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Travel Articles - Erasmus Cherries

Wine, Cherries & a very old Knight by Ian Middleton.

A day out in Slovenia’s Vipava Valley.

Freshly-picked cherries, a tour of Slovenia’s most geographically challenging structure, Predjama Castle. Country roads winding through the lush, fertile Vipava Valley. A fabulous traditional lunch on the Italian border, followed by quality wine-tasting in the famous Goriška Brda region. All in one day!

I’ve often met expats while travelling throughout many countries, but I’ve never considered myself to be one. That is until the Slovenia Times invited me on their first ‘expat excursion’ and my eligibility for the tour put things into perspective.

Summer was finally here and the morning sun shone brightly down as I arrived in Tivoli park to meet the coach. For a moment I forgot I was in Slovenia, as the international crowd around me chatted in English. I studied the group, there were Americans, Canadians, Australians, Dutch, Pakistanis, Japanese and of course, us English.

Our tour guide, Urša, handed out a small map of the “Slovenian chicken.” As she nervously stood at the front of the bus facing a group of eager expats waiting to be entertained in a language other than her own, she bravely fought back her fear and proved to be quite adept at both English, and entertainment.

As the coach wound its way west through the country roads, I tried hard to concentrate on Urša’s speech and talk to Rob, the Australian sitting before me.

At Predjama, we stepped off the bus to the sight of the magnificent castle, wedged tight into a crevasse halfway up a 123-metre cliff-face protruding dramatically into the surrounding basin.

The Dutch couple introduced themselves to me, as we wandered up to the entrance. A young man dressed in medieval attire met us and enthusiastically introduced himself as Erasmus, our tour guide.

Erasmus led everyone inside and proceeded to tell his life story; how he was besieged here, survived on cherries obtained from the Vipava valley via his secret tunnel, and how he died and was buried under the lindus tree out front 522 years ago.

“And you have been telling this story now for 522 years?” asked one of the group.

Erasmus gave a wry smile.

It seemed the local authorities did an equally good job of restoring the errant knight, as well as the castle.

He then took us to the bell tower, now known as the wishing bell.

“But you can only make a wish for love, not money or material possessions!’ Erasmus emphasised.

Each member of the group then took turns to make their wish, the couples making a wish together, followed by the families and a few of the single men, possibly hoping there was some truth to this belief.

Before being taken to the huge cave below the castle, we were ushered to the cellar where the first wine tasting of the day would help combat any claustrophobia.

Next we headed to the Goriška Brda region.

“The Dobrovo vinoteka contains 300,000 bottles of wine,” Urša explained.

“Will that be enough?” I asked Rob, the Australian.

He laughed. “We’ll certainly have a go.”

We stopped for a traditional lunch on the Italian border. What I suspected would be a short stop, turned into a 3-hour lunch of good food, copious amounts of wine, and a chance for the whole group to get to know each other. I watched as the wine flowed, the laughter increased and new friends were made across the dinner table. I began to see just how a tour like this is a great way to unite an expat community. Being strangers in a foreign land, we were all finding common ground, while getting to know the country where we had all come to live.

The nearby Dobrovo Castle houses the Vinoteka Brda, the main retail outlet for the Brdas wines. We were now forced to drink more during an entertaining talk and guided tasting, along with 2 year old air-dried pršut. Spirits were high by this time, and the guide had a hard time being heard over the many other conversations going on at once.

For the final treat of the day, we stopped at a roadside vendor. Everyone posed for a group photo, and we all staggered back onto the bus clutching our bags of fresh cherries. What started off as strangers sitting in their own groups in the morning, had now become a group of friends all mixed together throughout the bus. The atmosphere was buzzing and the wine swished around in our stomachs as the driver seemed to take a mildly sadistic delight in swinging the bus through the twisty country roads back home. As we parted for our homes, I was invited to join the next expat tour this autumn. I look forward to it.


Click here to view the full photoshoot

Slovenia Times is an English language newspaper from Ljubljana.
Visit their website.

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