Monday, 31 March 2014

Seaside in spring

There are many reasons why Istria is one of the nicest destinations to spend the holidays. Its people are open and friendly. The coastal towns of Koper, Izola and Piran, with a rich history in salt making and fishing, proudly show-off their Venetian style and colorful narrow streets, which are crowded by natives and during warmer months, also with tourists. The proximity of the sea simply makes it glow when the sun is shining.

Piran, view from City wall (Author - Barbara Kožar);
The hinterland is characterized by vineyards and olive tree fields on evergreen hills with extra virgin olive oil and superb Malvazija and Refošk wines as its main local products. You can taste the Istrian flavors by visiting a wine cellar or simply by visiting a local bistro where you can also taste an asparagus frittata, prosciutto or a typical corn minestrone - the bobići.

Hinterland villages are also known for their village festivities that start in spring and last throughout the summer. The so-called “sagras” take place on a certain date in certain villages and will impress you with a homely atmosphere and its culinary offer.

Padna and Olive Oil (Author - Ubald Trnkoczy);
A variety of events take place in the summertime throughout the area. You can choose between cultural events, exhibitions and fairs and attend concerts in the evening. The biggest festivals organized by the Municipality of Koper are “Fešta na pomolu” (Fest on the dock) and “Sladka Istra” (Sweet Istria). The first one will offer you a vast variety of seafood while the other offers a variety of sweets and desserts from the whole country with a special importance given to the local products such as Refošk flavored ice cream or lavender chocolate candy.

Izola (Author - Ubald Trnkoczy);
Hostel Histria also offers you excursions to nearby nation-wide known attractions, such as Škocjan caves, known for their amazing karst underground world and are entered on UNESCO’s list of natural and cultural world heritage sites. Another destination is Sečovlje Solie Nature Park, the oldest and still active salt pans in Slovenia, where you can explore life in the saltpans or its flora and fauna. You can also buy salt, made in a 700 year-old tradition, which is as good for cooking as it is good for a bath.

A novelty in Hostel Histria's additional offer are boat trips to Venice. The whole day long excursion includes a two hour long ride on open sea with an hour-long view of the town from the boat. Venice is a world famous town where there are no streets, but sea channels, and is built on little islands. It is also known for its rich architecture, glass making in Murano, its carnival or the film festival as well as the arts and architecture biennale. 

Venice (Author - Igor Jurišič)
You can experience all that on a trip or holiday in the Slovenian Istria. Hostel Histria offers you accommodation in a renewed typically Istrian house, situated in Koper's town centre. The friendly staff will do its best to offer you all the information needed. The hostel offers multiple-bed rooms on 3 floors with free Wi-Fi throughout the hostel area and a computer. Sheets are included in the price while towels are available to lease. Enjoy spring by the sea.

Youth Hostel Koper
Ulica pri velikih vratih 17
6000 Koper
+386 (0)8 382 40 38

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Where the coincidence can drive you

December 2002, while I was wandering on the World Wide Web I met a 17 year old boy. We kept in touch and wrote to each other almost every day. It was pretty cool for me to start a long-distance friendship through the internet. I also met more people from Slovenia like this and we became very good friends. Some people may think that I had no real life or friends but in the end... who cares? 

As a teenager my knowledge about geography was poor, and when he mentioned that he was from Slovenia I was quite curious about it. First of all I checked online maps. After I found Slovenia on the map, I became more interested about the people, the land, the history etc.

Who cares what other think... :)
Finally in 2006 my family and I visited Slovenia for 3 days. Why so long? (note the sarcasm). My family and I went to Rome and stayed there the whole time so Slovenia was just an extra quick get-away. However 3 days where enough for me to fall in love...figuratively speaking since I really fell in love with the one special boy I met when I was 16 (2002). Anyhow, my first time in Slovenia was really nice, exciting and funny. I remember at the airport when the immigration officials asked me why was I visiting Slovenia, “why do you visit Slovenia, who was I visiting, where was I going to? They were doing their job, of course. When I tried to answer where I was going, I said Sevnica, but pronounced it as: sebnika. They answered with a friendly smile: “Good luck and enjoy!” Of course I did not pronounce it correctly, not even close! 

At the airport there were two very good Slovenian friends who I had met online. They were very kind to pick us up and take us around Ljubljana. We did not stay in Ljubljana because my friends live in Sevnica and I really wanted to hang out with them.

My first visit to Slovenia.
Everyone was so nice to me and my family. We travelled by train and we really enjoyed, the view of the land, it was just fantastic, and for us it was almost as being in a fairytale. 

We finally arrived in Sevnica and when we went down from the train I asked my friends to search for a cab because we were going to the hotel. I thought my mom was probably tired from the whole trip and well, we just did not want to walk any longer. My friend said that it was not necessary because the hotel was only a few meters away from the rail station. 

After two days in Sevnica I realized that it was a very small city, I come from Veracruz, Mexico and of course I could find big differences, between the two cities. Nevertheless for me Sevnica was (and still is) just wonderful. If you are a Slovenian you may think “What am I doing here”? You need to remind yourself of Ljubljana, Bled, Bohinj and all the other beautiful places this great country can offer.

Morning joy at Bled (Author -  Franci Ferjan);
After my first visit I knew that I would come back and have more time to go around Slovenia and... I did it! Not only that, I actually live here now. Why? I married my special Slovenian friend in 2009. Despite the distance and how most people may not believe that long-distance relationships can work. It can work if you respect each other and work on making it possible to be together.

When I moved to Slovenia in 2008 I attended a Slovenian language course at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana. I met really nice people, made good friends and learned a lot from my teachers. It was not only about the language, but the culture as well. I remember once the school organized an excursion to the Slovenian seaside. We visited Cerkvi svete Trojice in Hrastovlje, where they have some interesting paintings in the chapel that are called “Mrtvaški ples“ which means “dance of the dead”. I was very impressed by those images and I really liked the whole trip.

Hrastovlje - Church of the Holy Trinity - Dance of Death frescoes;
I consider myself a talkative person so I don't think that I ever had problems to make new friends or to fit in. With this attitude I made the best friends ever, I don't have 20 or 450 as my Facebook account says but here I found some really good friends on who I can rely. Sometimes I am very direct and honest to people (let's say a little bit bold) and this is part of my Mexican culture which I cannot change but, which I try to control even though my friends like it and respect me this way.

Another important topic for me is food. Remember that I come from Mexico and food in Mexico is just awesome! But Slovenian food is not far behind, I'm crazy about many dishes like “kislo zelje” (sour cabbage), “matevž” (mashed potatoes and beans), “kremšnitca” (a creamy vanilla dessert) and so many others that the list becomes too long. 

Bled cream cake (Author - Aleš Fevžer );
One of the most beautiful things I enjoy in Slovenia is to go to the forest and pick berries. Yes! Like in the Little Red Riding Hood story. It's so nice to just walk around in the hills, forest or valley and to be able to eat natural fruits on the way. Don't think that this is only possible in the summer when it is the berries' time; Slovenia has all four seasons of the year and therefore you can also find in the autumn such things as nuts, mushrooms, apples, pears, grapes etc. 

I enjoy picking mushrooms and eating them.
In brief the biggest change in my life was moving from one country to another. The differences are many but it was fortunately not too hard, because of how friendly people from the beginning and because I was really lucky to have met such nice and warm friends; Every time I visited my friends or met someone new they wanted to feed me with all they had, it did not matter if only they had a little, they would give it all. Slovenian hospitality made me feel at home.

What can I say... I love living in Slovenia. 

Patricia Castillo
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