in a valley at the far edge of the country, Breice
is a veritable Garden of Eden, where fresh, healing water
runs as free as the local wine; fascinating sights, wonderful
home-cooked meals, and a world of adventure all await
the intrepid explorer.
Gushing forth from
their sources in the Julian Alps and the Krka Valley,
two of the most famous and mightiest waterways carve their
way across the rugged, undulating Slovenian landscape.
As you drive south on the motorway these two rivers slowly
follow on either side until all three of you meet at the
point between the Orlica and Gorjanci hills, 110 kms from
Ljubljana, that is Breice.
Guardian of the sacred well
As you exit the motorway you won’t
fail to miss the turning for Terme Cate. Here you
will find the TIC. Just inside the main entrance to the
spas, an ugly-looking creature sits in the centre of a
fountain, arms outstretched ready to receive the streams
of water being propelled towards him. The thermal springs
in this modern resort are named after a legendary half
man, half goat and guardian of the sacred springs. He
would bring fresh water and food to the locals. But Cate
hated to be laughed at, and anyone that dared to mock
him and his appearance would return home to find his village
destroyed by giant rocks thrown from the neighbouring
hilltop. So perhaps it’s best not to refer to him
as ugly, after all.
If being pampered on a daily basis
is not your style, then there are many more things this
attractive little municipality has to offer. Heading east
out of town you join the Bizeljsko-Sremiška wine
road. First you will pass through the lovely forest of
Dobrova, where the last battle for Slovenia’s independence
in 1991 was fought, but is now a protected, peaceful haven
for the area’s wildlife. In the village of Gregovce
you will find the oak tree with the largest girth in Slovenia,
and nearby is the largest population of the bee-eating
Repnice, turnip caves in the
In ancient times this region lay deep beneath the Pannonian
Sea, until it dried out and tectonic activity caused the
land to rise. Much of the sea basin comprised of silicate
sands, in which the wonderfully unique Repnice caves were
dug. Along the road to Bizeljsko there are many vinotekas
where you will find these caves. One of the best to visit
is Graben, where Janez Šekoranja, a comical character
whose long, bushy moustache masks a wry smile as he tells
you the history of the area, interspersed with dry wit
and quality wine tasting. Outside the strong winds spin
the large Klopotec that echo across the valley of vineyards.
You can take a fascinating look inside his smoothly dugout
Repnice, and experience for yourself how each level provides
a lower storage temperature.
From here you can continue
on up the hill to the Bizeljsko Castle, in which a woman
has lived alone with her four children for 20 years. Upstairs
you can visit the chapel, where the large altar and beautifully
carved ceiling are undergoing restoration. On the road
up to the castle, you will see a sign for Lovski Dom,
which is a small cottage used by the hunting society.
From this house is a stunning panoramic view across the
valley. You can also see the Croatian village of Kumrovec,
the birthplace of Tito.
On your way back down,
as you pass once again through Bizeljsko, pay a visit
to the church on the hill, whose priest apparently joined
in order to “not have to work anymore”.
By this time you may
be hungry, so pop into one of the gostilnas and try some
of the excellent home-cooked meals and some local specialities
like the buckwheat roll, and wash it all down with some
A town divided
In ancient times this region was
split between the kingdoms of Styria to the south and
Carniola to the north, the river being the border. The
Celts, Romans, Turks and Slavic tribes all passed through
here. Nowadays the region is still divided and as you
drive across the old double bridge that crosses the rivers
before they converge, you move from the region of Štajerska
to Dolenjska. This may not seem like far, and you could
be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t much difference.
The difference actually lies in the soil, which ultimately
produces a different type of wine. The Cvicek wine in
the south is a light red wine with slightly lower alcohol
content, but equally tasty. Here on the south side you’ll
find the Podgorjanska wine road.
On the south bank of the river is
the newly developed Active Vacation resort, where you
can rent canoes, have picnics, and play a variety of sports
like: volleyball, badminton and archery. A large portion
of the riverbank has been reclaimed and turned into a
small, stony beach. This company can also arrange a paintball
game for you in the nearby forest. Large businesses, who
would like to give their employees a chance to de-stress,
can undertake a specially arranged version of the game
called Anger Management, where the only target is the
company director. Although if you do, you may find things
don’t go too well at the next company pay review.
Getting back to nature
The local tourist office offers
many different excursions available to groups who book
ahead. One such tour involves throwing away all the modern
luxuries of life and camping out in the forest. Here you
will learn how to live off nature, finding your own food
and building your own shelter for the night. If you don’t
have the stomach for catching a rabbit, then another option
is to eat snails. Which would you prefer?
Like most places in Slovenia, there
is an abundance of hiking trails. Above the village of
Cate ob Savi, lies the hill of Šentvid. This
is a popular hike for the locals. Along the country road
you will spot a sign for the paintball. Here is the start
of the trail, which leads up through the forest. At the
summit lies the church of Sv. Vid, from where you’ll
find a marvellous view of the town and valley.
2500 years ago this area was home
to a village known as Halstatsko, and was a strategic
point because of its panoramic view. No one could enter
the region without being spotted from this hill. The spot
where the church stands was once home to the village chief.
The current structure was built in the 13th century, and
lays claim to being one of the oldest churches in Dolenjska.
Inside the entrance to the church is the bell rope. Ring
this bell and make a wish, it might come true. In a small
wooden box is a book where all visitors must record their
visit. Behind the church is a small pit, where a fire
is lit every year on the 1st of May holiday. In the old
days these fireplaces were used when the Turks invaded,
to warn of their coming and guide people to safe places
around the town.
I like to ride my bicycle
A project is underway to map out
25 different cycling routes around the municipality and
a small brochure is available at the tourist office mapping
out eight of them. The visitor can either embark upon
a self-guided tour or book on one of the guided group
tours. Soon the routes will be marked out with information
signs in several languages and a full guide will then
Unfortunately with the onset of
winter, many of these activities will have to wait until
the spring, but in the meantime you can still indulge
yourself in the thermal spa resorts, visit the wine cellars
and repnice or marvel at the majestic snow-covered castles
guarding the valley entrance on the Croatian side. Plans
are also underway to re-open an old ski resort nearby
to add to the abundance of activities in this refreshingly
optimistic town, whose friendly inhabitants will always
make you feel welcome, no matter what time of year you
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