Private Guide Slovenia https://pg-slovenia.com Explore Slovenia Sun, 04 Apr 2021 14:44:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.4 https://pg-slovenia.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/cropped-PGS-Logo-Puzle-32x32.png Private Guide Slovenia https://pg-slovenia.com 32 32 Easter Eggs https://pg-slovenia.com/easter-eggs/ https://pg-slovenia.com/easter-eggs/#respond Sat, 03 Apr 2021 22:26:54 +0000 https://pg-slovenia.com/?p=11064 The post Easter Eggs appeared first on Private Guide Slovenia.

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Easter Eggs

The story behind the tradition

Easter eggs represent a symbol and a traditional food prepared for Easter, a Christian festival that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. History of the largest Christian festivity is linked with lots of pagan beliefs as well. Pagans celebrated the arrival of spring this time of year, light and re-awakening of new life. The most famous Goddess of the Pagans was called Ostara, she was the Goddess of Dawn and Spring, the Goddess of Fertility. One  year when she was late with her arrival – so she felt guilty. She decided to save a life of a bird, whose wings have been frozen because of the long winter. The bird became her pet. She felt sorry for him, because he was unable to fly. She decided to turn him into a snowy-white rabbit, that became her sacred animal. To replace the ability of flying, she gave him the ability to run fast. But since she wanted to keep a memory of him being a bird before, she gave him the ability to lay eggs as well, but only once a year. This explains why rabbits and eggs became symbolic for Easter and they represent new life. 

The egg is the most perfect image of fertility and new life and one of the oldest symbols in cultures around the world. The egg, coloured red, has a big meaning in Christianity, since it symbolises the drops of Jesus’s blood. In Slovenian language we call an Easter egg “pirh”. Translated into Greek it means fire, in Hungarian it means red and in Czech to turn red. This is also the most traditional colour in which the eggs are being painted to. Red colour symbolises sun, energy, life, heart, love, faith, heaven. 


In Slovenia Easter eggs are first mentioned in a document of the Dominican monastery from the town Radlje na Dravi already back in 1393. They were supposed to be gifts for nuns on an Easter Saturday. In our most famous historical book from 1689 “The fame of the duchy of Carniola” by Valvasor he mentions that on Easter Saturday the believers are carrying baskets full of goodies for the blessings. The list of goodies consists of salted ham and beef, horseradish, hard-boiled painted eggs and potica, traditional walnut pastry of Slovenia.

Today, the painted Easter eggs of Slovenia are considered among the most beautifully decorated eggs in all of Europe. The eastern part of Slovenia has developed a style, where the inside of the eggs is blown out of the shell and they paint on a black surface of the shell lots of geometric and stylised patterns, traditional for the area, including the patterns of bobbin style lace. The western part of Slovenia does the eggs similarly but patterns are mostly of herbs and flowers, sometimes religious symbols. This style of egg decoration is a true art-form and cannot be done by everybody. Only the most skilled, with tons of patience and a steady hand, can do that art. For the rest, we go into simple techniques that bring beautiful results as well.

The technique we use most often is very “old school”. While the artificial colours you buy in a store give variety of shades, sometimes they also leave colour stains in the eggs and that is not the healthiest thing. For the last couple of years we have been going back to the most traditional way – making coloured eggs with the help of the onion peel. So how do we do it? First of all you need to start collecting the onion peel already a month or two prior to Easter. It doesn’t matter what peel you take – from yellow or red onions, as long as you gather a lot of it. If you will have more red onion peel the colour might turn darker, more yellow – a little more subtle brown. Once Easter arrives all you still need are some eggs (white shell is not a must) and you gather some first spring flowers and leaves from your garden. You take the egg and a flower, wrap it very tightly with an old nylon sock that you cut into pieces to cover the egg and then lay those eggs into a big-enough pot filled with onion peel. Pour water over the pot and let it cook until boiling on low temperature, for at least 10 minutes after boiling. When that time passes you should leave the eggs inside of the water for another hour. Once you start unwrapping them, you need a cloth dipped in with a few drops of olive oil that you wipe across the egg lightly and then lay them into a basket. The eggs turn out beautifully brown with patterns from nature – each one is unique. Of course there are some more organic ways of painting the eggs – a popular one recently has been cooking the eggs in spice curcuma, in red beets, some people even do it in red wine, etc. We don’t mind the spice or veggies, but in our family we prefer drinking the wine.

Once eggs are done, we lay them in a basket and they decorate our kitchen tables until the traditional Easter breakfast, when goodies are brought out and a large feast, brunch-style takes place. This is where the whole family gathers, stories are exchanged, tummies are filled and memories are made. Bread-wrapped ham, horseradish spread mixed in with sour cream and eggs, potica – our walnut filed rolled dough pastry – are just a few things never missed. We play some games with the eggs – usually kids against the adults. Sometimes only breaking the eggs at the table – two people try to compete in beating up eggs against one another – the one, whose egg is not broken, continues with other people sitting at the table. If weather is nice we take the games outside – in Slovenia we do not hide the eggs and go on hunts, this tradition is only now coming in from the West. But we play two games – “štrucanje” which doesn’t have a translation but a loose description is that you lay eggs into a basket and from a distance thrown coins into them, whoever hits the egg and the coin stays in the shell, takes all of the coins thrown. The second called “takalicanje” is almost like bowling. But with eggs. You need two rakes and you make a little narrow path with their help on which the eggs are being sent down a little hill… whoever’s egg gets the farthest, is the winner. There is no award at the end, but good times with the beloved family sound like a good award to me for sure.

Happy Easter everybody! Vesele velikonočne praznike!

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Live virtual guided tours https://pg-slovenia.com/live-virtual-guided-tours/ https://pg-slovenia.com/live-virtual-guided-tours/#respond Mon, 29 Mar 2021 09:01:45 +0000 https://pg-slovenia.com/?p=10909 The post Live virtual guided tours appeared first on Private Guide Slovenia.

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Live Virtual guided tours of Lake Bled, Škofja Loka And Ljubljana

Join us and explore our favourite places with us

LIVE: BLED WALKING TOURS

Live virtual guided tours of lake Bled, Škofja Loka and Ljubljana starting on April 10th. 

