Slovenia is a popular tourist destination. Since the US presidential campaign was launched however the southern European country is being talked like never before, because this is where Melania Trump was born.
When Melanija Knavs drove around Ljubljanain a fluffy skirt on a metallic blue Vespa with her boyfriend in the late 1980s, the Slovenian capital was a sleepy town that offered little excitement to rare visitors.
Over the past two decades since she left her native Slovenia, became a model known as Melania Knauss and married American billionaire Donald Trump, Ljubljana has turned from a gray and drab place with almost no nightlife, into a lively and picturesque city filled with restaurants, cafes and nightclubs packed with foreigners.
Small dragons and green-lit castles
The heart of the city has been closed to traffic, though, so Ms. Trump would no longer be able to ride by scooter to her favorite cafe near Tromostovje - the charming stone triple bridge in the heart of the city decorated with small dragon-like statues.
She would also hardly recognize the renovated downtown since she last visited. The city is dominated by a majestic castle on a hill by the river Ljubljana that splits the town into two. At night, the castle is lit bright green, the city's traditional color. A boat cruise along the river reveals spectacular architecture while street artists play music and perform for visitors.
The city's center on the banks of the river offers romantic dining and other excellent culinary offerings, including an open kitchen on Fridays when chefs prepare international dishes on makeshift stands that serve as an open-air market the other days of the week.
"Putting Slovenia on the map"
Slovenia, which has become one of Europe's hottest nature destinations after splitting from Yugoslaviain 1991, is privileged to have both an opening onto the Adriatic Seaas well as chunks of the Alps.
Slovenia has often been confused in the past with another small central European state, Slovakia. But since Donald Trump joined the presidential race in the US., his wife and potential first lady have come into public limelight, along with the country where she was born and raised. "Whatever you think of Melania, she put Sloveniaon the map of the world," said Janez Bosnjak, a Ljubljana resident.
More tourists than residents
Born in the hilly industrial town of Sevnicain 1970 when Sloveniawas part of Communist Yugoslavia, Ms. Trump's early life has come under media scrutiny - especially after her official biography had her graduating from the Ljubljana university.
For tourists, Ljubljana is the perfect jumping-off point for daily trips to other attractions. The city is the eco-friendly European Green Capital for 2016, and it's located in central Slovenia. The country, which has 2 million people, offers an abundance of contrasting landscapes and cultures. More than 2.4 million tourists visited in 2014, more than triple the number who visited in 1995.
One must-see destination northwest of Ljubljana is Lake Bled where emerald-green waters create a spectacular landscape, with a lush, tiny island and a church tower peeking out of evergreens surrounded by the rocky Julian Alps.
It was at lakeside Grand Hotel Toplice in Bled where Ms. Trump introduced Donald Trump to her parents during their brief visit to Slovenia in July 2002, two years before they engaged. It is believed that it was the last time that the former model visited her native country.