Celebrate Slovenia’s Jubilee Year

Ptuj SloveniaThis year, 2011, marks the 20 year anniversary of Slovenia’s declaration of independence from Yugoslavia.  There is no better time to visit this jewel in Eastern Europe’s crown.  The whole year will see many special events, the adoption of new visions for development and a huge celebration to which the whole world is invited.  A very special part in these gatherings will be played by Slovenian expatriates and their descendants – the biggest such gathering in Slovenian territory is planned for early July.

This year the Slovenian Tourist board plans to make it easier for Slovenians, their descendants and friends to visit Slovenia, through numerous special offers and discounts.  To ensure that Slovenians, their descendants and friends throughout the world know about these offers, details are posted on the Slovenia.info website.  The website, which posts special tourist deals and packages for expatriates, emigrants and their nearest and dearest, has also organised a forum for impression of relatives and former citizens.  The Slovenian Tourist Board has even put together the special packages in cooperation with a range of tour operators, and will be continuously updating them.  We can’t wait to get there, neither should you!

For more information visit www.slovenia.info – book a deal now!

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Austria’s Coolest Bar at Hotel Alpina in Obergurgl

I recently visited the Ice Bar in London’s West End but was bitterly disappointed.  However, when I came across Austria’s coolest bar at Hotel Alpina in Obergurgl, I realised that the Austrians really know what they’re doing.  What may look like a big snowy hill turns out to be a wonderful world of ice!  In front of the spa area of the Hotel Alpina in Obergurgl, a team of civil engineers from the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) have built a superb ice dome of 10 metres diameter, using an ingenious construction method.

The research group, supervised by Prof. Kollegger of the Institute of Structural Engineering, is looking into ways of building large-scale, stable domes made of ice.  Following a thorough preparation and research phase, a new ice dome construction method is now being put to the test in Obergurgl – a world first.

Austria Ice Bar Hotel Alpina Obergurgl

There’s a lot of technical stuff I could tell you about but to be honest, if you’re that interested, you’ll find it elsewhere.  What is important to know is that this unusual venue  is the best place to head after a day of skiing for a lovely cocktail.  Although, be warned, it is probably wise to leave the cocktail dress in the hotel wardrobe!

Find out more about Austria on the Austrian Tourist Information website.

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Great Value Ski Accommodation in Slovenia

If you are looking for a winter sports experience with a difference, then head to Slovenia where two new self catering properties have been launched by Slovenian Retreats in the Julian Alps area, close to Kranjska Gora, Slovenia’s best known ski-resort and home to annual world cup slalom and ski-jumping events.

Villas Planina and Nebina offer great value ski accommodation for either those looking for individual apartments or for big groups of up to 20 people wishing to hire out the whole properties.  Villa Planina is situated on the edge of the charming rustic village of Ratece. Each apartment within the villa are finished to an extremely high quality, with luxury features such as underfloor heating, flat screen TVs, DVD players, wireless internet and a shared pool table and ping pong table, as well as a kid’s communal soft play area. The villa is situated in a unique location with uninterrupted panoramic views from each apartment towards the Julian Alps and snow capped peaks of Jalovec and Mojstrovka mountains. Local facilities in the village offer a range of restaurants, traditional taverns (or ‘gostlinas’) and a supermarket, and the villa is just a five minute drive from central Kranjska Gora or even less to the slopes at Podkoren. Prices start from €60 (Euros) per night for a loft apartment sleeping between two and four people and based on a minimum stay of three nights.

Villa Planina

Villa Nebina has been designed in more of a ‘farmhouse style’ holiday rental property and has been reconstructed on the site of a farmhouse originally built over 150 years ago in the traditional Slovenian village of Ratece, just 5 minutes drive away from Kranjska Gora. The property includes four apartments and many of the original features of the building, such as vaulted ceilings and a traditional enclosed wooden balcony, have been retained at this high quality accommodation. The four apartments are furnished and equipped to an extremely high standard with alpine solid wood furnishings seamlessly combined with contemporary facilities such as flat screen TVs & DVDs. Apartment three has its own balcony access and other apartments have shared balcony access – with magnificent mountain panoramas. Prices start from €60 (Euros) per night for a ground floor apartment sleeping between three and five people and based on a minimum stay of three nights.

Villa Nebina

A Special Launch Offer from €69 per person, per week is available for house parties – Villa Planina can sleep between 12 and 20 people and Villa Nebina can sleep between 12 and 18 people so both offer great value ski accommodation for big groups. If you wish to get a discount on renting the whole of either Villa Planina or Nebina, then there is a special launch offer available. An offer of seven nights for the price of six is available if you book the whole of Villa Planina or Nebina for a week.