Join us on a new adventure! We have been planning this for a long time. We loved our live Zoom sessions on our recent Virtual pilgrimage through Slovenia and it gave us a feeling of actually being able to guide again, we decided to offer you three tours of some of our favourite places in Slovenia. Starting on Saturday, April 10th, celebrating the actual birthday of lake Bled (blowing 1017 candles), we will treat you to an hour’s tour of this Alpine pearl. We will walk you through history, observe the charms of the glacial lake with an enchanting island, topped by a 1000 year old castle. We have lots of stories to share and secret corners to discover. 

Bled Island
Bled Castle
Bled Castle

Next Saturday, April 24th we will be strolling the streets of a lovely and quaint medieval town of Škofja Loka. A time capsule of the 17th century. We will observe beautiful architecture, colourful facades, walk across squares passing churches and climb up to the castle from the 13th century. We will discover some arts and crafts and explain the story behind the oldest written play in Slovenian language, the passion play of Škofja Loka. 

LIVE: ŠKOFJA LOOKA WALKING TOUR

Scenic streets
Every facade has a story to tell

LIVE: LJUBLJANA WALKING TOUR

 

The last Saturday, May 8th we will bring you to the capital city of Slovenia. The beloved Ljubljana. You will have a chance to explore this vibrant and youthful city with us, walk in the footsteps of the Romans, observe the beautiful old town and its baroque architecture, discover the amazing works of the greatest Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik. Follow the flow of Ljubljanica, enjoy its riverside promenade, discover history with the help of the cathedral door and enjoy in some poetry on one of the most beloved squares of the city named after our greatest poet dr. France Prešeren.

Plečnik's Arcades
Robba's Fountain

Every tour will give you an opportunity for a Q and A session at the end.
We are excited to be able to share the beauty of our country virtually and thankful to all of you who support our work.
How do you sign up? Very simple. Just follow this link:

VIRTUAL TOURS

We hope to walk with you soon.


Nasvidenje!

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Virtual Pilgrimage through Slovenia https://pg-slovenia.com/virtual-pilgrimage-through-slovenia/ https://pg-slovenia.com/virtual-pilgrimage-through-slovenia/#respond Fri, 05 Mar 2021 21:03:29 +0000 https://pg-slovenia.com/?p=10841 The post Virtual Pilgrimage through Slovenia appeared first on Private Guide Slovenia.

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Virtual Pilgrimage through Slovenia

Join us on a new adventure!

Join us on a Virtual Pilgrimage through Slovenia. Starting next Saturday, March 13th, Team Private guide Slovenia will take you on a two week journey in Slovenia, while making sure you will be active and entertained. Interested? Keep reading.

We have joined forces with our colleague Chris Coleman from chocolatesuitcase.com in this project that will allow you to travel through Slovenia. In the light of current global situation this traveling will be virtual, but we promise that it will be almost as rewarding as if you were here.

Chris came up with this brilliant idea of virtual travel, and we were more than happy to join. You can learn more about the travels that our colleagues did in France and Italy if you visit  chocolatesuitcase.com. So far the “tours” have been a great success, and we plan to continue in the same fashion!

Our starting point at the Basilica in Brezje.

The plan is to visit three important pilgrimage sights in Slovenia. We will start in Brezje, Slovenia’s most important pilgrimage sight, the amazing basilica will provide for a great backdrop on our live Zoom session we will have there. The next stop will be Lake Bled, there isn’t a more romantic place in Slovenia, nothing beats the scene of our beautiful lake surrounded by high mountains, the island in the middle topped with a gorgeous baroque church is the cherry on the top! The last location that we will broadcast live from is just a few miles across the border in Italy, Monte Lussari or Svete Visarje. The village is in Italy, but is is Slovenian. The scenery there is breathtaking. All other superlatives would fail to describe the setting.

Mrs. Resman and her son making special bread just for us!

Is that all? No, not at all! All the days between the line broadcasts will be filled with great content. You will learn about the culture, nature, history, gastronomy and more. We will open the doors of our homes to you and invite you in. Most importantly you will get to meet some interesting people: inn keepers, scholars, Olympians, a Michelin stared chef and more! 

 

Is that all? Well, not really, but we will keep the rest as a surprise. 🙂

 

How do you sign up? Simple. Follow this link: https://pg-slovenia.com/izdelek/virtual-pilgrimage-through-slovenia/

 

See you in Slovenia!

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Biathlon on Pokljuka https://pg-slovenia.com/biathlon-on-pokljuka/ https://pg-slovenia.com/biathlon-on-pokljuka/#respond Sat, 13 Feb 2021 09:03:56 +0000 https://pg-slovenia.com/?p=10688 The post Biathlon on Pokljuka appeared first on Private Guide Slovenia.

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Pokljuka hosts the 2021 IBU World Championships

let us tell you abou it

 

Pokljuka was chosen by the IBU to host the 2021 World Biathlon Championships back in the fall of 20181. Happiness was indescribable. Who knew how our lives will change in 2020  with the pandemic touching every single sphere of our being.

It was the eagerness of the local enthusiasts, genuine bond of nature and man, incredible landscape of the Triglav National Park, romantic image of this sport encircled with ancient forests, fresh and clean air – this is what convinced the jury to choose this venue among other strong contestants. Pokljuka is hosting the second championship in history, exactly 20 years after the first one. In between those years biathlon has climbed to a great level of success in the country – in 2012 we got the title of the world champion with Jakov Fak and in 2014 Teja Gregorin added an olympic medal to the collection. A few other medals followed afterwards, mostly achieved by our main star, Jakov Fak, he was born in Croatia, but decided to compete for Slovenia. Even in 2021 all eyes are on him.

Road side bilboard. Ervin took the photo of Jakov!

Just a month ago,  our  tour guide Ervin spent a day with Jakov, making promotional photos for the championship. One turned out so well, it has been used for a billboard ad for Pokljuka all over the country. Ervin’s experience with Jakov was great. He is simple, down-to-earth, with impeccable Slovenian, in love with the sport he dedicated his life to. Trying to get used to all of the new measurements and rules pandemic is bringing to the sport athletes. But at least they can practice and compete and that is all that matters! 

