When George Dubya famously confused Slovenia and Slovakia there were probably some wry smiles among the liberal cognoscenti, but who can really blame the man for failing to distinguish two small countries, neither of which existed in his schooldays?
My knowledge of Slovakia is limited to a one day bus-trip from Vienna across the Donau/ Danube to Bratislava. I’m sure it’s a wonderful country, but I’ll leave others to extol its virtues.
Slovenia, on the other hand, is a place I’ve come to love since first encountering it – almost by accident en route from Croatia – nine years ago. And as it only celebrated its twenty first birthday this year I feel privileged to have known it for so long.
So, after nine years of this continuing love affair, which I’ll be re-kindling just one one week from today, here are nine woody snippets to whet your appetite (and mine):
1. Outside the arctic circle, Slovenia is the most wooded country in Europe, making it a tree lover’s dream holiday destination. More than half (59%) of this small country is forest. Much of the country is covered by beech forests or by mixed beech (fir/beech or beech/oak). 54% is deciduous and 46% coniferous.
2. In addition to its national parks, regional parks and nature parks there are 286 “Natura 2000” designated protected areas – 36% of the country’s land areas, the largest percentage among EU states.
3. Seventy four per cent of Slovenia’s forests are privately owned and managed on a small scale, averaging only 3 hectares, and often sub-divided into even smaller units.
4. According to data from the middle of the last decade there were over 300,000 private owners, which means that at least 1 in every 7 Slovenes owns a little piece of heaven.
5. Government forestry sites report that this “major fragmentation of forest property, the number of forest owners and co-owners, present a serious obstacle to professional work in private forests, to optimal timber production and utilisation of forest potential”. Hooray!
6. Each year, the forests create another 7.9 million cubic metres of wood, but the local logging industry only manages to cut around 3.7million cubic metres. Hooray!
7. There are 12, 624 kilometres of forest roads. Hooray!
8. The Kocevje region in the south of the country, with its unique Karst landscape, is 90% covered by forest, and includes 6 of Slovenia’s 12 stretches of primaeval forest – once a land of brown bear, wolf and lynx.
9. As far as I can tell, there is only 1 arboretum in Slovenia. I wonder why?
It has taken me 9 years and the discovery of WordPress to understand and express just exactly why I love this beautiful country so much.
PLEASE DON’T VISIT!
I want the place exclusively to myself, unspoiled by the ravages of mass tourism.