produced like it was in the old days, and they still produce it by hand. They still use old fashioned tools, they still collect it in a traditional manner and you can buy the salt and use the salt and all this kind of stuff while you’re there.
Chris: Anything else we should see while we’re there?
Michael: Piran is a really nice place just to get a hotel room and relax. There’s an aquarium there and there’s an interesting nautical museum. But you go there to lie on the beach, because there are not many beaches in Slovenia. And it’s got the nicest town square in any place in Slovenia that I’ve seen. And also even while I was in Italy I didn’t see a town square as nice as the one in Plan. So just the old feelings of the city is really interesting; and as you wander through the cobblestone roads behind a lot of the hotels and behind a lot of the stores a lot of small artists have set up shops. So you can go in and kind of get this underground art scene in a sense of Plan and you can talk to the artists or play cards with people. That’s what I did a little bit. There’s a very local feel in a very touristy place.
Chris: And so this is our downtime, our beach time.
Michael: It is.
Michael: And near Plan is Koper, and Koper is an industrial town. I didn’t get to get there, but apparently it’s another nice town square in Koper, as well.
It was kind of funny, because Slovenia is notorious if you don’t have a car, and because I’m all into eco travel and I’m all into traveling responsibly I refused to drive anywhere. So I tried to get around Slovenia only using bus and train. I decided to tell you listeners right now if you come to Slovenia you have to rent a car because if you try to get around by bus and train you’re never going to survive. So as I was coming back from Lipica I was trying to get to Piran and I had asked a woman in the tourist information booth, what time is the bus? She said 2:00 p.m. I said, okay. So I showed up in the town near Lipica–I forget the name now–and I asked where’s the bus to Piran, and she goes, “There is no bus.” I go, okay, so how can I get to Piran?
She goes, you’ll have to hitchhike. I said okay, and I managed to get there. It was a long and kind of arduous trip because every time I went on one side of the road with my sign, somebody in a car would tell me to get to the other side. I would get on the other side of the street and somebody would point to the other side, so I ended up wandering back and forth on the main street for about, [inaudible 00:00:21], half an hour trying to get a car to stop for me. But it was all because I was in the wrong spot.
If you’re going to go to Slovenia and you don’t have money for a car, you can hitchhike. Hitchhiking is very, very, safe. Generally people will stop for you within ten minutes, as long as you’re on the right side of the road, and at the right entrance to the highway. Places like Piran, or places like Lipica are a little more difficult to go to because they’re so touristy and people don’t generally live there. But if you can get to a main city via hitchhike you can probably get there by a bus or a train.
Michael: The weathered gem of Slovenia that the tourism board wanted me to see, and I really wanted to see was the Soca Valley. What’s really interesting about the Soca Valley is that it’s kind of the adventure sport capital of the country. So this is where people go to kayak, and parasail, and hike, and do all sorts of trekking, but there’s also a town there called Kobarid and there’s a lot of World War I history sites that have been leftover that people should go see.
In the mountains there is like a Walk of Peace, it’s called and it’s all of the old trenches from World War I where the Austrians and the Italians were fighting over land in Slovenia. It’s really interesting to walk through these World War I trenches and kind of see what people were seeing back then. It’s kind of funny because after the war, all the Slovenians took the materials from the trenches to build their houses and when the museum, wanted to get built, they had to go try to find the materials again.
So they would go back to people’s houses and ask for the bricks back and ask for the tin back so that they could recreate this museum. The other cool thing about Kobarid is that there’s a museum in the town that talks about the history, and they’ve won multiple awards because of the way that they’re showcasing the history of this battle between Italy and Austria.
Chris: When, and you say Austria, we’re really talking Austria-Hungary, and Slovenia at that time was part of the Austria-Hungary empire.
Michael: Like I said, I like museums but I get a little bit bored when I go to multiple museums, but this one was very interesting because they were trying to spin the downside of war, but they did it in almost a sense where it was like an art gallery.
