Travel

24 Feb 2022, 13:37 PM

STA, 24 February 2022 - Traditional Shrovetide carnival festivities in Slovenia that mark the end of winter and arrival of spring have largely been cancelled or heavily downscaled this year due to Covid-related restrictions. However, in light of the recent easing of measures, some towns have decided to go ahead with live events after all.

Shrovetide festivities in Slovenia usually culminate with carnivals and parades during the weekend, and end on Shrove Tuesday with the death of Pust, as the Shrovetide period is called in Slovenian.

Pust celebrations are believed to have their roots in the pre-Christian period, when people engaged in ancestor worship and used masks to mark the end of winter and arrival of spring.

One of these celebrations is the traditional Laufarija festival in Cerkno, the main feature of which are furry wooden-faced creatures called Laufarji (Runners). After a period of uncertainty, the event is now confirmed to be held in-person.

The organisers have told the STA that the traditional festivities will be held on Sunday and on Tuesday, which include a street parade. The general public is invited to attend, with no special restrictions in place.

"A live performance and a street parade are important to preserve tradition. We are old-fashioned, and only seeing the procession live brings the most authentic experience," the organisers added.

Despite the relaxation of measures, there will be no Kurentovanje in Ptuj this year, though a celebratory event will be held online. Before the epidemic, the traditional carnival had been bringing tens of thousands of visitors each year to the oldest Slovenian town.

The local tourism board said it would not be able to organise the traditional parade on Sunday in full scale in such a short time. However, several events have already been organised in Ptuj as part of the celebrations since 2 February, and the organisers said that the upcoming main carnival weekend would be lively as well.

Despite the lack of a grand parade, Ptuj can still expect to see many people during the Shrovetide period, especially this weekend, as people dress up in carnival attire and indulge in fatty and filling foods like cured pork and doughnuts, in accordance with tradition during the Pust season.

One of the few places where a public open-air carnival celebration has been announced is Novo Mesto in south-eastern Slovenia where a parade featuring a programme for children is to be held on Saturday. No other major carnival parades, which were a regular feature of the streets of many Slovenian towns before the epidemic, have been announced for this year.

For the most part, smaller celebrations with a limited number of participants will take place, while traditional Pust characters like the Kurenti, which feature a full-body sheepskin attire with huge cowbells around the waist, will also take to the streets.

On Shrove Tuesday on 1 March, the last day before the start of Lent, Pust will be buried or burnt at the stake, depending on local tradition.

17 Feb 2022, 11:27 AM

STA, 17 February 2022 - The government has approved up to EUR 2 million to subsidise the construction of an observation tower in Rogaška Slatina, the community in eastern Slovenia known for centuries for its natural spas.

A release issued by the Government Communication Office after Wednesday's correspondence session of the cabinet said the government approved the funding as it included the project in the 2022-2025 plan of development programmes.

The 106-metre high Crystal Tower is one of the key projects in Rogaška Slatina's strategy to develop as a tourism destination, boost revenue from the industry and make the town and the region more competitive.

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Picture: www.ponting.si

The release from the government says the project will create new jobs, five directly once the investment is completed, as well as indirectly in its multiplier effect on the economy as a whole. As the tower will be located in a degraded urban area it will tap on the as yet unused potential of the destination.

The local community backed the erection of what will be the tallest observation tower in Slovenia in a referendum in December 2020 in the aftermath of objections raised by part of the residents.

The investment is valued at EUR 3.7 million. The municipal authorities acquired the development permit for the tower in July 2021 and reckon it could be completed by early 2023.

More about the project

11 Feb 2022, 18:12 PM

STA, 11 February 2022 - Ljubljana has been declared European Best Destination 2022 out of over 400 destinations. It is being recommended to those who love nature, city break, foodies, culture lovers, Instagrammers, lovers and families.

The organisation European Best Destinations ranked the Slovenian capital among the safest Christmas destinations in Europe in 2020, and last year Ljubljana was named the Best Green Capital of Europe.

Ljubljana: 25 Things to Know about Slovenia's Green City of Dragons

This year, Ljubljana tops the list of 20 European best destinations, picked out of 400 destinations by a special jury based on previous successes. Travellers from around the world voted for their favourites between 20 January and 10 February, Turizem Ljubljana said in a press release on Friday.

92% of the votes for Ljubljana came from other countries, mostly from the US, Italy, Germany, Austria and Croatia. More than 528,000 people from 182 countries voted, with 75,642 picking Ljubljana as their favourite.

