142-143: First Cut is the Finest!

142 – Tuesday 8th Sept 2015:  Moving North and East from Maribor

We left Horvat vineyard saying farewell to our hostess; the vine expert.  I put the parking on the Parkings app that most motorhomes use as the Agritourism book is really badly distributed and advertised.  It is the least we can do after such amazing hospitality.

We drove North … with the aim of covering pretty much all of Slovenia … doing it properly! So we headed north to Gornja Radgona, but did not stop … a ski centre in winter and pretty ordinary.  Due to vagaries of the border with Austria, we were briefly out of Slovenia which meant we could use our free Roaming with Three.  So we parked up at a village:

  • spoke to K’s daughter and mother
  • booked Harry Potter Studios visit
  • booked K’s train ticket for her visit home end October
  • checked bank accounts still alive and not imploded

and perturbed a local resident who walked all around Chardonnay as if she had landed from space!

Back into Slovenia and back roads to a town called Grad, where we parked at a Church and had lunch.  I know it seems irreverent, but in the countryside there really are no lay-bys or parkings.  Grad actually means Castle, we saw the sign, but not the item itself.  The scenery around here, was very pretty … more peaks and churches.

Grape pickers finsihing for the day

Grape pickers finishing for the day

Having peaked at Grad, we headed south again and through Moravske Toplice:  this is another hot natural springs spa resort with an over priced and very commercial campsite … we kept going to …. Dobrovnik.  Not the Croatian one – the Slovenian.  The Agritourism book listed a parking here and we wanted to justify the purchase of the book!

This one was actually the car park of a man made lake – Bukovnisko J.  Being rural, the car park attendant did not speak English or German (our standby language recently), but a few gestures and mimes and she sold us a ticket for EUR5 and told us to park over the other side of the car park.  No one else there, in fact the whole place was not busy, and we did not feel like lepers!  Parked up and wandered in to see what there was…. an ice cream later …. and we failed to obtain a free map of the lake and area so we took a phone pic of one of the info boards and wandered around the lake.  Peaceful and pleasant enough, once you got past the Hungarian coach load of 90% loud and chatty women.  There was a small chapel with a natural spring which is reputed to have healing properties.  It really did feel a sanctified place.  Sadly a man meditating and a couple on a bench near this – one wonders if they have some sorrow they are looking for help with.

By about 9.00 we had the place to ourselves – totally, other than a few zillion stars.

Our lonely but very peaceful pitch

Our lonely but very peaceful pitch

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143 – Wednesday 9th Sept:  Vine Cutting Festival

Leisurely start.  As we vacated to run around the lake the car park attendant pounced on us to sell us a ticket … we persuaded him that we had bought an over night one already and that we would be on our way in an hour.  I know it would only have been another EUR5, but it is the principle of the thing!  So we ran, and departed.

We got as far as Lendava, right at the eastern side of Slovenia.  Lack of parking in the centre so we hunkered  down in the supermarket carpark.  K shopped and J washed!  we then breakfasted there.  Again Chardonnay caught attention being a) a motorhome in the less touristy area b) being British and c) being beautiful, not that I am biased (Chard that is!)!

We had been told that the Sauvignon Blanc around here was supposed to be good and there were  cycle wine routes but since the harvest has just started, staff are busy, and we could not easily find the Tourist Information Office anyway!  And we’ve bought too much wine already!  Or is wine like shoes and handbags in that you can never have enough?

We followed the scenic road to Ljutomer where we lunched in a car park (car park meals seem to be a habit! today!), popped into the TIC in a rather impressive square and had an ice cream, of course.

We have seen these milk dispensers in most towns.

We have seen these milk dispensers in most towns.

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J smitten.

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Typical traffic – tractor on tractor.

