During the years I lived abroad I took many trips to Slovenia, my home country.
When I think about life in Slovenia I think of beautiful pristine nature. Endless forests and wildflower meadows everywhere you look. Memories of exploring mountains, lakes, rivers, and the sea are still very vivid and remain strongly rooted in who I am.
Gardening and an Active Life Outdoors
When I think about Slovenians I also think of people enjoying their time in gardens – those proper large gardens next to your house, with fruit trees and blackberries and strawberries. And of course, a vegetable patch. You won’t find any fake grass in Slovenia and the gardens are there to be actively used – for relaxing, tending to plants, and for barbecues and socializing.
Because of so much space, Slovenians try to make the most of it. Growing some of your food is a very important part of our culture.
And the main reason for this is the unbeatable flavor and high nutrition value. Because those homegrown tomatoes have the best flavor in the world. A green salad that has been harvested just a minute ago has now landed on your plate. Can it get any better? 🙂
Slovenians also like to be healthy. Everyone seems to know a lot about health, it’s highly valued and important. There is a saying: If you don’t have your health you don’t have anything.
Therefore it’s difficult to find a Slovenian who doesn’t do some type of outdoor sports. I would even say they are a bit obsessed with outdoor activities. In a good way of course :).
It’s either walking, hiking, or cycling, and in the winter, all the winter sports you can possibly imagine. Some Slovenians do sports every day before work or after work. Now those are some hardcore enthusiasts. They hike up to proper hills and mountains before they even start their day!
My Connection to Nature was Always There
Growing up in Slovenia I was connected to nature ever since I was a baby. Wherever we lived – there was always a forest nearby, meadows, and of course our vegetable garden.
I loved it without even realizing it. Every day I was out in the sun collecting flowers, watering beans, and finding all sorts of treasures.
And sometimes I would see deer come very close and she just hung out. Every morning on our way to school we drove past deer eating grass by the forest, having their breakfast. And every time my dad would go: Hey, look at the deer. They’re so happy.
It was a fun and active childhood. If I could describe my childhood in words I would say it was intriguing, healthy, and adventurous.
I miss having that freedom and spending time outdoors. Where you have enough hours in the day, even after school, that you can play freely, without any instructions. You would always find something to do or you would make up your own stories and games with other kids in the village.
Looking back, it was a bit idyllic.
The Changing Seasons
Life in Slovenia is closely tied up with the changing seasons. The activities are connected to nature and rooted in traditions which is something that is often long forgotten in some other countries.
In autumn we would usually go out and forage for sweet chestnuts. You wouldn’t take a lot from nature, but enough for you and your family. And it was a fun experience for both children and adults alike. You spend the day in nature and at home, you enjoy its fruits. Nature gives so much to us.
I remember the smell of chestnuts while meeting family and friends over a big fire. Roasted chestnuts taste the best. I also vividly remember the fresh smell of the forest. Spending time in forests is one of my happiest memories.
The other thing that we would do, and people still do it nowadays, is going foraging for mushrooms. You learn in school to be careful to not pick the red one with white dots, that’s the poisonous one. Teachers in kindergarten and in schools teach you at a very young age, which mushrooms are the good ones and which ones are bad.
Foraging for mushrooms becomes something you do every season and it is part of our culture. With this comes mindfulness and living close to nature – by learning from a young age about which plants and fruits are edible and can be foraged.
Sometimes my dad would go into the forest in the morning, and he would find some mushrooms and then make them for breakfast. It was so fresh, even the eggs would be fresh from a farmer.
I have always cherished this part of our culture, that inevitable link we have with nature and our forests. It’s not surprising, as more than 70% of Slovenia is covered with forests.
You Don’t Always See What You Have Until It’s Gone
The experiences from my early childhood instilled in me this incredibly strong connection with nature.
And I think no matter how lost I get in my life, nature will always be there for me and I will always be able to feel the connection. In a very powerful and mindful way where I can simply sit in a forest and notice so many details. And the hours fly by.
The small details of the natural world aren’t always noticed by everyone. And when I suggest to others to touch something or smell it they look at me as if I have gone mad. Living slowly and intentionally is the right way of life, at least for me.
Try it – look closely at a leaf, It’s so colorful. Touch the tree bark and the soft green moss. This is what nature means to me.
During my short trips to Slovenia, I increasingly spent more time outdoors, soaking up the views and letting the forests nurture me. I let go and surrendered.
Being able to feel sunshine on my skin and see so many colors, was just so different from my day-day life back in the UK. Most days in Slovenia the sky will be blue, and because there are plenty of forests everywhere I can get lost in a new one every week. And I can swim in lakes and rivers and the warm Adriatic sea.
I know that when you move abroad you begin to romanticize your home country. I also know that Slovenia is far from perfect.
But when it comes to landscapes and nature Slovenia really is a paradise, a true hidden gem tucked away on the Sunny Side of the Alps.
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