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Slovenian report
by Euro Reporter
2014-02-08 12:32:45
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Slovenia and its capital, Ljubljana, are tiny treasures

Travel is about seeing new places and having new experiences, but a touch of the familiar is always welcome. For people from the Roanoke Valley, the small nation of Slovenia, on Europe’s Adriatic Coast, provides a fascinating mix of both. Slovenes tell a story about creation that sums up the pride they take in their country. All the peoples of the world gathered at the Garden of Eden to see what territory God would give them. The English received an island. The Norwegians got the land of the fjords. Italy got a boot. But God seemed to ignore the Slovenes. They waited and waited. Finally, God seemed to be finished, until the Slovenes said, “Wait, what about us?” Chagrined, God gave to Slovenia the land he had been hoping to save for himself.

slovenia_400Slovenia was similarly ignored in the late 20th century, to its great good fortune. As Yugoslavia was breaking up, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia suffered terribly. But the Yugoslav government contented itself with a single incursion, and then turned its attention to Croatia. Slovenia, for its part, immediately began to establish trade relations with Western European states, and to find ways to attract tourists, forming the basis for its current prosperity. (One of its early coups was attracting George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin to the country for their first summit meeting.)

Today, most visitors to Slovenia arrive on cruise ships and head inland, where a number of possibilities greet them. The country is a paradise for spelunkers, for example. Tour guides say that, at one cave per day, it would take 16 years to see all the caves of Slovenia. In one of those caves, a 55,000-year-old flute attested to the long history of human habitation in the country (as well as an early and ongoing love of music among the population!). Nature lovers may head for Lake Bled. History buffs, like me, will head for the capital. Travellers to Ljubljana (pronounced lyoo-BLYAH-nah) pass through three starkly varied climate zones during the 65-mile drive from the coast (which has a Mediterranean climate), through the continental climate zone (marked by green rolling hills that would remind any Roanoker of driving on Route 11 in Botetourt County), to Ljubljana (in the middle of the Alpine climate zone).


Unknown doctor is ‘man of the year

Never mind sports personalities, politicians or actors: Slovenia has chosen a doctor as ‘man of year 2013‘. Dr. Aleksander Doplihar is apparently an unknown medic, who has won the hearts of Slovenians with his unique health clinic, which provides care and support free of charge to people without health insurance.

Every day he treats the homeless, the marginalised, foreign illegal workers, foreign students and refugees. Thanks to the collaboration, which is also free of charge, with a team of medical specialists and psychologists, the clinic is able to offer all the basic facilities of advice, treatment and analysis. The centre also runs courses on breastfeeding for new mothers, immunisations for children and blood tests. Then in winter, the clinic also functions as a centre where people can rest, get warm, wash and get some clean clothes.

The prize is therefore well-deserved and a sign that it’s more necessary than ever to focus on the needy.


Slovenia paralysed by thick ice, more snow forecast

Snow and ice has paralysed Slovenia, bringing down trees and electricity pylons, cutting power from 50,000 homes and causing millions of euros of damage. Three days of blizzards inflicted "the worst devastation in living memory" in the small Alpine country, local media said. More bad weather is expected this week. Fluctuating temperatures caused snow to half melt and then freeze again, leaving parked cars entombed in a thick shell of ice.

In and around the city of Postojna, in the west, people used axes to try to free their cars from ice 15 cm (6 inches) thick. With railways at a standstill and some petrol stations and even bank ATM machines frozen solid, the country faced millions of euros of losses through infrastructure damage and economic inertia. Slovenia's busiest port, Koper, ground to a halt.

Slovenia has suffered the worst weather in the region, which also hit neighbouring Croatia. The environment agency warned that more snow was on its way. "After a brief 24-hour respite, a new period of bad weather is coming," the agency's Brane Gregorcic told a news conference. "It may not be heavy, but it will be an additional burden and create new troubles." Roughly half of Slovenia's forests, 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres), have been damaged, authorities have estimated. An added risk is flooding once the ice melts, experts warned.


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