I do S-love-nia! Bovec region and The Postojna Caves
I must admit that when my friend suggested a trip to Slovenia, I had to look it up on the map!
Slovenia is next door to Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, with 14kms of coastline. As we wove around the bendy roads, my phone was very confused, saying ‘Welcome to Italy. Welcome to Slovenia. Welcome to – oh, make your mind up!’
It’s completely unspoilt. With an area of 20,273 Squ Kms, the population is only 2 million.
Slovenia is very activity-minded, although it’s a great place to unwind or convalesce.
In the East the spas have various different minerals, which are good for rheumatism, blood pressure, heart trouble and skin complaints.
There is a new dialysis centre near Bovec costing approximately £15 a visit.
As you can choose all the activities with one agency and the prices are very reasonable, most of our group were spoilt for choice, cycling in the morning, kayaking in the afternoon, and much more.
In the Winter it’s a very popular skiing resort.
Slovenia is almost completely self-sufficient. All their food, and their wines, are organic and chemical-free, which is absolutely wonderful for me as I’m allergic to food additives.
I went on the wine tasting trail in the Goriska Brda region. (No I’m not a bad speller. There’s a lack of vowels in the Slovenian language.)
The Slovenian wines are some of my favourite wines now. It’s a joy to find one on an English restaurant’s wine list. And anyone who tastes them agrees with me
Smartno was our first stop. It’s a Medieval walled village, and my idea of Holiday Heaven, but many other people’s idea of Holiday Hell if they want sand, sea and clubbing. It’s isolated with no public transport.
The views in every direction really sum up the very word View. Miles of green, with just a few faraway cream villages.
Many of the houses in Smartno stand empty and rotting. They were abandoned a long timeago.
As we explored the narrow streets, we realised that we were whispering!
Marica House has been renovated. It’s now a restaurant and a small shop plus four beautiful but basic rooms to let, for a couple of days, or for as long as you want to stay!
We sat outside in the alleyway, drinking their own-label wine and nibbling on their superior-quality home-cured ham, olives, local cheeses, home-made bread, and the most flavour-dripping tomatoes that I’ve ever tasted in my life!
It might sound silly, because as you can imagine, I’ve eaten an enormous variety of meals in my travels, but sitting there, sipping and nibbling away, was one of the most memorable gastronomic experiences of my life! The sun was a perfect temperature and the only sound, apart from us, was the chiming of the church clock every quarter of an hour.
Never have I felt so much like a writer! I want to go back there for a month. Anyone could write a bestseller in those surroundings, scribbling in a notebook and drinking fruity Schnapps!
I had an Art Attack. I wished that I could paint. Oh well, I took some lovely photos.
Miran Sirk’s chateau, in Bjana village, dates back to the 13th Century.
It was nationalised by the Communists. They kicked out Miran’s grandfather and gave it to the People. But the People didn’t want it, so it was left to rot for 45 years.
Although he hasn’t managed to retrieve all 100 hectares, Miran has rescued most of it and he now produces sparkling wines that truthfully are as good, if not better, than Champagne.
The whole chateau has been refurbished to a high standard and there are two luxurious bedroom suites for guests to rent.
Miran and his wife greeted us when we arrived and, after introductions he led the way, proudly saying, ‘Now I’ll show you my wine cellar.’
He turned round with his arm out and stopped, surprised. We’d all ignored him and walked straight past his outstretched arm to coo over Otto the puppy in the garden!
After the cellar tour we sat on his veranda to sample the wines, and his wife carried a huge platter of home-produced nibblies out from the kitchen; bread, salami, ham, local sheep’s cheese, fresh figs and grapes. More food!
Oh, what a life! There wasn’t another house in sight, just grape vines as far as the horizon.
Then out came the home-made brandy…! It was almost like a liqueur.
When we finally left, we were all given a boxed bottle of sparkling wine as a gift.
The Erzetic family have lived in Visnjevik and produced wine since 1725.
They have 15 hectares of white grapes, three of black, and five that have just been prepared and planted, with newly-built terraced walls.
Aleksij and his wife Vera greeted us with a wine-tasting in the garden.
Again, the views were spectacular.
He told us that under the Communists, all wines were supposed to be Co-operative. But Aleksij’s Grandfather told them, ‘You can kill me but I won’t give my grapes to a Co-operative.’ And he won.
Apart from their traditional wines, The Erzetics produce Amphora wines. These are huge clay pots buried in the ground. The grapes are put in them and no yeast is added. They are stirred 3-4 times a day.
This is a method of wine production from Georgia and Aledsij imports his jars from there.
