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.
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.
"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.
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."
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
STA, 7 January 2022 - The construction of new cycling paths has started on Friday in Gorizia, with the aim of linking the cross-border area around the cities of Nova Gorica in Slovenia and Gorizia in Italy and the adjacent Soča River valley, as part of the Cross-border park of Isonzo-Soča project.
The event upon the start of construction was attended by the mayors of Gorizia and Nova Gorica, Rodolfo Ziberna and Klemen Miklavič, along with the president of the European grouping of territorial cooperation - EGTC GO, Paolo Petiziol.
"This project is an important signal about the kind of city we want to be. We want to live in a conurbation where clean and green mobility is at the forefront," said Miklavič.
He added that this kind of cross-border cooperation has become regular practice in the conurbation of Nova Gorica and Gorizia. "We are becoming a single urban territory, so the area needs to be jointly managed, which also includes infrastructure."
The construction of cycling paths is included in the last two stages of the cross-border park of Isonzo-Soča project, financed through the initiative INTERREG V-A Italy - Slovenia 2014-2020.
The third and the fourth stage of the project will provide for a 14-kilometre network of cycling and walking routes, connecting the two cities and rural areas around them along the Slovenia-Italy border.
The project aims to link existing cycling routes and provide better access to the area along the Soča River across the municipalities of Gorizia, Nova Gorica and Šempeter-Vrtojba, while promoting sustainable mobility.
The project is worth EUR 5 million in total, with just under EUR 2 million allocated for its third and fourth stages. Around 85% of the funding will be provided by the European Fund, with the rest coming from Italy's region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
STA, 4 January 2022 - The Slovenian capital will have no flight connection to Brussels between 10 January and 28 February as Brussels Airlines is suspending flights on this route at the end of Slovenia's six-month EU presidency. Wizz Air will also suspend the Ljubljana-Brussels connection between 7 January and 11 March, according to web portal Exyuaviation.
Brussels Airlines, which returned to Ljubljana airport just before the start of Slovenia's presidency of the Council of the EU, currently flies to Brussels four times a week.
The low-budget airline Wizz Air meanwhile offers flights to Charleroi airport once a week.
Ljubljana airport, managed by Fraport Slovenija, offers flights to 15 destinations by 13 airlines.
Apart from Brussels Airlines and Wizz Air, which flies to London's Luton three times a week, Aeroflot flies to Moscow five times a week, Air France offers nine flights to Paris, Air Montenegro takes passengers to Podgorica twice a week, and Air Serbia flies to Belgrade nine times a week and to Niš two times a week.
Easyjet has three flights a week to London's Gatwick, Flydubai flies to Dubai three times a week, LOT Polish Airlines connects Ljubljana and Warsaw with six flights a week, Lufthansa has 13 flights to Frankurt, Swiss International Airlines four to Zurich, Transavia four to Amsterdam and Turkish Airlines five to Istanbul.
In the summer season, several connections that have been suspended due to Covid are to be restored, including Transavia France's flights to Paris's Orly, Finnair's to Helsinki, Lufthansa's to Munich, British Airways' to London Heathrow, Easyjet's to London Luton, Iberia's to Madrid, Windrose's to Kiev and Israir's to Tel Aviv.
STA, 23 December 2021 - The government has introduced new restrictions around gatherings and reduced the validity of tests, but it also paved the way for New Year's Eve celebrations for those who are tested, regardless of vaccination status.
Under a decree adopted on Thursday and set to take effect on Friday, there will be no outdoor celebrations on New Year's Eve.
Parties will however be allowed at indoor venues, as the bar curfew was lifted just for that night. All guests, including reconvalescent and the vaccinated, will have to produce a test no older than twelve hours.
For guests that are not tested beforehand, indoor venues like bars or restaurants will be required to provide rapid antigen testing immediately upon arrival.
The government says it is harder to control compliance at outdoor revelling than at indoor parties. "As the Omicron variant spreads, we cannot afford elevated risks to people's health," said Polona Rifelj, a state secretary at the prime minister's office.
For Christmas and New Year's, private gatherings of members of no more than three households will be allowed. All guests over six years of age are recommended to test.
New restrictions beyond the New Year's Eve celebrations include a shorter validity of tests. PCR tests will be valid for 48 hours and rapid antigen tests 24 hours, respectively down from 72 and 48 hours.
The number of participants in cultural and sports events will be capped at 750. A Covid pass and face mask remain mandatory for all visitors, according to government spokeswoman Maja Bratuša.
Meanwhile, the limit of one customer per 10 square metres of floor space for all shops has already entered into force today, as the holiday shopping spree reaches its peak.
The government also extended the partial reimbursement of income for workers who were quarantined or absent from work due to force majeure, such as childcare. The measure was put in place for the period from 1 July to 31 December 2021, and is now extended until the end of February 2022.
"With this measure, we are helping the most vulnerable part of the economy, like the self-employed, founders of cooperatives, and farmers," said Polona Rifelj. The reimbursements range from EUR 250 for 10 days' absence to EUR 750 for the whole month.
STA, 13 December 2021 - Low-budget airline Wizz Air has relaunched a direct air route between Ljubljana Airport and London Luton Airport after more than a year and a half of suspension due Covid-19. The carrier will operate three flights per week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between the two destinations.
Following the latest air route relaunch, the winter season at Slovenia's main airport includes 13 scheduled airlines providing connections with 14 destinations, said Fraport Slovenija, the airport's operator.
Passengers looking for a link with the United Kingdom can currently pick between Wizz Air and EasyJet services. The latter offers flights to London Gatwick four times a week. Wizz Air also provides routes between Ljubljana and Charleroi Airport in Belgium, two times a week.
