Slovenia lies in the heart of Europe, tucked between the Alps, Mediterranean, and the Pannonian Plain. It is bordering on Austria, Italy, Hungary, and Croatia. Slovenia is one of the smallest European countries, measuring only 20,273 square kilometres, that is about half of the size of the Netherlands or less than one tenth of the United Kingdom.
The silhouette of Slovenia is strongly resembling a chicken. Obviously so much, that recently our two-year-old son commented “ko-ko” (in his language a chicken), when seeing the country map on TV. Most of our trips and other information on these pages are about the Green Karst area, extending “between the legs of the chicken” (see map on the right). This is the area where we live and we know it best. And we did not end up living here for no reason. We fell in love with it because of the rich biodiversity, beautiful landscape, and vast forests.
If you are heading to the Adriatic coast, it is quite likely you will pass the Green Karst area. You should plan some time to make a stopover, even if only for a few hours. The area of Karst is very special because water has in thousands of years created the most peculiar karst phenomena. Here are thousands of caves, which water has carved into the soluble limestone. An excursion to such a cave feels like entering a parallel world of darkness. Despite the lack of light and scarce food resources, many caves are inhabited by cave animals, for example an olm (Proteus anguinus), a species of a cave salamander. Many people visit the famous Postojna cave. While this is indeed a spectacular cave, it has been altered for the purposes of mass tourism, by building concrete paths and installing artificial lights. There are some other show caves in the surroundings, which you can visit with a guide and offer an even more authentic underground experience.
Waters have also shaped the surface parts of the Karst area. Despite these areas have plenty of water resources, most are hidden from our view. Often streams only flow on the surface for a short distance and then suddenly disappear underground through one or more sinkholes. However, in periods of heavier rain or melting snow, the sinkholes can not drain all the water and streams flood these plains, forming smaller or larger lakes. There are several seasonal lakes in the area of Green Karst, the biggest is the Lake Cerknica, which you can also visit on our guided excursion. Through centuries, local inhabitants have adapted their habits to the ever-changing lake. To be able to travel between villages when the valley was flooded, they carved wooden boats (called drevaki) out of whole tree trunks. They also invented various tools for catching fish, which they collected just before the lake was drying up.
Large parts of the Green Karst are forested. Javorniki, the mountain range which runs diagonally through the area is the largest continuous forest complex in Central Europe. The northern shady slopes are part of the Notranjska Regional park and from the other side, the Landscape park Pivka intermittent lakes is extending to the southern slopes of the range.
Forests are interrupted by meadows and fields. These are intensively managed where the land is flat. But the meadows on wetlands and slopes are mown only once a year and are home to diverse plants and animals. Lake Cerknica and Pivka intermittent lakes are important habitats for meadow birds and day butterflies. It is not surprising that over 60 % of the surface of the Green Karst is also part of the European nature conservation network Natura 2000.