No other destination since 2009 has won such a high proportion of the vote from other countries, Turizem Ljubljana said.

Ljubljana is described as a "city for curious and adventurous souls" and a "treasure trove of exciting secrets and natural joys" on the website of European Best Destinations.

European Best Destinations head Maximilien Lejeune pointed to green practices in the city and the high quality of living in declaring the winner.

25 Things to Know about Ljubljana Castle

Turizem Ljubljana head Petra Stušek sees the title as a unique compliment to the city and its efforts to become more sustainable and to promote soft mobility, high quality of life, diverse local offerings, and inclusion.

See more about this story…

03 Feb 2022, 16:01 PM

 

STA, 3 February 2022 - Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair, which opened a base at Zagreb airport last year and also flies to Trieste, has no plans to fly to and from Ljubljana in the near future, the EX-YU Aviation web portal reported on Thursday. The company says that the two airports cover Slovenia well enough, and also sees high costs as a problem.

The EX-YU Aviation portal stated that Fraport Slovenia, the company that operates the Ljubljana Airport, expressed willingness to resume talks with Ryanair on flights to and from Ljubljana towards the end of 2021, confirming that talks had already taken place in the past.

Ryanair has considered introducing flights to Ljubljana on several occasions over the past decade, and the budget airline also briefly maintained flights between London Stansted and Maribor in 2007 and 2008.

However, Ryanair said in a statement to EX-YU Aviation on Thursday that Ljubljana is served well enough by their base in Zagreb and is also in close proximity to Trieste Airport, from which the company maintains flights to a number of destinations.

"There are currently few chances for Ljubljana to be included in our network", Ryanair concluded. The carrier also accused Fraport of "high and uncompetitive fees", which are expected to lead to the closure of Ryanair's base at Frankfurt Airport by the end of March.

After the Covid crisis hit Ljubljana Airport hard, its operator Fraport Slovenia is now working to find new partners and destinations, also with the support of state funds, to promote the restoration of Slovenia's air connectivity.

After a severe shock due to the epidemic, the airport slightly recovered last year and counted 430,943 passengers, almost 50% more than in 2020, but still remains a far cry from just over 1.7 million passengers recorded in 2019.

In the busiest months of July and August, 17 scheduled airlines linked Ljubljana Airport to the world, while currently 12 scheduled carriers fly from Ljubljana Airport to 13 destinations. Fraport expects the outlook for the summer season to be promising as well.

03 Feb 2022, 12:45 PM

STA, 2 February 2022 - Kurentovanje, Slovenia's largest carnival, starts on Wednesday with an event in which the traditional costumed figures Kurenti put on their bells for the first time. There will be no mass gathering of the Kurenti, and the entire festival will be held mostly in a virtual form for a second year in a row.

The festivities start with the traditional Kurent's Jump on Candlemas on 2 February, when people dressed in the Kurent carnival costume gather around a bonfire, jumping around it and ringing bells to symbolically chase away the winter and evil.

The traditional event that looks to replace the winter and evil for the spring, happiness and good harvest has been taking place for the last two decades at the homestead of Matevž Zoki, the 2nd Carnival Prince, in Budina, east of Ptuj.

Only after this ceremony the Kurenti are able to start their door-to-door rounds, which made the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2017.

However, it will not be held as an organised, mass event this year due to Covid restrictions, so the host has called on the Kurenti to carry on with the tradition and gather in small groups at their homes at midnight.

The main part of the 62nd Kurentovanje festival will be held in a restricted, and mostly virtual form between 19 February and 1 March. The competition for the best carnival doughnut starts today, with the winner to be announced on 17 February.

This year there will be no mass processions and concerts that usually attracted tens of thousands of visitors from Slovenia and abroad to Ptuj, the oldest Slovenian city.

This year's events will include carnival tours for tourists in Ptuj, an exhibition of ethnographic carnival characters and masks, carnival workshops hosted by the Ptuj Library and a competition for the most beautiful carnival decoration.

03 Feb 2022, 12:42 PM

STA, 2 February 2022 - The Lipica stud farm saw a total of 45,000 visitors last year, with the share of domestic guests significantly increasing compared to previous years owing to the Covid-19 epidemic. Revenue doubled compared to 2020, and plans for this year are even bolder, says the operator of one of the country's main tourist attractions.

