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The northernmost republic of what was once Yugoslavia, Slovenia currently appears the most stable, prosperous and welcoming of all Europe's erstwhile communist countries. It was always the richest and most westernized of the Yugoslav federation, and apart from the Ten-Day War which brought it independence in 1991, it has avoided the strife which has plagued the republics to the south. For centuries, Slovenia was administered by German-speaking overlords and was, until 1918, part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Slovenes absorbed the culture of their captors during this period while managing to retain a strong sense of ethnic identity through the Slav-rooted Slovene language, a close relation of Czech, Serbo-Croat and Slovak.

Slovenia's landscape is as varied as it is beautiful: along the Austrian border the Julian Alps provide stunning mountain scenery, most accessibly at Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj ; further south, the brittle karst scenery is riddled with spectacular caves like those at Postojna . Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana , is easily the best of the cities, a vital, youthful place, manageably small and cluttered with Baroque and Habsburg buildings, while the short stretch of Slovenian coast, along the northern edge of the Istrian peninsula, is punctuated by a couple of towns that were among the most attractive resorts of the former Yugoslavia - Piran and Portoroz - not to mention the port of Koper , with its appealingly ancient centre. Despite its relative isolation in the eastern part of the country, the attractively preserved town of Ptuj is also well worth a visit.