1593-1597: 4 Countries & and Epic Meal

1593:  Stilt House Detour on a Driving Day

Thursday 16tJuly 2020

Making full use of the water tap outside the toilet block, we showered and filled out tank.  Plan today was to start the journey out of Hungary, somewhat regretfully.  We opted the route along the Danube for as long as practical and saw the Esztergom Basillica, apparently the largest in Hungary.  Impressive but no inclination to stop and visit.

We did stop at the Bokod Floating Houses … on stilts actually.  

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Over 2 miles of cabins over the Lake.  They are used as summer houses or fishing huts. 

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Fishing is very popular as the lake never freezes  the power station recycles the water for cooling.

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Don’t much fancy coming home in the dark after a few glasses!  They were all a long way from shore.

After a fairly long day, we stopped just off the motorway at another lake car park.  Lots of room and quiet at night.  Off lead walking for CO2.

1594:  Slovenia, Maribor and Fine Dining

Friday 17tJuly 

We ate at Mak’s restaurant in September 2015 on the recommendation of a chance acquaintance.  We both agreed it was the best meal we’d ever had.  Not cheap then, at £123 plus taxi.  Knowing we would be passing nearby, I’d rung to book a table and they’d offered to open the gate so we could park Jez around the back.  We just hoped we wouldn’t get turned back at the border into Slovenia.  

A bit of a queue at the border as all the traffic was forced into one lane.  The Slovenian’s hadcreate a border point at the first service station.  Asked where we were going, we did not mention that we planned to stay a few days in Slovenia, and we were allowed on our way.  Being over 3.5 tons we elected to avoid buying the Go-Box equivalent and use the side roads.  We had managed 5 weeks in Slovenia not on motorways in 2015, and it’s not big.  Once off the motorway we climbed up a few hills and through villages.  Slow BUT so PRETTY.  We had forgotten just how lovely Slovenia is.  Very green and rivers full, so they’ve obviously had a lot of rain here too.

We arrived at Mak’s and parked up.  After a welcome glass of Sauvignon, I walked CO2 along the wide and fast flowing and the meal performance commenced.  

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On arrival at the restaurant you are told to open your mouth … I thought Chef / owner David was winding me up, so proffered my hands … too used to hand sanitiser!  No, really, your mouth … a spray of a brandy type alcohol … a lingering flavour. 

A the table, a glass of really dry champagne (Slovenian).  Then course after course … I really should have taken my own pix, so I ‘borrowed’ these from Tripadvisor.  We lost count of how many offerings, at least 12 course … canapé sized issued forth from the kitchen.  David’s standard phrase was ‘don’t be afraid’, and to put the whole item in your mouth … taste sensations.  Sometimes hard to identify exactly what the flavours were … not that it mattered.  Quail eggs, mousses, foams, black pudding with a fried cabbage leaf on top …. all interestingly presented.  Fortunately the main was not much bigger than the hors d’oevres … really tender beef that had been tea smoked.  

After the meal, the 6 of the 8 guests repaired to the cellar to play some of the vinyl records there.  And then another drink after I returned from the night time dog walk on the terrace.  We had had a lot of wine … 2 bottles PLUS various wines with different courses.  David also cooked us killer eggs benedict the next morning … bill including tip £288, but no taxi fares to pay this time.  Would we go back … yes, but you do have to brace yourself for David’s character … he is not everyone’s taste.  I am convinced he is on the spectrum, well he is a food genius.  But is it odd to take J and I through the kitchen and play songs to us outside on the back step.

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The draped ham was blow torched at the table and then eaten!

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A macaroon with foie gras. 

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A mousse and smoked fish inside, draped with another fish and caviar.

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You eat these by dunking them in the roasted corn.  It is all very hands on:  You eat most dishes with your hands and David was getting his hands into customers food and showing them how to eat as he intended.

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BBQ quail thighs with a spinach soup.

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Mushroom soup.

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David mixing Hendricks G&T  grated lime, blueberry and dry ice.  Honestly as a gin lover, these were amazing.

 

1595:  Driving Day

Saturday 18tJuly 

I walked CO2 before we had our eggs benedict, cooked by David – no charge for these!  We then set off, sometimes alongside the motorway and sometimes up through more hills and villages.  Having had a good breakfast, I really did not expect to be hungry by lunchtime …a quick pitstop for buns and snacks in Lidl.  We agreed to get past Ljubljana and then stop … found a parking in hills outside a tent campsite and restaurant.  We would have wild camped but we need to use the services more often as we managed to put a hole in the intact toilet cassette and are now using the one David (thegreygappers.com) repaired.  We don’t want to overfill it, so it needs emptying more often than normal.  

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1596:  And So Into Italy

Monday 19tJuly 

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View over the village on the morning dog walk.