We have spent a few days on Pokljuka as well, filming our 6th virtual tour. Being higher than 3.000 feet and surrounded with huge amount of snow – it was magical.. and terribly cold. For the record – in Slovenia we didn’t have such a thick snow blanket for 42 years. It feels like winter decided to reward us and offer us comfort in these harsh and surreal times. If the organisers were worried about the snow at the beginning – they have now more snow than they actually needed it. It truly is a winter wonderland. The spruces are all decorated with snow – according to an old belief they say for as long as the snow stays on the trees, it will stay on the ground as well. 

Untill February 5th we were allowed to be on Pokljuka for recreational purposes and we took advantage of that. We hiked, cross-country skied, snowshoed and sledged. Due to covid-19 all of our ski fields were closed when the big snowfall came. Us, Slovenians, avid skiers,  we searched for a solution right away. The year 2021 saw a rise in backcountry skiing and there was a difficulty purchasing cross country skis – new or old – they were all sold out. Going cross country skiing you could giggle when observing people – they brought out whatever they have found in their attics and some skis would be better off in a museum than on the fields. But it was the idea to get out and do it, that mattered this year more than anything else.  

Pokljuka turned into a sports bubble, closed to general public until almost the end of February. If you wish to explore our beautiful high plateau be sure to check out our virtual tour or click on to any of the sports channels that cover biathlon or check the official web site of the championships. It will be on from February 9th until 21st. There will be 44 cameras, 30 km of cable, 150 people involved in production and 19 hours of TV programmes all working to bring this Championships to over 150 million viewers around the globe. It would be much different if covid-19 wouldn’t dictate how we live. For Slovenia it would be one of the biggest sports events in the last couple of years. But life is not always fair and we will just have to take it as it is. 

And for those who don’t know biathlon yet: it is probably one of the hardest sports there is. It is a combination of cross country skiing and rifle sharpshooting. It is a race where contestants ski through cross country trail, the distance is divided into shooting rounds. The shooting rounds are not timed, but depending on the competition, missed shots result in extra distance or added time to final result. Complicated? A bit. Extremely difficult? Indeed. Fascinating? Very much. 

Pretending we are not cold...
Leave nothing but footsteps...

Want to book a trip with us? Get in touch!

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Potica goes global https://pg-slovenia.com/potica-goes-global/ https://pg-slovenia.com/potica-goes-global/#respond Fri, 29 Jan 2021 19:21:27 +0000 https://pg-slovenia.com/?p=10621 The post Potica goes global appeared first on Private Guide Slovenia.

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Making kitchens messy since 1575

 

 

Now as the holidays are over and we follow our New Year’s Resolutions (for about two more weeks ;-)), let us look back and share a little story with you. About potica.

In Episode 4 of Private guide Slovenia goes virtual we told/showed our viewers how a Christmas dinner looks like in our home. From preparations, traditions to the event itself. It is always great to have the family gathered at the table for such an occasion. We all fell the same about this, right? We were also happy to recieve many positive comments about the episode. Thank you!

There was another surprise that followed that episode. People reaching out to us, inspired to cook, or better put bake, the way we bake. We were proud to send out the recipes for potica, and very happy as some of you eMailed pictures to show the results of your hard work.

Before we show you the pictures, two reminders:
1.- the task of baking the potica lies like a heavy bourdon on the shoulders of the person that is making it. You know it will be a long day in the kitchen, the recope is not simple, there are many ways it can go wrong and as a special bonus, you get to clean the mess at the end of the day. So we tip the hat to the brave ones that gave it a go!
2.- the images were taken mostly with cell phones, we did not re-touch them at all.

This beauty (same as the top picture) was baked by Ervin's wife.
Tina's work payed of! Those two did not last very long.
Jana baked this in Scotland.
JoAnn shared this one from the USA. Thank you!
Gladys took the time to also decorate the table. Go Canada!

We absolutely love this pictures, and you can see, that there is little difference, if any between the “originals” baked in Slovenia and the pictures sent in. Our guess is that is was the first time you made potica. You all did an amazing job! We admire your dedication and hope you enjoyed the results. 🙂

 

In the future we plan to share more information about Slovenian cuisine, we will even host a dedicated Zoom webinar about it in February. We hope to encourage you to try and bring some flavours from Slovenia to your homes and share them with your family or friends. As far as potica goes, if you haven’t decided to make it for Christmas, You will ba able to do it for Easter. The recipe is available on our blog. 

Speaking of sharing… Feel free to share this post via social media or eMail with your friends or family. We see two good reasons to do that: 1.- you can brag with your potica 😉
                    2.- you can motivate people to give it a go!

Stay tuned for more about Slovenian cooking in the following weeks.

 

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MERRY DECEMBER https://pg-slovenia.com/merry-december/ https://pg-slovenia.com/merry-december/#respond Tue, 22 Dec 2020 12:50:22 +0000 https://pg-slovenia.com/?p=10135 The post MERRY DECEMBER appeared first on Private Guide Slovenia.

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Merry December

A time for hope and new beginnings. I guess this year we all really need it. December has always been a happy month. There is something about wrapping up the year that almost passed and preparing for the new one to arrive. This year there will be a lot to wrap up. 2020 was a year of challenges for every single citizen of this globe. Not a single person has been off-the-hook. Everyone was facing its own battles and challenges, that for most weren’t easy. Looking back at 2020 I still cannot believe we almost managed to come to the end of it. Day by day, we are also a step closer to the end of these harsh times. December came in the right time – it will give us time to sum up our lives, moments, to enjoy with family and look towards brighter days.

Advent wreath at Bled Castle.

For us merry December starts already on the last weekend in November. It is the start of the Advent time, when families start decorating homes and lighting up candles on advent wreaths, bringing more light into the murky and gray November days. Traditionally wreaths have been made out of spruce or pine branches and topped up by 4 candles, each one of them representing one week towards Christmas day. With the first advent religious folks remember the birth of Jesus and are awaiting his re-birth. The circle of the wreath symbolizes eternity, the greenery is a mark for new life and hope of renewal. The candles symbolize the light of God. The most common color is purple – the color of expectation. Jesus is represented by the candle flames, which are coming from darkness to life, they are also a reminder for us all that we should spread the light and be the light in this world. With the first Advent weekend, our Christmas markets in big cities open up as well and they last all the way until Christmas Eve. On the same weekend the illumination is lit up and all our cities and towns shine in newly acquired beauty. If the year would be normal, most of us would take the time to go and visit our capital city of Ljubljana, do some fun shopping on the Christmas market and support local artisans, the stalls would offer everything from sausages to ginger-bread cookies, the air would be intoxicated with aromas of caramelized almonds and mulled wine. Even the tought of all that makes my mouth watery.

