Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dober dan, Slovenija*

* Good day Slovenia

I got back from a long vacation in Slovenia earlier this week. I can hardly express how wonderful I find this little country to be and how relaxing and inspiring it was. This glorious landscape, as pictured above, was the view from our window for about 10 days.

Last year Emily and her family discovered a wonderful place to stay, Tilnik Farm, a guest house in the foothills of the Julian Alps of Slovenia. They completely fell in love with the place and wanted us to join them this summer for a family adventure. Even James and Adric were able to be us for the first day and a half.

It did not take long for Rick and me to share in Emily's enthusiasm. The farm is perched high up on a mountain plateau and overlooks a picturesque valley with the Idrijca river running through on one side  and forested hills on the other. It is owned and run by a wonderful British couple, Kate and Brett, who could hardly have been more welcoming.

On the property are pools, waterfalls, forest trails and magnificent views in every direction. Down the hill the Idrijca river slips through rocky gorges.

The water in the rivers and streams runs crystal clear and we enjoyed many hours clambering among the boulders.

Quinn and Jos made little bridges and other riverside sculptures. The setting is idyllic and we often had it all to ourselves. This part of Slovenia is something of a secret treasure. Cerkno is located in the northwest corner of Slovenia, little more than an hour's drive from Italy, Austria or Croatia.

There was not much reason to leave the property, although we did end up taking some day trips and discovering lovely local scenery. Often, however, just relaxing and enjoying the exquisite view was activity enough for us.

The children were free to ramble and wander. Quinn seemed especially happy there.

He really loved the animals, which included goats, sheep, dogs and chickens. Every morning he happily went to greet the fowls and feed them a little grain or scraps from the table.

He was anxious to join Kate, Brett and the dogs, Ruby and Lupa in morning chores.

Meals were taken outside on the porch.

The landscape was a never-ending drama. We got sun, fog, rain, mist, thunder storms and clear blue skies during our stay.

We were invited to use the produce from the little garden outside our door. Kate made us muffins and flat bread, Brett made salsa and shared some local spirits with us.

Everywhere it was green, lush and charming.

A path above the house led through the forest to a lookout point on top of the mountainside. Quinn and I headed up the path the first morning.

Brett took Rick out fly fishing and he came back with a beautiful rainbow trout which we grilled for a most tasty dinner that evening.

Life on the farm was idyllic. I don't know if I've enjoyed anywhere quite as much as this lovely little corner of the world, where everyone is kind, where life is simple, where crowds do not overrun the sites and where one can feel very connected to nature. I walked more than I ever do at home and came back feeling strong and invigorated.

It was an ideal location for the children, who could feel free to explore on their own with few dangers other than wasps or slippery rocks to concern themselves with.

Days and nights passed very quickly.

Slovenia has only been a country since 1991. Before the first great war this area was part of the Hapsburg Empire. Between the wars it was a part of Italy. Ernest Hemmingway writes about a local town in A Farewell to Arms. After the second World War this area was included in Yugoslavia and Marshall Tito, at least to some, was a hero. After Tito's death Slovenia as a nation was formed, borders based on language cohesion.

One day we went to a swimming hole, where we swam, built dams and rode a raft.

Wooden plank suspension bridges were constructed high above rivers. Walking across made us a bit queasy at first, but we became braver with experience.

One of the most beautiful outings we took was to the Tolmin Gorges. It was a bright and sunny day, so my photos are a little blown out, and not nearly as beautiful as this place really is.

The water rumbling through the gorges and sometimes falling from high plateaus is cool, clear and lively. The walk through this national park takes a bit over an hour, Up and down steep terrain.

Apparently Dante visited this place in the 14th century and based the description of his inferno on one of the enormous caves he toured. It is now named after the poet. For us it was a bit closer to paradise! At the end of the walk, after scrambling up the path, we crossed the "Devil's Bridge," pictured at right below. Some of us didn't like looking down as we crossed, but I wasn't one of those.

Another site very close to the farm was Divje Babe, a prehistoric cave where what is thought to be the world's oldest musical instrument was discovered, a bone flute. We took a walk there, which included some breathtaking views

And a beautiful hill top church. We came to think of the Slovenians as mountain goats. So many of their buildings are carved into these steep mountains. Quite an athletic feat!

It was a real pleasure to spend so much time with Zinnie, who reaches 19 months later this week. She has grown up so much this summer. She is talking more and more and has her very definite ideas about things. She happily does whatever her big brother is doing and learns so quickly, both the good and not so good behaviors!


Rick left for home a few days before I did. Emily and Jos were performing in a theater festival in Ljubljana and I went along as resident childcare worker. Rick came home to take care of clients.

We had been to Ljubljana two years ago, last time they participated in the festival and I already felt as if I knew the town fairly well. It is very beautiful, with a Mediterranean feeling. The buildings are brightly colored and ornate.

Ljubljana was declared to be the world's most honest city by Reader's Digest in 2009. There is a minimum of crime here and one feels quite embraced by its generous spirit.

The festival provided us with a lovely two bedroom apartment right in the center of town. The kids and I did quite a lot of sightseeing.

The church bells rang throughout the day and I enjoyed this music. At night there was plenty of music too, although more often from street bands.

The early mornings were quiet on the streets of Ljubljana, but the daytime and evening were jumpy. The cafe life here is lively. When everyone else left town, I had an afternoon on my own and spent most of it going from one sidewalk cafe to the next, lunch, coffee, wine, dinner. I had a good book and a nice ramble.

Now I'm back to work where September rings in lots of exciting events. I will keep you posted.

1 comment:

  1. What idyllic photographs - thanks so much for sharing them.