So it was very visually appealing. There’s a lot of good information. There’s a lot of old gas masks, and artilleries, and uniforms, and it’s kind of a cool place to go that if you get a little bit bored of museums, but you really want to learn something about history, I think the museum in Kobarid did a really good job.
Chris: Okay, what surprised you about Slovenia?
Michael: How small it is. It doesn’t really take that much time to get from point a to point b. If you’re driving for three hours, you’re almost halfway across the country. But it makes it fun that way, right? Because you can always hit the big sites and then if you want to go off to see something a little more unique or a little more interesting, you can do that as well.
Oh, everyone who goes to Slovenia ends up in Bled, and Bled is this small town where there’s a famous church on an island and then a beautiful castle on this mountain and it’s the perfect fairy tale photo, right? You go anywhere around the lake and get a picture of the castle and church in the same photo and everybody wants to take a picture of this scene.
But about an hour away from Bled is Bohinj and Bohinj is absolutely gorgeous. It is a lake, and it is kind of where, they call it the Planitzas are there, so it’s the pasturelands of where the Slovenians will let out the cattle and the sheep to graze in the summertime. So the mountains there are pure white, and the lake is this aquamarine that you didn’t see anywhere else in the country, really. If you can go up to the ski resort and get a view of the entire area, it is the most beautiful view you’re going to see in the entire country. What’s really interesting about the place is that they’re kind of looked at as unique.
The people who live in Bohinj are, even in Slovenian standards, a little bit different than everybody else. The way that, they speak, people don’t really understand, and their culture’s a little bit different. They make the really smelly cheese which I don’t advise you eat, but it’s really interesting to try anyways. You can see this old style of farming there. The farmers still built hay racks by hand, and the way that the hay is dried there is the way that it was dried 500 years ago.
Because I only had one or two days in the area, I didn’t have a chance to see the whole place, but I was told that if I go higher up the mountain, each village is really unique, and each village is really preserved, and everyone goes to Bled and stays in a hotel, tries the famous cake that they have, and takes a picture of the church and the castle, but they never go farther to see Bohinj. I think Bohinj is the real adventure in that area, and I’m really sad that I didn’t have a chance to go check out these villages in the mountains. But apparently if you really want to go to Slovenia and you have a week, and okay it’s nice to go see Piran, and it’s nice to spend time in Ljubljana, and it’s nice to spend time in Bled, but if you really want a unique experience of Slovenia it sounds like it’s Bohinj where you’re going to find it, and you can find it by visiting these mountain villages and experiencing kind of the unique culture of that area.
Chris: Now, you mentioned unique and unique to Slovenia, when you’re in some parts here, like when you’re at the coast you’re ten miles from Italy, which people know better.
Chris: So what happens in those ten miles? How is Slovenia different?
Michael: Well in my opinion if we’re going to talk about Italy and Slovenia in term, its people. There’s less, you can really experience it. When I was in Venice, I couldn’t believe how many tourists I was dealing with.
Chris: Sure, yeah.
Michael: And kind of how miserable the people in the tourism industry in Venice were. Like I went in to ask for a map, and I accidentally said, I want a pass for the churches for three hours instead of three days, and the woman actually yelled at me and told me to get out of the tourist office.
Michael: And I was like wow, I don’t understand. There’s no need for this. In Slovenia, you’re never going to experience that. People are relaxed and they’re nice, and you’re often going to hear that Slovenians are very pleasant people, and because there’s not so, so, many tourists there. The Slovenians will complain every once in a while that there’s a lot of Italians or a lot of Germans in a tourist area, and that there’s so many tourists. But when you actually go to that place and see it, there’s not really that many tourists and you get a nice mixture of local, like Slovenians there, and I think it adds to a more authentic experience. But when I travelled around Italy, you could see the busses of tourists in the main spots, and you don’t really see that yet in Slovenia. Even Ljubljana, which is very, very frequented by tourists, is not a tourist city. A lot of the improvements in Ljubljana are for the people in Ljubljana. There’s nothing really there that’s built for tourists.
Chris: Now I get the impression that backpackers are starting to discover Ljubljana.