After a tour of the cellars, we all sat round the long table for more wine tasting.
Vera brought in a large wooden platter of nibblies which the members of our group who obviously have hollow legs managed to finish. Then Vera produced another huge platter. And some of us even managed to finish that as well!
I asked Aleksij, ‘What do a man and a quality bottle of red wine have in common?
They’re both empty from the neck up!’
He paused, mentally translating it, then he burst out laughing, slapping his thighs.
He repeated the joke and laughed for ages.
I think that will be regularly told!
The next day I’d hired a car to take me to the Postojna Caves.
Slovenia is like a giant Swiss cheese, riddled with limestone caves.
The driver said that he had to contact the office to send a car to pick him up, which was pointless as we were going in the same direction. So he drove us there, and another driver drove us back again!
‘Elf & Safety would be horrified at the arrangements in the caves. They’d have everyone wearing hard hats with lamps on!
We went on a train that seats 120 passengers. The rocks are very low and very sharp in many places. Apparently nobody is ever injured. It’s amazing how people manage to think for themselves when there’s a danger of losing half their skull!
It’s sights like those caves that make you realise how truly amazing Mother Nature is!
They’re absolutely full of stalactites and stalagmites, all totally unique.
Do you know the difference between a stalagmite and a stalactite?
When you’re a mite, you grow up. And when you’re tight, you fall down!
As I looked, a lot of the stalagmites seemed to take shape. I spotted a Bedouin on a camel, a gnome’s cottage, complete with door, windows and chimney, and faces everywhere.
You could go there every day and see different things.
In the vivarium we saw the weird Human Fish, or Cave Salamanders.They’re unique to that area. None have been discovered anywhere else in the world. They evolved in the caves in the dark. They have no pigmentation and no eyes, but their smell and hearing is acute.
They have fingers and toes, and small tails, and grow from 8-16ins long. They really are ugly!
Back at the Hotel Mangart with our private driver, we went out to Martinov Hram.
We sat on the vine-covered terrace, where we were served dish after dish of fresh local produce.
And then the Heavens opened. The rain got louder and louder until a waterfall rushed down the street and we could hardly hear ourselves speak. We quickly moved indoors, where we sheltered waiting for the rain to stop. It didn’t.
In the night I was awoken by a loud gale. The Slovenians have a special name for it. And in the morning there was snow!
After breakfast I was given a tour of several local farms. They specialise in sheeps’ cheese and in the past it was used as a currency.
Halfway up the mountain is a co-operative farmhouse. The meadows are covered with lush grass. Local farmers are allowed to leave their sheep and goats there in the summer. But they have to work there for as many days as they have animals, eg 100 sheep = 100 days at the farm.
There are four shepherds and one cheesemaker there in the season. But it’s not too bad a life. There are several bars nearby!
It’s the only farm in Europe that’s allowed to produce unpasturised cheese the traditional way.
On our final evening, we ate at Hisa Franko, in Staro Selo village near Kobarid.
Considered Slovenia’s top restaurant, I think that Heston Blumenthal would be a bit envious, not just of their food, but the décor as well!
Everything is produced by them, or from local producers. The wine cellar’s stocked with Slovenian wine, and just a couple of French wines.
In the larder, young cheeses mature on wooden shelves with jars of home-made tomato sauce, pickles, and much more. They make their own bread and pasta.
The décor is tasteful and carefully chosen, with expensive paintings on the walls.
Oh the food! I had another Art Attack! Each tiny dish is a masterpiece.
We started with fish pate with polenta and a cheese crisp, then deer tartar fois gras, fennel and wasabi, then tortellini with lovage and cold goat kid sauce….no, I give up. I’m not doing it justice. It’s like describing the Mona Lisa as a smiling woman!
You’ll have to go and sample it for yourself.
So what’s my opinion of Slovenia? I think it’s practically perfect.
The air’s so clear that I slept like a log, the water’s pure, the Slovenians are very friendly, the roads are empty, the scenery’s beautiful, the food’s excellent, crime’s virtually non-existent. Prices are very low, there’s lots to do and see, and you can visit places like Venice for a day-trip.
What’s wrong with it? They need more vowels!
The complete trip was arranged courtesy of The Travel Puzzle Ltd.
A company based in the UK with 26 years of experience specializing in Slovenia.
The Travel Puzzle ( For complete arrangements and advice)
3 Wheel Lane
Wine region for further information on all their offers
Turistično informacijski center Brda
Grajska cesta 10, 5212 Dobrovo
telefon: +386 (0)5 395 95 94
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