By Alan Hewett, Chiltern Landcare member
Slovenia? The former republic of Yugoslavia is just over 20,000 square kilometres in size with a tiny coastline of 47 kilometres and a population of two million people. It’s small by Australian standards but we could learn a lot from the Slovenian way of life.
Slovenia is literally one of the greenest countries in the world. It has more than 3,200 plant species, 70 of which are indigenous. Over 50 % of its land mass is covered with forest. However, any trees that are cut down for timber or firewood are immediately replaced, no massive land clearing there.
Slovenians have a great love of the outdoors. Every town or village, no matter how small, has a walking club, visitors always welcome. There are 10,000 kilometres of marked tracks and paths and over 8000 kilometres are mountain tracks. The highest mountain in Slovenia is Mt. Triglav (2864 metres.) in the Julian Alps. A former president once declared that it was the duty of every Slovene to climb this mountain at least once in their lifetime. The Alpine Association of Slovenia has 58,000 members.
Slovenia is also a cyclists dream. There is a vast network of tracks and roads that bikes can use. Coupled with a mild climate and spectacular scenery it is a great way to see the country.
In the capital, Ljubljana, cars are banned from the city centre, which features many preserved buildings. Walkers and cyclists share the laneways and thoroughfares. Of course there are cars but there is a big commitment to public transport. There is an efficient train service and buses operate every 5-15 minutes with a flat fee of about ten dollars.
Slovenians like to rise early. Child minding begins at 5-30 in the morning. Tradesmen will arrive at your door bright and early. Breakfast is usually coffee and bread, with a light meal about 10 o’ clock. The main meal is taken about 4-30 in the afternoon. With this particular diet and love of the outdoors, it is rare to see an overweight person.
Slovenians are not perfect. They hate to queue and love using their mobiles while cycling (without helmets.)
Comparisons with Australia would be ridiculous because of the relative size and population. However, we can learn from a nation that places a premium on its natural landscape and heritage buildings, enjoys a healthy lifestyle, is hard working and has an inclusive, cohesive society.