So, a week hiring out the whole of Villa Planina would start from €1,380 (discounted from €1,610) – this works out at just €69 per person, per week based on 20 people sharing – and for the whole of Villa Nebina it would start at €1,740 (discounted from €2,030)- this works out at just €97 per person, per week based on 18 people sharing. This offer is not valid for New Year.

Flights from London Stansted to Ljubljana with Easyjet are priced from £22.99 per person, or from London Gatwick with Adria. Another airport within an hour’s drive of both villas include Klagenfurt in Austria (serviced by Ryanair).

To make a booking call 0208 123 2898 or for further information go to www.slovenianretreats.com or email info@slovenianretreats.com

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Gossip to Get Ischgl Rocking this Ski Season


I was lucky enough to visit Iscghl for the first time this summer.  However, the resort is most renowned for its fabulous ski opportunities, not to mention its opening ski season concert for a staggering 20,000 people.  It has been announced that this year, on Saturday 27 November, indie rock band Gossip will take to the stage to kick off Ischgl’s ski season.  The concert will take place in an outdoor arena in the shadows of the Silvretta mountains.  Gossip will join the Hall of Fame for Ischgl’s Top of the Mountain concerts, alongside Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Kylie Minogue, Elton John, Rihanna, The Pussycat Dolls and Lionel Richie, all of whom have performed at previous years’ concerts.  Entry is by valid lift pass.


However, that’s not the only exciting news to come out of Ischgl this winter.  There are two new chairlifts on the mountain: the first is the 8 million Euro Lange Wand chairlift, a luxurious black framed six-person heated chairlift with weather hood that will transport skiers and boarders up to Ischgl’s highest point of Greitspitz; the second is a replacement of the Muller-Bahn with a six-person chairlift with weather hood.

Ischgl boasts more than 41 lifts accessing 238kms of groomed piste.  A one-day lift pass for 27 November costs 55 Euros.  Special season opening packages are available via www.ischgl.com and a taster of what’s on offer is three nights’ accommodation and breakfast, with a three day liftpass (including entry to the concert) from 183 euro.

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City, Ski & Musical Inspiration – Frommer’s Salzburg Guide

Make the most of a winter break by sipping cocktails in Salzburg by night and skiing in a different nearby resort every day with advice from the latest pithy Frommer’s Day by Day Guide written by Nick Dalton who promises to help travellers plan a trip in the smartest and most efficient way.

Dozens of ski areas are less than an hour outside Salzburg and a daily snow shuttle can connect skiers to resorts such as Obertauern which was made famous when the Beatles capered around on skis for their movie Help! Frommer’s Salzburg Day by Day is the first travel guide to explore Salzburg’s nearby ski areas. The book gives useful tips on the best slopes for families such as Gastein and warns of possible overcrowding in Kitzbühel.

To make the most of a city-stay the guide is also usefully split into themed sections with clear maps and top tips of what to see in a short time. There are practical listings of best locations for Christmas markets, or how to spend a break immersed in Mozart, from visiting his birthplace to finding concerts.

Fans of the Sound of Music are presented with an entirely different picture of the city with recommendations for visiting iconic scenes from the films such as the Mönchsberg Terrace, now the terrace of the Museum de Modern, where the Von Trapp children sang Do-Re-Mi with panoramic views of the city. Frommer’s tip for die-hard Sound of Music fans is to hire a car to visit them all because the iconic scene locations are so far apart that most organised city tours don’t take them all in.

Frommer’s Salzburg Day by Day Guide by Nick Dalton, RRP £8.99, available nationwide in all good book shops

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Let the Train Take the Strain to Tirol this Winter

If you think flying is the only option for your ski trip to Austria, think again. Train travel may not be the first thing that springs to mind but with improved services and connections, Austria is closer than you think.

Train v Plane

We all know the benefit of train travel in terms of sustainability, but there are some key advantages to skiers in letting the train take the strain.

Increasing charges for skis and luggage v  No charges for skis or luggage

1.5-2 hour check-in v 30-minute check-in time

Long transfers from the airport v Railway stations in resort or a 15-30 minute taxi or bus ride away

Instead of moving from airport queue to airport queue you can sit back, relax and enjoy the journey by train as the scenery glides by. By going overnight you can ski on the day you arrive and depart, giving you two extra days on the slopes.

