6. Take a wine tour in Bizeljsko
So, we're already on to part two of our '10 Things To Do In Slovenia' feature, and if you're still with me then my powers of persuasion must be working and by now you'll be thinking of a trip to Slovenia? Right? Well, if you need a little more persuading than what better way than to entice you with glass half full...of wine! Forget Germany, forget Spain (but maybe not France because that would be sacrilege), Slovenia's got its very own wine regions and some pretty kick ass scenery to boot. So get ofF that mountain and head east down to sunny Bizeljsko in the Lower Sava Valley. Of course there's always The Drava Valley and The Littoral regions, but if your friend's family own a vineyard, why would you go anywhere else?!
I was lucky enough to have my own personal tour around the Berkovic estate, by Sarah who, even being the youngest of the family and holding preference over studying Chinese than learning about wine, knew a phenomenal amount about the production. Later I was taken to 'la casa de Berkovic' - where the magic happens. Over a dinner of srnji golaž (deer goulash) I was given an introduction to the art of wine making (and luckily, wine tasting) by Mr Berkovic himself, and the next generation of Berkovic wine makers, Saha and her boyfriend Jacob. A wine tour is a 'must do' on your Slovenian escapade, and I'm sure you'll take to such an activity very willingly. If you do, be sure to look up the Berkovic's!
7. Marvel the rustic beauty of Štanjel
I feel asleep in the car and I awoke to the sight of the towering walled village of Štanjel. Groggily stumbling up the hill, my mood started to brighten as the beauty of this place started to resonate with me. Narrow sloping streets lined with terraced stone houses featuring dilapidated windows of long vacated homes, creeping with vines, wild flowers and crumbling paint work. Almost completely deserted, this is is one of those jem's you just don't read about in a guidebook. Aptly referred to as the 'jewel of the Karst region', Štanjel was originally settled in Roman times and later fortified to defend against the Ottoman raids. A few centuries later along came the Counts von Cobenzl who built the adjacent castle, followed again by Italian habitation in the 1920's when local architect Max Fabiani was commissioned to create a garden on the outskirts of Enrico Ferrari's elegant villa. If you're heading on down to the coast, make sure you stop off in this pretty little town.
8. Uncover hidden springs & falls
If you marvelled at Bled, you'll be blown away by the dazzling sight of its source. The Radovna River which thrashes through gorges, rushes over waterfalls and cuts into the mountainside on it's way down to that emerald-green pool, is something of a spectacle in itself. If you're keen to get back up into those mountains, take a trip up to Vintgar Gorge (only 3.5 km from Bled) and walk the 1600m of rock-hugging wooden paths, galleries and bridges that hang, at time precariously, over seemingly bottomless crystal pools though which the Radovna flows smoothly before cascading over the Šum, Slovenia's highest river fall. And if you're still hungry for more powerful displays of nature, try Savica Waterfall, one of Lake Bohinj's primary inflows. This awe-inspiring fall is complimented, again, by its beautiful setting: a gushing 51m of water cutting vertically through the Komarča rockface, feeding a beautiful expanse of crystal clear emerald green water. Just watch out for that 20 minute up hill climb!
9. Get active on the Soča
I'm not one for launching myself willingly into ice cold water but I have to say, despite the loss of feeling in my limbs, getting active on the River Soča was one of the highlights of my trip. You can do this by way of kayak, raft or even canyoning. Our group chose rafting, which cost only €30 per person for a two hour escapade. As it was mid August, the rapids were only at a level 1-3, but it was still pretty thrilling nonetheless, and great for first-timers (like me!). The company gave a great introduction, showing us the ropes and even stopped at points for us to jump off seven metre high rocks into the 13°C water (brrr is an understatement). I haven't any pictures of the actual rafting experience - there was no way my 7D was coming with me, so you'll have to *insert imagination here* for this one. So, willingly or not, I urge thee to raft the Soča! You won't regret it!
10. Seek out Salt in Sečovlje
It seems the end is night for our Slovenian mini-guide, but last but not least, in at no.10 is the salty pans of Sečovlje. Sounds rather boring, yes, but I bet you don't know how salt is made? Huh? Didn't think so. Laying on an expanse of brackish land on Slovenia's (very short) coastline, just a ten minute drive from Portorož, the area has now been cornered off as a nature park. It's tranquil yet somewhat eerily barren panorama holds numerous deserted, crumbling stone houses, randomly dotted across the pancake-flat landscape, bar one little house in which a man waits to guide you through the Muzej Solinarstva. The Museum of Salt-Making (regarded by the government as a cultural monument of national importance, don't you know) pays tribute to a time when the area and activity of salt production was one of the most lucrative money-makers in Europe. So not only will a visit promise you beautiful vistas and reflective photographic delights (cut late afternoon sun and shadows on the water), you'll also learn something about that essential, everyday cooking ingredient. Just a shame its such a long walk from the car...
Well that's about it for Wandering Thread's Slovenia travel recommendations and I hope it has not just convinced you to put this marvelous little country on your list of places to visit, but inspired you to take a chance, climb a mountain, jump off a rock (into water, obviously) and experience something new.
As always, post your comments, questions and suggestions below! And for more Wandering Places, click here.