Slovenia lies in the heart of Europe, where the Alps meet the Mediterranean and the Pannonian Plain meets the Karst. This small green country measures 20,273 km2 in area, and is home to sincere, hospitable people of great diligence. It has an exceptional number of top athletes, and a wealth of cultural creativity. In Slovenia it is not difficult to compare the value of goods and services, as they are priced in one of the world's major currencies, the euro.
Independent since 1991, Slovenia does not have a majestic history like many larger European nations, but the past is nevertheless important. For many it is surprising that such a small nation, without kings or famous military leaders of its own, could even form, survive and carve out an independent path. But this is the result of the resilience and determination of the Slovene people, whose culture and common language have survived for centuries in this green piece of Europe.
In Slovenia, you come across different historical eras at every turn. Truly old items are preserved primarily in museums, but archaeological finds can also be seen in their natural setting. Slovenia's natural diversity further emphasises the attraction of important buildings. Slovenian castles are amazing, and the many rural hilltop churches are charming. Cultural-historical monuments and architectural masterpieces can be found in most Slovenian towns. Well-preserved medieval town centres and more modern public buildings in various famous architectural styles will delight you. The special features of rural architecture vary from region to region, and are gathered together in open-air museums. Castles, manor houses and palaces are certainly an important part of the heritage. Most of them can be explored from the inside. Slovenian towns are decorated with luxurious buildings, usually converted into public buildings. Palaces are mostly in coastal towns, especially Koper. The Praetorian Palace, with its late-gothic-renaissance façade is among the finest Slovenian palaces and houses a museum.
Nature has combined and interwoven great natural riches in this small piece of Europe and granted Slovenia extraordinary variety and diversity that is still well preserved today. Over a third of the country's territory lies within the Europe-wide network of Natura 2000 protected areas, while other valuable areas have been proclaimed major parks and reserves. Direct contact with nature is possible even on the edges of cities. Slovenia's biodiversity is evident: although it comprises just 0.004% of the Earth's surface, it is home to more than 1% of all living creatures, and more than 2% of land and freshwater creatures. Slovenia is the third-most forested country in Europe. The forests are home to edible wild mushrooms, and a large population of bears, who generally avoid humans.The natural pearl of the Slovenian Karst underground has been on the UNESCO list since 1986. The several kilometre-long system of water caves that has been formed by the Reka river through million of years incorporates astonishing halls, including one of the largest in Europe. Martel hall is 16 metres high, 120 metres wide and 300 metres long. The natural bridges and windows and various stalagmite shapes are astonishing as well. Only a small portion of the caves is open for tourists; in 2011, a portion of the caves that had been closed since 1965, when the path was destroyed by a big flood, was re-opened.
Language and culture have for centuries compensated Slovenes for the lack of their own state and political institutions. Slovenia is one of those rare countries, if not the only country in the world, where a day of culture is a national holiday.Slovenia's national day of culture is 8 February, the anniversary of the death of its greatest poet, France Prešeren, whose wonderful works from the first half of the 19th century are a supreme example of European romanticism. One such work is A Toast, now Slovenia's national anthem.
Cultural life is rich and varied at the museums, galleries and cultural centres, pride of place among which is taken by Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana. There are a host of top festivals in Slovenia, particularly in the summer: the Ljubljana Festival at Križanke, the festival of early music in Brežice, the Primorska Cultural Festival and a series of cultural events under the aegis of Imago Sloveniae. Maribor's Lent Festival is also a favourite. There are 45 permanent galleries in Slovenia, and over 800 spaces where works of fine art are exhibited permanently or occasionally. The most important in Ljubljana are the Museum of Modern Art, which focuses on modern works, and the National Gallery, whose collection consists of older works. Impressionism made Slovenian painting known throughout Europe in the first half of the 20th century, while the Ljubljana graphic school was renowned after the Second World War.