City Night Line –  Relatively undiscovered by the UK ski market, the City Night Line train is Austria’s answer to the Snow Train.

The resorts of Alpbach, Söll and Hopfgarten are easily accessible using the City Night Line. The journey times are as follows, with adult returns starting from £195. Outbound Depart London St. Pancras 16.02 Eurostar Arrive Paris-Nord 19.17 (change stations) Depart Paris-Est 20.20 City Night Line Arrive Wörgl 09.40

Inbound Depart Wörgl 20.31 City Night Line Arrive Paris-Est 09.23 Depart Paris-Nord 10.13 Eurostar Arrive London St. Pancras* 11.28

Then take a taxi: Worgl to Alpbach (30 mins; €40) Worgl to Soll (15 mins: €22) Worgl to Hopfgarten (15 mins: €22)

Söll Part of the Ski Welt circus, Austria’s largest connected ski area, the resort of Söll has access to over 270km of varied and interesting slopes. Located between the majestic Wilder Kaiser mountains and the Kitzbüheler Alps, the pretty resort offers great value for money, is a popular choice for Brits, with a lively après-ski scene and has top winter wonderland activities for all to enjoy.

How much? A “White Weeks” package at the 3* Hotel Tulpe in January* starts from €570 per person for 7 nights on half board, including a 6 day ski pass Wilder Kaiser – Brixental. (* 8 – 21 Jan 2011). More packages and offers are available at www.wilderkaiser.info

Hopfgarten-Kelchsau-Itter Situated at the foot of the Hohe Salve, the resort of Hopfgarten is located in the heart of the Ski Welt, which has recently been awarded the TOP resort award by the Skiresort Service International. Hopfgarten is Söll’s quieter neighbour, boasting a a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and traditional Tirolean charm.

How much? 7 nights in 3* accommodation starts from € 544,50 per person on half board, including a 6 day ski pass. To book email hopfgarten@hohe-salve.com or call 0043 5335 2322

Alpbach Highly regarded as one of Austria’s most picturesque villages, the charming village of Alpbach is a true winter wonderland and a top choice for families, beginners and intermediates. A wide range of non-ski activities are on offer too, from snowshoeing to sleigh rides and tobogganing. How much? 7 nights at the 4* Hotel Böglerhof in Alpbach starts from €790 per person on half board, including a 6 day Alpbachtal ski pass and weekly activity programme. For more information visit www.boeglerhof.at.

St Anton Extensive and varied slopes, breathtaking scenery, reliable snow, a bustling village atmosphere and some of the best après-ski in the Alps – what more do you want from a resort that has it all! Located in the western part of the Tirol region, St Anton is regarded as one of the top European resorts and it just keeps getting better.

The full daytime journey details to St Anton are as follows: Outbound Depart London St. Pancras 06.22 Eurostar Arrive Paris-Nord 09.47 (change stations) Depart Paris-Est 10.24 TGV Arrive Zurich 15.00 Have a meal at Zurich station Depart Zurich 16.40 Railjet Arrive St Anton am Arlberg 18.57

Inbound Depart St Anton am Arlberg 09.01 EuroCity Arrive Zurich 11.20 Depart Zurich 13.02 TGV Arrive Paris-Est 17.34 Depart Paris-Nord 19.13 Eurostar Arrive London St. Pancras* 20.34 How much? Adult returns start from £195, child returns start from £153. Stay at the centrally located 3* Hotel Ehrenreich in St Anton for 7 nights on half board, with prices starting from €665 per person. To book call 0043 5446 2353.

For more information about train travel to the Alps visit www.snowcarbon.co.uk For more information on the Tirol region – www.visittirol.co.uk

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Spring Events in Slovenia

Picasso Bullfights. Myth. Eros

There are plenty of events taking place to lure you to Slovenia this year! Check out a schedule for this spring:

21st January – 4th April 2010

Pablo Picasso: Bullfights. Myth. Eros
This Ljubljana exhibition of Picasso’s work brings together 11 series of prints, including a selection of prints from the Suite Vollard series that art critics consider to be one of the 20th century’s most important print series. Bullfights, myths and Eros are recurrent themes in these prints. An accompanying programme of workshops, lectures and film screenings will run alongside the exhibition at Mestna Galerija Ljubljana.