There are many new houses being built, but most of the old ones have had a re-furb and the choice of rendering colour for the walls is not to UK taste and we have seen this pretty much all over Slovenia.:

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We took the smaller road to Jeruzalem and were really pleased we had … little pointy hills with lots of vines.  We kept stopping for photos; fortunately the roads are so quiet.  Not much at Jeruazalem other than two hotels, a church, a TIC and 40 inhabitants (official figures from the chap at the TIC).  From the TIC, we bought:

  1. A ‘I feel SLOVEenia T shirt for J and EUR2 cheeper than in Ljutomer 🙂
  2. A bottle of pumpkin oil.  We have eaten local food drizzled with it and have seen them harvested in the fields and left to ripen.  Apparently they are pressed for oil in October.
  3. A bottle of local Sauvignon Blanc … we wanted Verus, the vineyard we had drunk at our posh meal, but we could have every grape but Sauv. Bl. by Verus, so we selected a different vineyard to try.

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We then set the sat nav for our third Argotourism …. it took us the quick way – in and out of Croatia in 5 mins.  We were surprised to have to show Passports on the way out of Sl, and again on the way in.  We were also asked, sadly, if we had any Syrian refugees on board.

At our overnight destination there were about 25 people all out front with the men wearing black felt hats and wellie boots.  Fortunately the son of the farmer spoke near fluent English and guided us to where we could park and helped us avoid an over hang … another puncture in Chardonnay not desired!

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Our hosts were insistent we joined them… and ‘does the fat dog slide on lino?”

The farmer has a patch of about 20 different grapes in the front.  Every year, he and neighbours dress in traditional clothes (hence the hats and boots) and they have a party for the first cutting of the grapes.

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BUT before the precedings commenced we all had a shot of ‘grappa’ infused with herbs which gave it a green hue.  Then the cutting commenced.

As peoples buckets filled, they filled the large wooden buckets, which were then transported on backs by Shanks Pony to the stalk stripping machine.

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Clever device – pulls the grapes off the stalks and spits out the stalks.  All the 20+ varieties of red and white grapes in together …

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A bit of a pause:  wine and food.  Again J and I tried to slip away … uninvited guests and all that, but with a little pressure it was borne on us that it would be rude.

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Food was homemade breads, parma ham and salami style meats, tomatoes and onions.  I don’t eat bread, but I tasted J’s – one was like a soft pizza dough (but better) with bits of pork sprinkled on top … these came from the rendering down of the lard like butter … delicious.

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To help a bit, the grape mush was loaded into potato sacks as it makes it easier to unload and reload  the press.

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Then the pressing began.  Three pressings actually.

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All the men were involved by this point – Zvonko Jr. (English speaking son) explained the Slovenian saying:  ‘Too many midwives spoilt the birth’.  Similar to our ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’.  But no issues here as most were in a supportive capacity.

The juice drained away through a long pipe into the Fermtation tank in the cellar.  Zvonko Sr. used an device held to the eye to measure the sugar content – only 13.  Sugar would need to be added.  Do you think J and I look expert … expert drinkers!  Or all at sea?

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I should have recorded it … some of the men and women joined in a couple of songs.  Honestly, it was 3 or 4 part perfect harmonies.  Zvonko Jr. said they sang about the first grape cutting and as they all knew the words they belted it out.  Really beautiful.

Other special moments of the evening were so numerous, but especially:

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Looking at the barn of old farming equipment, such as a potato digger, that spits the potatoes out sideways.  Apparently there is also a party to celebrate the old farming techniques.  We must come back!

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Being shown a young Edible Doormouse.  Yep – this is its official name.  Some places have special festivals to celebrate them.  They live in trees in Eastern Europe and are a delicacy, but only the Slovenes eat them.

  • Learning about how each village will have a slightly different dialect .. we had picked up that the Slovene sounded different in the eastern part.

 

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Seeing the Slovenian cattle:  smaller and suitable for hilly areas as they don’t damage the slopes.

We thought these were to show wind direction, but they clatter in wind as bird scarers.

We thought these were to show wind direction, but they clatter in wind as bird scarers.

We cannot believe the warmth and hospitality of this country.  We were not allowed to pay for our overnight pitch, offered toilets etc, given some of the bread to take away ….

This is a treasured and enriching memory.  Thank you!

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K – dog whisperer!

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It worked the first time!

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This amazingly generous and warm group of people

This amazingly generous and warm group of people – thank you.

2 thoughts on “142-143: First Cut is the Finest!

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