Five lovely nights in Slovenia over New Years….another traveling high! Here are my top five favorite experiences:
1) exploring this wine bar and seller in Radovlijca where they had fresh wines on tap and we could get them to consume to our hearts content. For about 5 euro we picked a liter and a half of a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon, but not until sampling many of the freshest wines from the area of brda (pronounced birda). Monica there was a delight and sometimes when one travels, it is quite natural to be swapping stories about camping near wine festivals and laughing about what we’d not like to repeat on new years eve. Near the wine bar a quick visit into a 250 year old gingerbread makers home and continued business turned into a delightful excursion. The bread would be baked and taken on long journeys, lasting up to 6 months (naturally vegan with no butter or eggs), and in the traditional sense given as a token of affection to those we love. The name “Lester” mean gingerbread, and stopping there for the most lovely bowl of kurbis soup felt like a token of affection for more than just the taste buds.
2) living in Europe so near the alps has cultivated a passion for nature I this season of my life. Now that my days of academia and rational achievements has eclipsed, I suppose engaging in nature has been my main form of self enlightenment and education. So I knew this winter that I’d want to try my hand at snow shoeing. And the Slovenian alps in Triglav national park offered such an occasion. Hiring a personal guide not only made the journey much easier, but also amplified the sense of exploration…following an expert of the area and making a new friend takes me places that I can’t imagine or manufacture. We first hiked about 45 minutes up to a mountain hut, enjoyed a quick shot of homemade brandy, and then geared up and summited a peak, looking out over half of Slovenia. There is nothing like fresh air, almost tourist free snow, and that sun coming down in warm hellos. And laughing, hearing old wives tales and myths, and details of what daily life feels like in Slovenia. Crunching of pure snow, jotting through powder, slipping on ice, and revisiting the hut for a bowl of homemade barley and bean stew. Warmth and coldness all at once.
So, now, I can count snowshoeing as a pleasure. Next up is cross country skiing!
3) Grad bled.
I jogged the perimeter of Lake Bled twice, and then additional walked its 7K perimeter. Each time, pausing in a peaceful recognition of its stunning aura, I fell deeper in love with Slovenia. The lake draws active folks of all dimensions, and you can hike up to the lovely 10th century castle on top. Spectacular views, and a wonderfully executed museum regarding the surrounding land and its history await you at the top. The winter setting did not disappoint. Stunning blue sky and water, the breath visible in the air, the chestnuts warm in the palm and everything just easy. Loved this day.
4) Dvorni Wine Bar, Slovenia
Now, I am not one to visit a place TWICE on a trip, so you know the place must have been spectacular for a return visit. Why? Because the server asked me what types of flavors I liked in my wine (bold, earthy, smoky, layered) and delivered the best glass of wine I had in memory. The bar menu did such a superb job educating me regarding slovenian wines, and paired glasses with small bites (excellent wedge fries, tapas, olives). I loved the bottle from Vinakoper-–Sixty, so much so I made sure to go back the next day and treat myself to a bottle.
If I traveled back to Ljubljana I’d treat myself again (not to mention return to Marley and Me, where their cheese tortellini wooed me).
5) Visiting Skocjanske Caves. Traveling under 900ft of earth felt oddly educational and peaceful (after a few minutes of acclimation). Warm (about 50 degrees) and strangely gorgeous…. I pondered how water carries the mineral foundations for slowly making these stunning rock pillars. I though about how strong it is to carve out passages more than 6 kilometers in length, and up to 123 meters high (that’s about a football field). I marveled at the dark, the light of human spirit to explore the depths of the earth, and to find a way to safely share it. Amazing, wild experience. (Sorry! pics aren’t allowed inside!)
I loved Slovenia. I already have a little nugget of hope that I return to hike the Julian Alps and delight in its people, its nature, and the purity the places elicits in my nature.