And as Slovenians grapple with their sense of nationhood, the country is developing a character all its own.
Czech it out
Ljubljana is often compared to Prague. Certainly it offers similar views of cobbled squares lined with gabled buildings, and a nightlife liberally peppered with stag and hen-dos.
But factor in an air of laid-back nonchalance – courtesy of its student population – and it offers a marked alternative to the bustle of the Czech capital.
Uniquely Slovenian: Sip a coffee on the banks of the Ljubljanica River, wander through Park Tivoli, or catch the funicular to the castle.
The Balkans’ recent history has left its mark on Ljubljana. Socialism under Tito was different to that in Eastern Bloc states, but the results were much the same.
The Metelkova area, in the shell of a former Yugoslav army barracks, has a similar feel to areas of modern East Berlin.
The ghetto is now home to galleries, bars and clubs.
Uniquely Slovenian: Stay in the Celica Youth Hostel (souhostel.com). Built in a former prison, the dorms come complete with bars on the door.
Vila Bled, Tito’s country retreat, offers another reminder of the past.
But it’s the fairy-tale scenery that makes Bled popular.
The alpine vista of deep blue lake backed by snowcapped peaks matches Switzerland’s famous landscape – without the Swiss price tag.
Skiing in nearby Triglav National Park costs from €25 for a full-day lift pass. In summer, the stunning glacial lake at Bohinj is a popular spot for cycling and kayaking.
Uniquely Slovenian: Take a row boat to the Church of the Assumption on an island in the middle of Lake Bled.
Advance Austria Fair
In Slovenia’s hinterland, it’s not just the view of wide, verdant pastures spreading between the mountains that will remind you of Austria.
The famous white horses of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna are in fact Lipizzaners from the Karst region. You can visit the stud farm in Lipica where the beasts are trained.
Uniquely Slovenian: Check out the spectacular cave systems of the Karst region, formed by the drip of water through limestone over millennia.
The French connection
The Karst region has another major draw – its wineries.
The red Refosco grape thrives in the rolling hills, and the wines here are sublime.
Slovenia’s vineyards cover an area similar in size to the Bordeaux region of France, and the wines are of exquisite quality.
Sample as many as you can – a cellar door tour is ideal – as the export market remains limited.
Uniquely Slovenian: If you’re partial to beer try the two Slovenian tipples: Laško and Union.
Flavours of Italy
With Italy just across the border, it’s no surprise Slovenians enjoy a good drop. The pizza is top notch too.
But it’s Slovenia’s 46km coastline that bears the most similarity to its Italian counterpart – it lies near the Trieste region at the base of the Adriatic.
Gaze across to Venice from the seafront of the medieval town of Portorož, or make like the glitterati of the Neapolitan Riviera in the resort town of Piran.
Uniquely Slovenian: Try some dark chocolate from Piran, delicately flavoured with salt blossom from the salt pans.
» Claire Goodall travelled with Visit Slovenia (020 7928 6108) and Adria Airways . Flights start at £170 return.