Homemade Mulled wine by Sašo.

With years passing by we all have a feeling that Christmas comes sooner every year. Big markets are offering chocolate Santa’s and beautifully wrapped gifts already at the end of October. In mid November some of the favourite Christmas tunes start playing on the radio – Jingle Bells, Last Christmas and some more Slovenian versions of the same theme. It bothered us all in previous year, but I guess this year is like no other before so we are not bothered as much as we used to be – I still prefer listening to George Michael singing about who stole his heart last Christmas than our news reporters sharing the only thing they share lately, update on Covid-19. But this is just my personal preference.

In Slovenia we have always been on a crossroad of cultures and influences. This is also visible in how varied our Christmas celebrations can be. With that being said, the celebrations vary from family to family, from one region to another, from whether you are religious or not. It varies from what we eat, to when we put up a tree and how you lay out your Nativity scene. But one thing is common to all of us – it is a family celebration that is being cherished immensely. Luckily our families live close together, sometimes you can find three up to four generations under the same roof. This will come handy this year, when we are being locked up. Because family members that live in the same household or house to another can share those moments together. And that is a definite advantage for the year 2020.

Photo credit Dnevnik.si

Because of  various influences each family also has a different “good man” that brings the gifts. In general there are 3 of them – Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus and Father Cold. Who will bring you the gifts mostly depends on the generation you were born in. In our area political influences as well as cultural ones have been changing immensely in the last 100 years. The customs you learn as a kid will most likely be passed on to your kids. Even though kids would love all three man to bring them the gifts, parents and their wallets wouldn’t be so excited. Saint Nicholas is the oldest one of the bunch and has the longest tradition in our country, he comes on December 6 and is accompanied by Parkeljs, evil devils that take care of the misbehaved children. For some families he is the main gift giver bringing toys and clothes, mittens, scarves, gloves and socks, but to general public he brings only sweets and tangerines. If you misbehaved, hazel branch and some dried figs might be waiting for you. In some areas of Slovenia, kids rapidly clean their shoes on December 5 and they lay them on their window shelves that night– if all goes well they will be filled with goodies the next morning. Other areas have small baskets set up by kids waiting to be filled with goodies. The second good man is Santa Claus. He is actually the newest member of the three. He arrived in the early 1990s, when socialist regime ended on our soil. He was not a known man in our neck of the woods, since Christmas during those times was more of an intimate family gathering  and gifts only arrived at New Years. But we recognized his image from the Coca-Cola commercials, the drink we all loved and just adopted him as one of the good man as well. If in the family the presents arrive on Christmas Day, they usually do early in the morning and they are found underneath the Christmas tree. Before that kids would write up a letter to Santa and leave them on the window shelves. This is usually done somewhere in mid-December. On Christmas Eve kids might prepare some cookies and milk for Santa, so he gets some strength in his busy schedule. When presents arrive the joy is indescribable. The third man, but in our country considered the second one that existed, was introduced in the 1950s. For the new political orientation of the time they took an example of a good man from Russia, modified him to the needs of our people and told the story that he is arriving from the area beneath Triglav, our highest mountain and is being accompanied with snowflakes and animals. He brings us gifts on January 1st. His name is Father Cold dressed up in a beautiful embroidered white coat and fury hat made out of dormouse fur. And as far as I can remember he was the only one who brought me presents when I was a kid. This is also why New Year has always been a very special time of the year for me. Christmas was the time when family gathered and ate. But New Year was the day of the gifts. We also set up cookies for Father Cold beforehand and a letter was written to him as well. In our country we even have a song dedicated to Father Cold:

“Gray fury hat, white beard, warm coat and basket full of gifts, hey, finally he is here, good old Father Cold is here…”

With time, different families and generations, nowadays everyone has its own good fella that brings the gifts. As long as he brings happiness and as long as the kids believe in the miracle of the good man, all will be good.

Nativity scene at Bled Castle

Other traditions that follow Christmas festivities are of course decorating a Christmas tree and setting up Nativity scenes. Traditionally Christmas tree should be decorated on December 24 when the whole family gathers and sets up their tree which holds a special symbolism –  the head of the family is always the one to add the last ornament to the top of tree. The Christmas tree is a sign of human mercy and goodness. First they were decorated with apples, walnuts and hazelnuts, in poorer families they were sometimes left undecorated. The history of decorating the trees goes way back, some notes talk about 15th century. We didn’t stop with that tradition, but we now usually set it up much earlier than December 24th. Decorations on the tree are different, most commonly you can find porcelain balls in different colors, together with some lights and sugared candy. Decorations are passed on from one generation to the other, each little ornament has a story of its own. Our ornaments remind us of our grandparents, the story of our family and our travels. My favorite one is the ornament  in the shape of a heart that says “happiness is home made”.  With the upcoming holidays that will be spent in the circle of the beloved family members this is so true. When the tree is set, family sits down for dinner and conversations, followed by a walk to a nearby church for the Midnight Mass. The non-believers stay outside of the church and drink mulled wine and hang out with friends, while the religious ones follow the mass and join the festivities outside later.

 

Another tradition that comes with the festive days is also the setting of the Nativity Scene. Usually you can find them underneath the tree on a fresh moss. Ours was the gift of my grandfather and a memoir of him as well. It is tiny, but other families can have a larger version of them. Usually they are set up at the same time as the tree and are a reminder of the moving circumstances of Jesus’s birth. They symbolize humility and humbleness of a man. Historically the first one was set by Saint Francis of Assisi. At that time Christmas trees didn’t exist and Nativity was the only remembrance  of Jesus’s birth. Nativity also stays much longer than the tree – the tree is removed on the arrival of the Three Kings, January 6th when Jesus’s birth is being proclaimed, but Nativity stays up until February 2nd when a celebration of Jesus’s donation to the temple took place.