6th – 16th February 2010
50th Annual Kurentovanje Festival, Ptuj
This annual takes place in Slovenia’s oldest city, Ptuj, each spring. Kurenti are figures dressed in sheepskin who go around the town wearing masks, a long red tongue, cow bells, multi-coloured ribbons and sometimes feathers and horns. This is one of Slovenia’s most famous carnivals, now in its fiftieth year, which attracts over 100,000 visitors each year. During the festival, Ptuj is alive with music and dancing, competitions and events, plus opportunities to sample local wines and traditional ‘Ptuj chicken’.

12th March 2010
Pruning of the Old Vine

The pruning of the official world’s oldest vine in Maribor is a ceremonious occasion each spring. The town’s vinedresser carries out the pruning and the vine’s scions are then presented by the Mayor of Maribor to selected representatives of other wine growing regions as a sign of friendship and co-operation.

18th – 21st March 2010
Ski Jumping and Ski Flying World Cup Final

Planica, an alpine valley in the northwest of Slovenia is famous for its ski jumping, being the first place for a jump of over 100 metres to be registered and where the current World Record of 239 metres was set in 2005.

From 18th March, spectators can witness some of the world’s top ski jumpers take on the jump at Planica. Traditionally, around 1,500 of the crowd come armed with accordions to play Planica’s famous theme song.
Standing tickets cost from €3 per child / €10 per adult and seated tickets start from €30.
For further information and ticket reservations visit www.planica.si

3rd April 2010
World Book Day

World Book Day marks the official start of Ljubljana’s year-long tenure as the UNESCO World Book Capital. Ljubljana is the tenth city to boast this distinguished title and a series of book-related events will take place in the city throughout the year, marking the honour.

This is just a selection of the events taking place around Slovenia during 2010. For full listings and further event details, see www.Slovenia.info.

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The Start of Slovakia’s Ski Season

mountain-paradiseSlovakia kicked off its ski season this weekend with the opening of the Strbské Pleso resort in the High Tatras.  The resort has a new six seater chairlift that can carry 1200 people per hour and, thanks to its high altitude (1840m) and excellent snow making, is relatively snow-sure from December to April.  In addition to the new chairlift it features another two chairlifts and three cableways.  The total length of Strbské Pleso’s down hill runs is over seven km and there is also extensive ski-touring and night-skiing as well as good free riding for snowboarders.

Mountain Paradise offers a week’s skiing in Strbské Pleso for just £499 per person between January and March 2010 (excluding half-term) and a three-night weekend break for only £375 per person.  While New Year ski breaks departing on 27th December are available from just £699 per person.

Strbské Pleso
Strbské Pleso

Packages include: return flights from London Luton to Poprad (just a two-hour flight), airport transfers to the resort (only 15 minutes), seven- or three-nights accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis in Pension Fortuna, Pension Plesnivec, Pension Sabato or Pension Slalom and a six- or two-day ski pass.

Read more…

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Cross Border Skiing

The 2009/2010 ski season will see the opening of a new cable car and ski piste linking Slovenia’s Kanin resort and Italy’s Sella Nevea resort.  The ski area will be accessible with one lift pass, allowing skiers from both the Slovenian and the Italian sides of the mountain to enjoy the slopes at both resorts.


The internationally connected ski centre will be the first of its kind in an area where, for most of the previous century, there was a strict border divide between the two countries.  Expected to be called Kanin–Canin, the centre will be one of the largest ski areas in Slovenia.

Read more…

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The World’s Most Beautiful Cul-de-sac

Wonderful winter footpaths, optimal ski routes, over 120 km of ski runs and 42 km of cross country ski trails make the Kleinwalsertal a winter paradise. Surrounded on three sides by mountains rising above 2,000 metres, the Kleinwalsertal lies in a natural valley undisturbed by traffic and noise. During the winter, this area, together with Oberstdorf, constitutes the largest Austro-German ski region, and has much to offer. The Kleinwalsertal enclave, once settled by farmers from the Valais region, is Austrian territory as such, but can only be accessed from Germany. For over a hundred years, it has effectively been a German economic region following a customs agreement.


The Kleinwalsertal ski area offers comprehensive packages and events for sports enthusiasts, families, and those in search of adventure. Together with the Ifen and the Walmendingerhorn, there are countless carving and powdering facilities for alpine skiers, snowboarders, Telemark skiers and ski touring fans. A single ski pass for 52 lifts and 74 ski runs makes experiencing the entire valley fun and easy. There are also countless huts, pubs and hotel bars in the villages of Riezlern, Hirschegg, Mittelberg and Baad for that pleasant wintry pastime known as après-ski.

Read more…

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