Tatjana Vošinek Pucer, the director of Holding Kobilarna Lipica, which operates the stud farm in south-western Slovenia, has told the STA that the numbers for last year are satisfactory given the situation in the tourism market.

"We generated twice as much revenue as the year before," said Vošinek Pucer, noting that the stud farm finished 2020 with an accumulated loss of more than EUR 1.5 million.

The home of the world-famous Lipizzan white horses has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus epidemic. "The largest drop was recorded in foreign visitors, which resulted in a substantial drop in revenue," she added.

The amount of revenue and the number of visitors are expected to grow again this year, as the operator counts on revenue from the refurbished Hotel Maestoso and Gratia Restaurant.

Maestoso was one of the largest investments in recent years, and the plan is to renovate the swimming pool and wellness centre of the hotel this year, which will cost around EUR 5 million.

The plan is also to renovate the riding school building, an investment estimated at around EUR 1 million.

With the reopening of Hotel Maestoso, the total number of employees in the group increased to 143 last year, and the stud farm is gearing up for the new tourist season despite the prospects being lower than before the outbreak of Covid-19.

The company is currently looking for stable staff, horse rider, blacksmiths, waiters, cooks and maids.

The Lipica stud farm will admit visitors free of charge on Culture Day on 8 February, with the programme including guided and independent tours, presentations of the Lipizzan horses, workshops for children and other events.

28 Jan 2022, 13:55 PM

STA, 28 January 2022 - The 5th Winter Festival, the special winter edition of Ljubljana Festival, is getting under way tonight with a concert featuring three Baroque masterpieces by Bach, Ferrandini and Handel, performed by the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir.

The festival, which makes the wait for popular summertime concerts of Ljubljana Festival shorter, will deliver eight events through 5 February.

Tonight's performance, conducted by Bart Van Reyn, one of Belgium's leading new generation conductors, will mark not only the start of Winter Festival but also the end of the 7th festival of Baroque music held by the Slovenian Philharmonic.

Reyn, for whom this is not the first time to be cooperating with the Slovenian Philharmonic, has hand-picked the soloists who will perform tonight - sopranos Julie Doyle and Griet De Geyter, from the UK and Belgium, respectively, and mezzo-soprano Barbara Kozelj from Slovenia.

5th Winter Festival from Festival Ljubljana on Vimeo.

Another three concerts will be hosted by Slovenia's largest arts centre, Cankarjev Dom, where star pianist Maria Joao Pires from Portugal will perform Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, the first concerto he composed. She will be accompanied by the RTV Slovenija Symphony Orchestra, led by Brazilian conductor Ricardo Castro.

Opera fans have another treat in store as Joseph Calleja, a Maltese-born tenor, will interpret works by French composers as well as present his take on great lyric and veristic tenor roles. He will be accompanied by the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra that will be conducted by Italy's Gianluca Marciano.

The Knights' Hall at the Križanke venue will host four performances, mainly piano recitals, including by the Italian virtuoso duo of Sergio Marchegiani and Marco Schiavo.

The festival will come to a close with another masterpiece, Mozart's Requiem, performed by the Slovenian Philharmonic Choir, RTV Slovenija Symphony Orchestra, the Ljubljana Glasbena Matica choir and soloists, and conducted by France's Yan Pascal Tortelier.

See the programme and get tickets on the website

17 Jan 2022, 11:49 AM

STA, 17 January 2022 - After suspending flights from Ljubljana to Belgium's Charleroi over the winter, low-cost carrier Wizz Air will also suspend flights to London's Luton airport as of 4 February. The connection will be restored at the start of the summer season, at the end of March, the Ex-Yu Aviation portal reports.

Wizz Air restored the connection between Ljubljana and Luton in mid-December 2021 after a good year and a half of suspension due to Covid-19.

But now, after just over a month and a half the flights are being suspended again.

Ljubljana remains connected to London by easyJet, which flies to Gatwick, but only once a week.

Before the Covid-19 epidemic, flights to London were among the busiest and Ljubljana was connected to all four of London's airports - Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted.

16 Jan 2022, 12:56 PM

STA, 16 January 2022 - The abandoned and decaying Pristava mansion in Bled, which has been used for a number of purposes in its history of almost 100 years, is to be renovated and converted into a top-quality hotel by Slovenian businessman Otmar Zorn, who has made several investments in the Bled area in recent years.