Michael: They are totally starting to discover Ljubljana. And it’s a nice place to go because it’s not as expensive as Italy and Germany was. And I didn’t stay in a hostel; I stayed with a friend in their flat. But the bus is cheap and it’s easy to get around and there’s a hostel right in the middle of the old center. So I can’t imagine it being a very difficult for backpackers, and even if you want to go to the grocery store and make your own food it’s very easy. There’s a Saturday market every week were you can get organic food and try local pizzas and things like that. And by the way, Slovenian pizza is insane. Have you ever had a pizza with deer sausage, egg, and pancetta?
Chris: I would have to say no.
Michael: Well, it doesn’t matter; you have to try it, because it’s three steps away from Heaven. Because they’re very proud of their beer and they’re very proud of their pizza, so if you mix Slovenia and beer with Slovenian pizza it’s probably one of the best things you’ve ever tried. And pizza is a cheap commodity, right, so this is another reason why it’s good for backpackers.
Chris: Sure. What do you wish you had known before you went there?
Chris: I’m guessing a lot of tourists don’t.
Michael: No, and the problem I would say is that I guess it’s because they come from an old communist system, especially if you deal with older people. The people on the train are horrendous; they’re not very nice people. If you try to buy a train ticket you’re going to . . . if it’s an older man behind the window, they don’t really have customer service skills. The same with . . .
Chris: They’re not used to a service economy, okay.
Michael: No, the same with restaurants, and I wish I had known this, because there were a couple of times where I’ve been a little bit impatient, or got a little bit angry. Because I would have this wonderful experience with these young Slovenians where I would walk around the village and somebody would invite me in for a glass of schnapps, which might have turned into a bottle sometimes. And you get all this really nice hospitality. And then you go to start to deal with the formal economy and it’s this other world where people don’t really want to be there. You can actually see in Lipica there’s a hotel and there’s this horrible old man who works at the hotel. And I remember checking the Trip Advisor ratings and he’s mentioned. After 2007 there’s a drastic drop in people’s satisfaction, and that old man is mentioned in every ad. And it’s that kind of service that you get in a lot of places, which you weren’t really ready for because the people are so nice, and the service can get so, so horrendous sometimes.
Chris: As you think about Slovenia when did you feel closest to home and when did you feel furthest from home?
Michael: My background is Italian, right, and Italians like to eat. Slovenians also like to eat, and they like to drink, and when you’re in any social situation where there’s food involved in Slovenia; it doesn’t matter if you’re a foreigner or a tourist or a visitor, you kind of always feel like you’re family. And so around food in Slovenia there’s always this [kinmanship]; there’s always pulling together, and that makes you feel really comfortable there. And it’s a very social country. Even if you’re in a restaurant you can talk to people and things like that, so that made it feel very at home for me.
Michael: I felt farthest away–Slovenia is very green, and I’m from Toronto. Toronto is a concrete jungle and I would get blown away at just how quickly you would move from being in a small city to the mountains and to the pasture lands and just how green it would come. Does that sound weird?
Chris: No, no, just it sounded like you were a city kid.
Michael: Yeah, like I said, I’ve traveled a lot, but still deep in my heart I’m a city boy. And it’s kind of funny because the Slovenes will laugh at me for being a city boy, because they all talk about milking the cows and things like this, and I’ve never milked a cow in my life. I don’t know how to rear deer. And they’re looking at me like, how do you not know how to make your own prosciutto, or how do you not know how to make cheese? Or how do you not know how to grow things, like Slovenians are very connected to the ground and to the lands, so it’s kind of interesting to see how they react to me not knowing how to do anything.
Chris: One thing; that makes you laugh and say only in Slovenia.
Michael: When you’re out at like 2:00 a.m. in the morning and you’re looking for food and the only thing around is burek, and burek is like a meat pie or a cheese pie. And you’re just like, you know when you’re eating this greasy midnight snack and it doesn’t always taste so good, but it always feels just right at 2:00 a.m. after you’ve had a little too much to drink. And then you know you’re in Slovenia. Now that I’m in Toronto I miss this burek.
