Anja Cuznar has guided tours crisscrossing Europe for 20 years. She speaks at least five languages fluently (when you're from Slovenia you kinda gotta) and guides her tours mixing elegance with smarts and experience. Anja began with Rick Steves by guiding our Best of the Adriatic tours. She adores guiding our Best of Europe tours as it allows her to keep her linguistic skills and western European knowledge sharp — and she loves the kinds of people who take Rick Steves tours (who wouldn't?).
Telll us a little about your background.
I was born in the oldest Slovenian town, a charming place named Ptuj ("P-TOO-ee!"). Coming from a family of travelers, my desire to travel started at an early age. The first visits to the neighboring European countries inspired me to indulge in exploration of the world destinations. After graduating from the University of Ljubljana with a major in adult education I began working around the globe, taking Slovenian groups to overseas destinations and guiding foreign travelers around Slovenia's must-see sights. Completing my master's degree in tourism (my thesis was on the diverse roles of a tour guide) has helped me bring new and interesting things to my job every day.
And where has your journey taken you along the way?
At first I led tours of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro. Then I added Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, Greece, Turkey, Malta, and Ireland — all before I worked for Rick. Although I no longer lead tours for other companies, I am grateful for all the enriching experiences I had that eventually got me here. I simply love guiding the Best of Europe tours. The itineraries are so well paced — focusing on learning moments, and then giving enough time for people to get out and make their own discoveries in each place.
You lead our 14-day and 21-day versions of the Best of Europe tour. How would you help someone choose between the two?
If a person has three weeks available, I'd always recommend the 21-day version. Having a "vacation from your vacation" day in Italy's Cinque Terre offers an insight into the European way of vacationing — hiking, spending time on the beach, enjoying a seafood dinner or just being immersed in il dolce far niente — the sweetness of doing nothing. On the other hand, the Best of Europe in 14 Days does an excellent job of covering the must-see places and hidden gems personally explored by Rick on his journeys. Even though the pace is brisk, tour members can seek out unique experiences and create meaningful memories.
What is your favorite country (outside Slovenia, of course!) to guide in?
I really enjoy taking groups to Italy, Slovenia's neighboring country. Spontaneous locals, creating organized chaos and radiating heartfelt hospitality, are the reasons I always feel like being home in every corner of this diverse country. The most rewarding moment to me is giving our tour members insight into the Italian lifestyle and culture from a local perspective.
Being on the road so much, do you ever feel disconnected from your family?
That's not so much of a problem. My family is always keeping track of where I am on every day of an itinerary. An advantage of being based in Europe is that we're never too far apart. My parents have even surprised me by dropping in on a tour I'm leading. For the group it creates a fun "temporary locals meeting the locals" coffee moment!