day out in Slovenia’s Vipava Valley.
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
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
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
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
Next we headed to the Goriška
“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
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.
here to view the full photoshoot
Times is an English language newspaper from Ljubljana.
Visit their website.