Thursday, 27 November 2014

Slovenia challenge - Jono explores Slovenia in 10 days

Jono Cusack came to Slovenia as The Big Blog Exchange winner. Popotniško združenje Slovenije (Hostelling International Slovenia) made a plan to make sure that Jono sees as much of our beautiful country as possible. Our best people were put to the job to be the tourist guides, drivers, hosts. In this joined effort, Jono got the chance to experience the amazing diversity that is Slovenia. 




Day 1
Jono’s trip to Slovenia began on our little coastline. He got the whole day to sightsee the 3 biggest costal towns: Piran, Izola, Koper. When asked about his thoughts on the coastline and the towns, Jono said: 

„I was blown away at how gorgeous they were. I never expected them to be so beautiful and the cuisine to be so incredible. Being so close to Italy they are able to take on the best parts of Italian culture, such as slow eating and slow living, whilst still remaining uniquely Slovenian. I love being able to explore the different old towns of European cities and I think along the Slovenian coastline there are some of the best. It's fantastic to be able to take a coffee or a beer and watch the city go by.”



Jono was welcomed in YH Alieti in Izola, where he spent his first night. 

Day 2
After breakfast, we took Jono to Ajdovščina, where he enjoyed the punk side of the town:

„Amongst sampling some of the incredible delights from the Vipava Valley with Faladur, I noticed some big changes going on in Ajdovščina. The mayor of the town for over a decade was voted out and replaced with a thirty-two year old guy who was brought up on punk music. In the short time that he has been in office, Ajdovščina has seen an increase in cultural projects that actually hold meaning to a town. Not blatantly wasting money on failing industries, but building a culture which draws people and tourists to a town to start a life. One of these projects was the establishment of the Youth Hostel and Youth Centre at the north end of town. It's the focus point for a growth in music and attendance to live concerts which are now receiving international attention. Acts from across the globe are coming to play in Ajdovščina and to bathe in the town’s punk ethic. It is not just because of one man, but a whole community of leaders in their early thirties. People such as Matej the manager of Youth Hostel Ajdovščina is just one member who has taken it upon himself to build a life there. During the day these leaders work to make this happen, and in the evenings they're all on stage rocking out.”



The trip continued to Škofja Loka and Idrija, where Jono was shown bobbin lace making- the process of making the world famous Idria lace, which Jono had to try doing. As a true man, he accepted the challenge and did quite good. The day ended in Bled, where he stayed in YH Bledec.


Day 3
The third day was dedicated to exploring the jewels of Slovenia, Bled and Bohinj.  In Bled, Mr. Rado from hostel Bledec was kind enough to be Jono’s personal guide and showed him all the beauties that Bled offers. From the natural beauties, to the town and its local community. Jono mentioned Bled in Nina's blog:  www.nina-travels.com/i-feel-slovenia-travel/.

»There are no large cities here, just villages of less than ten thousand people. In Bled I found a sense of community that I have never seen throughout my ten years of travel. Everyone would seem to know everyone, there is a connection to land and place like none other. I was shown the town by Rado fromHostel Bledec, each part of it he could draw family links of well over one hundred years to. As an Australian of European descent it’s nearly impossible for me to do the same.«



In Bohinj, Jono was welcomed in the Youth Hostel Pod Voglom, which is the most active hostel. They offer a lot of sport activities, one of which Jono got to do, he rented a bike and saw the beauty of Bohinj and the famous Bohinj Lake on a bike.

Throughout the trip, Jono tried Slovenian cousine. Different local dishes and of course local wine: „I've got to mention Prazen Krompir don't I? There was even a song written about this amazing potato dish! But really the food was fantastic, incredibly fresh and you can taste the flavors of each region. This is something that I loved about Slovenia, despite the fact that it's small, each region has its own type of food. The wine? Magnificent. I need to come back in summer so I can have a lovely white wine in the sun!”



Day 4
The next day Jono got high. 1522 meters above the see level high. A cable car took him from Lake Bohinj to Vogel, the mountain with the biggest ski resort in Slovenia. After that, Jono visited the little town Radlje ob Dravi in the northeast.


Jono slept the night in hostel Marenberg in Radlje ob Dravi and in the 10 days that he stayed in Slovenia, he got a chance to sleep in a different hostel every night.  We asked him how he liked his accommodations:

„The hostels that are attached to the youth centers are incredible. They offer the young people of Slovenia to be able to meet and talk with people from all over the world. It exposes an entire new generation of Slovenians to the world in a way that is all on their terms.”



Day 5
The fifth day held a big challenge for our visitor: to see 4 countries in 1 day.  And it is possible if you have a car. First stop:  Austria, which was just 15 minutes away. Then back to Slovenia to visit a town called Ižakovci, where Jono had the challenge to transport a car across the river Mura with a wooden raft. Rafting is a local attraction for tourists, who wish to experience the local traditions and the old ways of life. Here is a video of an Australian guy operating a wooden raft:



Next stop was a little town in Hungary called Lenti. Then crossing Slovenia, to visit Croatia and try traditional food in Čakovec. The challenge ended with the arrival to Maribor, the second biggest Slovenian town, where Jono stayed in the Youth Hostel Pekarna.

Jono: „It's an incredible experience to be able to say that you've visited four countries in one day. The borders that I passed through were so incredibly diverse that for me personally I would stay as a passing tourist. The major thing is obviously the airport at Maribor. It needs to get more flights in there.”

I invite you to read the January issue of online magazine Globetrotter where I will recap the last days and Jono’s thoughts on Slovenia. 

Until then… here is a video that Jono made for The Big Blog Exchange




Tamara Zorc, Volunteer of Hostelling International Slovenia

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