Slovenia was not initially on my bucket list. But, by the time I set foot there, I knew I could fall deeply in love with it.
For me, this trip to Slovenia was about to be a new experience in many ways: I was going to Slovenia -for the first time-glamping -first time too- at BigBerry -the recently launched glamping campsite at the Kolpa river-. To sum up to that, I was traveling in Summer, something which I haven’t done in the last 5-6 years, or more.
The idea was to relax and slow travel the country, an out of the radar destination right in the Mediterranean. What I found was a country I could feel like home and people I could relate to in many ways. I have told you why you should visit Slovenia before, but let me tell you how I fell in love with it:
A warm welcome with a glass of wine from Bela Krajina
I had spent most of my day from one airport to another and, after a one hour ride from Zagreb, I arrived to Big Berry, a beautiful campsite at warm Kolpa river. The weather was nice, the place was beautiful, I had a mini house as my home for the week: I knew it would be the perfect place to relax.
With this views from the back window and the river Kolpa in front of my own porch, wouldn’t it be perfect to enjoy it with a glass of wine? I thought so and so did the team at Big Berry, who had just organized a wine tasting at Kmetija Šuklje.
Having grown up at a wine region in Spain and, although I am no expert, I was a bit skeptic about this unknown wine region. I only had two references: 1) Lonely Planet, which is not much help in terms of food & drink to be honest and 2) Monika, the winner of the Slovenia giveaway, who challenged me to try Slovenian wine and tell you about it.
And I was happily surprised. Apparently Bela Krajina is the wine region with most sunny days in all Slovenia but still one of the less known wine regions in the world. And, according to me, it shouldn’t be.
What I found was a modern style of wine making that is connected to the soul and the characteristics of this beautiful land. A second generation of wine makers who are not only interested in producing wine for the region but who are proud of their roots and their grapes and know that they deserve a spot in the international markets. A winery that learns and improves the process through new and old techniques, which they have learned traveling all over the world.
Did I like the wine? Yes. I wouldn’t go for Rosé, but I never go for Rosé, so try them yourself and let me know what you think.
Then, I found dragons and stunning castles
My neighbours at BigBerry, Peter, Desi and Mina were on a search for castles, I was in search for dragons, so we decided to join our forces and start our search together!
We left our beautiful views of the Kolpa river in the morning, looking for Predjama castle. The roads were winding and narrow until we reached the highway, but everywhere we looked the views were stunning. Even my pics from the car window look like this:
As I said, our first stop was Predjama castle. You sure have seen Predjama before, or dreamed of it. Close your eyes and think of a castle built up in a cave. A castle stuck in a wall of a rocky mountain. Yes, that is!
Predjama is an old castle. It was built in the rock about 700 years ago, with hidden ways inside the caves so it would survive all sorts of attacks.
Now think that you are on the top of a magnificent castle. A more traditional castle with a high tower that overlooks a lake. And in the lake, imagine an island. And in the island, there is a small church, whose tower points up to the sky…. yes, that’s it!
But what would be of a castle without a ghost? Or better… what would be of a castle without a dragon? There are no dragons inside Predjama or Bled, but you can find them only 9 km away at Postojna caves. Better, you can find live baby dragons and… guess what? They are just hatching! I will tell you about it in more detail in another post :)
So, I had found a castle built up in a rocky wall, inside a cave. And a cave with baby dragons. And a fairy-tale lake. What else could I find in Slovenia?
Slow traveling as it should be
Slow travel (in case you never heard of it) is simply traveling calmly, without rushing from one place to another, leaving the strees at home and enjoying each destination like your home. There’s another way to put it. It’s traveling “like a local” connecting with the people that lives there: eating, buying, partying where everybody else does (everybody not a foreigner, I mean.)
The team at BigBerry was eager to help: being a lifestyle resort, they do have some awesomic list of connections there. From local producers of organic farming to wonderful cooks who know the region and its stories well, the week spent there was full of discovery and wonderful people.
We enjoyed the last fresh strawberries of the season at Kmetija Pavlovic’s farm. And I learned something new: linen plants have blue flowers that only open in the early hours of the morning. So if you see a green field like this below, try in the morning, you might see something like the image below (it’s the same field ;) )
I also reconnected with the bees and their products at Beekiping Veselic, and the fine art of producing liquor and chocolates at Berryshka. And even discovered you can make thousands of different oils from thousands of different plants and fruits at Oljarna Pečarič Drašiči.
What I found was a common theme: family-run businesses who value quality over quantity and who are proud of their land as much as they are passionate of their products.
The only flaw? You cannot take oil, wine, liquor or honey, inside your hand luggage. Not to mention bees…
But slow traveling Slovenia is not only connecting with the producers or drinking the wine: I was able to join the 19th walk along Oton Zupanič foothpath from Dragatus tu Vinica. Small towns, wooden crossings, walks by the natural park and through the white birch forests… a hike through the lands of a poet.
And a lot of uniqueness
When they invited me over, I was curious about why the team at BigBerry had chosen Bela Krajina to start up their glamping project in Slovenia. You have great food and the area of Kolpa river is stunning, there is an entrepreneurial spirit in the region and you have the resources for a luxurious yet slow travel experience for guests. But was that just it?
What I loved about it was the uniqueness I could feel. Bela Krajina is known for its exceptional cultural diversity through the ages. Home of three different religions and five ethnical groups, it breathes many influences in the food, traditional costumes, folklore and architecture too.
A short visit to Metlika can be a proof for that, with the Bela krajina Museum in Metlika featuring the history of Bela Krajina, from prehistoric times to after WW2. Including the cast of one of the only Mithraic temples that wasn’t destroyed in the 4th Century and a wonderful exhibit of old radios.
And the nearby area of Crnomelj was a great source of uniqueness too. A short visit to the homestead Šokčev dvor, a traditional farming house kept as a small museum of the Slovenian countryside and it’s way of living.
But what really stole my heart was the people at the region. From Andreja at Gostice Veselic in Metlika (a wonderful cook and really fun too) to the team at the Crnomelj tourism board and our guides through the hike. Everybody knows they live in a beautiful land and want you and me to discover it.
Are you in?