Chris: Before we wrap this up, one other thing you think the people should know before they go to Slovenia.
Michael: Slovenia is extremely eco-friendly. I was amazed by how many really cool eco-hotels I visited or how many farm stays I visited. It was kind of interesting for me because when I was there I told you I was doing a press trip, right, and I told them that I wanted to see a lot of eco-projects. And I think the cool thing about Slovenia that is not like a lot of other countries is I think when you go to Italy. You’re saying what’s the big difference between Italy and Slovenia? And I think in Slovenia there’s not as much of an organized tourism track, because people don’t really have sights they’re going to go visit.
They might go see Piran, they might go see Bled. But a lot of the cool things that you can see in Slovenia are run by families, they’re run by locals, they’re run by even students. A lot of the stuff that I saw in Bohen was student organized. My guide was a student and he set up all the different tourism trips within the city. And I think if you really want to see Slovenia at its heart you have to go to a farm stay, or you have to go to a campsite where the woman can tell you where all the cool churches and things are that the tourists don’t know about.
Chris: Cool. In case we don’t run into that particular woman at the campsite, are there other resources we could use?
Michael: The thing that I was a little disappointed about Slovenia is that there are not a lot of resources online, and you have to get through a lot of things through word of mouth, and you have to find a lot of things through kind of just talking to the Tourism Board. What I was really surprised about was that if you call the Tourism Board, if you want to go to the Soca Valley, if you want to go to Ljubljana and you call the Tourism Board in Ljubljana or you call the Tourism Board in Kobarid, they will actually organize the trips for you.
Instead of going to talk to a travel agent you can very easily go and talk to the heads of the Tourism Boards or the Tourism Departments of that town. And they will help find you a hotel; they will help find you the kayak teacher you want, the parasailing teacher you want. In the Soca Valley I was only there for two days which was very sad, but it’s beautiful naturally, and the main place where I stayed was called Camp Koren, and Camp Koren is an eco-campsite. They’ve been certified with all the different proof that they’re doing things properly, and she built these beautiful cabins on her site that are solar powered and all use local products.
Chris: From there, because she’s been in the town for so long, she knows who everybody is, and there’s no mass tourism there. There’s no big hotel, there’s no motels, you have basically the options of one family owned place or this campsite. This is what you’re going to find a lot of times in Slovenia. Your choices are not that big. You can either stay at this one famous hotel with like thirty rooms or you find a tent somewhere and you put it down.
It’s a small country and you don’t think you’re going to need as much time as you actually do. You go and see the main sites and then you always hear about something cool, some castle, or some cave. For me, the Krizna Caves were beautiful.
I had never been spelunking before, and going through this dark cave in a raft looking for bear bones was a creepy experience, especially when the bats were flying by my head. There’s a lot of uniqueness there. You can go see old castles in Slovenia. You can go cave diving or cave spelunking and then you go on a food tour. It’s not so much the sites that are important.
Like I said, just stay away from pizza because it’s a bit of a trap, but everywhere else is amazing in itself because you can always find and old castle, you can always find some unique food, or some unique attraction. There’s this one castle in Valeria that is absolutely insane because it’s this old fifteenth century castle, but inside there’s a mammoth, there’s an African exhibit. It’s like somebody just took all the hodge-podge from the country and put it into this castle and it’s completely out of place, but it’s interesting at the same time.
Michael: Another city I didn’t talk about is called Maribor, and it’s the second biggest city in the country, and all around Maribor is wine country. I think Slovenian wine is very underrated because it’s right next to Italy, and everyone is so focused on Italian and French wine that they forget that Slovenia produces really, really, really, good wine. If you are interested in doing a wine trip, Maribor is a great place to do that. The food in Slovenia, it’s not Italian food, they like to have game. They like to eat a lot of different kinds of cheese and different kinds of meats, but it’s really fantastic. I think we don’t have a concept of what Slovenian food is, and it’s fantastic.
Chris: Excellent, last two questions, you may have answered this one already. You really know you’re in Slovenia when what?
Michael: When you’ve just been driving for twenty minutes and the buildings are gone, and now you’re in pure farmland.
