The “Trump Effect” is being felt all the way over in the little Eastern European country of Slovenia, where First Lady Melania Trump was born Melanija Knavs on April 26, 1970 in the city of Novo Mesto. Back then, it was known as the Socialist Republic of Slovenia within Yugoslavia. Today the Eastern European country’s claim to fame is the fact that it’s the former home of the First Lady of the United States.
Six months into the Trump presidency, the entire country of Slovenia is enjoying a profitable summer with an boom in tourism ever since Trump was elected. And why not visit there? Boasting both a coastline on the Adriatic Sea as well its own corner of the Alps, the picturesque country became a best-kept secret for nature-loving travelers after the fall of Communism in 1991. In fact, the Slovenian Statistics Office announced on Monday that nearly 2 million tourists have visited their country of just over 2 million people in the first half of this year, which translates into an increase of 15 percent over the past year.
The deputy director of the Statistics Office, Karmen Hren, said that the Alpine country has seen overall growth on a national level. “The things foreign tourists value in Slovenia the most are personal safety, general cleanliness, the friendliness of the locals, unspoilt nature and quality of service,” said Hren noting that the country is not exactly a destination for “the offerings of sporting and cultural events, shopping, nightlife and entertainment.”
However, the “Trump Effect” seems to be making up for that, as Melania herself sparks a whole new tourist industry — including a wide variety of specialty merchandise — in the country and especially her former childhood home of Sevnica.
Young Melania spent her childhood years in the quaint village of Sevnica, which is located about an hour east of the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana on the banks of the Sava river. It’s a gorgeous village and is even overlooked by its own medieval castle. Taking advantage of their home-girl’s success in America, businesses in Sevnica are selling all sorts of Melania-themed merchandise, including their exclusive “First Lady” wine, which went on sale a few months ago at the 900-year-old castle, priced at approximately €27.90 a bottle.
The people who live in the area have been celebrating their new-found claim to international fame ever since the 2016 election, when they held a party and celebrated Melania, as well as their own good fortune at being connected to the First Lady.
Since then, Slovenian tourist agencies have been organizing “on the footsteps of Melania Trump” tours, in which they offer to lead people around that region to see the places where the First Lady lived, studied and worked before leaving her country in the 1990’s to pursue an international modeling career. It’s been reported that the last time she visited there was in July 2002, when she introduced Donald Trump to her parents. They were said to have met over a meal at the lakeside resort of Bled.
Her parents, Viktor and Amalija, were working-class people; he sold cars, and she was a textile factory pattern cutter. The Knavs still own a house in Sevnica, but they spend most of their time in the United States, helping their daughter raise 11-year-old Barron during what must be incredibly interesting times!
Slovenian websites are now promoting tourism with a slogan that reads, “Welcome to the homeland of the new First Lady of the United States of America!”