Religious or not we all have our Christmas trees and Nativity scenes up for different reasons. It is a tradition that is being passed on from one generation to the other and it is the family that meets and celebrates together. The most special of all days is the Eve before Christmas day. This is when the family gathers and shares a traditional dinner. Food depends on the area and family, but generally we eat sliced ham, salami, prosciutto and cheese, beef tartare on toasted bread, French salad, eggs with horseradish and our traditional pastry, potica. This is a rolled pastry made out of leavened paper-thin dough filled with a variety of fillings, most often with walnuts. It is a festive pastry baked in a special shaped baking mould out of ceramic and beautifully decorated. The birth place of this traditional pastry is the W and SW part of Slovenia. The first ones were mentioned already in the 17th century. They were filled with fruits and honey, the ingredients available in the countryside. Walnuts followed, raisins were added much later, because farmers didn’t know them. You could also make salty ones – with pork cracklings, bacon, tarragon and cottage cheese. The sky is the limit. Potica can be in a way comparison with our life as well – it is round, it goes in a circle. It is rolled, sometimes sweet and sometimes not, sometimes salty sometimes not, with a bigger or smaller hole, sometimes the baking goes smooth, sometimes it just doesn’t. And what kind of filling you will put in, is completely up to you. Yes, life sure is like a potica!

Christmas Day is usually spent somewhere in the nature – most preferably on snow. Sledging, cross-country skiing, skiing or just hiking around. Midday we try to have something small for lunch – usually it is a minestrone soup, that is made out of barley, carrots, potatoes and spiced up with the water where we cooked ham the previous day. Slice of potica is an obvious dessert of the day. Afternoon is lazy, mostly spent playing some board games or cards and later in the evening we try to watch a movie on television. We do not have any Slovenian Christmas classics, but we usually watch one of the first two Home Alone movies or Letters to Saint Nicholas.  The last one, filmed in Poland, has a Slovenian director, so we kind of feel we part-own it.

Homemade ginger bread cookies

There are a few more celebrations in the upcoming days – December 26th is our Referendum Day,  that is marking up the day Slovenians voted for the independency in our country back in 1990. The same day also holds the name of Saint Stephen and numerous farmers take their horses for the blessings before the upcoming year. In the following days we will all be glued to the screen since one of the most popular winter tournaments is on – the Championship in Ski jumping. We will be cheering for our heroes and hoping their jumps will bring them gold. Last but not least arrives December 31st. This is where we try to have a party with our friends. If a year would be normal, a lot of people would head out to nearby towns that all organize New Year’s parties on open-air. Live music is being played, food is served on stalls and mulled wine is being drank. At midnight there is a countdown, than we open up some sparkling wines and toast to a year that is ahead of us. We admire the fireworks and maybe crack a few of them ourselves. We shake hands with good wishes and give kisses on the cheeks to everybody we know. Of course this year the celebration will be a bit different. But I am sure, there will still be a countdown, some bubbles and a lot of wishes for the year 2021 to turn out better for the entire world.

Vesel božič in srečno novo leto 2021!

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A short update from Slovenia https://pg-slovenia.com/a-short-update-from-slovenia-2/ Tue, 10 Nov 2020 00:02:20 +0000 http://www.pg-slovenia.com/?p=7354 The post A short update from Slovenia appeared first on Private Guide Slovenia.

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Just a few sentences about what is going on in Slovenia and with us. We understand that you were occupied with a major event over the past couple of weeks and so were we. Now that it is all set and done (more or less) and as we are becoming more and more optimistic about 2021 and further we thought about sharing a few things with you. 

Covid-19
We have to start with the global topic. The situation in Slovenia was quite bad over the last couple of weeks. The number of positive tests spiked a few times to levels uncomfortable for such a small nation. Covid sections of the hospitals are getting close to capacity and we are running short on medical staff. Some institutions have called in retired nurses and doctors, there is also a number of students that have decided to step in an help, yet with the increasing numbers of medical staff infected it is a stressful situation. The “powers at be” worry most about the fact that there are several hot spots where thy seem not to be able to do enough to get the numbers down, sadly many of those are in the Assisted living facilities for the elderly. 
We will see how this unfolds, but the last information we have is giving us reason for optimism, namely over the last 5 days the totals of positive tests have been on a decline. You can imagine we are all keeping our fingers crossed.
Obviously the government has takes many measures to prevent the spread of the virus, so for the past three weeks we have been limited to our municipalities, one is not allowed to exit unless going to work or if there is a medical or other emergency. Schools are closed, nurseries are in operation, but on a limited scale. As we have seen in the spring most of the nonessential shops and services are closed, we have no information when they plan to open things up, but the speculation is, that it will not happen any time soon. There are pros and cons with this, both among the people and also the political scene, but for now the best we can do is to listen to the advice given by experts and act accordingly.

While we were complaining about the situation…
… there were at least two reasons for the nation to cheer and be proud. As we have mentioned in a post not too long ago we love sports and two athletes made us go crazy one more time in a span of less that one week. 
Tim Gajser (Image source: hondaproracing.com)
Tim Gajser
Wining his 4th MXGP title past Wednesday (11/04). 4th! Coming from Slovenia where motocross was never really a big sport. Well not it may become… His hard work and devotion is an inspiration to many, knowing that it all begun from relatively humble beginnings makes it an even more interesting story.
Well done Tim!
Primož Roglič (image source: EPA)
Primož Roglič
A former ski jumper, turned cyclist that developed a taste for yellow and red racing shirts after his ski jumping career ending fall. He just won “la Vuelta” a gruelling three week race in Spain, finished second just a few months earlier on the other famous race the “Tour de France” after being defeated by another Slovenian Tadej Pogačar. What an amazing year for both of them. You can find out more about Primož on this link.
There are several other sports people worth mentioning from Goran Dragic, who played in the NBA finals this year to Monika Hrastnik who won bronze in the European downhill championship in Leogang, Austria; Alenka Artnik who set the world record in CWT mono-fin Freediving, she reached an amazing depth of 114 meters (374ft), setting a new world record! The list could continue…
Image by Freepik

Final Stretch
Just before we part ways just a few things about Private guide Slovenia team.
We have been busy over the past couple of weeks, brainstorming ideas and putting plans together for a much more optimistic 2021. 
So what are we up to:

  • We have Episode 3 of our “Virtual series” almost done. We ventured outside municipality limits (following the rules and regulations) and the raw footage looks amazing. 
  • Tina, Ervin and Sašo, the core of the team are multitasking from being school teachers, parents, cooks, babysitters to attending Zoom conferences, writing blog posts, filming etc… There is no shortage of fun things to do. Gorazd, Gregor, Nejc, Nina and the rest of the crew are OK too.
  • Any big news for 2021?
    Yes.
    We are putting together a tour of Slovenia. Just Slovenia, for small groups that would like to learn more about our culture, nature, history, food and (of corse) wine. More information will follow.

