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March 24, 2021

Slovenia: True Friend of Nepali Mountaineering

– Aswin Kumar Shrestha

Capital city Ljubljana.
  • Slovene alpinists summitted the peak of Annapurna II in 1964, and Kanchanjangha in 1969. Seven alpinists of then Yugoslavia summitted the peak of Makalu under the leadership of Mr. Ales Kunaver, Alpinist in 1975. Journalist, Mr. Zoran Jerin, wrote two books with the title “Nepal opens its door” and “Himalaya I like you”.
  • After successfully leading the Yugoslav expedition to Makalu in 1975, Mr. Ales Kunaver was in great dilemma to choose to lead the expedition to Mount Everest planned for 1979 or to establish a school for mountain guides in Nepal. He chose the latter requested the Government of then Yugoslavia to establish a mountain guide school in Manang, which was approved. The School was inaugurated solemnly by Right Honorable Prime Minister Mr. Surya Bahadur Thapa on 13th November 1980, though the first course took place one year before the inauguration in 1979.
Honorary Consul General of Nepal to Slovenia Aswin Kumar Shrestha.

First Slovene peoples to visit Nepal: Mr. Ales Kunaver, Head for Foreign Mountains of the Alpine Association of Slovenia, and Mr. Zoran Jerin, Journalist were the first to visit Nepal in 1962. The main objective of their visit was to know about the country and people of Nepal and to understand the possibilities of summitting mountains of Nepal.

Slovene visitors to Nepal: Slovene people visit Nepal as alpinists, for trekking, cultural tourism either in a group or as an individual tourist. Slovenia although has just over 2 million population, 17 Slovene alpinists summitted Mt. Everest. One unique example of the Slovene expedition is that Mr. Andrej Stremfelj together with Mr. Jernej Zaplotnik became the first to climb Mt. Everest directly from the south on 13th May 1979 which is considered to be the most difficult and nobody has summitted like this so far. Another Slovene record is that Mr. Andrej and Mrs. Marija Stremfelj were the first married couple in the world to summit Mt. Everest. Likewise, while Mr. Viki Grosselj has summitted 10 peaks over 8000 m high from different continents, Mr. Davo Karnicar has summitted Mt. Everest and skied down as the first alpinist in the world in 2000. Unfortunately, 17 Slovene alpinists have remained in the Himalayas due to different kinds of accidents during the summit. Approximately 300 to 400 tourists from Slovenia visit Nepal every year. Nepal, unfortunately, does not have a proper record of the visits of Slovene tourists.

Slovenian people during Nepal visit.

Promotion of Nepal by Slovene people: Slovene alpinists summitted the peak of Annapurna II in 1964, and Kanchanjangha in 1969. Seven alpinists of then Yugoslavia summitted the peak of Makalu under the leadership of Mr. Ales Kunaver, Alpinist in 1975. Journalist, Mr. Zoran Jerin, wrote two books with the title “Nepal opens its door” and “Himalaya I like you”. Both books were accepted very positively in the Republic of Slovenia, which contributed a lot to the promotion of Nepal in Slovenia. The visitors from Slovenia, upon return, do share their experiences, write some articles, give interviews about their successful summit to the Himalayas, about the Nepalese people, culture, cultural heritage of Nepal and make a lot of promotion of Nepal in Slovenia. Mr. Ales Kunaver and Mr. Zoran Jerin gave a good presentation about Nepal, and also organized an exhibition of Nepali garments, handicrafts in wood, metals, etc. where I also exhibited Chainpure Karuwa for drinking water, Anti for Rakshi, Khukuri, from my birth town Chainpur, Sankhuwasabha in the premises of Slovene Ethnographic Museum in 1982. The Ambassador Mr. Suresh Prasad Pradhan from the Embassy of Berlin, Germany awarded the title of the “Ambassadors of Tourism of Nepal” to 8 successful alpinists of Slovenia during the year “Visit Nepal in 2010”.

Nepal from the eyes of Slovene people: The Slovene alpinists, trekkers, and tourists of the Cultural tourism mention in their article, interview or books about Nepal the architecture of the temples, kindness of the Nepali people, and their smile on the face despite of their moderate economic situation. They like the simple food Daal – Bhat, Momos, and Chhyang from finger millet – Kodo. They appreciate the facilities of the cottages on the way to their expedition or trekking.

Manang Mountaineering School.