The Pristava mansion in Bled was built between 1920 and 1940, primarily as an ancillary building for the Suvobor Manor, the predecessor of today's luxurious Vila Bled. In its early years, the Pristava complex with its 15,000 square metres, two atriums and a big garden housed the stables and staff for the manor.

After the Second World War, the complex was nationalised, partially renovated and turned into an apartment building for working class families. After that, the building fell into a state of disrepair.

In 1987, Pristava was given to the trading company Almira Radovljica, which renovated the entire building through a joint adaptation scheme with almost 50 other companies and turned it into a department store complex.

However, that did not last long. In recent years, there have been some other attempts to revive Pristava, but the building mostly stood abandoned. It was purchased in 2018 by Otmar Zorn, who also bought Bled's Hotel Jelovica around the same time.

Hotel Jelovica was renovated and reopened as Bled Rose Hotel in 2019, and now Zorn is looking towards new investments. But Pristava will represent a big challenge, said architect Monika Fink Serša, as its archaeological site and cultural heritage will need to be taken into account.

The cost of the investment has not yet been disclosed, but it is clear that it will be expensive, as the building will also need to be thoroughly renovated. The investors expect to receive a building permit later this year and to start construction in 2023.

Zorn is convinced that the five-star hotel in Pristava will enhance Bled's reputation and the tourism sector. Bled Mayor Janez Fajfar and the communal administration director Robert Klinar were also delighted about the revival of Pristava.

"Bled's tourism development goals are primarily five-star experiences, with preservation of authenticity and tradition," said Klinar, who was pleased that this seems to be a goal pursued by Zorn as well, given the projects that have been set up.

Another of Zorn's properties, Vila Podvin, which was vacated by chef Uroš Štefelin last year, is expected to open soon, as a new tenant has already been found and the restaurant is expected to reopen on 1 February. Zorn assured that it will be run by a top Slovenian chef who will work hard to defend Vila Podvin's Michelin star.

14 Jan 2022, 14:44 PM

STA, 14 January 2021 - The national railway operator Slovenske Železnice (SŽ) has welcomed ten new double-decker trains to its fleet. Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec and SŽ director Dušan Mes took a symbolic first ride to Litija on Friday, agreeing that the new trains will make railway transport more appealing. More train purchases are planned.

"If we want to make railway passenger transport more appealing we need to modernise the railway infrastructure and purchase new trains that make the ride more comfortable for passengers.

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"We have ten such new trains that can reach speeds of up to 160 kilometres an hour, which is very good for Slovenian railway infrastructure," said the minister during the symbolic first ride on a new train.

The new trains offer comfort, internet connection and can be a "true office for someone going from one city to another".

The Infrastructure Ministry is very happy with the process of purchasing the new trains and Vrtovec said more train purchases were planned. "I promise that we will start ordering new train compositions in this term to make railway transport even more appealing to people," he said.

The minister pointed to the environmental aspect of expanding the SŽ fleet, saying it should reduce pressure of cars on city centres.

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Mes said SŽ had so far welcomed 29 trains - ten double deckers, 13 electric trains and six diesel trains. "By the end of next year, 52 trains from the first two orders are to arrive, and sometime by the end of February or mid-March we will prepare a new call for applications for another 20 trains," he said.

The SŽ fleet is to have 72 new trains by the end of next year or beginning of 2024 in total value of half a billion euro, Mes said.

This will be a huge transformation of the fleet, which will need to be further upgraded, he said. "Passengers deserve trains that are 15-20 years old for the most part, not like today when some were 40 years old."

14 Jan 2022, 12:32 PM

STA, 12 January 2022 - Slovenia's passport gives its holders access to 181 countries without a prior visa, which ranks it 10th on the latest Global Passport Ranking, compiled by Henley & Partners, a London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm. The country has thus climbed one spot from last year.

Like the year before, the 2022 list is topped by Japan and Singapore, whose passports afford access to 192 countries without a visa or allows its holders to get a visa on arrival in the destination country.

Two fewer visa-free destinations are available to the holders of German and South Korean passports.

Slovenia's passport ranks 10th along with Latvia's and Estonia's after it placed 11th last year.

More powerful than Slovenia's are the passports of Italy (3rd), Austria (4th) and Hungary (8th), while Croatia's is less powerful, in 17th.

The ranking is based on data from the International Air Transport Association, which maintains the world's largest and most accurate database of travel information. The restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have not been taken into account.

You can find the full report here

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