Just one last thing. We would love to hear from you. May that be a comment about the videos, a question about the blog posts, tours or anything. We are here and happy to help with your curiosity. You can find us on both Facebook and Instagram, or just send us an eMail. 
Stay safe!

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All Saints https://pg-slovenia.com/all-saints/ Thu, 29 Oct 2020 20:58:50 +0000 http://www.pg-slovenia.com/?p=7326 The post All Saints appeared first on Private Guide Slovenia.

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All Saints

November 1st in Slovenia
November 1st is a work-free day in Slovenia. It is the All Saints day when we remember all of the beloved people, that have passed away. Traditionally we would start preparing for it a few days earlier, with making flower bouquets, gathering candles and afterwards making a list how many graves we would go visit and light candles to remember the beloved person. Each family had to go to at least two or three various cemeteries and light up candles on about 10-15 grave sites. As a kid I remember it as a very sober kind of day, with leaves slowly falling to the ground and rain drizzling on us, while we walked from one grave to another. We always stayed for the ceremony – local brass band would play a few tunes, we would stand very seriously at the gravesite and pay our respect. As a kid it was exciting to know that my grandpa was a part of the band and I always loved how, after the commemoration concert, he would come to us, with his shiny trumpet and a very fancy uniform. I was super proud. Little did I know that also that will pass one day and I will be lighting candles on his grave. 
My grandpa's trumpet.
As a kid I also loved going to the cemeteries in the evening – with everybody lighting up candles, the magical lights and shades was something very soothing and special. Already in prehistoric cultures fire had a special significance – it symbolised the universal spirit and embodied the moral order of the world. The fire in the house protected the family, their home and their property. If it would die, that would bring the disappearance of the entire family. In pre-christian societies, family was represented in a circle of life – from newly borns, to living beings all the way to the deceased. What connected them, were traditions by the fireplace, which represented all the family’s secrets. All life’s rituals took place by the fireplace – among them also talking with the ghosts of the deceased relatives. They were the ones who protected the still living ones and made sure the family was well taken care off and had numerous offsprings. Even today we light candles in memory for a deceased person and with that we are showing the continuation of the long tradition and respect towards our past generations.  In our country we rarely talk about the dead or death in general – it has been always a bit of a taboo theme. Our family ties are so strong that once a person passes it is super hard to let go.  But when I started travelling I understood that death is seen differently everywhere you go, each country and each culture has a different approach to it. In Slovenia we believe in the fact that when one person goes, the other one will soon be welcomed to this world. 
This year All Saints day will be different. We are in a lockdown again and too many cemeteries are out of our municipality where we are not allowed to go. We will need to remember the deceased ones at home, in the circle of the family and light a candle or two to remember. Maybe we will share some stories and memories that will warm our hearts and feel like the loved ones are with us again.  Cemeteries are spread across the entire country, each community has its own. One of our most known ones lies in Ljubljana, our capital city. It is called the cemetery Žale, which opened its doors back in 1906. Its most recognised appearance was given to the cemetery in 1940, when our best and most known architect Jože Plečnik was commissioned to rearrange it. But let us start at the beginning. 
 
Throughout centuries burial habits have been changing significantly on our soil. The reason for that is probably the geographical location of our country, since we lie on a crossroads of different cultures and climate zones. On our soil there is also the only passage across the Alps over to the Dinaric mountain range that is  relatively flat and was more manoeuvrable to cross than any other area elsewhere. Being on this kind of draft area also meant that caravans and caravans of different people and cultures passed our territory, always leaving something behind. A part of this is also seen in our burial history. The pile-dwellers on the marshes of Ljubljana believed in cremation and scattering the ashes into the water, their tradition was followed by the cremation and keeping ashes inside of the urns. Urns were buried together with a few important belongings of the deceased, together with food and drinks so the person would not be hungry or thirsty reaching the other world. When the Romans set foot on our soil they used a similar technique of cremation and urns, but after they adopted Christianity,  burial traditions change – there is no more cremation, the body is buried whole and with some favourite belongings that represented the life of a person together with some goodies for the afterlife. What was important with the Romans, is that the city of the people never mixed up with the burial grounds – they were located away from the centres but usually en route to the cities. Along side major roads whole cities of the dead were established, the more money you had, more prominent the location of your gravestone would be. In burial traditions rivers were considered sacred spots as well – sometimes rituals, to commemorate a certain cult, took place on the embankments of rivers. When Romans left and Slavs came, at the beginning they started burying people on the other side of the river, but once Christianity was adopted again, they started searching for Holy lands, that were usually represented in a church territory. Still in villages of Slovenia you can find a cemetery attached to the church, but in most cities there was not enough place and they needed to come to a different solution. In Ljubljana first cemetery was located near the Cathedral dedicated to Saint Nicholas, when they lacked place it moved to another area close to the church of Saint Peter. It opened its doors between 9th and 10th centuries, also people from nearby were buried there. Slowly there was lack of space, so they moved the third time to the area of the church of Saint Christopher. Gravesite was opened in 1797, but once the railway line was brought into its vicinity, they started thinking of moving it to a new location. And this is how we come to year 1906. They were still burying people in caskets, but before the burial the deceased had to lie in his parish church for 2 – 3 days, so relatives could come and say goodbye. The reason why they were left in the church for three days is also practical – sometimes they needed to make sure that the person is truly dead. At places they even tied a bell to their toes – so if it started to ring, the dead were definitely “saved by the bell”. After the farewell, a long procession from the parish church to the new cemetery started. New cemetery lied in the far area of the city, so it took a while – but it also caused problems with traffic in the city. For years they were thinking of a solution – one of them would be having chapels of parish churches located directly on the cemetery where the deceased could lie before the burial,  but since the city was financially weak and there were no funds, it was hard to get a proper, economically doable idea. And this is where our greatest architect came into the picture. He was a genius who studied in Vienna, travelled the world and worked both in Prague and Vienna, returned back to his birth city and established an architectural faculty. His biggest quirk was stinginess and that actually brought him a lot of work, since the city was lacking funds. He recycled a lot with the already used materials and found objects that nobody wanted to use. In 1940 he was chosen to remodel  the cemetery. His idea for the cemetery’s name was the “Garden of Death”, but the city disagreed and they voted for Žale instead – also that name falls in correctly, “žalovati” in Slovenian means to mourn and with that Žale would be a place where you mourn. With all his architectural work he was inspired by Greece, so the entry gate is modelled on a Greek temple. There is no roof – that is a symbolic representation of a border between the living and the death. The statue of Jesus on the top protects the city, from the other side Mary with her cape protects the dead. There is a central building for administration, followed by a garden of 14 death chapels, that are representing parishes from the entire city and its patron Saints. In the middle you can find a prayer house where the family can intimately say goodbye, the oil lamps are symbolising the passage from the living world into the world of the death. The architect wanted to create a city in miniature. The city had an idea that some chapels would be bigger and some smaller, depending how wealthy and prominent a deceased person would be – but Plečnik neglected the idea, he believed that before God we are all equal and there are no more differences among us. 
 
