A journey in Slovenia, the green heart of Europe
Not far from the north-east of Italy there is a country that within its small territory preserves the most varied richness and beauty, especially as regards nature. Slovenia is often considered “the green heart of Europe” and there are many reasons to call it that way.
Di Ilaria Bionda, Agenzia di Stampa Giovanile Italy
SLOVENIA: A GREEN DESTINATION
Slovenia is a “green destination” not only in a manner of speaking, but also officially, thanks to a series of actions implemented and awards received through years, that prove why this small Country is a true “green heart”.
First, Slovenia has been the first Country in the world to receive the label Global Green Destination – given by the homonymous non-profit organization https://greendestinations.org/ – which aims to support sustainable destinations around the world. From this perspective, Slovenia has a leading position among European countries in the elimination of plastic and in the promotion of zero waste, especially in cities. This path is undertaken thanks to the important action of Ekologi Brez Meja (Ecologists Without Borders), part of the European network Zero Waste Europe https://zerowasteeurope.eu/member/ekologi-brez-meja/.
As a sustainable destination, Slovenia is also involved in first person, thanks to the brand Slovenia Green (https://www.slovenia-green.si/destinacije/) used to point out national “green” destinations, sustainable tourism accommodation, activities and green providers. This is an original Slovenian certification system, based on standards of quality and sustainability internationally recognized. This brand is part of the Green scheme of Slovenian Tourism https://www.slovenia.info/en/business/green-scheme-of-slovenian-tourism and included in the actions implemented to make the Country 100% green, maintaining at the same time the high-level standards reached. In the places with the brand, it is possible to experience various ecological tourism activities, part of a sustainable lifestyle. Now the brand counts 58 destinations (divided on the basis of the degree of sustainability achieved), 107 accommodation, 42 restaurants, four national parks, nine touristic agencies and a series of different activities.
Thanks to its actions in the cultural field, Slovenia has also been awarded with the World Legacy Award (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/worldlegacyawards/) given by National Geographic to a number of sustainable destinations in the world.
The reasons for this prize concern the fact that in planning sustainable development, the country has paid particular attention to the bond between culture and nature. What is more, eight locations within the Slovenian borders are included in EDEN – European Destinations of Excellence, the European network of places considered “hidden gems”, still quite unknown but important, as they develop tourism ensuring sustainability in its three dimensions (social, cultural, environmental).
But why has Slovenia received all these prizes? What are the beauties that deserve the praiseworthy conservation and safeguarding effort? A large contribute comes from the fact that Slovenia is the only country in Europe to have the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, The Pannonic Plans and the Karst as well as other beauties in a short distance.
LJUBLJANA, THE BELOVED GREEN CAPITAL CITY
Just like the country to which it belongs, Ljubljana is also a green capital not only in terms of language. In 2016 it was officially recognized as European Green Capital, prize attributed each year to the city with more than 100.000 inhabitants, leader in sustainability from an environmental, social and economic point of view.
This award is motivated by all the actions implemented by the municipality for a sustainable future. First, the city center is completely pedestrianized and access to all motorized means of transportation is forbidden; for suppliers or for those who need it, there are Kavalir, small electric vehicles with driver, free of use. In addition to this, it is possible to rent bicycles from more than 60 seats in the city center, with the first hour free, thanks to the service BicikeLJ.
Even looking at Ljubljana from above, it is possible to realize how a green city it is. In fact, its territory hosts Tivoli, a large park which is a peculiarity on a European scale due to its size and its location, a stone’s throw from the city center. This park, like the whole city, was reorganized by the famous architect Plečnik.
Ljubljana is one of the greenest capitals in the world also as regards the numbers on waste recycling and waste sorting, around 68%. In addition, in 2018 and 2019, the city received two other awards: the first for the best city in the field of sustainable development, the second for digitization.
NATURE AND OTHER DESTINATIONS
Slovenia is green even at first glance. Within its borders it is possible to count 48 protected areas and natural parks, 52 natural reserves, 1217 natural monuments: nature is overwhelming. Furthermore, everything is in such a way as to make the experiences without any impact on the environment and at the same time authentic for visitors. Among the Julian Alps – not so far from the border with Italy – is the Triglav National Park, one of the first in Europe, founded in 1924. The name is ancient and not fortuitous, because it goes back to the Slavic God of heaven, earth and underground, then of many natural elements that are part of Slovenia.
More than a half of the Slovenian territory is covered by forest, more than a third is part of the European network of Natura 2000 protected areas and, not far from the capital city, it is possible to explore the virgin forests of Kočevsko, in the Unesco World Heritage List. Thanks to the large presence of natural environments such as those listed before, Slovenia is one of the countries with the greatest biodiversity: within its borders we can count 22.000 animal and plant species.
But not only woods and forests, Slovenia is lapped – to the south-west – by the Adriatic Sea and a fifth of its coasts are protected. Many beaches (both marine and lake ones) are focused on sustainability issues with the blue flag label for water quality and with the certificate Slovenia green beach.
In Slovenia destinations, as we have seen, are the most diverse and have a certain attention to sustainability. Even in less natural areas we can find the same interest in conservation: a third of towns and villages in Slovenia are protected as cultural heritage and the medieval past is often enhanced. For this reason, they appear only little changed over the years and the goal is to create tourism in compliance with the principles of sustainable development and in harmony with nature.
There are many green destinations, some relevant examples are: Maribor, where we can find the oldest grape in the world, Kranjiska Gora, a famous ski resort not far from the border with Italy, like Nova Gorica, among the cities with the golden mark for sustainable tourism.
In addition to urban areas, also lake Bled and Bohinj are part of the European network of resorts named Alpine Pearls dedicated to sustainable holidays, focused on gentle mobility, awareness, and harmony with nature.
The tourist motto of Slovenia is “feel sLOVEnia”: it calls us to feel and to experience the love that this Country can offer, what every visitor can feel in the green heart of Europe.