Slovenia s'lovely for cultured arts adventures.

Chris Page discovers the many delights that Slovenia has to offer the traveller
Occidental Ljubljana warm welcome awaits hotel guestsOccidental Ljubljana warm welcome awaits hotel guests
Occidental Ljubljana warm welcome awaits hotel guests

S'wonderful, s'marvelous, s'lovely Slovenia! Not 1920s Gershwin B-side, rather first and lasting impression of sensational southern central Europe escape.

Bordered by Italy westward, Austria north, Hungary north-east, Croatia south, Adriatic Sea south-west, mostly mountainous and forested, it is home to just 2.1 million folk ... fewer than two Birminghams.

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Arts and culture are central to secret-ish up-and-coming country, currently widely unknown to Brits. More direct flights planned promise to make the area's attractions, many and varied in equally impressive measure, increasingly available to UK visitors, keen to discover unfamiliar unique destination with a difference.

Ljubljana Castle Strelec restaurant height of luxurious dining.Ljubljana Castle Strelec restaurant height of luxurious dining.
Ljubljana Castle Strelec restaurant height of luxurious dining.

Exploration is to be encouraged, unearthing rich range of tourism treasures that await beneath nation's white, blue and red striped banner.

But, between you and I, love Slovenia soon before its popularity rises higher than Julian Alps Triglav's pyramid shaped summit, soaring spectacular 2,864 metres above sea level.

Where to visit: Brda combines colonate vestiges, consequences of 1976 earthquake and archaic architecture, creating among Europe's most picturesque landscapes, region's unique character coloured by turbulent past and traditional ways, showcased best by Vila Vipolže visit.

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Fortified medieval village Šmartno snakes around streetscape labyrinth, awash with outside staircase balconies, lime-dipped patterned roof tiles and elaborately decorative chimneys as well as impressive St Martin Church, complete with legend of eponymous saint compassionately sharing his officer's coat with half-naked beggar.

Old Print Shop true to type artisanry awaits.Old Print Shop true to type artisanry awaits.
Old Print Shop true to type artisanry awaits.
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Reel deal Piran is coastal mecca for foreign film productions, golden era populated by such silver screen stars as Orson Welles and Peter Ustinov, Slovenian Film Centre this year featuring for first time at American Film Market, US action thriller The Union recently shot with star-studded cast including Halle Berry and Mark Wahlberg, gulf resort among 17 locations nationwide, Tartini's Birth House also pilgrimage for fans of famous son Giuseppe, showcasing celebrated composer's violin virtuosity.

Don't spare the horses to visit world's largest Lipizzaner stud farm that is Lipica, UNESCO World Heritage Site starring 300-plus famed white steeds, roaming 300 hectares, recognising over 400 years of man and animal united in equine harmony.

Center Rog Workshop seamlessly weaves urban handicraft heritage and state-of-the-art technology, Fab Lab factory fusing bygone skills with modern advances to become self-styled "creative engine of Ljubljana".

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Also "font" and central of cultural history is nearby Old Print Shop, where 500 years of print history comes to life, courtesy manual typeset design, "slug" lead lettering expertly explained by resident artisan to make your very best impression.

Picture postcard Piran, film set for the famousPicture postcard Piran, film set for the famous
Picture postcard Piran, film set for the famous

What Gaudi was to Barcelona, so Jože Plečnik was to capital city "land and water axis" architecture, brains behind National and University Library, Central Market, Cemetery, Triple Bridge and embankment enhancements, the visionary's house homage to his inspirational Art Nouveau style.

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Where to stay: Goriška Brda Belica's name dates back to 1898 birth of Nonot Pepot, complete with bright white hair, equally glowing reviews lauding family homestead's eight rustic rooms and two apartments, ideally located in Medana village, within beating heart of wine-growing region boasting breath-taking views from Alps to Adriatic.

Hotel Maestoso, named after Lipizzaner stallion classic line, is itself pure equestrian themed thoroughbred, striking and sleek in equally impressive measure, seamlessly blending contemporary luxury with natural antiquity. Eat like a horse at Restaurant Gratia, serving success on a plate regional herb-infused Karst culinary creations, accompanied by rich robust Teran wine, strong as Bora winds that whip the landscape.

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Comfort is king at Occidental Ljubljana, whose prime position offers perfect vacation location, connecting community culture aplenty with guests, who can expect exceptional accommodation among 148 rooms and suites amid four star facilities including art installations, bar and restaurant, supplying breakfast and à la carte excellence, on-site gym and nearby Tivoli Park available to work off epicurean indulgence.

Lipica Lipizzaner snowy white horsesLipica Lipizzaner snowy white horses
Lipica Lipizzaner snowy white horses

Where to dine: Haute cuisine comes no higher than lofty location of Strelec, renowned restaurant gracing Archer’s Tower atop Ljubljana Castle, country's most popular visitor attraction, quality chefs doing exactly what it says on the menu - "synergy of excellent cuisine and historical ambience" - Michelin assessors bestowing coveted star status with appetising accolade "Stylish, delicious cuisine is real star of the show here with balance of local ingredients and more exotic flavours".

Klinec Plešivo's eclectic hospitality reflects artistry and artefacts adorning restaurant walls, International Visual Arts Festival colony hosts assuring "we provide new experiences every time, in wine glasses and on plates, every step of the way reliving stories brought to this space by creativity of artists who have found their inspiration here".

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Flavours of Istria abound at Inn Rostelin, putting pasta perfection into Piran in mouth-watering form of fettuccine to fuži, signature dishes including classic comfort of Tomato Sauce Pasta, Fritaja with Asparagus and warming bean fest that is Bobiči Soup as well as sweet treats Fritole Doughnuts and Hroštole Pastry.

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Nearby Mestna kavarna takes the cake with speciality Š'torta, richer than entrepreneurial couple Samo and Iza Sia Login's 700m Euro assets.

Ljubljana's landmark Sax Pub is music to ears of international beer lovers, offering assorted ales, succulent snacks and all that jazz!

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