Welcome to the Top10Archive! Located just west of Croatia, south of Austria and sandwiched between Hungary and Italy lies the natural beauty of Slovenia. For this installment, we’re back on the road, making a stop at this European wonder! So get ready for the carnival, prepare the potica, and enjoy these top 10 facts about the land we know as Slovenia.
Sports in Slovenia
Dinosaur tracks, oldest vine in the world, carnivals – there’s a lot of interesting tidbits to Slovenia, but one thing the country is incredibly enthusiastic over is its sports. Football, basketball, ice hockey, handball, and skiing are the most popular sports in the country, with athletes like skier Tina Maze, football stars Robert Korean, Jan Oblak, and Valter Brisa; hockey players Jan Mursak, David Rodman, and Rok Ticar; and basketball stars Beno Udrih, Sani Becirovic, Primoz Brezec, and Vinko Jelovac. Slovenia has also had a strong presence in the Olympics, having taken home twenty-three medals at the Summer Olympics and fifteen medals at the Winter Olympics.
The Ten-Day War
It’s not common for wars to last for a short span, but the Ten-Day War, or Slovenian Independence War, started on June 27th, 1991 and ended July 7th of the same year, making it one of the shortest wars ever in history. On June 25th, Slovenians declared independence from Yugoslavia, leading to a civil war between the Slovenian Territorial Defense and the Yugoslav People’s Army. Over the course of the short fight, over 50 soldiers were killed, over 300 wounded, and nearly 4,600 Yugoslavs were held prisoner by the Slovenian forces. The conflict ceased with the signing of the Brioni Agreement, though it did little to stop the Yugoslav Wars from continuing for almost 11 years.
There’s a lot to Slovenia’s history, but it starts long before you may think. Hell Cave in the Loza Woods is believed to show signs of earliest human settlement in the form of stone tools dated as far back as 250,000 years. An archaeological site in caves near the village of Sebrelje also revealed the oldest known musical instrument, which was uncovered in 1995. Before Neanderthals and pile-dwellers were said to inhabit post-glacial period Slovenia, dinosaurs roamed the countryside. Dinosaur footprints, or as the locals called them “bear paws,” dating back to the Triassic period have been found near the settlement of Godovic, though they have proven insufficient enough to determine what species had left them.
Records Broken in Slovenia
World’s oldest vine aside, Slovenia has many other recognized records under its belt. In fact, in 2014 alone, the country had contributed over 20 different records to the Guinness World Records. From the longest distance cycled on an exercise bike to the largest postcard, which measured in at 52.48 sq. meters or 564 sq. feet, to even the incredible feat of gathering together the largest amount of accordions. Other amazing, if not odd, records broken in Slovenia include the biggest cave castle, largest sour turnip hot pot, and greatest distance on a solo, unpaced cycle in 24 hours.
Slovenian Attractions and Sites
With diverse landscapes and rich history backing it, Slovenia is a hot spot for beautiful sites and engaging attractions. Among them is an intriguing spot known as the Old Vine House, located in the city of Maribor. The house is not so much the main attraction of this site, as it is right by what is considered the oldest vine in the world that still bears grapes. Grand structures like Predjama Castle, Basilica of Our Mother of Mercy, and Veliki Tabor Castle also make for great photo opportunities, but people wanting to get closer to nature will want to check out the Skocjan Caves, Postojna Cave, Triglav National Park, and Lake Bled, which hosts an age-old wedding tradition where the groom carries the bride up Bled Island’s 99-step staircase.
Innovators and Inventions of Slovenia
Slovenia may be well known for its biodiversity, but there’s not much chatter about the inventions that have come from the country’s best engineers and innovators. Among them, France Rode, the man best known for his work on Hewlett-Packard’s HP-35 pocket calculator and RFID, or radio-frequency identification chips. Providing improvements to dialysis machines in the hospitals he worked in was Ivan Kramberger, while plastic surgeon Marko Godina was the first to perform a temporary ectopic transplant from an amputated hand to the axilla. Other patents that came from Slovenia include a spherical liquid crystal laser, a foldable chair known as the “REX” chair, and the photographic slide frame.
If you’re wondering who are some of the most revered people from Slovenia, all you have to do is look at the country’s banknotes. Plastered on the 10, 500, and 10,000 Tolar notes are notable Slovenes like Primoz Trubar, the 16th century leader of the Protestant revolution and author of the first book written in Slovenian; Joze Plecnik, the architect whose influence is found all over Ljubljana; and Ivan Cankar, Slovenian writer who was once revered as a great author in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Not quite on the country’s note, but still famous, are composer Hugo Wolf, Slovenian World Cup alpine ski racer Tina Maze, painter Rihard Jakopič, NHL’s Los Angeles Kings’ centre and alternate captain Anze Kopitar, actress Ita Rina, and Drago Jancar. What about the big YouTubers from Slovenia? Be sure to check out Tiger Productions, Darkhorse and Talking Ginger.
Slovenia’s Carnival Time!
Depending on where you are, the concept of a carnival has different meanings. Slovenia embraces the fun and ritual of carnivals in not one, but several of its cities, from Cerknica to Ptuj. The most popular of these extravagant festivals is Kurentovanje, a 10-day rite of spring on Shrove Sunday in Ptuj to celebrate the end of winter. Upwards of 10,000 festive Slovenes join in on the carnival in Slovenia’s oldest documented city where groups of kurents don sheepskin garments and wield wooden clubs. Along with Kurentovanje, other traditional carnivals celebrated in Slovenia include Laufarija, which features Pust, a character sentenced to death for all the world’s ills; the carnival at Cerknica, which falls between Shrove Thursday and Ash Wednesday; and the carnival of Ljubljana on Shrove Saturday.
A Land of Biological Diversity
The land inhabited by the country of Slovenia is more than just a home for Slovenes. In fact, Slovenia has been considered a spot of incredible biodiversity, and with over 15,000 different animal species, 6,000 plant species, and 5,000 fungi species, it’s a label that's been earned. Approximately 10% of Slovenia is protected with national parks covering a variety of grasslands, woodlands, forests, and over a dozen mountainous peaks. Inhabiting these beautiful landscapes include pheasant, wildcats, olm, wolves, lynx, brown bears, roe deer, swans, Europe’s largest butterfly, the Giant peacock moth, and a wide variety of reptiles like the viviparous lizard, grass snake and over 90 different species of bird.
Dining in Slovenia
Should you ever visit Slovenia, you’re probably wondering what sort of food you’ll be chowing down on. Thanks to a diverse landscape, climate, and nearby influential cultures, the types of dishes common on dining room tables are quite eclectic. Traditional dishes include kranjska klobasa, a Slovenian sausage similar to kielbasa; the nut roll potica; prekmurska gibanica, a classic dessert made from poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, raisins, and ricotta; and bujta repa, pickled turnips with pork. Visitors will also enjoy domestic made wines, bovec cheese, dessert dumplings, Soca trout, polenta and potatoes, and Meat-stuffed ocvirkovca bread.