Žale is also the first cemetery in Slovenia where people were cremated again. It happened in 1968. At that time it was a rare thing to do. Even the bodies couldn’t be cremated in Slovenia – they were cremating them in nearby Austria. In late 1979 the first crematorium opened up its doors. In 2020 over 95% of people are being cremated, casket burials happen rarely and if they do, mostly it happens in the villages and not the city. There are a few other curiosities on the cemetery as well – a very interesting and modern church for services, dating to 1987. You can still find an old column, that belonged to the tram line number two, that was bringing people from the centre all the way to the cemetery between years 1901 – 1958. You can find a burial ground of all of the bishops of Ljubljana’s cathedral. Numerous famous people are being buried here including some of our most known writers, poets, chefs, musicians, sport athletes, former mayors of the city and our famous architect, Jože Plečnik. He created a gravesite for himself – he wanted a grave full of greenery, including the grapevine that represents Christianty.. One of the most remarkable buildings of the graveyard is the memorial to the fallen soldiers of the World War 1. That work of art is done by Plečnik’s student, Edo Ravnikar. It reminds us a bit of our National University Library, since Edo was helping Plečnik with the construction. The last part of cemetery was arranged between 1950 – 1960. It has numerous sculptors of renowned Slovenian artists that all represent a circle of life – a passage between the living world and the world of the death. A walk on this cemetery is a remarkable architectural experience. The architect plays with the symbols that live a big mark on ourselves. It is a peaceful oasis, full of greenery and tombstones – each one of them has a history and personal stories that their families will cherish forever. It feels like each tombstone represents its own song and when in a way a song is ended, the melody will linger on… 
Kollmann Family Chapell
WW I burial site
Modernist's gravestone
Gravestone of Jože Plečnik

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Mushroom hunt https://pg-slovenia.com/mushroom-hunt/ Tue, 06 Oct 2020 17:29:38 +0000 http://www.pg-slovenia.com/?p=7298 The post Mushroom hunt appeared first on Private Guide Slovenia.

