Friday, 22 November 2013

Treasure hunt in Prekmurje

It is like it would take a brush and mixed the range of the golden yellow, orange, wine red, dark green and several shades of brown. Then just left the imagination to take over and began to paint. Autumn is as if nature took the role of the best painters that play with a variety of colors and create beautiful creations. That was going through my head as we drove along the narrow roads through vineyards and forests, nearly infinite plane and hills. We were surrounded by nature, prepared for winter sleep. But before snow blankets cover the land, autumn makes an image that remains enshrined in the memory. On a beautiful autumn day, when the sun was still quite low, we went to the north-eastern part of Slovenia. We were on the treasure hunt, on the hunt for great landscape photographs, on the hunt for new stories, delicious food, fine wines and pleasant experience. We were on our way to Prekmurje.

"Prekmurian geographical position is, God ’nd God, good. We are behind the God’s back, that’s true, but that means, we are his neighbors," says Štefan Koltaj’s aphorism. Yes, Prekmurje is in the middle of nowhere God’s neighbor. When you're driving through the empty road of Goričko Nature Park, it pops to the mind that you are in the middle of nowhere. However, neighborly relations are regulated here. God has treated Prekmurje well and created a beautiful landscape. On sunny hills lush vineyards grow that bear sweet berries. In autumn, when the harvest is collected, it is especially exciting. Harvest, even though if it’s hard work, it is a time of joy, tasty food and fine vines. But when we drove through the vineyards, it seemed as if all the real work has already been done. The vine has been harvested and the wine was ripening in barrels. Only burgundy and golden yellow leaves were left. Those covered the floor among the vines. When stepping on those soft leaves that were lightly blown by the wind... Really, there are no words to describe this creation of nature. It is simply wonderful. However, it would be much better if the chosen means of transport for exploring Goričko would be a bike and not a car. On the narrow road now and then you meet just tractors and there are rare cars that are not disturbing at all. However, pay attention to animals if you decide to go with a car. "Chicken, chicken, chicken," I could not stop screaming when one brave chicken appeared from nowhere and jumped in front of the car. Fortunately Anja stopped the car and began a long discussion about how chickens are basically dumb animals that can eat almost anything but they give us eggs and so good meat that we all love. "Fascinating, isn’t it?" she envisioned.

Volcano, castle, and churches

Not only chickens, we were also fascinated when we drove up to the Castle Grad, which is located in the eponymous village on a steep hill consisting of basaltic tuff. Archaeological excavations of the first building there date back to the 11th century. According to oral tradition, the castle was built by the Knights Templar, for who aroused the interest when the bestseller The Da Vinci Code was published. The castle had many owners over the centuries, between the years 1960 and 1990 it was left to fall into ruin. Renovation work started 18 years ago, so now part of the castle sparkles in a renewed disguise with luxury apartments, wedding hall, lounges, the Black Kitchen, the Castle’s round cellar, and workshops for old handicrafts like cartwright’s, blacksmith’s, weaver’s, potter’s etc. But part of the castle remained intact and is still waiting for better times to come. From above it looks like a triangle which sides are not settled and to the longest the bell tower was added. In inner courtyard mighty trees provide shade, and from there you can climb the stairs to a small hill inside the yard, where on the freshly cut grass in company of beloved ones many couples got married.

Castle Grad
Slightly lower in the village Grad stands a modern glass building, where they re-awakened the volcano that erupted in Goričko 3 million years ago. Amusement park Vulkanija is an experience for young and old, for families, schools and large groups. Interactive and educational resources are surplus from the standpoint of interpretation and application of modern technologies. Oli, a small mole, will lead you throughout geological history and interesting facts about volcanoes. You will walk through lava’s tube, experience a volcanic eruption, descend 6000 meters underground and view 3D movie about the origin of the universe.

Amusement park Vulkanija
Probably the Templars really dwell in Goričko. There are testimonies that in the village Selo in eastern part of Goričko, they built the rotunda in the 13th century. The Romanesque Rotunda Church is certainly worth a visit, as it is Plečnik’s Church of the Ascension in Bogojina that lies a bit to the south. The building isn’t modern just in its shapes, it is distinguished by deliberate plan with a thoughtful design of the old building, which was enlarged by well-known Slovene architect Plečnik. Massive stone pillars support the immense snow-white arches. Brown ceiling, so dark it appears almost black, is made of round beams and boards, which Plečnik decorated with pottery of local potters. The main altar, made of oak, is designed in antique spirit and again testifies how Plečnik respect the cultural traditions of this part of Slovenia. The altar is like the ceiling decorated with pottery.

The Romanesque Rotunda Church
In search of the typical Prekmurje food and products, we stopped in Murska Sobota. Even if it is a small city, it is possible to get lost. Situated on a vast plain, there is no hill or mountain for orientation. In the center, close to the city park, is a small shop Šklojca. Every morning the surrounding farmers bring fresh rustic homemade goods. The offer represents the hard work of peasant women such as products of organic farming, traditional dry meat products, spreads, homemade bread, ‘pereci’ (bread) from the wooden oven, ‘gibanica’ (cheese cake with apples and poppy), homemade biscuits, dried fruit, fresh vegetables, teas, various liqueurs, homemade pumpkin oil and fancy goods.

Shop Šklojca
The entire Prekmurje is simply not possible to explore in one day. Affordable accommodation is offered in the Youth Hostel Murska Sobota that accepts individuals and large groups for shorter or longer stay. Athletes, various societies, the elderly... they all have a pleasant stay in the heart of the Prekmurje plain, where in 4 floors 152 people can spend the night. Some beds are occupied by students, as the building was originally designed as dormitory. But with kindness, hospitality, willingness to help and a good cuisine, YH Murska Sobota has attracted a lot of individual tourists and groups. Whatever room you want, you get it. There are rooms with private or shared bathroom; they are offering total use of kitchen, room with TV... Apart from accommodation and culinary specialties they also offer rooms for seminars and social events, guest can also use the fitness center and rooms for table tennis or aerobics. If you own a dog and he accompanies you wherever you go, by prior arrangement HY Murska Sobota will allow having it with you.

Youth Hostel Murska Sobota
Only a stone's throw from Goričko Nature Park, on the left bank of the river Mura, Youth Hostel Radenci is located. It operates within SŠGT Radenci, which educates students for jobs in catering and tourism, so they also accept bigger groups and organize trips and offer excellent homemade food. YH Radenci provides peace and tranquility for their guests, however, for those looking for fun, it is also not denied. The guests can use multimedia classrooms for bigger and smaller groups, the hall with the stage and sports enthusiasts can train in fitness. The rooms are comfortably redecorated students rooms with shared facilities. Personal approach, homeliness and good reputation make this hostel unique. Not far from the hostel spa Radenci with thermal water is located. Radenci is an excellent starting point for hiking and biking in Prekmurje and Prlekija, wonderful exhibition of orchids is in the neighborhood and here wellness and spa tourism blossom. Not to forget the delights of the local cuisine and fine wines.

Youth Hostel Radenci
Anja Turk
prostovoljka Popotniškega združenja Slovenije 

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