It’s Wine Time – the Vinarium Tower and the Lendave Gorice Hills!

St. Martin’s Day is celebrated every November in Slovenia in a big way! Throughout the country, whether in a wine-growing region or not, you will find wine-related events taking place, and, even if like me you aren’t a big wine drinker, soaking up the atmosphere and savouring the excellent accompanying homemade food makes a visit to one of the ‘Martinovanje‘ events a must!

One such wine-growing area is Lendava, in the far northeast of Slovenia, which is a melting-pot of culture and cuisine, with influences from its neighbours – Hungary and Croatia.

The town’s star attraction is undoubtedly the Vinarium Tower, which opened in 2015 and has rapidly become a favourite destination for visitors from far and wide. The 53.5m-high tower offers superlative panoramic views over the Lendavske gorice hills and further to the Mura river and the lowlands of neighbouring Hungary, Croatia and Austria. There is a lift which rapidly takes visitors up to the observation deck on the upper level, or, those up for it, can tackle the 240 stairs instead! Information about opening hours and ticket prices can be found here – http://www.vinarium-lendava.si/

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As one would expect from being up so high, the views extend as far as the eye can see. The Lendave gorice hills are prime wine-growing territory, and it would be rude not to try a drop or two of the local wine after your visit! On the drive between the town up towards the Vinarium Tower, there are numerous small domestic wine producers, where you can stop and sample and, of course, buy some to take home – at prices that you will love!

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In front of the Vinarium tower, there are a handful of food and drink outlets, where you can enjoy, amongst others, a white wine spritzer – the most typical refreshing drink in this area – and local food such as bograč and langaš.

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Lendava is synonymous with bograč, which is a dish fairly similar to goulash, however, the secret is in the 4 different kinds of meat and a few other key ingredients (each cook, of course, has their own secret formula!). Langaš is a potato-based dough, deep fried and topped with lashings of garlic and oil – healthy it’s not, but then you only live once!. My visit to the area coincided with the annual Bogračfest – a festival and competition in cooking bograč.

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The centre of Lendava itself has a pleasant relaxed air to it; a mixture of pavement cafes, the imposing St. Catherine’s Church and Lendava Castle perched on a small hill overlooking the town. The castle’s baroque appearance dates from the 18th century, though it was first mentioned in records dating as far back as 1192. Today it houses archaeological, historical and ethnologic collections as well as a gallery.

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The Cultural Centre, which comprises a theatre and concert hall, is a magnificent eye-catching building. It was actually designed by one of Hungary’s most famous architects, Imre Makovecz. In this part of the country, you will notice all public signs in both Slovene and Hungarian languages, and there are strong ties between the minorities of both nations living in harmony on either side of the border.

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If, like me, you like cycling, then the area is perfect and you can even visit 3 countries in one ride. Not wishing to be greedy (Ok, time was also an issue, as Bogračfest was calling!), I ‘just’ visited 2 countries on my 3-hour, cca. 60km bike ride.

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After crossing the border into Croatia, I, or rather ‘we’ cycled alongside the Mura river, which forms a natural border between the two countries.

I was lucky enough to have a cycle pal for this ride, in the form of Paul, a fellow Brit who lives not far from Lendava who knows the cycle routes in this area like the back of his hand. I admire Paul hugely, and he and I share the same virtues, struggles, joy and passion for living in Slovenia. He has painstaking, and single-handedly, renovated an old mill – Slomškov Mlin in Razkrižje (more about that when its time for the official opening!) – and also runs a cycle tour company offering guided or self-guided tours and the chance to hire bikes and e-bikes. Find out more about Simply Cycling Slovenia here – http://design-it.si/cycling/

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After having a guided tour of the mill, we stopped at a pleasant picnic area near one of the few remaining famous floating mills which are found on both sides of the Mura river.

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This mill, called ‘The Island of Love’, is located on the Slovene side of the Mura river.

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The centrally-located Lendava Thermal Spa is an ideal place to base yourself for exploring the area, with its indoor and outdoor thermal pools, saunas, energy park, traditional cuisine, and full range of treatments, many of them based on its unique paraffin water known for its healing and rejuvenating properties. Find out more here – http://goo.gl/GRXeZz

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Enjoy celebrating St. Martin’s Day – wherever you are and however you choose to celebrate it – no excuses needed!

