It's a tiny country, about half the size of Switzerland, and counts just over two million people. But the only way to describe pint-sized Slovenia (Slovenija), an independent republic bordering Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, is that it's 'a mouse that roars'.
Slovenia has been dubbed a lot of things since independence in 1991 - 'Europe in Miniature', 'The Sunny Side of the Alps', 'The Green Piece of Europe' - and, though they may sound like tourist-brochure blurbs, they're all true. From beaches, snow-capped mountains, hills awash in grapevines and wide plains blanketed in sunflowers, to Gothic churches, baroque palaces, historic castles and art nouveau civic buildings, Slovenia offers more diversity than countries many times its size. Its incredible mixture of climates brings warm Mediterranean breezes up to the foothills of the Alps, where it can even snow in summer. With more than half of its total area covered in forest, Slovenia truly is one of the greenest countries in the world - and in recent years it has also become Europe's activities playground.
Among Slovenia's greatest assets, though, are the Slovenes themselves - welcoming, generous, multilingual, broad-minded. As far as they are concerned, they do not live emotionally, spiritually or even geographically in 'Eastern' Europe - their home is the very heart of the continent.
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