“Sir, please fasten your seatbelt and put up your seat!” I’m stirred from my nap by the voice of the flight attendant. “We’re just about to land,” she adds in a friendly tone. I straighten out the seat, buckling up, rubbing my eyes, putting on glasses and glancing out the window. The shimmering outline of the Alps is basking in the golden morning sun. Looks pretty! In a little while, I’ll be on my first visit to Slovenia. Ljubljana Airport impressions: friendly, tidy, small and easy to find your way around.
A panoramic ride towards our goal reveals the splendid sights of the Slovenian alpine countryside. In the distance rise the Julian Alps, magnificent in the gentle dawn. I quickly check off the requirements for an ideal winter day outdoors: plenty of snow, the sky is as clear as a pond, there’s sunshine everywhere and the temperature is just right. Let the mountain adventure begin!
First stop – Pokljuka, the verdant plateau in the heart of the Triglav National Park. A kindly welcome in a rustic homestead, filled with the scent of latte and freshly baked pastry. Homeliness in the truest sense of the word. Genuine Slovenian breakfast? Naturally. A jolt of energy to start you on your way? Absolutely! It’s time for some jolly excitement. We get warmed up, strap on our backpacks, step on the skis and join the group on the freshly snowed-in trail. A short climb, just steep enough to get you breathing. Wheew … and we’re pleasantly descending, inhaling, exhaling the crisp mountain air. How invigorating! Gazing across the peaceful landscape sprinkled with pine trees reaching for the sky, quaint wooden cottages dotting the horizon, my thoughts are clear, focused on the moment. Forward. Left, right, left, right … One after another, we make our way to the common goal. The snow is humming underneath, flowing with the atmosphere of unspoiled nature. A harmony of calm enjoyment.
Second leg – having spent two hours on the skis, a rich meal of spoon food (as they call their variety of thick soups and stews here) is perfect for recovery. We treat ourselves to a herdsmen’s snack, complete with the “elixir of youth” – smrekovec, the local spruce tip liquor. Cheers to our continued success! Here of course, on the sunny side of the Alps, there’s no partying without the accordion. Polka is inevitable! Rest assured, no matter your preferred music genre, the sizzling rhythms of the legendary Na golici by Slavko Avsenik, the most played instrumental tune in the world, are sure to light a fire under your feet and awaken the merrymaker! It’s that sparkling Slovenian energy.
Third checkpoint – half an hour’s ride across the beautiful landscape, some introspective relaxation, an entertaining quiz game, and we’re already under Mt. Krvavec, the popular ski resort in the embrace of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. There, we’re met by a special surprise: the cable cars have been refitted into private little restaurant booths. An “airborne” gourmet experience best described by a single word – fresh! In the easygoing ambience of the ski lodge, we enjoy some more coffee and cake. The crackling of the fire, the joy of good company, the spectacular sights of the mountain range, it all contributes to a profoundly satisfying experience. “This little subalpine country really is great. I wonder what the evening has in store?”
Finish line – the grand finale begins in the winter dusk. A walk through the promenade to the torch-lit castle yard, where the lords of the manor welcome us in style. Strmol Castle, a striking medieval chateau. At the gates, guests are welcomed by a stuffed crocodile – yes, you read that right! The Hribar family, once the owners of the castle, kept a crocodile pet in their time, and it’s still hanging around at the door. Silk tapestries, vintage furniture, an impressive art collection, lace, silverware, crystal. All the pieces are in their place, a propos to our gala award ceremony for the organization’s most promising managers.
Many kinds of experiences in a single day, a picturesque piece of Slovenia? Check. Rested and refreshed for new business ventures? Check. From outdoor activities to rustic moments and “lords” for a day, each minute was filled with alpine traditions and personal engagement. We’ll be coming back, no doubt. As the castle bed softly rocks me into satisfying slumber, a melody rings in my mind: “Slovenia, whence thy beauty …”
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