The little village that we have been living in for the last 10 years is named Gradenc and lies in the southwest of Slovenia. It only has about 20 occupied houses and probably as many empty ones, most of them almost falling apart. Gradenc has a small church and that’s it. No shop, no bar, nothing. It does have nice people and lots of green around.
The nearest town is called Žužemberk and it’s 5 kilometers away. It has a post office, a bakery, a small supermarket, a few bars and also a family doctor and dentist. We do our shopping once a week in the city of Novo mesto, which is a half-hour drive away. In Novo mesto you can find lots of different supermarkets like Lidl, Hofer, Spar, etc. and other »European« shops like H&M, C&A, Tedi, Mueller, etc. It also has a MacDonalds and lots of other restaurants. When we moved to Slovenia, in 2003, most of these shops were not here yet.
The first few years, when we lived near Kranj, we used to go to Austria once every few weeks, just across the border, to do our shopping in the Hofer (Aldi) and Spar supermarkets. Slovenia had a supermarket chain called Mercator but it was more expensive and did not have certain »European« products that I was used to. After a few years however, new shops and complete malls were built in no time. Slovenia changed incredibly fast. Small village supermarkets went bankrupt. Small private shops as well. They could no longer compete with the big chains that came to Slovenia. It was sad to see. On the other hand, I was happy with all the new, modern shops and supermarkets. The shopping list I made for my parents every time they came here, got smaller and smaller. I don’t really miss a lot of things from the Netherlands. Of course, there are some foods that are still not available here but it’s not a problem. My parents still bring a few things and whenever we visit the Netherlands (which is not that much anymore) we go overboard on all the things we haven’t been able to eat.
It’s funny for me to see how so many people still think that Slovenia is a poor and backward country. Literally every one of my family, friends and colleagues that have been to Slovenia for the first time over the years, were completely surprised by how modern and beautiful it is. I guess you have to see it to believe it.
Slovenia only has 2 million inhabitants while it is about half the size of the Netherlands, which has 17 million! So you can imagine that we have lots of space here. Slovenia consists of 64% of forest and although most people heat their houses with wood, the percentage of forest is still growing every year. That makes it the third greenest country in Europe, after Finland and Sweden. On an overall scale of greenest countries, looking at waste, energy, greenhouse gases, air quality, fresh water, and forests, Slovenia takes a 7th place in Europe. I see and feel that every day!