© Adele in Slovenia

Discover Brežice and the Bizeljsko Wine Road

The town of Brežice, in the south-east of Slovenia, is framed by the Gorjanci mountain range, is the location of the confluence of the Sava and Krka rivers, home to the magnificent Brežice Castle and other sights of interest, as well as being close to Bizeljsko and the Bizeljsko-Sremič Tourist Wine Route and the Čatež Thermal Spa.

During my stay at the Čatež Thermal Spa, I took time to ‘Discover Brežice’ – as the town’s tourism slogan goes. I set off by bike and first headed to the Brežice Castle and Museum, which is without doubt the jewel among the town’s historic buildings.

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The Renaissance castle was turned into a residential castle by the aristocratic Attems family in the late 17th/early 18th century. The Baroque painted Knights’ Hall is most definitely the pièce de résistance and really has to be seen to be able to appreciate its full magnificence and the vibrancy of colours.

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The 46 metre-high Brežice Water Tower was built in 1914 in order to provide the town with water. It no longer serves its original purpose but remains the most visible and well-known of the town’s landmarks. Today you can sit in the café on the ground floor and look up to enjoy the view!

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Whilst in the area you simply must drive, cycle, or walk, along part of the Bizeljsko-Sremič Tourist Wine Road and pay a visit to a ‘repnice‘ – quartz sand caves which are nowadays used for storing wine.

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From Brežice it took around 45 minutes by bike to reach the Najger repnice. The area’s landscape has an almost Tuscan feel to it and, although I was cycling on main roads, traffic was light and it was a pleasurable and scenic ride. The area is part of the Kozjanso Nature Park – one of the oldest and largest protected areas in Slovenia.

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Not really knowing what to expect, I found the Najger repnice absolutely fascinating. Repnice caves were originally used for storing turnips (‘repa‘ in Slovene, hence the name ‘repnice‘) during winter, at the time when turnips were the main fodder for livestock.

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These days, the caves, made from dug out quart sand, are used for storing wine and visitors have a chance to taste and buy some of the excellent home-made wines, accompanied by a plate of home-produced cheese and dried meats, or other homemade delights.

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The rooms inside the caves are at a constant temperature, offering perfect conditions for storing wine. To really understand the marvel of these caves it is necessary to understand how much work went in to digging them out; for each small room it took around 3 months of working 8 hours per day. Now if that isn’t hard labour and dedication I don’t know what is. The results, however, were well worth it!

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If you look closely at the sandstone you can make out various natural shapes and patterns. Which animal can you see here?

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Following the tour of the cave there was also the chance to buy some of the home-produced wine, at more-than reasonable prices, which makes an idea gift or a treat for yourself – it was sweet muscat wine for me!

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The vast Terme Čatež Thermal Spa is one of the main attractions in the area and offers year-round water-based fun for all the family. You can read a full account of my visit here – http://wp.me/p7jQx9-8y

In bygone days, boats and ferries regularly transported people and goods from one side of the Sava river from the Čatež Thermal Spa to the village of Mostec and back. Nowadays, the special ‘brod’ ferries offer short pleasure trips along the river.

 

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The 7-day Brežice My Town Festival, the largest festival in the Posavje region, takes place annually at the end of June and attracts thousands of visitors from Slovenia and neighbouring countries. The festival programme includes a wide range of concerts, performances, activities for children, sports challenges and a chance to sample some of the best local cuisine.

For more information about all the above visit the Discover Brežice website – http://www.discoverbrezice.com/EN/

© Adele in Slovenia

Wacky and Wonderful Rainy Day Ideas in Slovenia – The Sunny Side of the Alps!

Autumn can be one of the nicest times of year here in Slovenia. The heat of the summer has subsided, and with it the risk of afternoon showers, the roads and tourist hotspots are less crowded, and the leaves falling from the trees are a wonderful kaleidoscope of autumn gold and russet colours.

However, although Slovenia is often called ‘The Sunny Side of the Alps’, let’s face it, it does also rain at times!

Bohinj Lake in Autumn – Photo: Dunja Wedam_3099_orig

Much of Slovenia’s natural beauty lies in the great outdoors. So, as I know only too well, it can be frustrating when it isn’t possible to get out there and enjoy it. But, it doesn’t have to spell disaster! There are still plenty of things to see and do, whatever the weather. So, in this blog, I’ve listed a few ideas for what to do on those gloomy, rainy, and maybe even snowy, days!