"Even though border crossings are still restricted by numerous measures to contain the Covid-19 epidemic, demand for travel in general is increasing," said Fraport Slovenija.
In November, Ljubljana Airport saw 45,660 passengers, a 95% increase on the same month last year, when air travel was severely restricted, and a 46% decrease on November 2019.
"Final coordination is underway to prepare the next summer season flight schedule. Flight forecasts for the coming season are encouraging - the summer season should bring new features and resume some routes at Ljubljana Airport that were suspended due to the epidemic," the operator said.
Winter season flights are expected to be joined by Transavia France, linking Ljubljana and Paris Orly Airport, Finnair, operating flights to Helsinki, Lufthansa (Munich), British Airways (London Heathrow), Easyjet (London Luton), Iberia (Madrid) and Israir (Tel Aviv).
STA, 8 December 2021 - Just days after the government imposed a ban on the serving of food and drinks at outdoor stalls, these reopened in the square by Ljubljana's main produce market on Wednesday, having been given the go-ahead from the city authorities.
Addressing a press conference, Andrej Orač, director of the utility operating the Ljubljana open-air markets, said market activity in Pogačar Square was allowed back in business, including hospitality.
He said the ban on sale at Ljubljana's open-air markets was incomprehensible as the goods involved were sold there throughout the year, which included the food court and stalls selling garments.
The city appears to have found a loophole, arguing that the ban affected hospitality at fairs rather than markets. The ban was imposed to prevent socialising and spread of coronavirus at Christmas markets.
Mojca Škrinjar, an MP for the ruling Democratic Party (SDS), accused the city authorities of "bending the rules", and Mayor Zoran Janković of sinking to a "new low" having demonstrated before "he doesn't care about Ljubljana people's health".
Both Orač and Janković urged residents and visitors to comply with precautionary measures and get vaccinated against Covid-19 even as Janković criticised restrictions imposed on Christmas markets.
Commenting on a tweet in which PM Janez Janša accused him of trying hard to get as many people as possible sick, Janković said the city administration had recently received a letter from the local branch of the National Institute of Public Health thanking them for their contribution to the combat against the pandemic.
STA, 7 December 2021 - Slovenia saw the biggest drop in air passenger transport in the EU in the 2020 pandemic year, fresh Eurostat data show. While the number of total passengers in the EU dropped by 73% to 277 million, in Slovenia it plummeted by 83% year-on-year.
Slovenia is followed by Slovakia and Croatia, where 82% fewer air passengers were recorded.
The busiest airport was Charles De Gaulle in Paris, which recorded 22 million passengers, while Slovenia's Jože Pučnik Airport Ljubljana ranked 147th with 288,000 passengers, of whom 159,000 travelled within the EU and 129,000 to countries outside the EU.
In the past year, the country's main airport saw 4,000 passenger aircraft movements, which is down 81% from 2019.
The most important connection was that with Frankfurt, followed by Istanbul, Paris's Charles De Gaulle, the Belgrade airport and London's Stansted.
The smallest drop in passengers in the EU was recorded by the Sofia airport, where the volume of passenger transport was down by 60%.
STA, 3 December 2021 - Kanin, Slovenia's highest-altitude ski resort, will this year expand its services by offering off-trail skiing with a mountain guide and heli-skiing. Next year, the ski resort is to see a EUR 50 million renovation, which will include replacing the old ski lift system with a new one.
The new skiing season in Kanin starts this Saturday and the two main new attractions this year will be off-trail skiing with a guide, which will be available only in good weather conditions, and heli-skiing.
According to the head of the Bovec Alpine School, Robert Rot, Kanin is a very interesting location for off-trail skiing but because of the many pits near the ski slopes it is best to hire a guide.
In cooperation with the association of Slovenian mountain guides, the school also offers workshops and lessons on off-trail skiing and protection against avalanches.
Those in for an even more adventurous experience will be able to take a helicopter ride from the Bovec or Lesce airports offered by company Flycom Aviation to Mt Kanin or any other remote location they want to start skiing from.
The head of the ski resort, Manuela Božič Badalič, believes the future of Kanin is the planned renovation, worth EUR 50 million, which will include the replacing of its 50-year-old ski lift system.
Because of its age, the current system is sensitive to wind and entails high maintenance costs.
Financial planning is currently under way and the preparations for the renovation are expected by the end of the year, said Danijel Krivec, an MP for the senior coalition Democrats (SDS).
A public call for applications is expected to be published after New Year's, with the project also including the setting up of an anti-avalanche and snow-making systems, and a new restaurant.
Construction work is to start next year and conclude by the end of 2023.
As the old ski lift system is to be replaced, the ski resort will probably be closed for one summer season, but all efforts will be invested into not losing a winter season, Krivec said.
He was not specific about the sources of financing, noting that the money would be drawn from different sources, including EU funds.
STA, 2 December 2021 - The Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) got a new interim head on Thursday, after Maja Pak, the long-serving director, stepped down in mid-November, citing differences in views with Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek over the management of the organisation. Pak will be temporarily succeeded by Ilona Stermecki, effective from Monday.
Stermecki will be at the helm of the STO until a new director is appointed but no longer than six months.
She had been put forward for the post by the STO board, the Government Communication Office said after today's cabinet session.
Pak, a close aide of Počivalšek's, did not specify how her views differed from the minister's as she announced she was stepping down on 17 November, and neither did the minister, who thanked her for her effort and cooperation.
Pak's first stint at the helm of the organisation was in 2010-2012, when the STO was merged into the investment promotion agency SPIRIT Slovenia.
She returned as director in 2015, when the STO became independent again, and received a new five-year term in March this year.
As she announced her resignation Pak was said to be returning to her previous job at the STO.