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Mushroom hunt

How to spend hours in the forest and have fun
My lungs are full of fresh air, autumn leaves are cracking beneath my feet, there is a certain scent in the air – the scent of humidity, moss and the smell of mushrooms. It is that time of year again, where all of us take wooden baskets and Swiss-army knives and head into the woods for a special kind of treasure hunt. After all  – it is the season of the mushrooms. Ever since I was a kid, I remember how my parents were eagerly waiting for the end of the summer and the first rain. A little drop in temperature and a bit of water is the perfect recipe for the mushrooms to grow. But not every season is good. Some are better than others – meaning there is more mushrooms and they are healthier, better quality. But let’s start at the beginning. 
My father is probably the most avid mushroom hunter of us all. In these sport, he competes with my aunt’s husband – the minute one goes into the woods, the other one reports what the situation is like. They rarely go together – because a true mushroom hunter goes  and picks in the area that is known only to him and if he brings somebody along, it is their nearest family member – a wife, daughter, son or grandkids. A good mushroom hunter never tells the other where that area is, but when they talk among themselves the information that is important is that there are mushrooms – a lot of them. You usually measure that with the amount of porcini’s that you have collected along your hunt. Anything that is above 30 pieces is good. Anything that is above 50 pieces is great. When number reaches higher, you put on your boots and head out to the woods immediately. Mushroom season usually starts late in August, throughout the entire September and finishes in early October, depending on the weather. There are rules and regulations to be followed – one can only pick 2 kg of mushrooms per day per person. Violators face a fine up to 208 EUR. All mushrooms must be basically cleaned at the site, where they were picked. With that you make sure, something will grow on the same site, next season. This is also why you remember the areas where you found the mushrooms.  Most forest paths and walking trails are accessible to anyone, even if it is someone else’s property. If the property is fenced, trespassing is not allowed. 
Some porcini are "easy" to find...
... some are a bit more shy.
Best time to go foraging mushrooms is early in the morning – usually during the week when people are at work – potential to have slimmer crowds in the woods is much higher. You also cannot go too early – you need to see your way around the woods and since you will be walking in some dense forests a bit of light needs to be there. Of course not everybody can do it in the morning – sometimes it is because of work, school or other obligations – so you just wait till the first possible moment and then you head out. Lots of people bring baskets with them, but in our family we prefer a backpack and a plastic bin inside of it – it is much easier to walk and manoeuvre around some steep climbs. Sometimes the hills are literally vertical, but once you see a mushroom – nothing is steep enough and all of turn into deers, rabbits or foxes. Together with a backpack and a bin, we use a good knife with a small blade – Swiss-army knives are perfect. And we always bring with us some water and a snack – once you are in the forests it is very easy to loose track of time, especially when there is  a lot to pick,  it is hard to stop. We dress up in long pants and long sleeve shirt, to protect ourselves not just in front of thicks but also in front of branches that might give us some scratches. Only a good, solid pair of shoes and you are ready. Another vital part of any mushroom hunt is a good orientation in the forest and it is always better to go in pairs – to have a backup person if something happens. My father experienced a bad fall a few years ago, he slipped on wet leaves, fell about 5 metres deep and almost fell into a ditch of water with his face, but luckily he was in a good shape and he managed to get himself out of it. After that he never goes alone anymore. Or better – we don’t allow him to go alone. Because mushroom hunting is after all not such an easy sport. 
When I talked about mushrooms to my guests people always commented that they would be afraid of doing it, because they don’t really know which ones are edible and which ones aren’t. Slovenians are not afraid of that. Ever since we were little kids we went into the woods with our grandparents. This is how we learned how to recognise good from the bad. And with the years, your knowledge just grows. Due to the three different climates – Alpine, Mediterranean and Pannonian, in Slovenia a wide variety of mushrooms grows in abundance. Some Slovenians pick up all of the edible mushrooms – in our family we always looked out for three kinds – chanterelles, porcini’s and a mushroom we call umbrella, because of its unique shape. The latter one is usually eaten deep fried in breadcrumbs, the other two we eat with eggs, pasta, rise, as a sauce with steaks or in a delicious mushroom soup. When the mushroom season is on, we might go into the woods every single day – the abundance of mushrooms is then slightly cooked and stored into ziplock bags for the winter months. 
50+. That was a good hunt!
Ready for the freezer.
For me the best part of mushroom hunt is going into the woods. It really feels like a treasure hunt.  The mushrooms that are good are very hard to find. Once you see the top of it, your whole body is  overwhelmed by a certain kind of joy that is hard to describe. The feeling is most similar as if getting a candy when you were a little kid. Once you see one, you need to be careful because they always grow in company. So, it might easily happen when you see one, there will be a few of his brothers and sisters around him as well. If you have a hard time seeing the mushrooms – the hint is always to look around for the bright red and poisonous mushrooms – porcini’s love their company. Don’t touch the red – but porcini’s are there for you. After a few hours of exposing your lungs to the natural healing powers of the woods, you happily return back home. In our family, we love to count the heads and report to relatives. It is almost like a secret competition. And once the number is out, the pleasure stops for a while – now the hard time comes. Cleaning the mushrooms is not that much fun as foraging them. But it’s got to be done too. I always like to remind myself that the work I will do now, will be very appreciated once the winter comes and the sweet smell of mushrooms will awake my nostrils and bring me back to the fall, into the woods, in the midst of cracking leaves and moss, it will bring me back the sound of the wind that blows among the trees and heart will be full again. 
Twins! Look closely, other family members may be near by. 🙂
Tasty addition of this blog is my mom’s recipe for a mushroom soup – some of our friends visiting us have had a chance to try it and they all agree – it is heavenly good: 
You need about 4 potatoes and 400 grams of mushrooms. Potatoes should be sliced into small chunks. You put both ingredients into a water – water needs to be about a thumb’s height above the mushrooms and potatoes. We add one bayleaf and cook for about 3/4 of an hour. In the new pan we add some olive oil and sliced onions until they turn yellow, we add a bit of tomato paste from a tube and some sweet paprika, we mix that up and then add to potatoes and mushrooms. ten minutes before the mix is cooked we take a different bowl and mix in it about 1?3 of a porcini cream soup from a package, 1 dcl of water, 2 dcl of sweet cream and one spoon of flour. You mix it up to not have any lumps of flour and add into the big pot. Add 1 cube of soup fond, mix it up and serve to the very hungry guests.
Dober tek! 
 

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Harvest time https://pg-slovenia.com/harvest-time/ Sun, 27 Sep 2020 22:36:18 +0000 http://www.pg-slovenia.com/?p=7281 The post Harvest time appeared first on Private Guide Slovenia.

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Harvest time

A great way to spend a Sunday
We got a phone call from our dear friend Boris Lisjak from Dutovlje the other day. He was asking if we had time on Sunday, since the weather forecast was nice and he still had a section of his vineyard that needed to be harvested as soon as possible.
Truth be told, it was a call we have been hoping for for a long time now. In the past years we could not go, since this was our busy tour time, but this year, things are different and we were more than happy to confirm.
We have picked grapes before and had a general idea of what to expect, but realised quickly that this will be nothing like what we have seen so far. The vineyard we had to harvest is on relatively flat terrain, allowing easy access with tractors, and for that reason Boris devised a special tractor trailer. So we did all of the “hard work” while seating down, enjoying in the sunshine. 
We were harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon. The clusters are compact, small berries with quite though skin. This vintage will be first available in year 2027. The vine will spend its first year in a large oak barrel, then it will be moved to a barrique barrel for four years and after that bottled and aged in a bottle for one more year. We will have to be patient before we can brag to our travellers that this vine is the result of our hard labour. 🙂
Conversation flows on days like this. It is inevitable. Often enough friends and family will jump in for the harvest, but sometimes those friends know just the owner, but not each other. This was the case today, and I must say that I feel fortunate and privileged in a way. Why? Well, sat right next to me on the trailer was a living legend of Slovenian sports. Franc Kavčič-Kavka. If you do not know the name, do not worry. Most people in Slovenia don’t. Kavka is an all around athlete, from ultra marathons to mountaineering, you name it. I hope to catch him one day and share his adventures with you here. 
As the day is coming to a draw, sitting behind the computer and enjoying a glass of vine, writing this my respect of Boris, and other winemakers, is growing even more. Experiencing first hand the love, pride and passion that Boris and his family put in to the final product is an inspiration. 

Let me finish with the first verse of the Slovenian national anthem, written by France Prešeren:

The vintage, friends, is over
And here sweet wine makes, once again,
Sad eyes and hearts recover,
Puts fire in every vein,
Drowns dull care,
Everywhere,
And summons hope out of despair.

 
Na zdravje!
 

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