Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of this quiet little country, I was enchanted.
As the plane circled the runway at Ljubljana airport, the sheer majesty of the Julian alps took my breath away. The sight of the snow against the clear blue sky was only a taste of what was to come on this January trip to Slovenia.
I was told it would be cold in January, and it definitely was. But the Slovene people know how to keep warm indoors!
Every restaurant was warm, cosy and welcoming, often with alpine wood burners, big tile clad structures, but lots of heat!
I could also warm myself up with hot wine - similar to mulled wine but different, made using locally grown and pressed grapes. Very welcome and very good.
Along the riverbank in Ljubljana, the beautifully compact but perfectly formed capital city, I sat outside bars, keeping warm with blankets provided, but still able to people watch or just enjoy the peaceful tranquillity of this very safe city.
As part of my trip I visited Lake Bled, one of the most famous sights of Slovenia, but it really is like stepping into a fairy tale. Depending on the time of year, you can row, or be rowed across the lake to the little Island, or if you are very lucky as I was, walk across on the frozen ice!
And to add to the experience, a slice of the amazing Bled cake is a definite must in one of the little cafes on the edge of this little heaven on earth.
Moving on through the country towards the East, I gradually left the mountains behind and watched the landscape change to undulating and then to the virtually flat agricultural regions and then again to the hilly grape growing regions.
I was amazed to see no litter on the motorways or roads. In every aspect, this little country is spotless. The toilets at all the restaurants are so clean, even in the motorway cafes.
Visiting again, later on in the year, I thought my cup of views was full from my previous visit. That was, until I saw the wine producing regions of Pomurska in the East of the country. Layer upon layer of hills and wine terraces, all lovingly cared for, ready for the grape harvest and pressing in the autumn.
Little houses and wine lodges dot the landscape, all immaculately cared for by the families. Family life is very important in Slovenia, time spent together is genuinely cherished and enjoyed, and in some rural areas generations of families still share the same house.
Visitors are always warmly welcomed with the insistence of a spritzer (local white wine and sparkling water), beer or coffee, and despite the language difference, somehow I managed to understand, albeit very loosely!
Another aspect of Slovenia that I love (coming from a small Island) is that it is possible to nip to Austria for coffee, Croatia for lunch, Italy for Dinner and still be home in time for bed! I found driving to be so easy there too, the motorways are usually free flowing, as are all the roads, and all kept in very good condition.
Slovene people look after everything they own very well, including their little country which is one of the most sustainable in the world.
And it shows! It’s highly unusual to see any litter anywhere, even in the cities. All the environmental services are very efficient, even the public rubbish tips are immaculate!
I have returned to Slovenia a number of times now, I have seen all that the 4 seasons offer, from snow over a metre deep (beautiful and I don’t ski), so cold that it freezes for a month or more, to spring where all life wakes up again, to gorgeous hot blue sky summers, to warm balmy autumn watching the light and colours change and fade back into winter.
In many ways it is impossible to sum up in words, so rather than listen to my experiences, I can only recommend that you visit Slovenia yourself. A visit I know you will not regret, and one I will be making myself again - there's still so much more to see!