Slovenia is known abroad primarily for its natural beauty—the idyllic beauty of Bled Island, the pristine wilderness of Soča Valley, the intricacy of Škocjan Park, the serenity of Sečovlje Saltworks, the hilarity of Slovene Hills ... Europeans come here to watch ski jumping, the Czechs and the Slovaks to climb mountains, the Croatians prefer skiing, the Russians seek refuge in health resorts; some criss-cross Slovenia on a bike, others glide along in a kayak. In their quest for authentic experience, visitors gorge on Idrija dumplings, žlikrofi, feast on layered cake known as prekmurska gibanica, and bring their days to a close by sampling prosciutto and sipping teran.

The treasure trove of Slovene natural beauty—which, luckily, speaks for itself—has been put on full display: recreational tourists promise to visit again while gastro-tourists struggle to find the words to describe the deliciousness of local offerings. And yet—have you ever heard of anyone saying they were headed to Slovenia to attend the Lent Festival? To explore Plečnik’s architecture? To see the exhibition of ancient Greek science and technology in Cankarjev Dom? Or to at least welcome spring at the Kurentovanje carnival in Ptuj?

Sure, all of us have that one Finnish friend who has always wanted to attend Metal Days, now that Rock Otočec is gone. In reality, however, even our closest neighbours are few and far between at Ljubljana Festival; you will seldom see them dancing at Druga godba, let alone attending the horror-filled Grossman festival or the theatre-inspired Borštnikovo srečanje. And what about literary festivals, all the more affected by language barriers? Slovene national promotions of cultural tourism seem to guard them as the apple of our eye.

Not for lack of happening. These days, Ptuj is brimming with visitors of the Days of Poetry and Wine; for those preferring short fiction there is the Novo mesto Short. Before August is out, Ljubljana’s Živa književnost will follow up with a dialogue of literature and music; soon after, it is time for Vilenica, a festival with a 35-year tradition. By November’s Book Fair, which attracts up to 30,000 Slovene visitors, autumn will be fully rounded out by Forum Tomizza, a fruitful initiative of Istrian cities jointly envisioned by the Slovene Koper, Croatian Umag and Italian Trieste. Not to mention an abundance of other festivals taking place throughout the year. With a population of mere 2 million, Slovenia boasts at least 15 annual literary festivals, a megalomaniac subject of embarrassment in many conversations with my friends abroad.

However, to the proverbially humble Slovene folk—historically speaking, a nation founded »on the book«—this number is not at all surprising. After all, Slovenia yearly awards a total of 20 literary prizes; in comparison, only paltry eight are awarded in the field of music. It is just the foreigners who never seem to learn about our »obsession« with literature. As they wander the streets of Ljubljana and Celje, they are thus quietly puzzled by the over-abundance of statues of poets and writers—and a concomitant lack of military generals. Apart from in Vrba, the birthplace of the greatest Slovene poet, France Prešeren (1800-1849), and Vrhnika, which is excellent at turning a profit by virtue of being the birthplace of Ivan Cankar (1876–1918), our greatest writer and playwright, there are no souvenirs of literary Slovenia to be had. Because there aren’t any. In recent years, at least the lucky few can take the Ljubljana Moustache Tour.

A country whose number of titles published yearly (5,000) per size of population places it at the very top of European production should have a decidedly more bushy imagination when it comes to funding and promoting cultural tourism. Not only because this is one of the fastest growing segments in global tourism, but also because three years ago the national tourism strategy envisioned Slovenia as a niche destination for the more discerning visitor. Slovenia will host the 2025 European Capital of Culture; it will also be the guest of honour at the 2022 Bologna Children's Book Fair and a year after that at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The latter, in particular, is proven to exert a multiplier effect when it comes to promoting a country as a tourist destination. Of course, all of this would entail having a cultural policy that would safeguard the continuity of national artistic production, to begin with by proposing a new national programme for culture—Slovenia has been without one since the distant 2018. Until then, however, the well-known Slovene tourist brand I feel Slovenia is guaranteed to further multiply unwanted effects.