Slovenia’s contribution to mountaineering in Nepal: After successfully leading the Yugoslav expedition to Makalu in 1975, Mr. Ales Kunaver was in great dilemma to choose to lead the expedition to Mount Everest planned for 1979 or to establish a school for mountain guides in Nepal. He chose the latter made a request to the Government of then Yugoslavia to establish a mountain guide school in Manang, which was approved. Therefore, he handed over the responsibility for the Mt. Everest summit project of 1979 to Mr. Tone Skarja. Mr. Ales Kunaver was keenly interested to help the people of remote places in the Himalayas of Nepal and offer them some professional certificate or license with which they could be qualified to get a better job for a better life. He had the desire to empower the mountain guides and porters to provide them the knowledge on safe climbing high mountains, technical skills to climb the Himalaya, proper use of the tools, the knowledge of rescue in climbing, etc. Mr. Ales Kunaver asked me to suggest the architecture of schools in Nepal to which I shared how we build houses in Chainpur, Sankhuwasabha. I appreciated his idea to respect the architecture of local surroundings to building the school in Manang. The School was inaugurated solemnly by Right Honorable Prime Minister Mr. Surya Bahadur Thapa on 13th November 1980, though the first course took place one year before the inauguration in 1979. The first course for 29 participants was organized in Dumre. So far more than 1000 participants have completed the course for Mountain guides in which theoretical lessons are led by alpinists of the Slovene Alpine Association and the professional skills are led by the instructors of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, Kathmandu. I am happy to learn from one of the Instructors from Slovenia, Mr. Jani Bele, at the Manang school for mountain guides in the Slovenian daily newspaper “DELO” on 4th February 2021, that he is proud of the brilliant success of 10 Sherpas from Nepal on their Winter summit to K2 since five of them were the trainees of the school for mountain guides in Manang.

In a tourism promotion event Mr. Aswin Kumar Shrestha in Slovenia.

Slovene mountaineering training and alpinism: Slovenia is a mountainous country like Nepal. Slovenia has established the Touristic club “SKALA”, 100 years ago. The member of that club visited the Slovene mountains and developed knowledge over the years to climb the mountains and passed to their younger generation. Most of the Slovenes spend their weekend in the mountains. The Alpine Association of Slovenia has established after the second world war. It organizes a guided tour to mountains and the participants are taught the skills of mountaineering, provide knowledge about necessary tools and techniques of safe climbing or trekking. This is how there has been advanced alpinism and good alpinists to summit different peaks of the Himalayas in Slovenia.

Slovenia’s Tourism Strategy: The Ministry of the Economy and Technology has a special Sector for Tourism, which is responsible for the Strategy of Tourism promotion. Besides that, the Economic Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affair and the Chamber of Commerce of Slovenia also put a lot of effort to attract foreign and domestic tourists by organizing different tourism fairs in Slovenia and abroad. Slovenia is one of the greenest countries in Europe with 60 percent forest coverage. Thus Slovenia proudly promotes that one can climb the mountain in the morning and swim on the sea in the afternoon. The Government of Slovenia has offered the voucher of the amount of 200 Euro to each citizen who is above 18 years old and 50 Euro for those below 18 if they would spend their holidays in the country to compensate for the loss of tourism chain affected by the COVID-19. Such facility of the Government of Slovenia has allowed its citizen to know about interesting touristic destination of their own country. In addition, Slovene farmers are developing farm tourism by inviting farmers from neighboring countries or even from Scandinavian countries. I think, this can be useful in Nepal, perhaps the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation and Ministry of Agriculture, Land Management of the Government of Nepal should consider this approach.

Nepali in Slovenia’s tourism: There are 30 Nepalese passport holders and also there are about 70 Nepalese men who have their family having been married to Slovene women. There are three individuals who organize the visits to Nepal for friends from Slovenia. One is professional and organizes 2-3 groups of Slovene people to visit Nepal every year. I also travel to Nepal with my friends of Slovenia almost every second year or connect them to some local Tourist Agency in Nepal. I also cooperate with some of the tourist Agencies of Nepal to organize the visit of my friends.

Mr. Aswin Kumar Shrestha with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

Reasons to visit Slovenia: There are many reasons for visiting Slovenia as a tourist. Mr. Noah Charney, an American writer, a professor has elaborated on it very nicely in his book entitled, “ SLOVENOLOGY”. I would add my experience that it is a safe country, which has got almost all-natural resources of beauty in its small surface of 20,000 sq. km. People are kind and helpful. Foreigners have not experienced any kind of discrimination so far including me in my living here for more than 50 years.

Bilateral tourism potentials: There is already strong cooperation in Mountain Tourism between Slovenia and Nepal because of several expeditions from then Yugoslavia as many have reached different peaks of Nepalese Himalaya. Many Slovene people have also done trekking to different destinations, many have visited for cultural tourism and national parks. Likewise, many Professors of Biology from Slovenia have traveled with their students to study tropical plants, butterflies, birds, etc. in Nepal. A research was conducted on subtropical trees from Nepal funded by the United Nation. I would encourage different Researchers and Professors from Nepal to apply for such projects of the European Union in cooperation with colleagues from EU countries like Slovenia, for which they may seek assistance from EU Office in Kathmandu. A study of the Annapurna Conservation area was done by Ms. Marjeta Keršič Svetel (Professor) from the National Television of Slovenia as per my suggestion. She has introduced the result of her study in the television program “People and Mountains” echo environment in Annapurna Area and at the same time the awareness of gathering garbage left by the trekkers there. I have organized the visit of the delegation of the Municipality of Nagarjun, Kathmandu led by the Mayor Mr. Mohan Bahadur Basnet to a Company of the Waste Management of the Municipality of Ljubljana town to provide them the knowledge of circular economy, how the company produces gas and light by recycling the garbage collected from the town. It would certainly be very useful for some researchers from this field to apply for the EU fund in cooperation with the experts of EU countries to manage the garbage of the different Municipalities of Kathmandu Valley in such a way as in Ljubljana town or other European towns.