With water in the centre of the tarmac car park … it would have been silly not to deploy the twin tub.  A little bit of stealth as we had it in the doorway and emptied the waste water by bucket down the drains.  It did seem rather public, but at least our hab door was away from the house.  And given we’d paid EUR20 to stay in a car park, I felt entitled.  James cleaned and I washed the floor … strangely, cleaning Sunday actually happened on a Sunday.  We also used the shower … there is a tent campsite in the back garden, but only 1 loo and shower … in the same room, so not sure how that works if there are lots of campers.  We left at 12.30, saying good bye to our hosts who were at lunch with family.  Oh is it that time already?  

A driving afternoon and quickly into Italy.  A border guard wandered across the border, lazily waving us on.  We stopped just into Italy for our soup.  A quiet parking overnight amongst the vineyards and not far off the motorway.  We have done Italy (6 months) with rarely using motorways, but it is slow as the towns are all busy and roads are bone shakers.  Good progress across Italy as the motorways are clear of trucks on Sundays.

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We HAD to conform  a Magnum at a service station.  Not the lovely Italian gelato we would have liked.

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Overnight was quiet amongst the vineyards.  Not far from Soave, but no tastings this journey.

1597:  And So Out of Italy

Sunday 19tJuly 

We had half a thought of stopping the Italian side of the border to grab an Italian meal, but this is the closure day for Italian restaurants.  A great route past Turin on the motorway and then left towards Briacon in France.  £48.85 class B to cross Italy from one side to the other.

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The sack of dog food was empty, bu Oscar just had to make sure!

We stopped in Briacon … a French aire with water 10 mins, for EUR2, but free to us as we didn’t use anything but the bins.  Supposed to be for 4 motorhomes, but there 15 of us and about 40 of the resident type in caravans.  Quite a complex of electricity feeding each caravan.  As far as I could establish, they were hooked into a lamp post.  The caravans were immaculate, I saw 4 being cleaned.  We wandered into the town, decided against a meal out as a) we’d had a big lunch and b) we really do NOT like French prices.  A pizza for EUR18, no thank you!

Time to slow down now, as we don’t have to be in Antibes until Friday.

 

 

 

140-141: Magical Maribor Moments

Sunday 6th Sept 2015: Onto Maribor

We left Prebold, but were fairly unimpressed by the towns we passed through, not enough to stop anyway.  Scenery was less mountainous by still pretty and agricultural.  The barns are architecturally really interesting.

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More churches and always with hills in the background.

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Hops for the two Slovenian beers being harvested now: Union and Lasko

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Our destination was the motorhome parking at the top of a hill with the intention of walking on the morrow.  Best laid plans and badly laid roads put paid to that!  We started up the hill on the dirt track – too many water tracks and rattlings:  Chardonnay and our teeth!  Abort and plan B … Maribor, which was planned next anyway.

Our general expectations of Maribor were not high – even though it is Slovenia’s second city on the river Dava. (Boys and girls – were we surprised! Read on…).  We arrived at our first Agro Camping at about 4:00 pm – the Horvat Vinejardji. Our hosts were out and we settled the van onto a very sloping pitch – chocks brought into play to level the bed. Settled to some admin work – and after a while, our host arrived – quick warm welcome (we were their first motorhome, despite being in the Agrotourism book for a while).  K offered the standard EUR10 – refused!  He asked if we would like a wine tasting a little later in the evening – does the fat dog slide on lino?   At about 7:30 – he knocked and we followed him into the house… We tasted about 5 different wines – all white – this area is mainly white – Sauvignon Blank, some different Reisling, Chardonnay…. on we went … slowly with decent sized glasses. Then – our hostess appeared with a large platter of food! A real mixture:  local cheeses, sliced onion on bread with a light lard butter (tasty – honest) and pumpkin oil drizzle, gammon on bread – and so tasty.  J ate most of it – this was our evening meal – superb !  Our host’s English was very good, so he was able to talk to us about wine growing generally in Slovenia … mostly family run businesses and 6 major large firms, until last year when one in Maribor went bankrupt.  Due to the sunny summer this year the harvest is starting this week and expected to be good.  Last year there was very little sun and the harvest was poor.  We discussed how the little known quality of Slovenian wine impedes its demand and therefore export to the rest of Europe.  He also talked about the wines to look out for in the different areas as we travelled Slovenia.  We were welcome to park up as long as we liked.

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A nightcap wine tasting of our own back in the van – that fat dog just will not stop sliding – thanks to Thomas O’Reilly for that one, Amelia!

At EUR 5.99 fro 5 litres it really was a poor finale.

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The view from Chardonnay looking up at some of our host’s vines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 7th Sept 2015:  Magical Maribor Moments

This may be a long blog – no need for sleeping pills tonight…  AM – we cycled into Maribor – I (J blogging here) did a sort of walking tour guide thingy.  Maribor was 2/3rds destroyed in WW2 and boasts a large 1980’s iconic bus station.  Most of the architecture reflects the ‘proletarian’ history of factories (source our 2001 guide book).  However a number of old buildings such as 4 old town wall towers and a synagogue survived.  We avoided the tourist train (Kerstin, if you are reading, this pic is for you!) – it did not seem to move due to the lack of tourists :).

