Slovenia

The Slovenian Pub Scene – Click Here To Read More

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.

BLED

BRONZE AWARD

Red n’ Black
Cesta svobode 8, 4260 Bled, Slovenia

Quality and/or choice of drinks –8/10
Style and Decor – 8/10
Character, Atmosphere and/or Local Life – 8/10
Amenities, Events & Community – 6/10
Value for Money – 6/10
The Pub-Going Factor – 8/10

Gostilna Pri Planincu
Grajska cesta 8, 4260 BLED, Slovenia

gostilnapriplanincu

Grajska cesta 8, 4260 Bled, Slovenia

The offerings and special experience of the Slovenian ‘Gostilna’ have in recent years become the subject of sentimental revival in the country, partly due to a period of national reflection, but also in acknowledgement of their slow and gradual disappearance as international restaurants took their place and globalisation promoted chains over independent character. As a response the Slovenian government, with the aid of the EU have now trademarked the ‘Gostilna Slovenija’ in their ongoing attempt to promote and rationalise what is an important and distinct offering in an otherwise dinky and Slavic-influenced country.

The Gostilna is the nearest place you can think of to an English country inn, a large but very homely venue, predominantly serving food but also offering rustic pub-like elements that invite a longer stay or an evening visit purely for a pint or two. Originally these began through landlords inviting guests around to taste their local food and wine. In the countryside these venues offer a home away from home, roaring fires, hearty food and shelter from harsh weather. In addition to that Slovenia takes a break from the usual sullen Slavic service and in a Gostilna you can expect to be treated like a host treats a guest at their house.

As a small town in the foothills of the Julian Alps, Bled is well placed to offer a good Gostilna, and there are a few worthy venues in town. The greatest of all is Gostilna Pri Planincu, both a cracking country restaurant of true history (continually serving since 1903)  authenticity, and a to all intents a characterful local pub.

The service was efficient, ruthlessly polite and cheerful, and the food arrived in suitably mountainous portions, after a reassuringly lengthy wait. Our whole table were in approval at the flavour of the food and the way it seemed to tower over us at our seats. The dining occurs in evocative country surroundings that feel real, aged with time and use rather than kitsch and plastic. Little oddities such as the stuffed witch character hanging from the ceiling are precisely the sort of oddity you wouldn’t find in a chain or modern bar (perhaps a very affectatious one).

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Slovenia’s own beer options are still limited at the time of writing but Lasko Zlatorog is a bearable lager for the first pint, so long as you get it on tap, and you may find some Austrian and German offerings if that doesn’t float your boat. There are Primator parasols in the beer garden of late, so if they’ve brought along Primator for the ride, that will increase the rating above it’s current level.

The pub area is saloon bar style, typically countrified and has an obsession with car registration plates and bike ephemera that cover more of the walls and ceilings than you’d first expect. There is also a showpiece ceramic heater giving central heating of the kind you usually see in high medieval mansions which takes up a quarter of the room itself.

On a trip out into the countryside it would be difficult to create a venue more desirable to visit than this excellent Gostilna. A hike in the beautiful surroundings of Bled followed by a portion of hearty home cooking in a wonderful welcoming pub. The only improvements I can think of would be longer opening hours for the bar area and a physical extension to it, which would elevate the place to a 10/10. As it is, the place is well worth your while.

  • Quality and/or choice of drinks – 6/10
  • Style and Decor – 9/10
  • Character, Atmosphere and/or Local Life – 9/10
  • Amenities, Events & Community – 7/10
  • Value for Money – 6/10
  • F: The Pub-Going Factor –  8/10

LJUBLJANA

SILVER AWARD

Jalla Jalla
Metelkova ulica 6, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

Quality and/or choice of drinks –4/10
Style and Decor – 9/10
Character, Atmosphere and/or Local Life – 9/10
Amenities, Events & Community – 7/10
Value for Money – 9/10
The Pub-Going Factor – 9/10

BRONZE AWARD

Gostilna Sokol
Ciril-Metodov trg 18, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

Quality and/or choice of drinks –6/10
Style and Decor – 9/10
Character, Atmosphere and/or Local Life – 7/10
Amenities, Events & Community – 7/10
Value for Money – 6/10
The Pub-Going Factor – 8/10