Day 31 20th June Otocec
Le camping is right by the river and just 50 yds up the lane is a wooden bridge leading onto a tiny island which houses Otocec Castle. This is, apparently, one of Slovenia’s loveliest and most complete fortresses and the only one on an island. It has been much renovated and now houses a rather grand hotel but it has retained most of its original features and is indeed impressive. The river Krka is wide and fast flowing and neither of us have ever seen so many wild swans – we must have seen about 35 just in the short stretch of river between the castle and le camping.
The vineyards of Trska Gora are above Otocec and atop the hill is the beautiful Church of St Mary. Our Lonely Planet guidebook promised wonderful views from the Church and so we decided that the Church, with the vineyards on the way, was to be our objective of the day. We thought it might be quite fun to give FANNY a job and punched in the village and ‘by bicycle’.
It all looked very promising to begin with as we crossed the river and
wound our way gently up the hill. The first turn that FANNY indicated was a dead end but fortuitously we saw a young couple just getting out of their car. They were charming and gave us some directions. As we left them they thrust a bottle into our hands, initially we thought it was squash but to our surprise it was their home grown wine and they wanted us to have it as a gift. We followed their directions, which FANNY agreed with and then found ourselves on a rough pathway – we considered that this might be deemed a cycle path and so took to it with enthusiasm. The pathway took us through vineyards and finally a small meadow (see photo) and back onto the road. Interesting detour! Once on the road FANNY appeared to be lost (what a surprise) and asked us to turn around. Oh no, there was no way I was going back down only to have to come back up again. She was confined to my saddle bag.
We followed our noses and were shortly within sight of the Church but there appeared to be no way up. We had seen very few people
and concluded that this was, perhaps, a weekenders’ paradise. Luckily we came across an older lady tending her vines – not of an age to speak English we, once again, fell into conversation using German as our common language. We had drunk most of our water on the climb uphill and so I asked her if she would be good enough to give us some water – not water, surely, but wine says she? At which point she insisted on taking us into her cellar, filling up a plastic bottle of wine and giving it to us (together with some water!). At no point would she accept payment. She showed us how to get to the church and insisted we leave the bikes and rucksack at her house until our return. After visiting the church from where the views were, as promised, spectacular we collected the bikes and set off.
We had only gone a few yards downhill when we saw what looked like a winery. It wasn’t open but a young guy was working there. Once again we fell into conversation, this time in English, and once again we were invited in to taste the wines of the
house. Another plastic bottle of wine later we were heading downhill.
Bear in mind that Il Piloto’s rucksack now had 3 x 1.5 litre bottles of wine in it – half a case of wine - his bike (Boris) is normally much slower than mine (Big Bertha) but not on this occasion! Il Piloto and Boris shot off downhill, jet propelled by the weight of the wine, swerving round corners as if on their very own Tour de France or Giro d’Italie. Big Bertha and I followed at a more sedate pace with a slight burning of rubber as the brakes were put to full use.
We ‘carbed up’ in a wonderful restaurant overlooking the valley and mused on the fact that the Slovenes had been so very kind to us during our stay in their beautiful country. I wondered if I would offer the same hospitality to a passing foreign couple if they appeared on my doorstep at Catherton?
We leave Slovenia tomorrow and go to Hungary. We will miss this tiny country which has so much to offer – mountains, lakes, rivers, shooting, fishing, skiing, vineyards, spas, orchards, walnut and hazelnut trees aplenty, neat &
tidy houses, veg gardens and gardens worthy of any gardening magazine but above all their hospitality and kindness to two oldies in a horse lorry...
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