(The Republic of Slovenia is a small mountainous country (20,271 sq. km.), but a high-income and developed country located in Central Europe with a population of just over 2 million. It was founded in 1991 by splitting from Yugoslavia which joined NATO in 2004, Eurozone in 2007, and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2010. This article is focused on tourism aspects and is an excerpt based on communications between Aswin Kumar Shrestha (Honorary Consul General of Nepal to Slovenia) and Anita Gurung, Creative Editor of Highlights Tourism Nepal.) 



1 Comment

  1. The purpose of our commentary is to respond to as well as to illustrate the writing of the Honorary Consul General of Nepal to Slovenia Mr. Aswin Shresta in his article about Slovenian-Nepalese friendship. This goes far beyond just mountaineering or summitting the highest peaks of the Himalayas. As a group of friends from Slovenia we had the opportunity to visit Nepal, upon the suggestion and in the organization of our friend Mr. Shresta, and to become acquainted with his home country during our two-week trip in October 2019. In collaboration with an excellent Nepalese travel agency Destination Kathmandu, Mr. Shresta organized a rich and varied program for us, which included visiting numerous historical, cultural and religious jewels of the Kathmandu valley and much more.

    Having enjoyed various tourist attractions we considered the Poon Hill trekking to be the jewel in the crown of our Nepalese experience. On the very summit of Poon Hill we had the opportunity to admire the glowing Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Fish Tail and other Himalayan peaks at dawn. Amazed by the fantastic view of the Himalayas, we started singing our national song “Oj, Triglav, moj dom” (Triglav, my home, Triglav being the highest Slovenian mountain) alternating it with “Oh Poon Hill, My Home”, to the surprise of numerous other visitors as well as our guides (declaring themselves as our “assistants”, but in fact becoming our friends with whom we have remained in contact). …

    Among other sights we visited the famous International Mountain Museum in Pokhara, where our group had the honour to be especially received and guided by the director of the Museum. While admiring the excellent exposition on the natural and ethnologic heritage of the Nepalese Himalayas as well as the international mountaineering achievements in these mountains, we were unpleasantly surprised by the modest and understated presentation of the contribution of Slovenian alpinists in the Nepalese Himalayas. Aware that this backlog falls entirely on the account of the Slovenian Alpine Association, upon returning to Slovenia Mr. Shresta has already undertaken appropriate efforts with our competent national bodies to resolve this situation. However, Mr. Shresta’s sympathetic and thorough description of facts in this article is capable to reach and properly inform large audiences about the magnificent history and world-famous achievements (as well as the tragedies) of Slovenian alpinists in the Himalayas, particularly on all eight-thousanders in Nepal.

    In contrast to the Nepalese Himalaya we also visited the jungle and the indigenous inhabitants of the Tharu people in Chitwan National park. We succeeded in “surviving” the traffic and the chaos in the streets of Kathmandu, where we also had the unique opportunity to meet incredibly open and friendly schoolchildren, who along with their teachers prepared an unforgettable welcome reception for us in one of the primary schools. On this occasion Mr. Aswin Shresta solemnly inaugurated a new school library, which was donated by a Slovene donator Mr. Boštjan Škorjak from Kranj.

    During our trip to Nepal we had the opportunity to visit many other interesting beautiful places and were amazed by the kindness of the Nepali people everywhere. It is worth mentioning our very warm private meeting and dinner in the house of Mr. Shresta’s brother together with his wider family. We were also honoured by the reception with the Nepalese minister of tourism, which hopefully promises still better promotion and co-operation of both countries in the tourism area.

    Thanks to Mr. Aswin Shresta we returned home with tons of precious memories and becoming even closer friends. It is not surprising that some of us already dream about our next trip to Nepal, definitely in some better times when international travelling will be free again.

    To conclude, we are convinced that Mr. Aswin Shresta deserves a sincere compliment also as the author of his excellent article on Slovenian and Nepalese friendship in the particular area of mountaineering. Moreover, we strongly believe that Nepal could not be better represented and promoted in our country than it is by the Honorary Consul General, our “Nepalese Slovenian by choice”. As we say in Slovenia – hats off to our good friend, Mr. Aswin Shresta!

    Group of friends from Slovenia

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