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The postcard perfect village of Kobarid is Slovenia’s unofficial culinary capital, boasting many of the country’s top restaurants including chef Ana Ros’s Hiša Franko. (Image: Paolo Petrignani/www.slovenia.info)

Why Melania Trump's birthplace, Slovenia, should be on your bucket list

During my first visit to Slovenia last year, I had one recurring thought: When do I get to meet Shrek?!

That might sound silly until you learn that this little (about the size of New Jersey) Central European country is home to dozens of beautiful castles and medieval villages. Naturally, I felt like I was part of a modern day fairytale.

Friends who know of my trips and interest in Slovenia have suddenly started asking me a multitude of questions about the country. These inquisitive friends fall into two camps: the political junkies who want to know about the home county of Melania Trump, the wife of U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, and the foodies who have become fans of Slovenian chef Ana Roš, one of the stars of the second season of Netflix’ Chef’s Table.

So a potential First Lady and a celebrity chef have suddenly propelled Slovenia into the forefront of many Americans’ minds. I’ll take it! It deserves the attention, and the timing couldn’t be better; formerly part of Yugoslavia, Slovenia is currently celebrating its 25th year of independence.

Let’s address some of the questions my friends have been asking about Slovenia.

Where is it? As previously mentioned, Slovenia is located in Central Europe. It sits to the east of Italy, south of Austria, west of Hungary and north of Croatia. Its geography spans from the Mediterranean Sea to the Alps and provides breathtaking natural beauty.

Is it safe? According to the U.S. State Department, the overall crime rate in Slovenia is low. The country has even been ranked among the safest in the world. I felt very comfortable during each of my visits.

Do they speak English there? More than half of Slovenian’s speak English and nearly all young adults are fluent. In addition to their native language of Slovene, or Slovenian, you will hear many residents also speaking German, Italian, Croatian, Hungarian and many others languages. Slovenia is among the most multilingual countries in Europe.

How is the food? As chef Ana Roš is now showing --and many others have known for years -- Slovenia’s culinary scene is phenomenal. Farm-to-table has always been and continues to remain the rule. And the country has a wine-making history that dates back hundreds of years.

What is there to do? It’s rather cliché to say, but there is really is something for everyone. The country’s size and geography provide the opportunity to experience a whole lot in a very short amount of time. During the course of a few days I was able to swim in the Mediterranean Sea, tour wineries among rolling vineyards, visit world class museums in the historic capital city of Ljubljana, and relax at one of the countries famed thermal spas.

When is the best time to visit? With an abundance of green spaces and preserved natural attractions, Slovenia shows its best sides during the warmer months of the year, roughly May through October. However, travelers who enjoy winter sports and activities flock to Slovenia’s Alpine region come December through April.

Of course, the best way to find answers about Slovenia is to visit. I’m already planning my next trip.

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