‘Majestic Slovenia’ with AHI International

By Jo K. Lasich
This item appears on page 12 of the October 2021 issue.

There were 16 group members on the 8-day “Majestic Slovenia” tour that I returned from on July 24, 2021, and five of us were related (four cousins and a husband). Traveling with us on the tour by AHI International Corporation (Chicago, IL; 800/323-7373, ahitravel.com) was our helpful AHI Tour Director, Ivana Gavran. Ivana is Croatian but very knowledgeable about Slovenia.

The trip was originally offered in the spring of 2019, and our reservation was scheduled for May 29-June 5, 2020. When COVID reared its ugly head, the trip was rescheduled, first to August-September 2020 and then to July 2021.

Our Delta Air Lines tickets had been held for the 2020 trip, but we canceled to reschedule when the date changed to 2021. Thanks to Delta’s COVID cancellation policy, we received full refunds.

When we heard from AHI in mid-May 2021 that the trip was a go, we were surprised. As travel to Slovenia wasn’t being advised in May 2021 due to COVID, we checked with several sources to determine if we should even make the trip. After some serious soul-searching, and learning that AHI wasn’t running this trip in 2022 and that they would offer us vouchers for a future trip should we cancel out, we decided to make the journey.

My three cousins and I are of Slovenian descent, and we (plus a spouse) arranged to stay over an extra day for a trip to the villages of Vinica and Gorny Suhor, whence our grandparents and great-grandparents had emigrated to Butte, Montana.

I paid $3,790 for the land trip, which included two extra nights at our hotel, the InterContinental Ljubljana. I had a room of my own.

We made our own flight arrangements instead of using AHI’s FlexAir plan. My business/first-class ticket round trip on Delta (Bozeman-Minneapolis-Paris-Ljubljana) cost $2,956.

We wore masks from the time we entered the airport in Bozeman, Montana, until we left the airport in Ljubljana, Slovenia, including in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). It was the same on the way back.

On our outbound flight, I showed my vaccination card (along with my passport) when I checked in with Delta at Bozeman. Much to my surprise, I didn’t have to show the vaccination card upon entry at CDG, but I did show it when we boarded the flight to Ljubljana.

AHI had told us that, vaccinated or not, we would have to have a negative COVID test to get back into the US, but they said they would schedule the test for us.

One of my cousins was refusing vaccination. She didn’t face any discrimination from the rest of the group, and, since this was a “no single supplement” tour, she was able to have her own room.

Toward the end of our trip, Ivana told us when the COVID tests would be given at our hotel (in a public room right off the lobby) within the 72-hour pre-departure window. As the five of us were staying an extra day, she had made arrangements for our tests to be administered a day later. She also gave us forms to complete to give to the airlines before departure. The COVID test results were emailed to each of us, and the hotel obligingly made hard copies.

When we had received our final trip documents from AHI, they indicated that we’d have to also complete a form attesting that we had taken COVID tests within 72 hours of our reentry to the US but said they would give us that in Slovenia.

Going from Ljubljana to Paris on our way back, we didn’t have to show any documentation. When we boarded the Delta/Air France flight in Paris for Minneapolis, we turned in hard copies of both the negative COVID test and the attestation form. Once back in the US, we didn’t have to show any COVID forms or vaccination cards for our flight back to Bozeman.

So how was the tour?

From Ljubljana, the tour group took day trips to different places. These included jaunts to Logarska Dolina (I sat out the hike to the waterfalls); a winery and wine tasting in Štarjerska; Postojna Cave; Predjama Castle; the towns of Portoroz and Piran; Lake Bled, and a honey-producing farm. Seeing Lipizzaner horses in their native habitat at Lipica, an old, historic stud farm, was a thrill!

We did a couple of walking tours in Ljubljana, and a boat ride on the Ljubljanica River gave us a whole different perspective of the city. Ljubljana has lots of sidewalk eateries, so on nights when we were on our own for supper, we never got far from the hotel before stopping somewhere for a bite to eat.

In Slovenia, we wore our masks in public places — in our hotel, elevators, etc. If we tried to enter a store bare-faced, we were quickly reminded to “mask up.”

Our tour directors asked the group if they felt comfortable not wearing masks when it was just us together, whether in the lecture room, on the bus or just in general. Most nodded their heads, so there was agreement. We were a small group, and it was a large bus.

An all-around assistant to Ivana was the guide Mr. Janez Kopar (phone +386 40 300 821, j.kopar@gmail.com), who gave very interesting “history enrichment” lectures.

On our “extra” day in Slovenia, we cousins traveled with a car and driver to the small towns from which our grandparents and great-grandparents had emigrated. It was a thrill to see their names and baptismal records in the big church books. It also was great fun to spend time laughing with my cousins!

Both Ivana and Janez indicated how hard the past year had been for the people of Slovenia and for anyone involved with the tourist industry. We were all very happy to be able to help out Slovenian tourism.

Dillon, MT