MUSEUMS – There are hundreds to choose from, thus it’s nigh-on impossible to single one out, so I’ve whittled down the choice somewhat, though, of course, the list is far from exhaustive. Below are just a few of the largest and most popular.

The Park of Military History in Pivka – even those who don’t consider themselves fans of military history, will find something here. The highlight is the chance to go inside the P-913 Zeta submarine. Read more about my recent visit here – http://goo.gl/nWm3Mq and find more information here – http://parkvojaskezgodovine.si/en/

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Photo: Simon Avsec http://www.slovenia.info

The UNESCO-listed Anthony’s Shaft Idria Mercury Mine – more than 700kms of tunnels, and 500 years of mercury mining. More information here – http://www.antonijevrov.si/index.php/en

Photo: Visitidrija.si

Photo: Visitidrija.si

The Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica – housed in the magnificent Baroque Radovljica Mansion. Learn about beekeeping in Slovenia and see the oldest beehive panel in the world.

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Photo: Tourism Radovljica

Škofja Loka Museum – housed in Loka Castle, one of Slovenia’s finest castles in the heart of the historic medieval old town. It boasts extensive and impressive museum collections. More information here – http://www.loski-muzej.si/en/

Photo: Jana Jocif

Photo: Jana Jocif

The Ptuj-Ormož Museum – housed in Ptuj Castle, in Slovenia’s oldest city. Highlights include the collections of traditional carnival masks, musical instruments and glass paintings, as well as the Castle Gallery. More information here – http://pmpo.si/en/

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Bistra Castle and the Technical Museum of Slovenia. The castle was originally a Carthusian monastery during the period from 1260 – 1782 and was later changed into a manor house. It houses an eclectic mix of exhibitions including the Slovenian Hunting Museum and a collection of ex-President Tito’s cars. Read more here – http://wp.me/p3005k-NM and find more information here – http://www.tms.si/index.php

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Ljubljana’s museums and galleries – being the capital city, there is a wide choice, among them the National Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, the City Art Museum, and the Railway Museum. Find out more here – http://goo.gl/WCnyYn

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY! – It certainly doesn’t have to be bad weather to ‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry’, but a dose of traditional hearty Slovene food on a cold damp day is sure to lift your spirits!

Suggested traditional dishes and foods include; bograč, štruklji, jota, ričet, žlikrofi, kremšnita, gibanica. Read more in this previous blog entitled ‘Love Food – Love Slovenia: 10 Must Try Foodshttps://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/02/18/love-food-love-slovenia-10-must-try-slovene-foods/

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WINE or CRAFT BEER TASTING – Take your pick! There is plenty to choose from! You could head to one of the many wine-growing areas, such as Goriška Brda and the Vipava Valley, or, if you are in the capital, leave the choice to an expert and set off on a Ljubljananjam guided food walk, which can be tailored to suit. Read more here http://goo.gl/KqwmVo and find more information here – http://www.ljubljananjam.si/

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EXPLORE A CAVE OR TWO – With a constant temperature year-round, a visit to one of Slovenia’s tourist caves isn’t weather dependant. The Postojna Caves and the UNESCO-listed Škocjan Caves are the most popular, though there are also hundreds of other smaller caves.

Photo: Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama

SOMETHING DIFFERENT – Not necessarily ‘wacky’ but here are a few ‘out there’ ideas for a different way to spend a rainy day.

Cycle through a mountain! Just because it’s not cycling weather, it doesn’t mean you can’t cycle! For a unique experience try mountain biking through the former lead, zinc and iron ore mines under the Peca massif in Koroška. Read more here – http://goo.gl/DOvjXl

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Try and escape the Enigmarium Escape Rooms – Literally lock yourself in (or rather someone else locks you in!) a room, or even an igloo, and try to escape by solving clues before the time runs out. Don’t get locked in! Find out more here – http://escape-room.si/?lang=en

Photo: Enigmarium.si

Photo: Enigmarium.si

And finally, if its wet outside, how about some pampering and/or water-based enjoyment at one of Slovenia’s thermal spas. This year I have been on a journey of discovery of them all – well almost all, just one to go! You can follow my journey here – https://spasinslovenia.com/

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© Adele in Slovenia