- Thirunelli Agraharam
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Slovenia's tourism office likes to promote the fact that it's the only country with the word 'love' in its name.
Before First Lady Melania Trump became the country's unofficial but, arguably, most famous ambassador, Slovenia registered a whisper of a blip on the international travel map.
Eclipsed by its more popular travel neighbors Italy and Croatia, a few years ago the best Slovenia's tourism office could muster was a play on words for its tagline.
But thanks in large part to the US election, the Central European country has drawn the attention of the notoriously fickle food and travel world which recently pronounced one of its chefs the best female chef in the world and Slovenia itself a beacon of sustainable tourism.
As the first foreign-born First Lady in nearly two centuries, it's understandable that Melania Trump's country of origin would have elicited global interest.
According to the latest figures, Slovenia received a record 10.8 million overnight stays in 2016, up eight percent compared to 2015.
Of those overnight stays, the country saw an 11 percent spike in foreign tourist arrivals, led mostly by visitors from Italy, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Serbia and the UK.
Last year, the capital city of Ljubljana enjoyed the spotlight as the European Green Capital of 2016, for strategies that include a zero waste program, more bike lanes, electric trains and green buses to combat air pollution.
The designation also drew the attention of a trade fair marketed as the world's largest, ITB Berlin, which named Slovenia their country partner at this year's edition.
At the same event, which wrapped up over the weekend, the National Geographic World Legacy Awards named Slovenia's tourist board the winner of their Destination Leadership award.
With nearly 60 percent of its land protected, Slovenia is touted as one of the world's most sustainable destinations.
"Our vision is for a 100 percent green Slovenia", said Maja Pak, Director of the Slovenian Tourism Office at ITB Berlin.
World's best female chef 2017
Meanwhile, the First Lady isn't the only formidable woman putting Slovenia on the world map.
Earlier this year, chef Ana Ros of Hisa Franko restaurant in Kobarid's Soca Valley, just three kilometers from the Italian border, was pronounced the world's best female chef from the group that ranks the World's 50 Best Restaurants.
Completely self-taught, Ros mastered the craft and developed her own culinary style by dining at other restaurants for inspiration.
At Hisa Franko, dishes give local Slovenian ingredients like homemade butter, Tolminc cheese and lamb leading roles.
Ros will be a familiar face to viewers of the Netflix series "Chef's Table," which featured the chef last year and highlighted her knack for combining surprising flavors, a talent food writer Alec Lobrano described as akin to "a broken haiku."
"When you read squid, sweetbreads, walnuts and Tolminc cheese, you can't imagine what these flavors are going to taste like when I put it in my mouth," Lobrano says.
"But then you're in the midst of eating the said thing and suddenly you're surprised by how spectacular the food is."
Melania Trump's hometown of Sevnica is also capitalizing on its newfound fame, and is heavily promoting itself as a tourist destination anchored by Sevnica Castle, which dominates the city center.