Published: June 27th 2012May 10th 2012
After returning from Croatia, our time is taken up with further family visits....and massive meals. My uncle and aunt, Janez and Marjana are totally obsessed with ensuring that we don't go away from the table hungry. The result is that are we are usually bursting after every meal. On one particular day Janez takes us around to visit my uncle France and his wife Maria. We have a light meal of pasta with a very simple simple sauce so good it begged seconds. After the meal we headed out to the family weekender for a visit.
The weekender is the essence of modern Slovenian living. It's usually a very modest shack set amongst a small patch of grape vines on the side of a hill. Wine is of course made from the grapes, but the weekender provides so much more. Outside of towns like Novo Mesto, the hill slopes are covered with weekenders, so much so that they look like small village settlements. During the week, there is not much activity in these areas but during the weekend, the city dwellers clog the freeways as they make their way to and from their weekender. Even if you don't own a
weekender, everyone knows someone who does. And so if you don't make your own wine, you can trade your labour to help with the harvest in exchange for wine. I think this explains the lack of bottle shops in Slovenia.
The trip out to France's weekender is a short distance from Novo Mesto and not far the ancestral home in the village of Dvor. His weekender shack is like many of the dwellings along by, a very basic house with a bedroom, kitchen and laundry. Below the ground floor is a cellar for making the wine from the grapes. At the rear of the dwelling is France's pride and joy, a large wood fired open barbeque that looks like a pizza oven. In no time at all, France has it fired up and grilling large quantities of pork chops. And so not 3 hours after our pasta meal at their house in Novo Mesto, France and Maria are feeding us home made prsut (air dried ham like prosciutto), pork chops and salad. Washed down by large quantities of their home made wine, a rose-like drop called cvicek that goes down very easily. It was all very good.
next day we decided that a walk was needed to work off some of the good food and drink we'd been taking in. The obvious choice was to walk up Gorjanci, a hill range in view of Novo Mesto that serves as a natural border between Slovenia and Croatia. As it's a spiritual place for the local people of the Dolenjska, Janez and Joze had already taken Gina and I up there the day after we'd arrived. The views back over the valleys were absolutely spectacular and we thought that Ellen would really enjoy the walk up.
We drove out to a village near the base of the hill and headed off. The climb is fairly moderate as the hill is about 1100m high. As expected I soon fell behind - I think collapsed was a more apt description. I finally make the summit to find Gina and Ellen surrounded by a bunch of elderly Slovenes. They are preparing for the climb back down the hill. Before I'd arrived they had greeted Ellen as the first of our group and fed her - homemade salami, pickles and bread and some vino. Fabulous generosity and they couldn't speak any english.
I am welcomed and we exchange a few words in my broken Slovenian. Instantly a flask of fruit flavoured shnapps is thrust into my hand. They have certainly prepared themselves well for the climb!
After a rest to look around the summit (there are 2 churches there, one on the Slovenian side of the border and another about 25 metres away on the Croatian side) we head off for the descent. As expected its a lot easier and we can take our time feeling through the predominately beech forest. The vegetation is verdant and the forst alive with birds. With each step we can hear small dormice scattering to hide. We come across large patches of chermash, wild garlic. On our first trip up here we picked a couple of large bags of the leaves for Vesna and Marjana. They make a very nice pesto like paste from it. As we walk on, the smell of chermash is heavy. Its like walking through a stir-fry. To prove I'm not a complete wimp, I take the lead and head off in a big hurry. Half way down the hill, I stop at a strategically placed inn for a breather. Gina
and Ellen saunter in. They're progress was hampered when, in the course of picking some chermash they were greeted by a park ranger. It turns out that he has travelled to Australia and has done a bit of adventure stuff near Mt Beauty in Victoria. So Gina and Ellen had a nice chat, and the ranger pretended not to notice the bag of stuff that they'd picked.
There are more photos below