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We saw the oldest vine in the world – 400 years old – it’s in the Guiness Book of Records – it still produces wine.  As there is a festival to harvest its grapes so the date is pretty much fixed to end of Sept / start October.  The wine produced is distributed by the Mayor in small bottles.

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The wrinkly old vine is on the right!

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It had a small and free museum and had some of our overnight host’s wines – Horvat.

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Journalists waiting to ask us how our trip in Slovenia was going … actually Serbian journalist interviewing Slovenian wine experts … should have asked us, we seem to be tasting enough to become expert!

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That led to a sampling of the local wines in a conveniently nearby restaurant – only 4 wines, but we were sharing, honest!

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We fell into conversation with a lovely lady – Petra, and her Crufts Bichon Frisee, and she gave us very good advice on the area and things to see and do.

She talked about how her family, wealthy Ljubljana, had different capitalist ideas to a lot of Slovenia, who were still emotionally locked into the Tito era.  She recommended a particularly good restaurant – Mak’s – for special occasions – possibly expensive – K’s eyes lit up the street and she asked Petra to book us in for 6:30 this evening!  Bugger the budget Mrs Spontaneous…

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Not having had enough of wine tasting, we headed for the  largest underground wine cellar in Slovenia – 20,000 sq metres. A good tour of timber and concrete (?) wine barrels – with German and Dutch couples – the wine tasting then began (again !). Our tour guide was the manager of the overseas consortium that was trying to buy the bankrupted wine firm from the receivers (see note above about 6 large wine firms).  He was Dutch married to a Slovene and had worked in many industries (we did get his life story) but it was very interesting to hear his take on some Slovenine attitudes to competition and pricing based on old Communist beliefs.

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No fountain, so visitors press coins into the wall for luck.

7 wine tastings later, we retrieved our bicycles and wobbled back to Horvat….  J was ready to nap before the 6:30 restaurant booking – K disappeared into chez Horvat to purchase some of the wine, where she was offered more wine tasting and a tour of the bottling equipment and the main cellar.  The generosity of our host is amazing:  he rounded each price down and threw in a bottle of a different grape!  In telling our host about the cave tour, he said how a consortium of vineyards had bought some vines from the bankrupt large company and they were in a really poor way but a lot of work on them and they should produce some good kilos of grapes this year.  Slovenia is a small country and is is fascinating to hear parts of the same story from different people.

K back with 2 minutes to spare before the taxi arrived….. a very quick clothes change and minimal makeup.

The restaurant decor was fairly bland.  The chef / host David was eccentric … jeans, jacket and a mop of unruly hair.  He offered up his 19 month son as the main course!  We left ourselves entirely in his hands re the meal and the wine.  He does not produce a menu as it depends what is available.  The pictures can do the talking.  It was truly amazing.  So much food, but served slowly and all so light that neither of us had that leaden stomach feeling.

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1. Bottom left to right and up – you need directions are there were so many elements just to the starter!

Beetroot macaroon with chicken liver pate and foie gras.

Parsley with homemade sausage and …. on top.

Crostini with Slovenian parma ham

Corneto with minced spiced beef and cream cheese

Lollypop of 24 month aged cheese with pumpkin seeds

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1. Continued … hot part

The lightest tortilla with cauliflower cream

Sweetbread in crumb with ginger and soy sauce

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James knowing he is in for a good time.

Wine was Zlata Radgonska Permina 2006 – apparently the oldest sparkling winery in Slovenia

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2.  Soup Course

Tenderest salmon strips in a yellow pepper soup.  Quail egg, caviar and a jelly of sweet and sour pumpkin.  Served under a large dome with herb smoke.

WINE:  Verus Sauvignon Blanc … delicious

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3.  Salad Course

Dressed leaves with roasted pumpkin seeds and chargrilled chicken.

As the chicken was on the bone, they came later with a large bowl, jug of warm water and rolled towels so we could rinse our hands!

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4.  Main Course

Most melt in the mouth lamb with lightest mashed potato, meat juices, onion sauce and papardelle of pumpkin and carrot.

WINE:  Zamut Cabernet Sauvignon (Augustus) 2008 (we rejected an earlier suggestion as we felt it was too heavy – Shiraz)

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5.  Dessert

Marinated pear balls, pear ice-cream, cinnamon and wine poached pears, bitter chocolate biscuit, chocolate soil, white chocolate mouse with a mango centre (when you cut in it looked like a poached egg!)

WINE:  Most …. this is actually not a wine…. yet.  On a certain day in November the celebration is the the grape juice is now fermented enough to become wine.  Until then, it is Most (pronounced Mosht)

We were offered a cheese course!!!!  To finish we were given shot of grappa, told to only drink half of it as it was a long drink ins a small glass.  The glass was then topped up with Chardonnay grape juice.

As we left, we had a sour cherry shot!  In any normally circumstances, we would feel bloated, poisoned and plastered … it is a testament to the quality of the food and wine and the lovely long gaps that we felt replete but in no way uncomfortable.  Amazing experience.  WOW – WHAT A DAY!