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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

18 May 2013

Balkan landscapes

12th May 2013

We’ve been through a steadily changing series of Balkan landscapes today, winding north from Split up to Slovenia. This is a part of the world I’m totally unfamiliar with and we keep discovering curiosities that beg further exploration.

Our first brief stop was the coastal town of Senj, somewhere I had thought nothing more of than “Senj is where we leave the inland motorway”. But having wound our way down through verdant hills with farmers selling round, nut brown cheeses on every hairpin we learned than Senj was the medieval home of the Uskoci, a bunch of toughs so hardy that the Venetians were frightened into making bloodthirsty bogeyman stories about them.

Further north we explored a little green valley where vineyards used to grow before Phylloxera wiped them out, and where they are beginning to grow again. At the top of the valley was a sturdy white limestone fortress, one of seven in the area belonging to the Frankopans. Apparently a powerful local family tracing their descent from Rome, they were renowned in the area but ultimately wiped out by the Hapsburgs in the 17th century and so pretty much forgotten. The fortress looks like it is currently being turned into a venue for performances.

Crossing Istria we found some lovely hidden villages. Although they look half-deserted, with buildings toppling against one another in places, these villages are actually coming back to life; once almost entirely occupied by Italians, they were nearly deserted when the Italians left Croatia in a hurry but are now proving picturesquely attractive to Croatian artists and their well-heeled patrons.

Finally we found ourselves in a vivid green countryside of rolling hills surrounded by forest-clad mountains. We were in Slovenia, and our first stop was the Gold Club Casino & Hotel. Why? Well, because it’s the only hotel anywhere near Gostilna Pri Lojzetu, the restaurant we picked for our one special meal of the holiday. It was good. The hotel was nice enough too.


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