Chris: I think you need to get out of Toronto just a little more.
Michael: Me too.
Chris: If you had to summarize Slovenia in three words, what three words would you use?
Michael: Green, welcoming, and tasty.
Chris: Excellent, Michael, where can people read more about your travels?
Michael: You can read more about my travels on the Travel Culture magazine website as well as my blog at Sonchy Adventures, so www.sonchyadv.com.
Chris: Excellent, we’ll put links to both of those in the show notes. Thanks so much for coming back on the Amateur Traveler.
Michael: Thanks Chris.
Chris: Before we get into this week’s interview I do have three news stories for you, and the first one, actress Amanda Bines didn’t have a government ID when she tried to board a private plane recently. She did point out that she was the actress Amanda Bines and that you could Google her. The government did not find that to be sufficient identification.
In other celebrity news a Brazilian pop star who calls himself Latino has put TAM Airlines in the hot seat. Apparently during the flight he sat in the captain’s chair and they took pictures. The pilot and co-pilot originally tried to say that this happened on the ground, but there in the background of the photo are the instruments that show the plane was in flight. Both the pilot and co-pilot were fired.
And then speaking of people behaving badly, I don’t know if you heard this story, but people are cutting in line at Walt Disney World but they’re doing it by hiring disabled guides. Disney World tries to make provision for disabled guests and that apparently has turned for some into a business opportunity. This has created as they would say a kerfuffle.
For links to all three of those stories check out the show notes at AmateurTraveler.com.
Chris: In News of the Community, I heard from Mary on the Facebook community, facebook.com/amateurtraveler who was looking for some practical tips in terms of travel.
“Chris, I’ve been listening to the show for a number of months, still catching up with past episodes. I’m a beginner photographer and love to travel. In September we’re taking a three week family-significant other trip to Edenborough and north to Malaga, Fort Williams, etcetera, via the train to Dundee, St. Andrews, and Falkirk. I will be carrying one day bag and indecisive on camera gear to take, but wanted to travel light. I currently have a Canon T3I, 50 millimeter lens, an 18-55, a 55-250, a 10-22 wide angle, flash; full tripod, etcetera, and I don’t want to lug it all around. What do you use most when traveling?”
I get this a fair amount because obviously I take a fair number of pictures if you’ve ever been to the Amateur Traveler. We have what we call the ‘photo of the day’ which comes out quite often, although not really every day. Those are usually my photos, although as those of you who go to the site know, we also do accept photos from members of the community who want to get that up there under their byline, but that being said, I try to travel lighter when I do photography. I don’t tend to take a tripod unless I am traveling by car. Even then, I have to admit, I rarely use it. I really would like to do more tripod work, but I just can’t be bothered to carry one around. I carry a monopod with me quite often, and then don’t use it, so I mostly handhold. I also have a Canon camera.
In my case it’s a Canon T1I which is two generations older than what Mary has. But then I use a single lens. I believe it’s an 18-250 lens from Tamron so that I always have one lens on the camera. I used to have two lenses and I found that I always had the wrong lens on the camera for whatever I wanted to do. I really found that for me, a single lens solution works better, but I really do love a good telephoto lens for getting in and zooming in. If you go back and listen to some of the episodes on travel photography, one of my tips is, I’m a big of “think like a cinematographer.” Do your wide-angle shots, and then your mid-range shots, and then zoom in on a close-up for your travel photography. I’m not just talking about people, I’m talking about landscapes and architectural details like a picture of Notre Dame, but also a picture zoomed way in on one of the gargoyles for instance.
So, Mary, I hope that helps. With that we are going to end this episode of the Amateur Traveler. We are probably not going to have an episode next week because I will be speaking at the TBEX Conference, the travel blog exchange conference, which I have been looking forward to all year.
If you have any questions or comments, check out the website at amateurtraveler.com and leave your comments on the episode. Or go to the Facebook community as Mary did, or send me an email to host at amateurtraveler.com. You could also follow me on Twitter @chris2x, and as always, thanks so much for listening.
Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.