Slovenia

Ratings Key:

A: Choice and/or quality of drinks: /10

B: Style and décor: /10

C: Atmosphere and feel: /10

D: Amenities, Events & Community: /10

E: Value for money: /10

F: The Pub Going Factor: /10

Bled

8/10

  • Red n’ Black – A: 8/10 B: 8/10 C: 8/10 D: 6/10 E: 6/10 F: 8/10
  • Gostilna Pri Planincu – A: 6/10 B: 9/10 C: 9/10 D: 7/10 E: 6/10 F: 8/10

Ljubljana

9/10

  • Yalla Yalla – A: 4/10 B: 9/10 C: 9/10 D: 7/10 E: 9/10 F: 9/10

8/10

  • Gostilna Sokol – A: 6/10 B: 9/10 C: 7/10 D: 7/10 E: 6/10 F: 8/10

Very few little countries have such a fascinating blend of influences as Slovenia. Although you can get from one side to the other in a couple of hours, Slovenia takes in Italian, Mediterranean and Venetian through it’s little Istrian coastal stretch and karst landscape to the West. To the south and east you have some areas that are more classically Yugoslavian, while the capital city and the border to the North are unmistakably Austrian and Bohemian in feel. Somewhere in between all this, in the lush, rolling, almost felt-like smooth looking foothills of the Julian Alps Slovenians carve out their own identity as well.

As with a lot of recent new republics, the national character is perhaps best displayed through the verve and positivity of the children and young adults of that generation, and this certainly helps add to its pub and bar scene.

Where once there may have been a clear choice between visiting smokey old-man sports bars or the more rounded  family-friendly appeal of the Gostilnas, there are many alternative places to go to in Ljubljana, Kranj, Ptuj and even smaller towns like Bled.

Ljubljana’s hippy commune Metelkova is a must-visit, although don’t expect even the kind of comfort you would find in a Budapest ruin-pub – it’s basic in the extreme. Ljubljana also has a nice array of alternative, studenty type pubs, albeit seems lacking the kind of outright pub that I crave.

Out in the countryside, anything labelled a Gostilna must be considered of interest, particularly now the country have declared the Gostilna itself a national icon. These inns offer plenty of home comforts – roaring fires, chunky homely furniture and enormous, truly enormous portions of home cooking, along with – usually – a very small bar area to hang around and shoot the shit. They work in a very similar way to the pubs and inns in England’s national parks, managing to create a homely feel despite a lot of transient custom.

What a shame then, that despite all these influences, Slovenia’s two largest beers are utterly crap, Union in particular being a derisory attempt at lager, while Lasko, reasonable at first, becomes quickly grating. After a few of these you’ll be scratching around for imported Austrian beer – but before doing so take a look at Lasko Tamno, their dark beer, which is, I’m pleased to report, worth a drink.

It’s hard not to have an enjoyable time in Slovenia despite the beer options being way behind the times, but given the entire beer scene is on an upward curve at the moment, here’s hoping Slovenia can join the party. Their pre-occupation with rustic ideals reminded me of Lithuania, where brewing has taken off from seemingly nowhere, and it would be nice to think in medium sized towns they could support their own brewery – the template exists, they just need a few people with enough interest and some supportive banks.