Our route into Italy took us across a corner of Slovenia, so we made a day of it by choosing to stay in the rural town of Ilirska Bistrica.
We’re old hands at Slovenia, having criss-crossed it four times now as the entry or exit country to or from Eastern Europe. At the border we were waved nonchalantly farewell from the Croatian official (what a contrast to our experience on arrival!) and were pretty much ignored by the Slovenian guard standing outside his kiosk. That is until he decided to come chasing after us banging on Bertha and angrily shouting “what am I? A clown here?” – it was prudent not to answer with the first response that came to mind.
We enjoyed seeing Slovenia again. On other trips we’ve meandered around its pretty capital of Ljubljana and hiked and cycled up in the heights of the Julian Alps. This time we were happy to drive a familiar route through lush and green rolling hills and pitch up at a local agricultural festival.
Slovenia always feels a very gentle place. Life is, in the main, very rural and people live in the old ways of self-sufficiency tending huge vegetable plots, keeping a pig and a chicken in the backyard, and amassing vast woodpiles of roughly hewn fresh logs.
At the annual agricultural festival, locals sold their home-grown produce of cheese, meats, eggs, honey and wine. Outside the tents, a demonstration of an industrial size wood splitter proved a popular attraction. This being Slovenia there was a pig being turned on a spit above a wood fire, and a lively beer stall.
Smoky wood smells wafted across the small town centre, a non-descript affair of communist-era low rise apartment blocks. Urban vegetable growing was on patches of roadside land and occasionally, a roundabout. It gave the place a communal feel which seemed otherwise empty, everybody seemingly being at the festival.
We stayed overnight in a purpose-built parking area of campervans at a local grill restaurant. The owner, Danilo, was a moustachioed large and effusive chap who welcomed us enthusiastically in German and later grilled up some Slovenian delights for our dinner.
We sat on his restaurant terrace watching the moon rise over the steep hills above the town. It was a good end to a very enjoyable day!