Spring brings a smile to most faces, moreso after a long and cold winter. In Slovenian cities, springtime is certainly one of the busiest seasons, and this goes for the meetings industry as well. This year is especially vibrant – a record congress year when Ljubljana alone hosts over twenty congresses and numerous corporate events. The Styrian capital Maribor, home to the world’s oldest grapevine, doesn’t lag far behind in success, with the season of joy there also among the peaks of the MICE calendar.
In springtime, Slovenia receives weekly conference attendees from all over the world. Our cities, generally considered “stress-free” zones, then acquire some extra cosmopolitan sparkle. The season of bloom sprouts excitement – like a lively cloud of young honeybees fluttering across a fragrant meadow. Here, spring is synonymous with a thriving international creative flow of knowledge, expertise and networking.
As soon as the clocks rewind, Slovenian cities and towns turn into cheerful hubs of activity; on those pleasantly warm days all the visitors, tourists and and locals alike share the same mindset– nobody’s in a hurry to go home! To the contrary. The bars and restaurants by the rivers, in the city parks and the squares are buzzing with people, live music echoing from various points of the city as merry groups mingle and chatin the sun. Socializing outdoors, in all its delights!
April. Friday. Sunny. Ljubljana.
The trip starts by the River Ljubljanica, in verdant nature yet just a stone’s throw from the popular riverbank beach, the Špica, which doubles as a unique outdoor event site. We head along the Krakovo Embankment (Krakovski nasip) to the old city core and from there to the Pogačar Square of the famous Ljubljana Central Market, where the “it” event of the week – the Open Kitchen is taking place. The true herald of spring in the basin, the kitchen isn’t just another culinary gathering, a tourist must-see-experience or the weekly checkpoint of ambitious locals, but quite a proper hub of Friday’s happenings across the city, the treffpunkt of the day. The stars of the “Odprta kuhna” are the dishes, prepared on each sunny Friday in warmer months by a throng of distinguished creators: kneading, stirring, yelling, roasting, frying, cracking jokes, rolling, seasoning, passing around culinary magic surrounded by a zesty atmosphere. Shhh … an insider’s nod for a cool experience in the cool capital. The gourmet food, drink & music festival in the open might fit right into your incentive as a great place to celebrate life in a crowd of like-minded strangers. Why not? After a successful conference, upon prior appointment with the team of the Open Kitchen, business guests exchange coupons for a selection of treats by our country’s top chefs and simply … enjoy their time. If your event doesn’t wrap up before evening, you can still rest assured the site will be up until 22.00 at least, as animated as during the day. Of course, don’t forget Ljubljana is a compact and green capital where getting from point A to point B often means simply a pleasant walk or bicycle ride through the city, past its many charming sights and, what’s best – the experience of that genuine urban pulse every traveller wishes to dip their feet in. More than enough time, then, for some joie de vivre in Slovenian style.
That special spring festival feeling
Spring in Ljubljana is the season of outdoor events and festivals of all kinds and sizes, a staple trait of Slovenian cities. The colourful variety of open-air events on the squares, streets, riverbanks and in the parks then lasts deep into autumn, with a great assortment of diverse artistic manifestations, light installations, open-air libraries, wacky street performances, interventions and … music – the spice of life! As Nietzsche famously said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Indeed, paraphrased in the context of meeting events, music plays a paramount role in the atmosphere of any social gathering. So, look out! During festival season in Ljubljana, live music is heard all across town. An impressive melody curtain warming the spirit.
To name just a few festivals in the Slovenian capital – June in Ljubljana is a traditional event taking place downtown, on the Congress Square, featuring the charge-free experience of top artistic creations from the spheres of dance, theatre and live music. Lighting Guerilla is a thrilling international festival that aims to popularize contemporary light art– shining a number of curious installations, objects and projections across town. The cult Ljubljana Festival, this year in its 66th running edition, begins in late June, presenting as always diverse events featuring renowned international artists.
In other Slovenian cities, too, this is the season of lively happenings in the open, ranging from culture and entertainment to sports and folklore. In Maribor make sure not to miss the Lent Festival starting at the end of June, while another great experience is the Opera Night in the Mestni Park, a wonderful spectacle taking place in late May, and the Ezl Ek Festival, an artistic nod to the Štajerska capital’s best known street corner. There’s also the happenings of the City Picnic, or the Spring Holiday in Svečina – where you’ll find the endearing heart-shaped wine route… and many more events to see.Great diversity in small spaces has always been Slovenia’s key competitive advantage.
Attendees of international meetings prefer Slovenian cities in springtime, too. We can probably guess why this is so. In the season of bloom, when the locales are most alive, visitors may seamlessly flow with the urban backdrop, whether it’s the jazz music at home in the museum area or the pop tunes blaring from the trendy bars along the riverbank, where city slickers are sipping their Aperol spritz or Hugo, chatting late into the night. Perhaps, your cup of tea is some genuine alternative culture found famously in Ljubljana’s Metelkova autonomous cultural zone, or in Maribor similarly in the Pekarna cultural centre. A curious diversion for the artistic-minded. Last but not least, you’re sure to bump into some merry tourists frolicking about with their selfie sticks, looking for that perfect shot of beautiful architecture or chilling next to some local craft beer. Here, the urban atmosphere is easy to tune into.
What about those searching for serenity, an escape into nature? No worries, we have plenty of such experiences in store! Slovenia’s beautiful urban, countryside and wild nature offers a richness of opportunities for cycling, hiking, horse riding, extreme or casual sports activities and outdoor recreation, all nicely complemented by the exquisite cultural, wine, culinary and wellness offer. Maribor, charmingly small yet Slovenia’s second biggest city provides for a wealth of activities in urban nature. In the centre of the Štajerska region, you can dive into the Pohorje Mountains – a sea of green – get lost in the surrounding winegrowing hills, take refuge in city oases or embark on a sup paddling trip down the River Drava. It’s all close, the choice is yours! Ljubljana, the European Green Capital 2016, offers countless natural pearls along its avenues and surroundings. You can stroll through the Tivoli Park, ascend mount Rožnik which is especially radiant in springtime, perhaps explore the remnants of ancient lake-dwelling cultures in the Ljubljana Marshes Landscape Park or enjoy the amazing views and wholesome atmosphere of the nearby mount Rakitna, perhaps even catch the bursting of saffron on mount Velika Planina, where a genuine shepherds’ meal and the tasting of traditional trnič cheese is simply a must. Whatever floats your boat!
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Author: Jasna Jašič, Marketing & Communications Manager, Slovenian Convention Bureau, photo: Jošt Gantar, slovenia.info